NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Major parties have barely said anything useful

Major parties have barely said anything useful

Scott Morrison’s dismissal of the Uluru Statement from the Heart is “disheartening,” according to the CEO of the peak Aboriginal Health Body. Speaking to NITV’s The Point, Pat Turner said a voice to Parliament would give Aboriginal people the right to practice self-determination. “I think it’s a national shame that the two major parties have barely said anything useful,” she said. “What Labor has said is it’s committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which is fine, and to hold a referendum. “Apparently the polls are saying that a majority of Australians support a voice to Parliament, but getting that through a successful referendum is another story.”

Ms Turner also highlighted the issue of Indigenous health, saying billions more needs to be spent to address the ‘gap’ in life expectancy between First Nations people and non-Indigenous populations. A report, commissioned by NACCHO and released on Tuesday identified a $4.4 billion underspend in Indigenous health from state, territory and commonwealth governments. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities have always been underfunded,” she said. “It’s like a patronising, paternalistic regime that thinks ‘oh well, that’s enough from them and they can get on with it’. “Well, we do get on with it but we can’t continue on unless we want to see the health gap widen even more… so what we will be telling all of the jurisdictions is stand up and be counted in terms of fulfilling your responsibilities.”

You read the SBS NITV article Election 2022: Major parties’ approach to Indigenous issues slammed here, view the Pat Turner being interviewed on NITV’s The Point below and read a transcript of the interview here.

Lack of attention to First Nations issues “a disgrace”

Yesterday afternoon NACCHO CEO Pat Turner was interviewed by Fran Kelly on ABC News Afternoon Briefing. Ms Turner addressed the upcoming federal election and the health funding shortfall. In response to the question “Is there enough attention being paid in this election campaign to Indigenous issues?” Ms Turner said “absolutely not, I think it’s a  disgrace the major parties have not given sufficient attention to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues. There are many needs that remain unmet and we launched a report today to show that the gap in health funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is $4.4 billion and that adds to our trove of evidence that we will use to continue to argue with governments how they can make up that $4.4 billion shortfall.”

You can watch a video of interview from 34:20 minutes onwards to 50 minutes here.

Poor public policy without consultation

This month will likely see the NT government pass laws that will see alcohol allowed into a host town camps, living areas and some communities for the first time since 2007. Those areas that were self-declared dry beforehand will not be affected. Under the changes, the management of alcohol will pass from the federal government back to the NT government who are legislating for an opt-in approach to alcohol bans, with many communities and town camps needing to specifically ask to remain dry. A range of bodies including police and peak Aboriginal organisations have questioned the move and called for a pause to changes to allow for proper consultation and avoid what many believe will be a spike in grog-fuelled mayhem in both town and out bush. NT has the highest level of grog harm, alcohol related deaths and alcohol consumption in Australia. The NT government has rejected extending the federal measures with the Chief Minister saying they are racist and they need to go. This is supported by Chansey Paech who is the Minister for Remote Housing and Town Camps.

In a recent interview on ABC Alice Springs NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM she would never speak on behalf of local communities but speaking from the experience of ACCHOs who deal with the fall out of alcohol abuse. Ms Turner said “the NT government needs to ensure full consultation with every Aboriginal community that’s going to be affected by the changes in the alcohol laws that it is proposing. To say that the legislation is racist and was done on that basis is Chansey Paech’s view but doesn’t reflect the reality of opening the gates in the communities where people don’t want the change.” Ms Turner continued on to say that where services exist, and many communities don’t have services, the impact on ACCHOs will be enormous. Ms Turner described the proposed changes to the alcohol laws as “poor public policy without proper consultation and full informed choice.”

You can listen to the ABC Alice Springs radio interview in full by clicking on the image below:

Naamuru Mother and Baby Unit opens

New mums requiring specialist care for a severe mental illness can now have their babies stay with them at NSW’s first public, purpose-built Mother and Baby Unit. The new facility at Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital in Camperdown is the first state-wide facility designed to keep families together when a mother requires hospitalisation for a severe perinatal mental illness. Named ‘Naamuru’, a local Aboriginal dialect word meaning ‘leading the way’, the unit will care for up to 120 NSW residents a year who have infants up to 12 months of age.

The eight-bed unit is staffed by specialist perinatal health professionals who can attend to the mental health needs of the mother, as well as facilitate appropriate care of the baby and promote positive mother-baby interactions. Each bedroom is large enough to accommodate the mother, up to two infants under 12-months of age and a partner or family member. There are also therapeutic spaces, including a 24-hour respite nursery; a mothercraft room; dining and kitchen areas; outdoor courtyards; play areas; and a retreat room.

To view the NSW Health media release in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Prisoners need culturally competent health care

When someone is placed in prison, they are entirely dependent on prison officers and prison health-care providers. Incarcerated people do not get to choose when they see a doctor or mental health practitioner, when they take medicine, or what type of care they receive. They cannot call 000 and be taken to a hospital if they are dangerously ill. In Victoria, if a prisoner is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person, they do not get access to culturally competent care through ACCHOs. In Victoria, prison health care is provided by for-profit private companies contracted by the state government.

Imprisoned peoples’ physical health and/or social and emotional well-being is at the mercy of prison officers and prison health-care providers. Through their practice the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, have seen the differences between how people are treated in the community and how they are treated in prisons and youth prisons. The right to health care continues when people are incarcerated. International law requires “prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community”. This health care should be “free of charge” and “without discrimination”. It also makes clear everyone has the right to the “highest attainable standard of physical and mental health”.

To view the article Victoria’s prison health care system should match community health care in The Conversation full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Eating disorders foundation marks 20 years

From humble beginnings over a kitchen table, to the largest national charity for eating disorders and body image issues, Butterfly Foundation has been changing lives for 20 years.  More than a million Australians live with an eating disorder, with many more suffering body image issues. For two decades, Butterfly’s efforts in advocacy, community education, early intervention, prevention and clinical services has helped to significantly change the conversation and understanding around eating disorders, establishing them as serious and complex mental illnesses, rather than a lifestyle choice. However, Butterfly’s work remains critical, as many misconceptions and stigma prevail.

Today Wednesday 11 May 2022 Butterfly has launched a new campaign celebrating its 20th anniversary and setting the agenda for the next 20 years of treatment and prevention of eating disorders and body image issues in Australia. Butterfly’s big ambitions include:

  • A national parliamentary inquiry into body image
  • Preventing eating disorders from occurring
  • Reducing stigma and increasing help-seeking
  • Improving eating disorder treatment and support services

Butterfly Foundation CEO, Kevin Barrow, said, “Anecdotally speaking, the way we talk about eating disorders is about 10 years behind how we now speak about anxiety and depression. Eating disorders are still misunderstood and grossly under-estimated, with stigma and stereotypes acting as a major barrier to help-seeking. “There is so much more work that needs to be done in the prevention, early intervention, and treatment of eating disorders as well as education for the broader community.”

The Butterfly website includes the video below and a number of articles relating to eating disorders and body image concerns among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Declonising whiteness in preventive health

At the The Preventive Health Conference 2022 which runs from today until Friday 13 May 2022 in Brisbane, some of the world’s leading experts will explore a range of topics including decolonising and disrupting whiteness in preventive health, the priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, and investments in prevention. Conference Advisory Committee Chair Associate Professor Louisa Gordon of QIMR Berghofer said Australia needs to spend 5% of total health expenditure on prevention because it will save lives and is far cheaper than spending on treatments.

To view the Public Health Association of Australia media release Risky behaviours, exercise, and gambling among topics to be explored at Preventive Health Conference 2022 in full click here.

Image source: HealthUno.

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 11:30 AM–12:00PM (AEDT) Thursday 12 May 2022.

This week Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response will be chairing the webinar and will be joined by DoH Dr Nick Simpson, Medical Medical Adviser, Technology Assessment and Access Division.

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.

banner DoH Primary Care COVID-19 update Dep CMO - image of DCMO & COVID-19 virus cell

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: History is Calling Campaign

History is Calling Campaign

A new education campaign pushing for a First Nations voice to parliament is being rolled out by the creators of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The History is Calling campaign will urge Australians to answer the Uluru Dialogue’s 2017 invitation to legally enshrine First Nations people in the constitution via a referendum as an urgent election issue. Uluru Statement leader Roy Ah-See said First Nations people had been “at the whim” of consecutive governments that had failed to protect their rights and it was “long overdue” for their voice to be constitutionally enshrined. “The data’s there, in terms of overrepresentation in the criminal justice system, health statistics, infant mortality rates; it’s appalling, we’ve gone backward,” he said.

“In 1967, I was six months old when … non-Aboriginal citizens of this country gave my mother citizenship. Now it’s time to give my kids a voice in this country and future generations and we can do that through a referendum. “We don’t want a green voice, we don’t want a red voice, we don’t want a blue voice: we want a black voice.” Ah-See said the Uluru Statement was “never for the politicians”, but was a gift to the Australian people, who were best placed to vote on constitutional recognition. “Consecutive governments haven’t had our best interests at heart and legislation isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “The momentum’s there, the mood has shifted. We’ve lost a lot of First Nations people that haven’t seen a voice realised. It’s time.”

To view the article Australians urged to back Indigenous voice to parliament in History is Calling campaign published today in The Guardian click here.

some of the women artists who created the artwork surrounding the Uluru Statement from the Heart sitting around the painting on ground near Uluru

Some of the artists who created the artwork surrounding the Uluru Statement from the Heart in-situ. Photo: Clive Scollay. Image source: Barani Sydney’s Aboriginal History website.

ACCHO staff present at Sax Forum workshop

The Sax Forum is an initiative through which the Sax Institute is helping to share knowledge across its membership and understand what we can do better together. Earlier this month nearly 200 people from the Institute’s member organisations, Aboriginal-controlled health services and NSW Health met online to discuss how best to work collaboratively with Aboriginal communities while conducting important health research.

Attendees heard insightful presentations from speakers who have been intimately involved in working with Aboriginal communities to produce impactful Aboriginal-led research., including Jamie Newman, a Wiradjuri man and CEO of the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) who stressed how important research is in his sector. “We are very open to research and we understand why it is so critical for us,” he said. In order to secure funding, “we need to provide evidence that we have researched what we’re doing and properly evaluated what we’re doing. Evidence-based needs are what governments want to fund.” He said researchers should go out and meet people in the AMSs and start building partnerships and relationships, not just contacting them when they want a partner for a grant application. “We are more than happy to talk to universities, individual researchers. We’re open to everyone who can add something to our service, and if you can do that, the door will be open.”

Another speaker, Christine Corby OAM, CEO from Walgett AMS, spoke about the importance of conducting research that is respectful, builds relationships and contributes to local capacity. Any research program must reflect the needs and interests of the community, she said. Sandra Bailey, Senior Adviser in Aboriginal Health at the Sax Institute, joined the panel discussion after the presentations and provided some background to the partnership work that led to the creation of the Coalition for Research to Improve Aboriginal Health.

You can watch a video of the workshop in full below and access the relevant Sax Institute webpage here.

Mob 2.5 times more likely to visit ED

Westmead, Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals are the subject of a new $2.8 million research project that aims to improve the safety and quality of care in emergency departments. Macquarie University will lead this project addressing the needs of people with complex health conditions, who often spend longer than average there and have worse outcomes than the general population when they attend an emergency department — including greater likelihood of multiple return visits. This includes people who are older; have a disability; present with a mental health condition; are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; and/or come from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds

Macquarie University has been awarded $2,836,550 from the Medical Research Future Fund for this 5-year project led by Associate Professor Robyn Clay-Williams at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation. The  project will work to improve people’s experience while they are in the emergency department, reduce their length of stay and improve their care outcomes — including receiving a diagnosis or treatment plan, or being admitted to a hospital ward.

Associate Professor Robyn Clay-Williams, who will lead the project said “These communities have higher rates of presentation to emergency departments than other Australians and improving their care will reduce hospital waiting times for everyone.” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples visit an emergency department 2.5 times more than other Australians and their rate of metal health presentations is more than four times higher. People with a disability visit emergency departments twice as often as people without disability. People over the age of 85 years have the highest rate of presentation to emergency departments.

To view the article $2.8 million to reduce emergency wait times in western Sydney hospitals published in The Pulse click here.

Image source: The Pulse website.

Our Kids Count birth registration campaign

The NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (the Registry) is hitting the road to promote the registration of Indigenous births with the Our Kids Count campaign. NSW Registrar Amit Padhiar said Our Kids Count would visit the Central West and Orana region to provide on the ground support to help Aboriginal parents register their child’s birth. “Birth certificates are an essential pathway to enrol in school, open a bank account, join sporting clubs, enrol to vote and apply for a job, a driver licence or a passport,” Mr Padhiar said. “Ensuring kids have a birth certificate as soon as possible makes it easier for them and their families when growing up and navigating life.”

What you need to know about registering bub

  • It’s free
  • Hospitals do not register bub for you
  • Medicare and Centrelink do not register bub for you
  • It’s bub’s right to be registered within 8 weeks of birth

To view the media release in full click here.

Calls to improve lives of First Nations children

The peak national body for Indigenous children, the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), has called on the major parties contesting the upcoming Federal election to deliver policy to improve the lives of First Nations children. SNAICC – National Voice for our Children wants to see investment into prevention and early support services for families led by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, and creation of a National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children.

SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle said policy change was needed for the Federal Government to start to close the gap. “Under the national partnership all governments have agreed to work with the Coalition of Peaks to reduce over-representation in out of home care by 45% by 2031,” she said. Ms Liddle said by achieving these targets there would be a reduction in child removals from families and pressure on the justice system. “Our children will have a better start in life with access to quality, community-controlled early childhood education and services,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Peak Indigenous children’s body puts Federal election wish-list on the table in full click here.

SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle. Image source: SNAICC website.

36,000 NSW mob impacted by floods

Thousands of NSW school students, including 16-year-old Wirajduri student Ethan Lyons, have participated in a march to raise awareness about the severity of climate disasters such as the recent floods across NSW and Queensland and call on the state government for more action on climate change. Mr Lyons, one of the organisers, pointed specifically to how Indigenous Australians are “disproportionately affected by the climate crisis”, and that more action was needed by the federal and state governments to move towards renewable energy by 2030. At the height of the floods, it is estimated that more than 36,500 Indigenous residents who live in the officially declared natural disaster zones in NSW had been directly, or indirectly, impacted by the natural disaster.

Cabbage Tree Island, where multi-generational Aboriginal families have lived for more than 100 years, was particularly hit hard during the relentless floods. Both state and federal governments have committed to disbursing $70 million to build new homes for more than 170 residents who were displaced. An extra $50 million will also go towards the repair and reconstruction of Aboriginal community infrastructure owned by Local Aboriginal Land Councils.

To view The Rural News article NSW students walk out for climate policies article in full click here.

cleaning up after floods

More than 180 residents live on Cabbage Tree Island, NSW in 23 homes. Photo: Rani Hayman, ABC News.

Women the victims of forced evictions

Julie Tongs, CEO Winnunga Nimmityjah (Strong Health) Aboriginal Health and Community Services was one of 14 to sign an open letter – addressed to ACT Housing Minister Yvette Berry and Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services Rebecca Vassarotti and signed by community organisations working with vulnerable Canberrans living in public housing – calling on the ACT government to end all forced relocations under the scheme, and instead revert to a voluntary, opt-in program of relocation.

87% of social housing tenants to be forced from their homes under the ACT’s government’s Growth and Renewal program are women living alone or with children. 61% have disabilities, chronic health conditions or are caring for dependents who do, and 17% of tenants facing evictions are single mums with children. The data – captured through a survey of the affected tenants conducted by Canberra Community Law also shows that 14% of tenants affected by the scheme are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. “It is this cross section of elderly tenants, women, people with disabilities and people with lived experience of mental illness that makes this group of tenants particularly vulnerable,” the letter reads.

To view the CBR City News article Revealed: Women the victims of Housing’s forced evictions in full click here.

Image source: Women’s Agenda.

Ahpra to recruit 7 permanent identified jobs

Ahpra is excited to be recruiting seven (7) permanent Identified positions who’ll play an important role in creating a culturally safe healthcare system free of racism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples:

The positions will be supported by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Unit and are linked to implementing deliverables in the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025.

Please apply for these exciting roles here and share with your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander networks who want to be a part of driving safer healthcare.

If you’d like any further information on the roles, a contact and their details have been provided on the job listing.

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.

Lung Health Awareness Month

Respiratory diseases are conditions that affect the airways, including the lungs and the passages that carry air from the mouth and nose to the lungs. Common conditions include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. Nearly one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a respiratory condition; with Asthma and COPD contributing to the highest burden of disease.

May is Lung Health Awareness Month and aims to raise awareness about the importance of lung health and the signs and symptoms of lung disease. Anyone, no matter your age or background, can get lung disease – it affects approximately 1 in 4 Australians and is the second leading cause of death in this country, with 45 Australians dying of lung disease and lung cancer every day.

Despite this, many people ignore the signs and symptoms of lung disease for far too long. Breathlessness – A cough lasting more than 3 weeks – Fatigue are just some of the signs many of us ignore or put down to aging and lack of fitness. Don’t miss the signs that something isn’t right. Taking action could save your life.

You can access the Lung Foundation Australia website here which includes:

  • a checklist of lung disease signs
  • an interactive Lung Health Checklist
  • lung health tips: commit to quit smoking; prevention is your best protection; protecting your lungs at work; lifestyle matters

You can access more information about respiratory health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website here.

Willy Willy Lungs by proud Badimia, Noongar, Yamaji artist Nerolie Bynder. Image source: Telethon Kids Institute Many Health Lungs website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Midwife program closing infant mortality gap

Image if the feature tile is by Aboriginal photographer Bobbi-lee Hille, Daily Mail.

Midwife program closing infant mortality gap

When Kelsey Muhl’s midwife caught her new baby in a hospital shower it was a shared moment between two women who had built a relationship over months. “Gravity helped,”  The mother of three described her latest birth as poles apart from her earlier experiences. Ms Muhl and her midwife, Storm Henry, are part of a midwifery program pairing First Nations mothers with midwives for the duration of their pregnancy, delivery and the first days of the baby’s life. About one in 10 Australian mothers opt to have a single midwife, or caseload midwife, throughout their pregnancy, but for mothers of First Nations babies that rate has historically been much lower. “We know when women have a main midwife or continuity-of-care model there’s reduced childbirth complications,” La Trobe University professor Helen McLachlan said. “Babies are less likely to get sick, mothers are less likely to need caesarean sections.”

More than 18,000 First Nations babies are born across the country each year. Those babies are at a higher risk of arriving early, being born underweight or needing special care. “Outcomes for [First Nations] mothers and babies are pretty much twice as bad as non-Aboriginal mothers and babies — double the rate of preterm birth, almost triple the rate of maternal mortality,” Professor McLachlan said. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 13% of Indigenous babies were born underweight in 2019. Reducing that number is a key target of the Closing the Gap agreement.

The culturally safe Baggarrook midwifery care program, being led by Latrobe University and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, has now matched more than 700 women giving birth to Indigenous babies with either a First Nations midwife or one who has been through cultural awareness training. “We’ve gone from 5% of Aboriginal women receiving access to this gold-standard model of care to over 90% of Aboriginal women presenting at one of the three hospitals participating,” Professor McLachlan said.

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal midwife program works to close the gap in infant mortality and birth complications in full click here.

Kelsey Muhl enlisted a midwife from a First Nations program to help deliver her daughter Emilia. Photo: Nicole Asher, ABC News.

Helping older Australians avoid ED

Improving the care of older Australians in a bid to help them avoid hospital emergency departments will be the focus of a new project that federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says has been awarded funding from the Medical Research Future Fund. Led by Flinders University in partnership with SA Health’s Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN) and the SA Ambulance Service, the research will engage patients and the medical community to find the best way forward for treating older Australians, who make up almost a quarter of all ED visits. “Emergency departments across Australia are often overwhelmed by the high demand from our growing ageing population but nearly half of the visits are potentially preventable,” says Flinders University’s Associate Professor Craig Whitehead, Director of Rehabilitation, Aged, and Palliative Care at SAHLN and the project’s Chief Investigator.

The project will also explore what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers look for in emergency care, as well as seek to understand the barriers they face, with the team including two Aboriginal researchers – Associate Professor Tamara Mackean and Shane D’Angelo – from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Public Health group in Flinders University’s College of Medicine and Public Health. They bring both public health and Indigenous health research experience and will engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through yarning circles. “This is an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worldviews and experiences to be incorporated into the conduct of the research from the beginning,” said Associate Professor Mackean.

To view the Flinders University article Helping older Australians avoid ED click here.

Image source: Flinders University News webpage.

Lower healthcare costs, but no PHC reform

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) welcomes recent announcements from both major parties that the cost of prescriptions will be eased by reducing the PBS co-payment. In addition, both parties have committed to raising the threshold for access to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC). CHF CEO, Leanne Wells, said that these two measures will help to bring down costs for people on fixed incomes in the face of rising inflation pressures. “Commitments to lower the cost of prescriptions if either side wins the election will be a much needed saving for health care consumers. When medicines become unaffordable, the costs to the nation’s healthcare system becomes more burdensome, as people are missing essential treatment,” said Ms Wells.

“However, we remind both parties that there are many others in the community such as young people, those who have had their NDIS packages cut, and people living in poverty on Jobseeker for whom access to affordable healthcare is dire.  Measures to support their capacity to access healthcare are sorely needed. CHF would like see more health care affordability measures directed to people on low incomes, who need it most,” she said. “We are acutely aware that many families in Australia will be forgoing items in the household budget to make ends meet,” said Ms Wells, “but affordability and access to healthcare goes beyond the cost of medicines.”

To view the CHF media release Parties promise to reduce costs but what about health care reform? in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Inquiry highlights rural NSW’s health crisis

The NSW government has been handed a scathing report finding the rural health system is “in crisis and is failing residents of rural, regional and remote areas”. A cross-party committee has made 44 recommendations, following hundreds of hours of evidence held across NSW, to try to overhaul the system. What was found was people living outside of the city have “significantly poorer health outcomes, greater incidents of chronic disease, and greater premature deaths”.

To address “historic failures” by both levels of government to fix workforce shortages, particularly in relation to doctors and nurses, it put forward a range of sweeping changes. They include the state government collaborating with the Commonwealth on a 10-year workforce strategy, a single employer model for GPs, and for the committee to hold another inquiry in two years’ time to see if the changes have been implemented.

You can view the ABC News article Inquiry into rural, regional and remote healthcare hands down findings to NSW government in full here.

The AMA (NSW) has welcomed the final report from the NSW parliamentary inquiry into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional, and remote New South Wales, but says achieving the report’s recommendations will not be feasible unless Governments make a meaningful funding commitment to improving health. “The report underscores the paucity of investment made into rural health to date and the absolute necessity to rethink current funding arrangements,” said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen. “The

To view the AMA’s media release Rural health inquiry highlights desperate need for more funding, AMA (NSW) says in full click here.

Image source: Careers Connections.

80% + Aboriginal people speak Kriol

Sylvia Tkac was born to be an Aboriginal interpreter but fell into the profession quite by accident. “My grandmother was an interpreter,” Ms Tkac said. “She said to me, ‘I need another interpreter, are you interested in interpreting?’ “I did it for the first time and I thought, ‘Gee I’m fluent’, because I spoke it as a child.” Kriol interpreter services are still used regularly across Australia. Interpreters hold an important role in communities for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “A Kriol interpreter is needed in the local courts,” Ms Tkac said. “Darwin use them, (as well as) Katherine and Alice Springs — they’re also used in the Supreme Court and in hospitals as well.”

Ms Tkac is an Anindilyakwa Interpreter from the Groote Eylandt archipelago and is based in Darwin with the Aboriginal Interpreter Service. She interprets for a wide range of service providers in topics such as health, education, and law at the Local, Supreme and Children’s courts. The service collaborates on recordings with other agencies and mining companies, and produces a range of aids and resources, including DVDs, animations, driving apps and video interpreting. The service is vital to the 80% of Aboriginal people in Australia who speak Aboriginal English or Kriol, which has been recognised as a language since the 1970s.

To view the ABC News article More than 80% of Aboriginal people speak Kriol — why is it still widely misunderstood? in full click here.

Research Institute to tackle health inequities

Charles Sturt University’s new Rural and Regional Health Research Institute will work with communities to address the local burden of disease in lower socio-economic communities within rural, regional, and remote areas. Professor of Medicine and Executive Director of the Institute, Professor Allen Ross is applying his extensive international experience in rural and remote health to establish an organisation that delivers regional, national, and international impact. The Institute received $18 million over five years from the Australian Government to develop a world-class rural health and medical research facility that will support the needs of rural communities in Australia and beyond.

The Institute will focus on conducting research that:

  • addresses First Nations people’s health inequities
  • improves the experience of ageing and aged care in rural communities
  • improves child development health outcomes
  • promotes consumer-driven rural health research
  • boosts clinical research capability and
  • enables research to improve health and medical service delivery in regional cities, rural towns, and remote communities.

Professor Ross said “We will work with community leaders, such as the local Aboriginal Medical Services, to identify chronic health issues of the highest priority.”

To view the Charles Sturt University article Rural and Regional Health Research Institute, a world-class facility to tackle health inequalities in full click here.

Image source: Charles Sturt University.

People urged to get vax as flu cases rise

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sonya Bennett, and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMillan, say with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s winter season will likely see both an increase in transmission of the coronavirus and, for the first time since 2019, a resurgence in influenza. Given this, it is important that people, particularly those in at-risk population groups, maximise their protection against both viruses by being vaccinated – and continue to practise all of the safe hygiene measures we have become accustomed to throughout the pandemic. Both influenza and COVID-19 are highly contagious viral infections that can lead to serious illness, hospitalisation or even death. Everyone 6 months and older is recommended to get a flu vaccine each year.

To read the Dr Bennett and Professor McMillan’s media release in full click here.

In a related media release NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said flu is circulating widely in the community for the first time in two years, coinciding with ongoing high levels of transmission of COVID-19. “It is crucial everyone gets vaccinated against flu to not only protect themselves, but their colleagues and loved ones against serious illness or worse,” Mr Hazzard said. “Whilst we know there is vaccination fatigue, I urge the more vulnerable members of our community to book in for a flu jab with their GP or pharmacist as soon as possible. The elderly, pregnant women, children aged under five years, Aboriginal people and those with serious health conditions can get a free flu shot now, so please book in.”

To read Minister Hazzard’s media release in full click here.

Image source: The Department of Health 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.

World Ovarian Cancer Day

World Ovarian Cancer Day was stablished in 2013 by a group of leaders from ovarian cancer advocacy organisations around the world. May 8 – World Ovarian Cancer Day, is the one day of the year we globally raise our voices in solidarity in the fight against ovarian cancer.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.4 times as likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer as non-Indigenous Australians, are 0.9 times as likely to die and have only a 45% change of surviving for five years. You can access the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report containing these figures about ovarian cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here.

For more information about World Ovarian Cancer Day click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Sister Scrubs could improve baby outcomes

Image in feature tile is of midwife Mel Briggs, wearing the “Sister Scrubs” to identify herself as Indigenous, Yuin woman Hayley Williams and baby Jaari. Photo: Janie Barrett. Image source: ABC News.

Sister Scrubs could improve baby outcomes

Jaari was Hayley Williams’ third baby, but her first experience working with an Indigenous midwife. Yuin woman Williams, 28, gave birth in Shoalhaven Hospital in Nowra a month ago with the support of midwife Mel Briggs from the Waminda South Coast Women’s Health Clinic. Williams said having an Indigenous midwife meant she felt “relaxed and receptive” to the information being provided, allowing for better communication about issues such as her diagnosis of gestational diabetes.

“I feel like another midwife would be able to build that rapport but with Mel being Indigenous, it was almost instant,” Williams said. “It takes away the formalities – the relationship felt very casual, and I felt very comfortable that she had my best interests at heart.” An initiative called “Huggies Sister Scrubs” will make it easier for mothers to know when they are being cared for by an Indigenous midwife, with the aim to improve better outcomes for Indigenous mothers and babies.

The Sister Scrubs, an initiative of the Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund supported by Huggies, is a special uniform for Indigenous midwives to visually identify themselves, helping engender trust and better communication. Nationwide, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies are twice as likely to die in the first year of their life, according to the Closing the Gap Report 2020. In NSW, the perinatal mortality rate among babies born to First Nations mothers is 47% higher than the rest of the population, based on the Mothers and Babies Report 2020. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has also found First Nations women were three times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth, compared with other women, between 2012 and 2019.

To view The Sydney Morning Herald article ‘Sister Scrubs’: How new uniform could improve outcomes for Indigenous babies in full click here.

Melanie Briggs (left) was the first endorsed Aboriginal midwife in NSW, pictured here with Kady Colman. Image source: Bounty Parents.

Calls for cultural reform in health sector

Growing up in Milingimbi in NE Arnhem Land, Yolngu man Dr Mangatjay McGregor was always drawn to a career in medicine. “From a young age, I felt really in tune with the way people felt and [that] naturally progressed into medicine,” he said. Dr McGregor is a mental health registrar in Melbourne and is believed to be the first Yolngu doctor from the NT.

While the 29-year-old has made great strides in his career, his journey has not come without its challenges. During his time as a junior doctor, he said he experienced bullying and discrimination by senior staff in the workplace. “There are times where [the discrimination] is more overt and in your face, then there are times where it’s a little bit more insidious,” he said. “Often it’s coming from consultants, so they’re specialists or registrars [who] are quite senior — there is that power imbalance.”

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) has described the disproportionately high rates of workplace bullying and discrimination as “unacceptable” and raised concerns that it could drive First Nations trainees out of the profession. “It’s something that most of us have faced when we’ve gone through our own training,” AIDA Vice President Dr Simone Raye said. “We had hoped that things would improve for the future generation.” “It’s very concerning because senior staff can actually set the tone for the culture of the organisation that they’re working within.

To view the ABC News article Indigenous doctors call for cultural reform in health sector to address workplace discrimination in full click here and to watch a short video of Dr Mangatjay McGregor speaking about how he faced bullying and discrimination by senior staff during his time as a trainee doctor click here.

Dr Mangatjay McGregor. Photo supplied by: Peter Healy. Image source: ABC News.

Improved social determinants data needed

An article published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) today looks at why Australia needs better data on health inequities. The article says the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic shone a light on longstanding inequities in societies. Yet, too often, these inequities are effectively invisible, and we can only know if we are tackling them if we can measure them. A lack of appropriate data is an important reason why research that has helped our understanding of health inequities is unevenly distributed internationally, with much concentrated in Europe and North America. Although Australia has some leading global centres for population health research, a lack of appropriate data creates a barrier to undertaking such research here. However, the available evidence indicates that socio‐economic health inequities have increased since the 1980s.

A better understanding of what is happening is important for many reasons, not least the law of unintended consequences; policies designed to improve overall health can inadvertently widen health inequities. It is only by understanding the scale and nature of existing inequities and differential impacts of responses to them that we can assess the effect of policies and monitor progress. Improved data collection and analysis is the first essential step to building back fairer from the impacts of COVID‐19.

To view MJA article The need for improved Australian data on social determinants of health inequities in full click here.

Social determinants of health. Image source: PWC.

Major parties lack rural health commitment

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) have issue a media release pointing out that recent media reports have focused on the major parties’ lack of serious commitment to addressing the rural health crisis. The reports have highlighted the real-life implications for people struggling to access health care and the devastating consequences for communities. The Alliance emphasised that rural Australians are still waiting for any major party to address the glaring gap in election commitments to date and is calling on all political parties to commit to bold and immediate initiatives to address the rural health crisis now.

The Alliance is calling on political parties to recognise the critical needs of rural Australians and commit to addressing the rural health crisis immediately. The Alliance is promoting a model of rural primary care called RACCHOs (Rural Area Community Controlled Health Organisations) modelled on and complementing the successful and long-standing ACCHO (Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) model of primary care delivery.

You can view the Alliance’s media release Rural Australia can’t wait any longer for action on health care in full here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

A related ABC News article Doctor availability in regional Australia limited by declining workforce describes how Mount Gambier residents are waiting two or three weeks to visit their regular GP as a result of a shortfall that has failed to gain traction in federal election campaigning. It is an ongoing issue regional and rural Australians have been facing for more than a decade, with COVID placing additional pressures on an already overstretched workforce.

Despite this, Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Megan Belot said there had been almost “total silence” on rural health issues throughout the federal election campaign. “So far this election we have seen the Coalition budget initiative of more rural medical students and Labor promise more money for psychiatric telehealth appointments,” she said. “I’m sorry but that is just not enough. We need initiatives that will deliver doctors on the ground in the near future in addition to rural doctor training pathways and positions after they complete their university studies.”

To view the article in full click here.

Image source: Health Times.

Portable ultrasounds for more equitable health

Imagine if family doctors, nurses, technicians could use handheld ultrasound devices to screen for everything from hip dysplasia to wrist fractures to heart disease from anywhere. A new approach to scans developed at the University of Alberta pairs the accessibility of portable ultrasound with an artificial intelligence app that can analyse thousands of previous results and provide remote diagnostic support within seconds. The goal is to make access to health care more equitable and improve outcomes for patients, said project lead Jacob Jaremko, a radiologist, associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Artificial Intelligence (CIFAR) Chair at the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. “It really is a whole different model of care,” Jaremko said. “You’re taking expertise learned from the experts in the hospital and delivering it to the patients, rather than having the patients come to the hospital.”

It will help improve access to timely medical diagnoses and care, particularly for those living in remote and Indigenous communities. With Jaremko’s system, a non-expert can learn with brief training how to use a portable ultrasound device to scan for thyroid cancer, hip dysplasia in infants, breast cancer, heart and lung problems, and arm fractures. The images are uploaded and the AI app compares them with the results of many previous tests to determine whether there is an abnormality. In the video below Jacob Jaremko explains how his AI-based ultrasound system works and why it could increase access to vital diagnostic support for conditions like hip dysplasia.

To view the University of Alberta article Making health care more equitable one ultrasound image at a time – AI-powered portable ultrasound system makes scans and diagnoses accessible from anywhere in full, click here.

First Nations uni students paving the way

In Australia, only 1.9% of university students enrolled in 2018 identified as Indigenous, according to the most recent figures from Universities Australia. And of them, only 47% complete their degrees, compared to 74% of non-Indigenous students. Those figures are improving every year, but it’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure First Nations Australians are given every possible opportunity to go to uni, and to obtain their qualification. There are a multitude of hurdles that First Nations people face when going to university from language barriers, to discrimination to cultural differences obligations.

But, in the NT, where around 30% of the population is Indigenous, Charles Darwin University is on a mission to change the status quo, with a goal of becoming the most recognised university for Australian First Nations training, education and research. Deputy Vice-Chancellor for First Nations Leadership and Yuin/Wandandian and Ngarigo man, Professor Reuben Bolt, said there are a range of fundamental challenges potential Indigenous uni students face.

To view the Northern Beaches Review article Meet the First Nations university students paving the way to a more equal future in full click here.

Nyikina woman Hayley Shields

Nyikina woman Hayley Shields started a Bachelor of Environmental Science last year. Photo: Sarah Matthews. Image source: Northern Beaches Review.

Healthy Ears Clinic marks 10 year milestone

A landmark Victorian health partnership is heralding 10 years of work supporting the health of Indigenous populations. April marked one decade since the union between Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, and the launch of the Healthy Ears Clinic for Indigenous Children. Since 2012, the Ear and Eye Hospital has provided more than 220 ear, nose and throat surgeries, while the Healthy Ears Clinic has care for more than 1500 youths.

Eye and Ear hospital surgeon Stephen O’Leary said the partnership was born from a desire to improve health among Indigenous youth. Since the programs’ launch self-reported hearing problems in Indigenous children have reduced from 11% in 2001 to 6.9% in 2018-19. That rate is, however, still more than twice the rate for non-indigenous children.

Wormi man Kelvin Kong, Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, said an underlying barriers for Indigenous people to access healthcare remained an issue. “The system is designed poorly – it is unfriendly,” he said. “The system also doesn’t allow us to get the access we need.” Mr Kong said generationally disproportionate health problems could not be solved through biomedical intervention alone, adding structural change was needed. “We need to develop the pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a meaningful and real contribution,” he said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Victorian Indigenous health services mark 10-year partnership milestone in full click here.

Image source: Macquarie University 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.

World Asthma Day

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects the airways, causing them to become inflamed, narrowed, swollen and sometimes blocked by mucus, making it hard to breathe. Common symptoms may include wheezing, felling short of breath, tightness in the chest and coughing. The exact cause of asthma are unknown, however, factors thought to contribute to it occurring include: genetics; exposure to tobacco smoke in the womb, or as a baby or child; air pollution; mouldy houses; being born premature (with a low birth weight) and prolonged intense exercise (occurring over several years).

Asthma is the most common chronic respiratory condition among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a major cause of morbidity. This may be due to risks such as smoking, as well as a lack of access to culturally appropriate health services and other social and environmental factors.

World Asthma Day (WAD) Tuesday 3 May 2022 is organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma, (GINA), a World Health Organization collaborative organisation founded in 1993.  WAD is held each May to raise awareness of Asthma worldwide. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage asthma to reduce and prevent asthma attacks.

GINA has chosen ‘Closing Gaps in Asthma Care’ as the theme for the 2022 World Asthma Day. There are a number of gaps in asthma care, including access to diagnosis and treatment, which require intervention in order to reduce preventable suffering as well as the costs incurred by treating uncontrolled asthma.

For more information on World Asthma Day click here.

banner text 'closing gaps in asthma care World Asthma Day May 3, 2022

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Rural and regional health system is broken

Image in feature tile from Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation, NSW website.

Rural and regional health system is broken

Dr Rob Phair, GP in Bairnsdale Victoria, and President of the Rural Doctor’s Association of Victoria. Dr Robin Williams, GP in Molong NSW, and Chair of the Western NSW Primary Health Network and Dr Gabreille O’Kane, CEO of the Rural Health Alliance were guests this morning on an episode of ABC Radio National Life Matters hosted by Michael Mackenzie discussing the question ‘Is the medical system in rural and regional Australia still fit for purpose?’

Rural doctors say the death, earlier this month, of a 72-year-old man in Bairnsdale, eastern Victoria, died in an emergency room bathroom after waiting more than three hours for treatment is the latest example of a broken medical system, which, they argue, needs a radical restructure to meet the changing needs of the times.

Dr O’Kane said the ACCHO model of care is appealing to the rural health sector and is proposing a community-led model of care employing a range of healthcare professionals, from GPs and psychologist to nurses and physiotherapists, similar to ACCHOs.

You can listen to the Life Matters interview in full here.

Photo: Ian Waldie, Getty Images. Image source: ABC News RN Life Matters webpage.

Health sector needs ‘whole-of-workforce’ strategy

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) is urging all political parties to recognise the importance of our workforce in establishing a health system that can deliver the care Australians deserve. ‘Matching and forecasting the needs, demands and supply of the health workforce is complex in any context,’ says AHHA Acting Chief Executive Kylie Woolcock. ‘However, ahead of the upcoming Federal Election, urgent action is needed to address workforce issues in Australia’s heath system if it is to continue to provide vital services to the community.’

To view the AHHA media release Whole-of-workforce strategy needed to deliver healthcare that Australians deserve in full click here.

RHD not purely due to remoteness

Lynette Bullio’s son Jalil was just seven years old when he found out he would need painful injections each month until at least his 21st birthday. The Cairns boy was limping around but he and his mother thought it was because he had tripped over at school. When, by the end of the week, Jalil couldn’t even manage a short walk from his mother’s car to the school gate, Ms Bullio knew it was something more serious. Jalil, now 11, was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease(RHD).

He is one of thousands of mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across northern Australia with the condition that was largely eradicated in Australia’s urban non-Indigenous population about 60 years ago. “It still is traumatic, I think, when I talk about it and realise how huge this disease is,” Ms Bullio said. “I start getting a lump in my throat.”

Ben Reeves, a paediatric cardiologist at Cairns Hospital, said while the disease was often associated with isolated communities he still saw new cases of rheumatic fever in Cairns children every week. “This is not purely due to remoteness,” Dr Reeves said. “It’s a lack of access to appropriate facilities and it’s a lack of awareness among the community and some health staff and we’re trying very hard to turn this around.”

You can access the ABC Far North News article Rheumatic heart disease strategy launched in Queensland as more people get sick in large centres in full here.

Image source: newsGP.

Major Parties ‘Nowhere on Health’

The AMA is disappointed the federal election campaign is half-way through and ‘nowhere on health’, while calls for politicians to address health policy are getting louder in the community. State Premiers, Health Ministers and State Treasurers have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Federal Health Minister previously to ask for a 50-50 split on hospital funding, and to remove the annual cap on activity, in order to deal with the backlog of care in the community following COVID-19 lockdowns.

“State and Territory Ministers, and even Premiers, have stated their clear, unequivocal support for a 50-50 agreement that removes the cap on funding growth – this is not something an incoming government is going to be able to ignore. So instead, political parties should be outlining how they will fix our hospital system, should they win government,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

To view the AMA’s media release Halfway to Nowhere on Health, AMA says future PM and Government can’t hide from urgent need for new hospital agreement in full click here.

Fears NT bill will open booze floodgates

Three Indigenous bodies are calling on the NT government to immediately shelve legislation which could allow take-away alcohol into more than 430 communities from mid-July this year. The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT (AMSANT), the Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency and Aboriginal Housing NT have proposed the bill be dismissed.

Under the 2007 Federal Intervention, these communities in NT became Alcohol Protected Areas, which continued under the Stronger Futures legislation. AMSANT CEO John Patterson said consultations for the proposed change have not begun. “There has been no proper consultation, and there simply cannot be any in the short time available,” he said. “Aboriginal health organisations and peak bodies did not know about the Bill. This Government has introduced many excellent alcohol reforms, and this sudden and puzzling change is a backward step that has not been explained properly to anyone. Why not move to an opt-out system instead which would ensure all communities make an active decision about what they want to do rather than simply have the current protections taken away.”

North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency executive officer Priscilla Atkins said the mixture of dry and unrestricted communities would be impossible to monitor. “The biggest issue we’ve got is a lot of criminal matters that come before the court are alcohol related,” she said. “You’re going to have alcohol coming into the remote communities there’ll be more violence, more pressure on the courts, more pressure on the police…and it’s disappointing that we’re talking about this now and the legislation expires on the 30th of June.

You can view the National Indigenous Times article Fears NT Govt bill will open booze floodgates in dry communities in full here.

Photo Tim Wimborne, Reuters. Image source: The Guardian.

Agent Orange poisoned WA mob

Premiering from June onwards on both NITV and SBS online platforms, a documentary On Australian Shores, produced and directed by Ngikalikarra Media, will tell the harrowing story of a large number of Aboriginal men and their families, who were knowingly and unwittingly poisoned by government in order to enhance the profits of the agricultural industry. The story of the wanton neglect of the WA Agricultural Protection Board (APB) via a series of interviews with survivors, their family members that have outlived them, and current generations still affected by Agent Orange poisoning.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers has spoken to Ngikalikarra Media co-producer, director and editor Dr Magali McDuffie about how despite numerous inquiries and reports the overwhelming majority of victims remain uncompensated, while the WA government continues to deny any of it ever happened.

You can read the article WA Poisoned First Nations With Agent Orange: An Interview With Ngikalikarra’s Dr Magali McDuffie in full on the Sydney Criminal Lawyers website here.

One of the APB work crews employed to unknowingly spray Agent Orange around the Kimberley. Image source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers website.

NDIS access in the Kimberley region

An article Equity in Access: A Mixed Methods Exploration of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Access Program for the Kimberley Region, WA has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The article describes a study exploring the process and early outcomes of work undertaken by a program to increase Aboriginal people’s awareness of, and access to, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The Access Program was reported as successful by staff in its aim of connecting eligible people with the NDIS. Vital to this success was program implementation by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector. Staff in these organisations held community trust, provided culturally appropriate services, and utilised strengths-based approaches to overcome barriers that have historically hindered Aboriginal people’s engagement with disability services. The results of the study demonstrate the Access Program is a successful start in increasing awareness of, and access to, the NDIS for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region, however much work remains to assist the large number of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region believed to be eligible for NDIS support who are yet to achieve access.

To view the article 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.

Get ready for Heart Week

One Australian is having a heart attack or stroke every 4 minutes.

This Heart Week from Monday 2 -–Sunday 8 May 2022, presents an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of heart health and for GPs, nurses and general practice staff to deliver Heart Health Checks for more at-risk Australians. It is an opportunity for health professionals and the Australian public to start a conversation about heart health and take steps to reduce their risk of heart disease. General practice teams and health professionals have a pivotal role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and have the power to change the one every 4 minute statistic by focusing on simple, routine practices that have a measurable lifesaving impact.

For more information about Heart Week 2022 click here.

Image source: Heart Foundation website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Simple free bowel cancer test saves lives

Simple free bowel cancer test saves lives

Most bowel cancers (sometimes called colorectal, colon or rectal cancers) start as benign, non-cancerous growths called ‘polyps’ that form on the inner lining or the wall of the bowel. These polyps may become cancerous if they are not removed. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Although these cancers are experienced at lower rates than non-Indigenous Australians, the survival rates are lower and mortality rates are higher. This may be due to the lower participation in bowel screening programs, which is a particular risk for those in remote areas, where access to health services can be limited.

Initiatives such as the National Indigenous Bowel Screening Pilot Project have helped to address low rates of participation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which is important as when found early, bowel cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can currently receive free screening for bowel cancer via the Australian Government’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP).

The Australian Government Department of Health has developed a collection of resources, specifically tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about the NBCSP and the importance of bowel cancer screening, available here.

‘I was whitewashed’ says Uncle Jack Charles

Yesterday the actor and Indigenous rights activist, Uncle Jack Charles, told the nation’s first truth and justice commission to hear the impacts of colonisation and racist government policy on First Nations people of his removal from his family as a baby. Charles said he was placed in the Box Hill Boys’ Home, where he experienced “cruel and callous punishments” in the 1950s, and spoke of the cycles of incarceration, homelessness, familial dislocation and drug addiction he experienced for decades as a result of that treatment. “I wasn’t even told I was Aboriginal. I had to discover that for myself. I knew nothing, was told nothing, and had to assimilate … I was whitewashed by the system,” Charles told the Yoorrook Justice Commission on its first day of public hearings.

Elders were invited to make submissions at the commission’s hearings, or wurrek tyerrang, that opened at the former site of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service building on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, a symbolic landmark of self-determination to First Peoples in the state since the community organisation was founded in the early 1970s. Submissions to the commission, also referred to as nuther-mooyoop (a Boon Wurrung word for truth), were designed to provide an opportunity for First Nations elders in the state to share their experiences of the impacts of colonisation, including their experiences of resilience and survival of languages and little-known histories and traditions.

To view The Age article ‘I was whitewashed’: Uncle Jack Charles first elder to share his story at Yoorrook in full click here.

Uncle Jack Charles outside the Victoria Aboriginal Health Service, Fitzroy

Uncle Jack Charles outside the Victoria Aboriginal Health Service at Fitzroy. Photo: Darrian Traynor. Image source: The Age.

Protect your mob – immunisation campaign

Vaccination rates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have decreased over recent periods, particularly at 1 and 2 years of age. It is important to establish positive immunisation behaviours early in your children’s lives. Skipping or delaying vaccinations puts children and those around them at risk of catching serious diseases. It’s important that children receive their routine vaccines in line with the Childhood Immunisation schedule on time, every time, for the best protection.

A recently launched ’Get the facts about immunisation’ campaign uses a range of materials to engage with parents and carers, childcare workers and health care professionals about the importance of childhood vaccination. Materials specifically developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people include online videos, an infographic and brochures. You can find out more about the ‘Get the facts about immunisation’ campaign here and access resources from the Australian Government Department of Health Routine childhood immunisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children webpage here.

Children need commitment in this election

National Voice for our Children is calling on all major parties in the upcoming Federal election to commit to actions that create a better start in life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. SNAICC’s election priorities have been sent to parties with the responses to inform a snapshot of where they stand on key policies impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle said substantial policy change was crucial if a future Federal Government was to make headway on new Closing the Gap targets. “Under the National Partnership all Governments have agreed to work with the Coalition of Peaks to reduce over-representation in out of home care by 45% by 2031,” Ms Liddle said. “There is also agreement to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children developmentally on track against all 5 domains of the Australian Early Development Census by 55%.”

To view the SNAICC media release Children need commitment in this election contest in full click here.

Image source: SBS TV.

Jacci – no choice but to leave Katherine

Jacci Ingham had been living in the small NT town of Katherine, around 300km south of Darwin, for two decades. And she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It was where her friends were, where her favourite memories were made and where her passion for landscape photography really flourished. But when her NDIS request to move into a local supported accommodation facility was knocked back, she was deemed legally homeless. The writing was on the wall – she had no choice but to leave.

Although she does not have a disability that is visible to the outside world, Jacci – who is in her 40s – has always relied on around-the-clock support to be able to live her life. “I used to see various counsellors and paediatricians and what not and they’d try these different things to see if that would improve me,” Jacci said. “To be honest, I was a bit out of it for a while like my speech was different, I had thought differently, I was prone to very delusional ways of thinking.”

Remote and Population Health Manager for Katherine West Health Board, Megan Green, was brought into the ACCHO as the Mental Health Coordinator in 2016, and tasked with the role of servicing the mental health needs of residents across the 160,000 sq km from the WA border to the edge of the Tanami desert. “So people have got…a number of options (in Darwin). For the mob out bush and even in Katherine itself, I think they’re quite limited,” she said. She said the only option for patients who are in the midst of a mental health crisis, because Katherine does not have the services required, is to have them flown to Darwin at a cost of “thousands of dollars.” It’s always a last resort to send someone out of community, it’s only if we can’t support them or their family, or support the family to support them,” Megan said.

The above was extracted from the Manning River Times article ‘If Katherine were to improve its mental health services, I would move back in a heartbeat’ published on 26 April 2022.

Image source: Manning River Times.

Universal access to oral healthcare needed

There’s a strong economic argument for providing free – or at least affordable – dental healthcare as poor dental health is linked to chronic conditions such as stroke, heart and lung diseases, which place a significant cost on the public health system. Vulnerable Australians are particularly at risk from oral disease and there are growing calls in the lead-up to the federal election to start the journey towards universal access to oral healthcare.

The Consumers Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells says dental care should be funded under Medicare because otherwise it is simply unaffordable for many Australians who risk long-term illness and preventable hospitalisation. Tan Nguyen and Associate Professor Amit Arora, co-convenors of the Public Health Association of Australia Oral Health Special Interest Group, have outlined how national leadership is required to address this neglected area of public health in a Croakey Health Media article Universal access to oral healthcare needs national leadership  here.

Image source: Armajun Aboriginal Health Service website.

Fierce advocacy for mob will be remembered

Prominent Kungarakan and Gurindji elder and community leader Kathy Mills died on Sunday aged 86. Ms Mills was known for her advocacy work for Aboriginal people in the NT, as well as a distinguished career as a songwriter and poet. Daughter June Mills said her mother had a powerful memory of local bloodlines and culture. “She’d take you on a journey, a beautiful journey, and I’ve witnessed that so many times … I’m going to miss that,” Ms Mills said.

Ms Mills held various leadership roles in the NT community, including helping to start Darwin’ oldest alcohol rehabilitation service, co-founding the Danila Dilba Health Service and, in the 1980s, being the first woman elected to the Northern Land Council. Critical of what she said was disappointingly slow work towards reconciliation, Ms Mills used her national profile to push for stronger action than token gestures for Aboriginal people.

“She had steely determination,” June Mills said. “Whether it was Stolen Generation or health or alcoholism, there was lots of things she championed throughout her life. “And once she set her teeth into something, she persevered until she got what she wanted to happen.” Ms Mills was named the NAIDOC person of the year in 1986, was inducted into what were then the NT Indigenous Music Awards (now National Indigenous Music Awards) Hall of Fame in 2005 and became a member of the Order of Australia in 2019. Earlier this year, Ms Mills was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the NT’s Batchelor Institute in recognition of her work.

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal elder Kathy Mills remembered as formidable leader and brilliant storyteller in full click here.

Kathy Mills

Kathy Mills. Photo: Terry McDonald, ABC News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Labor releases Indigenous health policy

Labor releases Indigenous health policy

Labor have issued a media release outlining the focus of their Indigenous health policy. An Albanese Labor Government will train 500 additional First Nations Health Workers and invest in life-saving dialysis and rheumatic heart disease treatments to help close the gap in First Nations health outcomes.

Aboriginal community-controlled health services worked tirelessly to keep First Nations communities safe during the pandemic. Their workforce has been stretched to its limits and vital programs such as chronic disease prevention and First Nations health checks have had to be scaled back.

Labor will work in partnership with community-controlled and other health services to strengthen the sector and improve health outcomes for First Nations people by:

  • Training 500 First Nations Health Workers – building the First Nations health workforce, creating jobs and revitalising community-controlled health services after the pandemic.
  • Delivering up to 30 new dialysis units – so people living in the city and the bush can access lifesaving treatment for chronic kidney disease.
  • Doubling federal funding to combat Rheumatic Heart Disease – so that fewer people miss out on lifesaving screening, treatment and prevention programs in high-risk communities.

To view the Labor media release Labor will Strengthen First Nations Health in full click here.

Bibbulmun woman Corina Abraham-Howard from Perth receives dialysis at the Purple House in Alice Springs. Photograph: Photo: Mike Bowers. Image source: The Guardian.

Calls for healthcare language boost

A NT collective responsible for aiding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika manage a serious illness say appropriate health messaging could halve medical conditions in Aboriginal communities. Mr Marika recently underwent a second operation to treat his rheumatic heart disease thanks to education provided by Why Warriors co-founder Richard Trudgen.

For years Mr Marika lived with his condition without properly understanding it as language used by doctors was difficult to comprehend. Mr Trudgen said this has been a failure of the system for some time. Why Warriors aim to provide First Nations people with radio and on-demand content presented in language for this purpose.

In cases like Mr Marika’s, messaging form Western and Aboriginal medical services are not adjusted for patients who use English as a second language, if at all. Mr Trudgen said simplifying the information does little more than restrict people from the important details. “They want evidential information that shows the cause and effect right down to a biomedical level.” Why Warriors hope to secure funding to stretch their processes to First Nations communities around the country.

To view the ABC News article Yothu Yindi legend undergoes operation amid calls for healthcare language boost in full click here.

Founding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika

Founding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika. . Image source: NT News.

Why Western therapy is not the answer

Portia Walker-Fernando was 16 when she first saw a counsellor, overwhelmed by anger and distress that her brother was being bullied at school because he was Indigenous. “The racism was fairly frequent,” says Walker-Fernando, a Bundjalung woman, from the Northern Rivers of NSW, who, at 24, still carries anxiety and depression.

“As a 16-year-old who was trying to understand why, it really, really hurt. Being Indigenous and being black is something you can’t change.”

Walker-Fernando says intergenerational trauma and racism have contributed to her mental health issues, with her anxiety spiking every year about January 26. “Looking at our history and our story, there’s so much trauma embedded in that. I have a panic attack pretty much every Survival Day – or Australia Day – because of that really strong impact that it has on me,” she says. “No one’s been given the life tools to be able to heal from these traumas, so we’re still carrying them today.”

Half the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience racial discrimination report feelings of psychological distress, according to a Victorian study by the Lowitja Institute, meaning they are vulnerable to developing anxiety and depression.

To view The Age article ‘I have a panic attack every Survival Day’: Why Western therapy wasn’t the answer for Portia in full click here.

Portia Walker-Fernando from Casino pictured with her children. Photo: Natalie Grono. Image source: The Age.

Broncos support IUIH’s Deadly Choices

The Brisbane Broncos will continue to encourage Queensland’s Indigenous youth to get active and healthy, as part of its ongoing support of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health’s (IUIH) Deadly Choices preventative health program.

By prioritising healthy eating, exercise, the avoidance of tobacco and alcohol use, and ensuring individuals continue to complete an annual health check, the Club hopes to unearth and foster future talent of the calibre of current players, Selwyn Cobbo and Kotoni Staggs.

Cobbo, a proud Wakka Wakka man from Cherbourg was today joined by the Burnett’s original Broncos flyer, current and fellow Deadly Choices Ambassador, Steve Renouf to unveil a new suite of health check shirts, used as incentives to encourage local communities to visit the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane for an annual check-up.

Broncos CEO Dave Donaghy said: “Deadly Choices is an outstanding program making a real difference and we are proud of our partnership with the IUIH that now extends beyond a decade.

To view the Broncos promote ‘Deadly’ Communities media release in full click here.

Selwyn Cobbo. Image source: Broncos website.

NT AHW Excellence Awards noms open

The NT’s best and brightest Health Workers and Practitioner’s have the chance for their efforts and work to be recognised, with nominations opening for the 2022 Northern Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards.

The awards are held annually to recognise and acknowledge the significant contribution Aboriginal health workers and practitioners make to their families, communities and the healthcare system across the Northern Territory. These awards acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by our highly valued Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners workforces within the previous 12 months.

Nominations are open from Tuesday 26 April 2022 to Sunday 19 June 2022. To submit a nomination, visit the awards webpage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards – Department of Health here, or contact Aboriginal Workforce Development
using this email link or ring (08) 89227 278.

To view the NT Government Health Minister Natasha Fyles’ media release in full click here.

Aboriginal health workers, Sherryl King and Keinan Keighran, from Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service were recognised for their work at the 2021 NT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards. Photo: Charlie Bliss. Image source: Katherine Times.

Swapping the screen for nature

Model and actor Magnolia Maymuru is careful about how she spends her time. When not in the make-up chair, she retreats into nature – a habit she wishes the rest of the world would adopt, too.

Modern science may have only recently uncovered the link between exposure to nature and increased wellbeing, but Indigenous Australians such as Magnolia Maymuru have been aware of it for thousands of years. “Up here, we have connections to everything around us, from the ground to the sky,” the model and actor said.

Born in Darwin, Maymuru belongs to the Yolngu people – a group of Aboriginal clans from north-east Arnhem Land – who believe that they don’t only come from the land, they are the land, too. “We’re born into our connection [with the outdoors],” she explains. “Every time I come back from the city and hear the waves crash, it just does something to me.”

To view the Body + Soul article Magnolia Maymuru on swapping screen time for real connections with nature in full click here.

Magnolia Maymuru. Photo: Body+Soul. Image source: BodyAndSoul.

Barriers to physical activity for mob

Physical activity has cultural significance and population health benefits. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults may experience challenges in participating in physical activity. A review that aims to synthetize existing evidence on facilitators and barriers for physical activity participation experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in Australia has been undertaken.

The review identified 63 barriers: 21 individual, 17 interpersonal, 15 community/environmental and 10 policy/program barriers. Prominent facilitators included support from family, friends, and program staff, and opportunities to connect with community or culture. Prominent barriers included a lack of transport, financial constraints, lack of time, and competing work, family or cultural commitments. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults experience multiple facilitators and barriers to physical activity participation. Strategies to increase participation should seek to enhance facilitators and address barriers, collaboratively with communities, with consideration to the local context.

To view the Facilitators and Barriers to Physical Activity and Sport Participation Experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adults: A Mixed Method Review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in full click here.

Photo: IUIH. Image source: Exercise Right 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.

World Immunisation Week

World Immunisation Week, celebrated in the last week of April, aims to highlight the collective action needed and to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.

The World Health Organisation works with countries across the globe to raise awareness of the value of vaccines and immunisation and ensures that governments obtain the necessary guidance and technical support to implement high quality immunisation programmes.

The ultimate goal of World Immunization Week is for more people – and their communities – to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

In a related article parents and carers are being reminded of the importance of getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19 in a new information video from the Department of Health.

The video features GP and Senior Doctor at Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (HSAC), Dr Aleeta Fejo who answers important questions about children and the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr Fejo, a Larrakia and Warumungu traditional owner and Elder, said fake stories and misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines were unfortunately very common, especially on social media.

She said it was natural for parents to have questions about giving their kids the jab. “COVID-19 is a serious illness that can affect everyone—including children,” Dr Fejo said. “Vaccines can help stop your child becoming very sick, or even dying, if they catch the virus,” she said.

You can view a three-minute video featuring Dr Fejo below.

Also related is a advice from AMA NSW: with shorter days and cooler temperatures, NSW residents are urged to talk to their GP about getting their flu jab. “Flu season usually occurs from June to September in Australia, and we urge patients to time their vaccination to achieve the highest level of protection during the peak of the season,” said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen.

“Your GP can provide you with advice on when to get your flu shot. Patients should also know that influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone aged six months and over and is free for patients most at risk. “This includes adults over 65 years and over, children under five, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people with certain medical conditions.”

To view the AMA NSW media release Flu season around the corner – time to plan click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Connection to community protects health

Image in feature is of Central Land Council community engagement meeting from The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 June 2020.

Connection to community protects health

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) have published a paper examining Indigenous understandings of community, as well as understandings of what constitutes a healthy connection to community, and why this is protective for individuals, families, and the community itself. It reports key information about research, evaluation, program and policy initiatives, and identifies best-practice approaches and critical success factors for implementation. The introduction to the paper says:

The collective wellbeing of many Indigenous Australian communities has been chronically impaired by colonisation. Colonisation has undermined the fundamental principles that ‘held’ and guided people by their communities’ connections. This impact is seen worldwide as the world’s Indigenous peoples are vulnerable to suicide because of the impact of colonisation. Indigenous communities experience disproportionately high suicide rates, which reflect a broader pattern of disparate Indigenous suicide mortality across colonised nations. While important advances in government policy, resources, and efforts have been directed at reducing suicide among Indigenous Australians, suicide rates in Australia are increasing, as is the incidence of mental distress.

Social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) is an expression of traditional life-affirming Indigenous knowledge systems about wellbeing and is central to culturally safe and successful approaches to suicide prevention in Indigenous communities. SEWB comprises 7 interrelated domains: body, mind and emotions, family and kinship, community, culture, Country, and spirituality. SEWB is at its peak when there are harmonious and healthy connections across all the domains. Connection to community is a key domain in the SEWB model. The concept of community is fundamental to identity and concepts of self in Indigenous Australian cultures. It defines relationships, social roles and cultural norms and practices (lores), which are ‘a complex set of relational bonds and reciprocal obligations’ that differ across Australia’s cultural groups.

To view the AIHW’s paper Connection to Community click here.

Image source: ABC News website.

Former ACCHO employee now nursing graduate

Bendigo celebrated its impressive cohort of graduates during a ceremony at Ulumbarra Theatre last week. The graduates successfully completed their training at TAFE over the past 12 months and were awarded with nationally accredited courses ranging from Certificate I through to advanced diplomas. Among the graduates was Bendigo TAFE Diploma of Nursing student Jade Heavyside.

Ms Heavyside, a mother of four and a proud Wemba Wemba woman, was thrilled to finish her diploma after putting it on hold for several years to raise a family. Fulfilling her nursing studies – and finally becoming a nurse – instilled a sense of pride in Ms Heavyside’s children and her community. “My children were my inspiration to complete my diploma,” she said. “I wanted to show them that by using your strength, will and determination, you can succeed in life.”

Ms Heavyside was also the successful recipient of the Puggy Hunter Scholarship for nursing students, which is awarded to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students studying an entry level health course. She worked with the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative undertaking children’s activities and sporting programs to provide additional support to her community. She is also part of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives. The accomplished nurse is also involved in the Weenthunga group for Indigenous nursing students, which helped motivate and support her on her journey to becoming a nurse.

Like many students over the past two years, Ms Heavyside has faced several challenges and difficulties completing her studies remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was hard trying to adapt to online learning at home, home schooling my children and ensuring we stayed safe through lockdowns and workplace restrictions,” she said. Through her dedication, persistence, hard work and the support of her teachers and peers, Ms Heavyside was able to successfully complete her studies to become a registered enrolled nurse. “It is such a relief and honour to have graduated,” she said. “It is a surreal feeling because the past two years of completing the diploma have been so challenging. “But I would do it all again.”

To view the Bendigo Advertiser article Jade Heavyside is one of Bendigo TAFE’s successful 2022 graduates in full click here.

Bendigo TAFE head of health Annette Gunn with Diploma of Nursing Graduate Jade Heavyside. Image source: Bendigo Advertiser.

Health and medical research priorities

The Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences has released a statement on priorities for health and medical research ahead of the 2022 Federal Election. Cultivating a world-leading health and medical research sector and a world-class health system to protect the health of Australians against future pandemics, climate change and beyond. Since the pandemic began, health and medical research has been in the global spotlight. In Australia, the path through the pandemic has been heavily reliant on our world-class health and medical research sector, which has provided timely, reliable and effective solutions. These solutions did not just appear overnight. Past government investment has paid dividends. COVID-19 provides an example of how smart, strategic investment in health and medical research and innovation can provide the foundations to navigate Australia through significant health challenges.

In their statement the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences said “As we move beyond the pandemic, the next Australian government has a unique opportunity to maximise the impact of health and medical research, and mitigate major health challenges by investing in community driven, co-designed, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led research.”

To view the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences media release Statement ahead of the 2022 Federal Election click here.

Image source: Research Professional News.

What does the election hold for health?

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) of Australia is holding a webinar from 12:30PM–1:30PM on Wednesday 27 April 2022 addressing the question What does the election hold for health? CHF CEO Leanne Wells will facilitate the webinar and presenters will include:

Jennifer Doggett: Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development and editor at Croakey Health Media

Anna Peeters: Professor of Epidemiology and Equity in Public Health, and Director of the Institute for Health Transformation at Deakin University.

Dr Saba Nabi: Based in Wagga Wagga, Saba has a PhD in Biomedical Sciences. She has been a member of Regional Advisory Council (RAC) member with Multicultural NSW, and represented consumers on Health Boards.

Harry Illes-Mann: A Young Leader with the Youth Health Forum and holds positions on other NSW committees as a consumer representative.

You can register to join CHF, health and policy experts, and consumers analyse the Liberal National Party and Labor Party’s health policy platforms and have your questions answered here.

Grinnin’ Up Mums & Bubs Program

A study has been undertaken to develop and pilot test the model of care, Grinnin’ Up Mums & Bubs, to train Aboriginal Health Workers to promote oral health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pregnant women. There was a high level of satisfaction with the components of the model of care among the participants of the study, who believed that the model could be integrated into practice. The training showed some improvement in oral health knowledge and confidence. The participants recommended strategies for discussing oral health with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pregnant women, and changes in public health dental policy to ensure that all women would be able to access affordable dental services through the referral pathway. Overall the findings suggest a high level of satisfaction with the model of care among the Aboriginal Health Workers. Further evaluation is needed to confirm the short and long-term impact of the model.

To view the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health article Aboriginal Health Workers Promoting Oral Health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women during Pregnancy: Development and Pilot Testing of the Grinnin’ Up Mums & Bubs Program click here.

Image sourceL: Your Life Choices website.

HIV&AIDS conference scholarships applications open

Scholarship applications are now open to attend the 2022 Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS and Sexual Health Conferences!

To make the conference accessible to those who ordinarily may not be able to attend, a limited funding has been made available via the ASHM Scholarship Program for people to attend the 2022 Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS and Sexual Health Conferences.

This year’s Conferences will be held as a face-to-face event at the Sunshine Coast Convention Centre, QLD. Scholarships will cover conference registration, and/or accommodation, and/or flights. There are scholarships available for the following:

  • HIV Clinicians
  • Nurses / Pharmacists
  • Community

Scholarship Application Deadline: 11:59PM AEST Sunday 1 May 2022. To see the full criteria, as well as apply for your scholarship, please use this link.

Remote PHC Manuals April update

The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) are currently being reviewed and updates. Monthly updates are provided to health services and other organisation to keep them up-to-date during the review process. The most recent RPHCM update advises that:

  • the Standard Treatment Manual and Women’s Business Manuals are in final preparations for secondary review, which will start this month. If you would like to review some protocols as part of the secondary review process please email a completed expression of interest form from the RPHCM website using this email link.
  • consultations with key stakeholders will occur concurrently with secondary reviews. You can contact the project team here if you are in a senior or governance role and would like to provide feedback on updated protocols.

New editions are due to publication November/December 2022. You can view the Remote PHC Manuals April 2022 Update here.

Women’s Business Manual review sought

The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals Standard Treatment Manual and Minymaku Kutju Tjukurpa (Women’s Business Manual) have now been updated to reflect the recommended changes arising from primary review. The RPHCM project team would like to invite key stakeholders to review the updated protocols before they are finalised for publication.

The stakeholder consultation period seeks feedback to confirm that the content of the updated protocols are relevant and applicable to remote health practice. Please email using this link with the names of any protocols that you would like to review. Feedback on the protocols should be clearly and concisely outlined in an email returned to this email address by close of business on Friday the 6 May 2022. All feedback will be presented to the RPHCM editorial committee for consideration.

Minymaku Kutju Tjukurpa — Women’s Business Manual current edition.

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: First Nations housing in crisis

Image in feature tile of Cassandra Chula, Gloria Chula, Heather Tcherna and Majella Tipiloura in their home where 16 people live in Wadeye. Image source: SBS NITIV, 21 February 2020.

First Nations housing in crisis

An election forum on Indigenous housing will today hear that at least 8,500 new codesigned, culturally appropriate, climate resilient properties are needed in the next four years to address severe overcrowding and disadvantage. The call comes in an election priorities paper jointly released by Change the Record and Everybody’s Home.

The paper First Nations Housing – Election Priorities also calls for further funding to the states and territories to ensure existing public housing stock is retrofitted and properly maintained as the climate crisis worsens. The paper recommends sustained, long-term commitments to increasing and properly resourcing Aboriginal Community-Controlled housing, to meet the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

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

Aboriginal house on outskirts of Alice Springs

Part of an Aboriginal town camp on the outskirts of Alice Springs. Photo: Helen Davidson, The Guardian.

A related ABC News story illustrates at a personal level the impact of inadequate housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Karen Sebastian breaks down in tears as she contemplates life after COVID-19. “I don’t know where we’ll go after this,” she sobs. “Me and the kids will probably go squat at a house or try camp out with some family, if they’ll have us.”

The Broome woman has been homeless for 10 years, but was taken on a 220-km taxi ride to stay at a rundown hotel after contracting COVID-19. She and her teenage sons went into isolation in the tourist accommodation for a week as part of the WA government’s pandemic response.

Vicki O’Donnell, who heads the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services, said “We’ve pushed for people to be put into hotels where it’s appropriate, purely so they can be looked after better, particularly for the homeless. Part of the reason people need to be taken to hotels is the terrible overcrowding we’ve got and poorly maintained houses and that’s been an issue for 20 years. It’s been highlighted during the virus and it’s something governments have to address.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Aboriginal woman with hands against security door to motel

The WA government booked Karen Sebastian and her sons into a hotel to isolate while they had COVID-19. Photo: Andrew Seabourne, ABC News.

Bushfire impact disproportionate for mob

First Nations Australians suffered worse impacts from the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires due to inappropriate planning and unsuitable interventions by authorities during the crisis, researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) argue.

The researchers have published a report examining the first-hand experiences of Indigenous Australians during the 2019-2020 bushfires, and say the findings are also reflected in the current northern NSW floods. Indigenous Australians experienced racism and unfair treatment in the face of the bushfire catastrophe, in addition to loss of home, land and lives, the ANU researchers found.

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

burnt forest Yuin Nation S Coast NSW 2019 bushfires

Solutions to remedy nation’s dental system

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) says the coming election is a golden opportunity to remedy the enormous mess that the nation’s dental system. The peak body for dentists has a number of remedies on its election wish list to fix the system and is putting these to the major political parties for their pre-election consideration.

Over recent years the ADA has repeatedly called on the Federal Government to address the overwhelming and urgent need to set up a targeted and sustainable funding scheme to meet the needs of older, rural and low-income Australians. ADA president Dr Mark Hutton said “People often ask the ADA why there isn’t such a scheme and I have no answer as to why this is not yet in existence. Governments of all colours have consistently failed to address this issue which affects millions.”

TOne of the ways to address the issue according to the ADA is to ensure all over 75s, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over 55 and residents of aged care facilities get a mandatory and reportable oral health assessment.

To view the Bite Magazine article ADA offers solutions to fix a broken dental system in full click here.

Aboriginal man in dental chair receiving treatment

A patient is treated at the Armajun Aboriginal Health Service at Inverell. Photo: Bridget Brennan, ABC News.

NT Melioidosis on the rise

Top End residents and visitors are being urged to take extra precaution to avoid melioidosis following a recent spike in case numbers. Melioidosis, a potentially deadly disease, is caused by the bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, found in tropical soil and water.

Dr Vicki Krause, Director of the NT Centre for Disease Control, said people are more likely to come in contact with these bacteria during the wet season, when they can be found in soil surface layers and muddy surface waters. “This wet season’s high rainfall has led to a 50% increase in the number of melioidosis cases than expected,” Dr Krause said. “On average, 32 cases of melioidosis are reported in the NT each wet season. So far this wet season, 48 cases have been recorded.”

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

Bare feet walking on soil image from NT News and the motile bacteria that causes  melioidosis from the Eye of Science.

Resources for mental health workers

A series of video interviews about the risks of poor mental health and other social issues for young people have been produced by True Pictures for the NSW Ministry of Health.

The videos, like the one below, explain how mental health workers can provide culturally safe services and programs. You can access the Working with Aboriginal People Enhancing Clinical Practice in Mental Health Care Discussion Guide here and the ​video resources on the WellMob website here.

Services for LGBTIQSB+ youth ineffective

There is an absence of research into the effectiveness of service provision for First Nations LGBTIQSB+ young people in Australia. To address this gap, young people’s perspectives on essential components of service provision have been gathered. Concerns were expressed about the ongoing impact of implicit and explicit settler-colonial heteronormativity and racism on services providing support for young First Nations LGBTIQSB+ peoples.

Although set in Australia, this research supports the body of international research and has the potential to create policies and practices centered on the voices and needs of First Nations LGBTIQSB+ youth. To view the abstract of Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services research article “I felt invisible”: First nations LGBTIQSB+ young people’s experiences with health service provision in Australia in full click here.

Photo: Getty Images. Image source: Maxwell Medical Group.

COVID-19 booster vax and RAT demo

In a recent video Dr Aleeta Fejo, Larrakia and Warumungu traditional owner and Elder, and a General Practitioner, Senior Doctor at Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in South Hedland, WA explains why you should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose. Dr Fejo emphasises how getting a booster dose can reduce a person’s risk of  spreading COVID-19 to family and community members, getting seriously ill, going to hospital, and dying.

Getting tested for COVID-19 and knowing when you should stay home helps protect the whole community. If you are feeling unwell, the quickest way to get tested is with a  rapid antigen test, also known as a RAT. In these videos, Dr Mark Wenitong walks us through the testing process step by step:

You can buy RATs from pharmacies, grocery stores, and other retail and online outlets. It’s good to have a few at home, so if you feel sick you have one ready to go. If you have an eligible Commonwealth concession card, you can get up to 20 free RATs from participating pharmacies until the end of July 2022.

And remember, if you test positive, stay at home and isolate from others in your house if you can for at least 7 days. You should also let your friends and family know that you have COVID-19, so they can also monitor for symptoms and take a test if needed.

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: Health Journey Mapping tools launched

Image in feature tile is by Ngarrindjeri artist Jordan Lovegrove – Karko Creations from the Lowitja Institute Learning and Development Hub website page.

Health Journey Mapping tools launched

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people often experience complex and challenging health care journeys that are culturally unsafe, leading to adverse health outcomes.

Yesterday, Associate Professor Janet Kelly of the University of Adelaide and the Lowitja Institute, launched the Health Journey Mapping tools and resources to improve the quality and cultural safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health care journeys.

Lowitja Institute CEO, Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, said the tools will help embed culturally safe practices into healthcare through a strengths-based approach, “Like most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, I know the critical importance of good health journeys and the harms caused when we experience, all too often, poor health journeys. I have experienced this as an Aboriginal woman and mother, as a nurse, and through exploring policy and research on cultural safety, or the lack of it, in mainstream health services and systems.”

The package of tools consists of three mapping tools, a handy user guide, some worked examples and introductory videos, such as the one below. You can find out more here.

To view Lowitja Institute’s media release Health Journey Mapping: embedding culturally safe practices into healthcare in full click here.

ACCHO AHW’s career blooms

Wiradjuri woman Kristy Purnell’s entry into the healthcare system amid a global pandemic has been a rewarding experience Employed as an Aboriginal Health Worker at Toowoomba’s Carbal Medical Services since September 2020, Ms Purnell has been administering COVID vaccines alongside her regular roles.

I work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical services because I want to help my community and provide health care to people that need it,” she said. “My role entails screening clients, doing annual health checks, going to community events, assisting nurses in the treatment room and promoting various programs that Carbal run.”

Ms Purnell’s passion for her role has seen her undertake a CQUniversity TAFE course in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care. She said with a Certificate III already under her belt, Carbal encouraged her to keep acquiring new skills.

“I started (the Certificate IV) last year and have done some residential schooling, which has reinforced my knowledge of comprehensive screening,” she said. “I feel that I’m learning new things that I’m able to utilise in my role on a daily basis. I enjoy sharing my new knowledge with other team members. “This course is helping me to become a confident health worker. It is giving me the skills I need to continue growing in my position at Carbal.” Ms Purnell said the course was worth pursuing for anyone interested in the field.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Kirsty Purnell’s health career blooms amongst pandemic response click here.

AHW Kirsty Purnell

Aboriginal Health Worker Kirsty Purnell. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Our Vote Our Story – 4 days left to enrol!

Your vote is your voice on the laws and decisions that affect you and your community. To vote you need to be enrolled.

If you are an Australian citizen aged 18 years or older you are required to vote in the 2022 federal election on Saturday 21 May 2022.

You must be correctly enrolled by 8:00PM local time Monday 18 April 2022. You can enrol online here or if you are already enrolled you can update you name or address here.

Exciting nursing scholarship opportunity

In collaboration with HESTA, the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) is delighted to offer four scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses to complete any of ACN’s nursing Graduate Certificates in the July 2022 intake. Information about all 20 Graduate Certificates available to this scholarship can be accessed online here.

For more information, including eligibility criteria and to apply here.  Applications are closing soon, at 11:59PM AEST Wednesday 20 April 2022.

First Nations leaders call for climate action

Peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations have released a powerful position paper on the climate emergency and health, calling for action to address pervasive racism, the privileging of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges in climate change responses, and support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander environmental health workforce.

The need to address climate change and it impact on health and wellbeing is a major concern for members of the National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF) which is made up of 13 members including NACCHO. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2021-31 acknowledges the impact of climate change by including healthy environments, sustainability, and preparedness, however the need for action goes beyond the scope of the Health Plan.

The impacts of climate change and global heating must always be at the forefront of planning and decision making. Accordingly, the HNLF supports the international calls for the establishment of a set of new norms that sees a warning limit goal of 1.5C rather than 2C, raising Australia’s 2030 ambitions, more equitable water management for communities, improvement in residential living standards, transition to renewable energy, and the end of fossil fuels.

The NHLF calls for all Australian governments to collaborate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and adopt a its recommendations and principles for action to bring about systemic change to the way Australia looks after the environment and addresses the impacts of climate change.

To view the Croaky Health Media article Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health leaders call for climate action click here.

Art display paying respects to the needwonnee people in southern lutruwita/Tasmania and their care for Country. Photo: Melissa Sweet. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

‘Dire’ new RHD data

Last month, the ABC Four Corners program shone a light on the ongoing failure to tackle rheumatic heart disease (RHD), calling it a ‘hidden killer’ in remote communities. It recounted the confronting story of several young women in Queensland who died from an illness that is vanishingly rare outside of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

According to new research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the situation is sliding backwards. A report published this week highlighted the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever (ARF), a precursor to serious heart disease, is rising.

At the time the Four Corners program aired, the most recently available five-year figures showed 2244 diagnoses of ARF from 2015–2019, itself a significant increase on the 1776 recorded from 2013–2017. And yet, according to the new AIHW figures, the tally now stands at 2611 diagnoses from 2016–2020, with the NT recording by far the highest prevalence at 344 per 100,000 population.

You can access the newsGP article in full here and view the AIHW’s report published this week here.

Aboriginal mother holding toddler

The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever, a precursor to serious heart disease, is rising. Image source: newsGP.

New online diabetes modules

A package of interactive learning modules for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers to support people with diabetes has been launched via the National Diabetes Services Scheme. The package has been developed by Diabetes Australia to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare workers and practitioners with diabetes information and culturally appropriate resources to support people living with diabetes and their families.

Diabetes Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Manager Deanne Minniecon said the modules included interactive activities and stories, taking the user on an engaging journey as they learn more about diabetes related health complications and management strategies to support people to live well with diabetes.

The modules have been developed in consultation with expert groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clinicians, medical and research doctors, university academics specialising in diabetes and leaders in education. The SA Health & Medical Research Institute also contributed to the review process. The modules are engaging, accessible in bite size pieces, culturally appropriate and address all of the issues associated with managing diabetes, beyond the traditional scope.

You can view the National Indigenous Times article New diabetes online modules offer diabetes support and education in full here.

Diabetes Australia has partnered with Waanyi–Kalkadoon artist Keisha Leon to tell the story of diabetes and its significant impact of First Nations peoples. Image source: Diabetes Australia website.

Indigenous Marathon Project

Canberran Roxanne Jones is one of 12 Indigenous Marathon Project squad members set to run the New York Marathon. Canberra local, Palawa woman and PhD Candidate Roxanne Jones started running in 2017 and after a decline in her health in 2018, Roxanne was forced to adapt her training to include a wheelchair.

Despite her challenges, Roxanne persevered, racing in the world biggest fun run—the Sydney City2Surf in a wheelchair in 2018. She hasn’t stopped since. “I am passionate about sharing my story so that other people with disabilities, mental health or chronic conditions can see themselves represented. Representation and visibility is so important if we are to be a truly inclusive community. I want to demonstrate that [within the running and walking community], all abilities are welcome and valued”, says Roxanne.

Roxanne joins 11 other young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across Australia who have been selected to join the 2022 Indigenous Marathon Project Squad to train for the 42.2km New York City Marathon in November.

You can listen to Roxanne and Head Coach Damian Tuck’s interview on ABC Radio Drive here.

New York marathon runners on bridge

New York Marathon. Image source: ABC News 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.