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

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

How poor housing affects health

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

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

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

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

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

Far North research to treat tuberculosis

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

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

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

Cairns Hospital. Image source: Tropic Now.

Strong Women for Healthy Country meet

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

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

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

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

Group A Streptococcus molecular POC testing

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

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

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

To view the article in full click here.

Group A Streptococcus. Image source: Microbiologics Blog webpage.

Mental health, substance use, reincarceration

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

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

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

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

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

Aboriginal SEWB Scholarships Program

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

Dementia Action Week 19–25 Sep 2022

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

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

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

For more information about Dementia Action Week 2022 click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Impact of alcohol-free pregnancy campaign

The image in the feature tile is from the Menzies School of Health Research webpage PANDORA – pregnancy and neonatal diabetes outcomes in remote Australia.

Impact of alcohol-free pregnancy campaign

To mark International FASD Awareness Day, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has released data that demonstrates the impact of the Every Moment Matters campaign – Australia’s first, nation-wide public awareness campaign supporting alcohol-free pregnancies and safe breastfeeding practices.

Developed by FARE and endorsed and funded by the Australian Government, Every Moment Matters aims to increase Australians’ awareness of the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy, and increase the number of Australian women who intend not to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

With the tagline ‘The moment you start trying is the moment to stop drinking’, the campaign features nationally on television, radio, digital and out-of-home channels and runs until July 2024. The results of the ongoing evaluation led by the University of Adelaide demonstrates that Every Moment Matters is overcoming the mixed messages people often receive about alcohol and pregnancy.

As part of the broader program of work, NACCHO has designed a culturally appropriate awareness raising campaign with regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. NACCHO CEO Pat Turner said, “FASD is a whole of community issue. We look forward to launching the Strong Born campaign with ACCHOs across rural and remote Australia next month. The campaign will support mums, their families, their communities, their health practitioners and health services, to bring everyone together to help prevent and better understand the issues that contribute to FASD.”

You can find the joint FARE, NOFASD Australia and NACCHO media release Celebrating 9 months of impact on 9 September: International FASD Awareness Day on the NACCHO website here.

Referendum Working Group announced

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney has announced members of the Referendum Working Group which will establish the path to a Voice to Parliament. Speaking at the Centre for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) State of the Nation conference at the National Museum of Australia, Ms Burney outlined a “working group of First Nations leaders” with Senator Pat Dodson and herself as co-chairs.

The Referendum Working Group will collaborate with the government to consider and navigate “the big questions” in the next following months. The minister said getting the groups working is the first step, with building a “broad consensus of community support” and “harnessing the goodwill in the Australian community to take Australia forward” being the following.

“[There are] many more steps to be taken on the road to the referendum and let’s be clear government cannot lead this referendum,” she said. “This will come from the grassroots, from communities, because the Voice is a nation-building project.” Included among the  group of 22 are:

  • Co-chairs of Uluru Dialogue Professor Megan Davis and Pat Anderson AO
  • Co-chairs of the Indigenous Voice co-design group Professor Marcia Langton AO and Professor Tom Calma AO
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO, NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM and former Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.

To view the SBS article Linda Burney outlines next referendum steps including working group with Ken Wyatt in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times website.

Dedicated to fighting for mental health

Australians of all ages and backgrounds are increasingly at risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Paul Bird and Alex Speedy of the National Wellbeing Alliance, a First Nations-owned and -operated training provider dedicated to fighting for mental health, are right on the forefront of advocating for “acceptance” of the devastating, hidden conditions plaguing many in the region.

The two spoke to students from Murgon, Proston and Goomeri schools at last month’s careers expo at the Murgon Cherbourg Youth Hub, extending helping hands to those wishing to speak out and start the journey of recovery. “Mental health issues are bad – they’re definitely on the increase,” Mr Bird said. “People are getting younger with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm – and it’s not just for Indigenous people, it’s through all societies and countries!”

The pair are based out of the Murgon area but hold workshops for ‘mental first-aid’ wherever they are needed most -equipping people to have those all important conversations and to be able to respond in a mental health emergency. “Alex is a community member, born and bred here, and my father was born here, but I was born in NSW,” Mr Bird explained. “Through a turn of events I’ve come back to my father’s country to facilitate and engage with community through workshops and mental health first-aid.”

To read The Burnett Today article Locals join in tackling mental health crisis click here.

National Wellbeing Alliance workers Paul Bird and Alex Speedy are passionate about helping others improve their mental wellbeing. Photo: Julian Lehnert. Image source: Burnett Today.

Number of WA ACCOs to increase

The WA Government has announced a new strategy to strengthen the delivery of services to Aboriginal children, families and communities by increasing opportunities for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCO) to deliver culturally appropriate services. The ACCO strategy is directly aligned to Priority Reform Area Two of the 2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap, “Building the community-controlled sector.”

The ten-year strategy was developed by representatives from 11 ACCOs across the State, Department of Communities and the Department of Finance. It aligns to several Priority Reform Areas and Socio-Economic targets identified within the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and aims to empower Aboriginal children, families and communities to choose their own futures from the foundations provided by ACCOs.

“Aboriginal people across WA have repeatedly told us that to truly change outcomes, Aboriginal communities must lead the way, and that is achieved through community-based and family-led solutions,” Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said. “ACCOs usually achieve better results, employ a majority of Aboriginal workforce and are the preferred providers by Aboriginal people over mainstream services,” she continued.

To view The Sector’s article WA Gov will boost the number of ACCOs to improve services for First Nations families in full click here.

Image source: The Sector.

Physiotherapist making a difference

As an elite hockey player, Candice Liddy knew her strength was positioning: putting herself in the right place to maximise the team’s opportunity of moving forward and getting a goal. “There were other players who could run all day, but I just knew I had to be in the right spot,” she says.

Candice lives in Darwin, where she was born and raised on Larrakia land. Her grandparents on her dad’s side were part of the Stolen Generations, taken from other parts of the NT as children to live at Garden Point Mission on Melville Island. Her father grew up in Darwin and nearby Howard Springs but was evacuated after cyclone Tracy in 1974 to Brisbane, where he met Candice’s mother, who was born in India, and moved to Australia with her family.

Sporting talent runs in the family and also led Candice to a career in physiotherapy. Playing for many years at State level for the NT, she noticed the team physiotherapists were good at working in the athletes’ best interests while keeping them game-ready, and they also got to travel with the teams. “I wanted those skills and that lifestyle, and I was going to work as hard as I could to get there.”

A later non-clinical role brought her experience in remote communities as a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) planner, where she quickly realised that all the planning in the world would be useless if services weren’t available where they were needed. “And that’s when I thought, You know what, there’s a gap. A gap I’m trained to fill.”

To view the Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) article 2022 World Physiotherapy Day in full click here.

Candice Lidday. Image source: IAHA website.

Prostate cancer, know the symptoms

The Cancer Council of WA (CCWA) is urging men to visit their doctor and learn the common symptoms of prostate cancer this month. CCWA Great Southern regional education officer Bruce Beamish said prostate cancer awareness month was the perfect chance for men to learn more about how their bodies might be telling them something is wrong. He said unlike for breast, bowel and cervical cancer which have screening tests to confirm the presence of cancer prior to symptoms presenting, there is no such test for prostate cancer. Therefore, it is “vital” to visit a doctor, Aboriginal health care worker or clinic nurse when unusual symptoms present.

“Common symptoms of prostate cancer include waking a lot at night to pee, a sudden or urgent need to pee, problems starting or stopping peeing, needing to pee more often, a slow or weak flow when peeing, or dribbling at the end of peeing,” he said. “These symptoms can be found in other conditions but if you have had any of these for more than four weeks, or you’ve noticed blood in your pee or semen even just once, tell your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker as soon as possible. “It doesn’t mean you’ve got prostate cancer — often it turns out to be something far less serious and your doctor may be able to help reduce the annoying symptoms.”

To view the Broome Advertiser article Men urged to learn the symptoms during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in full click here.

Image source: Vitalii Abakumou, Getty Images, iStockphotos.

Emergency relief centre for Gippsland mob

A groundbreaking emergency relief centre to support members of East Gippsland’s Aboriginal communities in times of crisis is getting underway thanks to a $2.4 million investment by the Andrews Labor Government. Minister for Emergency Services Jaclyn Symes joined Member for Eastern Victoria Tom McIntosh and representatives of the Lake Tyers Aboriginal community to announce the funding and hear about their vision for the new centre.

The Lake Tyers Emergency Relief Centre project will bring together Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC), Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust and Lake Tyers community to co-design a supportive, safe and secure space for Aboriginal communities within Lake Tyers during and after a bushfire disaster. The centre will also bring community together for activities and meetings outside of emergencies.

The need for the dedicated relief centre was identified following the devastating 2019-20 Eastern Victorian bushfires, during which over 1,000 known registered Aboriginal heritage places were damaged and hundreds of Aboriginal Victorians were affected.

To read The National Tribune article First Relief Centre For Aboriginal Community In Gippsland in full click here.

Terylene Hood says residents need a place where they can be comfortable during an emergency. Photo: Bec Symons, ABC Gippsland.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Action needed to reduce health inequalities

Image in the feature tile in from the Emerging Minds website.

Action needed to reduce health inequalities

Last month the Australian Health Promotion Association hosted an event titled Putting equity and the social determinants of health at the heart of prevention which included discussions by world renowned epidemiologist Professor Sir Michael Marmot and a panel of Australian health promotion and public health practitioners. Professor Marmot urged Australian colleagues to advocate for healthy public policy, including tackling discrimination. He encouraged colleagues to engage with different avenues of influence like local governments, international audiences, and anyone else who will listen.

Epidemiologist Dr Kalinda Griffiths spoke about the value of data to identify critical areas in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “The way we measure things provides important information on who needs what and where”, she said. “For example, Aboriginal people in NSW are twice as likely to die from lung cancer than non-Aboriginal people. However, Aboriginal people in outer regional and remote areas are eight times more likely to die of lung cancer, but Aboriginal people in metropolitan areas have the same outcomes as non-Aboriginal people. Data like this provides valuable insight for policy making.”

Edwina Macdonald, Co-Deputy CEO of the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), presented a report showing income, employment, and socioeconomic status as strong indicators of health. Some key findings include that 50% of people under 65 whose main source of income is government support reported mental health issues compared to 18% of the general population. In addition, 60% of people on higher incomes report good health compared to 32% of people with lower incomes.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Can we build back fairer? Health promotion panel calls for more action to reduce inequalities in full click here.

Young girls play in Titjikala, An Aboriginal community 120km south of Alice Springs. Photo: AAP. Image source: SBS News.

Health Care Homes evaluation findings

The findings of a recently published evaluation (available here) of the Health Care Homes (HCH) trial show there is much to learn about how to implement future health reform initiatives and will be useful reading for the Federal Government and its new Strengthening Medicare Taskforce., according to Associate Professor Lesley Russell. HCH are general practices or Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) that aim to provide better coordinated and more flexible care for Australians with chronic and complex illnesses.

The report says the initiative did not deliver on any of its promised outcomes due to its failure to faithfully implement the model for HCH as articulated by the Primary Health Care Advisory Group (PHCAG), to low levels of participation by general practitioners (GPs) and patients, and to an implementation timeframe that was too short.

An easy and economically viable implementation of the HCH model are exemplified in the primary care services that are specifically designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 18 ACCHSs, all in the NT, entered the trial and 14 (with 1,025 patients) continued to the end. They saw bundled payments as a more viable, more appropriate payment approach that provided certainty of income and enabled staff to be paid for additional work.  The key enablers were the existing operational structure of the ACCHSs, and the existing relationships between communities, clinical staff and patients. The challenges for these primary care providers included: the transient nature of community populations, sub-optimal communications with other healthcare providers, the availability of staff to follow through on care plans, and that patients were largely unaware of Health Care Homes and the trial.

To view the Croakey Health Media article More than six years after a “revolutionary” health reform was announced, what have we learnt? in full click here. Below is a Health Care Homes introduction video from Jan 2018.

Health leaders call for transformational change

With new Australian PM Anthony Albanese putting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights at the top of his Government’s agenda, stating he would implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart’s agenda in full, health sector advocates have underscored self-determination, truth-telling, cultural safety, and the elimination of racism as a matter of life or death for First Nations peoples.

The National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF), a peak body representing the views of 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations working in health and wellbeing across domains including workforce, research, mental health and service delivery, has been advocating for the Uluru Statement and constitutional reform, arguing that this will support self-determination and transformational change across all aspects of government and public policy.

According to the NHLF, strengths-based, Indigenous-led and driven responses to intergenerational trauma must include a reckoning with history, and an acknowledgment that time’s up for a status quo built on racism and discrimination. “We won’t get transformational change across the health sector until we eliminate racism from the health sector,” explained former CEO of Australian Indigenous Doctors Association and NHLF chair Monica Barolits-McCabe, a Kungarakan woman from Darwin. “I think the real progress journey is just starting.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article As a new Government sets to work, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders call for transformational change in full click here.

Image source: Jobs & Skills WA.

Vision for more equitable healthcare

Growing up in a rural hotel as the son of a nurse, a young Kamilaroi boy called Brad Murphy spent his Saturday nights patching up patrons after brawls and tending to weary travellers as they spun him a yarn. In those formative years, he discovered both an aptitude for providing care and a love of stories that would cement his future. “I am a storyteller,” said Murphy, who works as a GP in the regional Queensland city of Bundaberg and is making an historic tilt at the presidency of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). If elected, Murphy will be the first Indigenous person to hold the role and the first Indigenous president of an Australian medical college.

Gunnedah-born Murphy will be the first to admit he took the road less travelled into medicine, a circuitous journey subverted by racism and the tyranny of low expectations, and fuelled by a love for Country and community. He dreamed of being a doctor, but left school in Year 10 after a maths teacher told him he “wouldn’t amount to anything” and should pursue an apprenticeship. He joined the Navy when he was just 15, and after leaving the Navy became an intensive care paramedic. Years later he was one of five Aboriginal students in the first cohort of medical students at the James Cook University. Murphy was among the two that graduated, relishing the course’s focus on rural, remote, Indigenous and tropical health.

“I worked myself into the ground. I was getting by on sort of two to four hours sleep a day, and after three weeks you just couldn’t string a sentence together,” said Murphy of the “terribly unsafe” working conditions, which culminated in him running off the road and narrowly missing a tree. “Small country town medicine, it’s so hard when the system doesn’t support you.” As someone who has lived the challenges of a remote posting, Murphy is passionate about doctors in training who are sent to rural areas to fulfil their clinical obligations.

To read the Croakey Health Media article Profiling Dr Brad Murphy and a vision for more equitable healthcare in full click here.

Dr Brad Murphy. Image source: Bundaberg Now.

Colleges commit to cultural education

Earlier this month senior representatives from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) met in Melbourne with the GP Training Cultural Educators and Cultural Mentors Network (CECM Network) Governance group. The meeting was a timely opportunity for both colleges to engage with leaders in the field of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health training and recognises their critical importance to the delivery of the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program and the colleges’ long-term commitment to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The ACRRM and the RACGP said the recognise that all community members, in particular our disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, are deserving of care that is culturally appropriate, safe and high quality. Nationally, Cultural Educators and Cultural Mentors shape the capability of our next generation of General Practitioners and Rural Generalists to meet those needs through the unique cultural knowledge, experience and skills they share through the AGPT program. To this end, the RACGP and ACRRM have committed to continuing the agreed current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Training Strategic Plan strategies for 2023.

To view the medianet. article Joint college commitment to continue the critical role Cultural Educators and Cultural Mentors play in GP training in full click here.

Clinical Yarning eLearning program

The WA Centre of Rural Health of The University of WA has announced the launch of the Clinical Yarning eLearning program. Effective communication between clinicians and patients is the foundation to high quality health care however unfortunately, ineffective communication is common when there are cultural and language differences between clinicians and patients.

Clinical Yarning is a framework to assist clinicians improve the effectiveness of their communication in Aboriginal health care. The framework looks to improve the quality and cultural security of care for Aboriginal patients and their families. The Clinical Yarning eLearning program was developed as a resource to improve the effectiveness of communication of health care clinicians who work with Aboriginal patients, by using the Clinical Yarning model.

The online course is available to health science students and health care providers and is around two hours long, with the opportunity to stop and start progress throughout the course at your own pace. By completing the survey at the end of the course, it’s possible to download a Course Completion Certificate.

To view The University of WA article Clinical Yarning eLearning program to improve communication in Aboriginal health care in full click here and to access the Clinical Yarning website click here.

Racial discrimination and the right to health

Yesterday the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination held a day of general discussion on its proposed general recommendation on racial discrimination and the right to health. The day was comprised of three panel discussions focusing on racial discrimination in health as experienced by individuals and groups; legal obligations regarding the prohibition of racial discrimination and the right to health under international human rights law; and monitoring, accountability and redress for racial discrimination in the right to health.

It was noted that Indigenous peoples were victims of collective trauma and inequitable services since the time of colonialism. Indigenous peoples required greater healthcare services, had worse health, and had greater difficulty accessing quality health services, compared to non-indigenous people. It was vital for disaggregated data on indigenous and ethnic minorities to be collected, to ensure that equal access to healthcare services could be provided, and to eliminate all forms of discrimination. Indigenous peoples had proved to be one of the most marginalised groups during the pandemic. Lack of information in indigenous languages and lack of respect for the culture impacted indigenous peoples from being able to access health services. The vaccination of indigenous peoples was not guaranteed, and was often carried out without consulting the local populations, resulting in their reluctance to be vaccinated. In many countries across the world, business activities had directly impacted the right to health for indigenous peoples.

To read The National Tribune article Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination Holds Day of General Discussion on its Proposed General Recommendation on Racial Discrimination and the Right to Health in full click here.

Image source: RACGP.

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: Inquest hears tragic victim statements

The image in the feature tile is of the sign outside the Doomadgee Hospital in the remote north-west Queensland. Photo: Louie Eroglu ACS. Image source: ABC Far North article Queensland coroner to travel to remote Doomadgee for rheumatic heart disease inquest published on 20 May 2022.

Inquest hears tragic victim statements

Family members of three women who died from complications associated with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in the remote Gulf community of Doomadgee have given emotional victim impact statements to the inquest into their deaths. The three young women, whose families requested they be referred to as Kaya, Ms Sandy and Betty, died in 2019 and 2020.

Outside court, Alec Doomadgee, the brother of Ms Sandy and cultural father of Kaya, said the world needed to know the women were human beings and a crucial part of their families. He hopes the inquest would help bring these women’s lives — and the injustice they faced — to the public’s attention. He said that, if Kaya had been white, her treatment at various hospitals would have been very different. “It is an issue of race. It is an issue of systemic racism, institutionalised racism, and it is an issue of stereotyping Aboriginal people,” he said.

“We’re sick of being helped. We know what’s best for us, and we know how to help ourselves. We just need you to start listening to us.” He called on the state government to take real action and responsibility. “[Ms Sandy] didn’t die due to neglect, didn’t die due to negligence. She died because the system and the people [who are] supposed to help didn’t care.”

To view the ABC News article Inquest into deaths of three Indigenous women in Doomadgee hears tragic victim impact statements from family in full click here.

Alec Doomadgee, Ms Sandy’s husband, Edgar Sandy, and her daughters — Tinisha, Ellisha and Simona — outside the court. Photo: Holly Richardson, ABC News.

Traumatic brain injury data project

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the largest contributor to death and disability in people who have experienced physical trauma. There are no national data on outcomes for people with moderate to severe TBI in Australia. Details of a study to o determine the incidence and key determinants of outcomes for patients with moderate to severe TBI, both for Australia and for selected population subgroups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, was published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) earlier today. The findings will be disseminated by project partners, including NACCHO, with the aim of informing improvements in equitable system‐level care for all people in Australia with moderate to severe TBI.

To read the MJA article The Australian Traumatic Brain Injury National Data (ATBIND) project: a mixed methods study protocol in full click here.

The news of this study comes at the end of this year’s Brain Injury Awareness Week which ran from15–21 August with the theme Life is bigger than a brain injury. For further information about Brain Injury Awareness Week, including access to stories of those living with brain injury, you can access Synapse Australia’s Brain Injury Organisation website here. Below is a video relating to a previous study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traumatic brain injury.

Kowanyama dog control a big job

As the sun begins to take the chill out of the morning air, a litter of puppies emerges from its den of building materials on a vacant block of land. Soon the puppies disperse onto the streets, disappearing among dozens of other dogs that roam without boundary across Kowanyama, a remote Indigenous township in Queensland’s far north. The western Cape York community has a problem with loose dogs. They fight, they breed uncontrollably, they attack other animals and sometimes, they turn their attention on humans.

Samuel ‘Sinker’ Hudson, Kowanyama’s animal control officer is part of a small team of people trying to change the way locals care for their animals in Kowanyama. And he has a big job on his hands. There are 455 dogs registered with Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council, about one for every 2.5 people in the community. It’s not known how many unregistered dogs there are, and unchecked breeding is an issue.

To view the ABC News article Kowanyama dog control reduces disease and keeps community safe, but more is needed in full click here.

Takeaway grog ban hotly debated

As communities in northern WA search for solutions to alcohol-fuelled violence and harm, a proposal to severely restrict takeaway grog is subject of a hotly contested debate. The state’s director of liquor licensing, Lanie Chopping, has been investigating whether all takeaway alcohol except light beer should be banned in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions since mid-2020. Crime rates, domestic violence and antisocial behaviour have led to the regions being compared to war zones.

The inquiry was launched after an application in 2019 by former police commissioner Chris Dawson in an effort to reduce alcohol abuse; his successor, Col Blanch, has given in-principle support. While it’s been met with widespread backlash from the tourism and hospitality sectors, which believe it would damage the area’s reputation, leaders in health care and social services have different views.

To view the ABC News article As officials consider a ban on most takeaway alcohol in northern WA, what do people on the ground say? in full click here.

The proposal has drawn a mixed response from the Pilbara community. Photo: Xavier Martin, ABC News.

Successful early childhood program

The school-based program, Getting on Track in Time has received a substantial financial boost to continue its fantastic work. A highly successful Aboriginal early childhood program has received a $2.7 million funding boost to ensure even more young children, their families and educators are skilled in discussing and managing, challenging emotions and feelings. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the Getting On Track In Time program – or GOT IT! – was culturally adapted for Aboriginal communities in partnership with local Aboriginal health services and piloted over four years with positive results.

“This program has united parents, teachers, mental health workers and Aboriginal people to achieve an important goal – to support young Aboriginal children to recognise, regulate and talk about any troubling thoughts and feelings they have,” Mrs Taylor said. “I am delighted more families will benefit from this excellent program, which was developed by South Western Sydney Local Health District in collaboration with local Aboriginal people.” Designed for children aged three to nine years, Aboriginal GOT IT! is a school-based program led by a team of mental health workers (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal). Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said the program aims to support children, families and educators to address emotional or behavioural concerns in children and reduce the emergence of mental health concerns later in life.

To view the NSW Government media release $2.7M for successful Aboriginal early childhood program in full click here.

Female prisoners need protection

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, is calling on the ACT government to guarantee that female inmates at Canberra’s jail are safe from predatory prison officers. It follows disturbing allegations of inappropriate relationships between prison officers and female detainees and ex-detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

On May 12, Tim Rust – a former senior director of operations at Canberra’s prison – blew the lid on a long-standing culture of drug taking and inappropriate behaviour among some corrections officers. Rust’s allegations – which have been referred to the ACT Integrity Commission –  include cocaine-fuelled staff parties, hot-tub photos with senior and junior prison staff, an affair with an ex-inmate and attempts by prison authorities not to fully investigate the substance of the matters.

Ms Tongs said she was deeply “concerned” by the allegations and has written to three key ACT ministers seeking an assurance that female detainees are safe. The ministers are ACT Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman, Minister for Women Yvette Berry and Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne. “I’m calling on the ACT Government to guarantee the safety of the women detained in the AMC,” Tongs said.

To view the Canberra City News article Protect women from prison predators, says Tongs in full click here.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO Julie Tongs. Photo: Greg Nelson, ABC News.

Innovative pathway to study medical career

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with aspirations of pursuing a career in medicine are encouraged to consider a University of Newcastle pathway program, which could set them on the journey to realising their dream.

The Miroma Bunbilla Program is an alternate entry pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates applying for the University of Newcastle’s Joint Medical Program (JMP). Each year, up to 17 places are set aside for applicants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent for admission into the JMP. There are currently 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in the JMP, and to date, 110 Indigenous doctors have graduated from the medicine program.

The five-day intensive assessment Miroma Bunbilla program, will be delivered from December 5 to 9, pairing students with mentors to successfully start medical school. In 2020, the program was extended beyond Newcastle to reach those outside the Hunter region and now also runs in Armidale, Moree, Tamworth, Taree and Orange.

Applications for the Miroma Bunbilla Program are now open and close on 31 October 2022. For further information about the program and how to apply click here.

Medical student Kieran Shipp. Photo: University of Newcastle. Image source: National Indigenous 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: NT PHC workforce crisis – biggest ever

Image in the feature tile is from a video NT chief minister attacks ‘international trolls’ for spreading Covid misinformation published in The Guardian on 25 November 2021.

NT PHC workforce crisis – biggest ever

As critical primary healthcare clinics are forced to close for some weeks in Central Australia due to the pandemic’s impact upon staffing, health leaders are calling for ‘vaccines-plus’ strategies to check COVID transmission, as well as better support for and investment in the Aboriginal health workforce. A leading public health expert has urged governments to do more to tackle the COVID pandemic in the wake of a related workforce crisis forcing the closure of important primary healthcare (PHC) clinics in Central Australia, with worrying implications for the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress) made the decision to close each of their five town clinics for one day each week from the beginning of August until the end of the month to help manage a shortage of healthcare staff. Congress delivers services to more than 16,000 Aboriginal people living in Mparntwe/Alice Springs and remote communities across Central Australia, including Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa), Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Wallace Rockhole, Utju (Areyonga), Mutitjulu and Amoonguna as well as many visitors.

Dr John Boffa, Chief Medical Officer Public Health at Congress is concerned recent major gains made in life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the NT will be reversed without urgent efforts to fix the Territory’s current PHC crisis. “Basically, we’ve got the biggest workforce crisis we’ve ever had now,” Boffa said.

To view the Croakey Health Media article As COVID reduces Aboriginal health services in Central Australia, health leaders call for action in full click here.

Drone photo of Mparntwe/Alice Springs. Phot: Mike Bowers. Image source: The Guardian.

Meaningful health reform suggestions

In a recent Croakey Health Media article health professionals have explored some of the key health reform challenges facing the Federal Government and offered some ways forward, based on appreciation of the importance of addressing health inequities, the needs of patients, and strengthening critical relationships. They say a number of factors combine to deliver an Australian health system that is “universal” in name only, where those with resources can buy access to the care they need but where too many of those who need it most miss out.

Many of these “design faults” have a compounding impact on population groups who already experience the most disadvantage such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people with disabilities, living in rural and remote areas and with low incomes. The resulting situation is a clear example of the “inverse care law”: the principle that the availability of good medical or social care tends to vary inversely with the need of the population served. Reversing this situation will only be possible if at least some of these structural problems are addressed, in addition to increasing overall resourcing for primary healthcare and addressing workforce shortages.

Lessons, the article authors say, can be learnt from existing examples of community-based approaches to chronic disease in Australia and internationally. These include the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector, community health centres like co-health and rural health services, which often provide a more integrated and multidisciplinary approach than urban areas.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Amid competing agendas and priorities, some suggestions for ways forward for meaningful health reform in full click here.

Darren Braun is an Aboriginal Health Worker trainee at Danila Dilba in Palmerston, Darwin. Photo: Emilia Terzon. ABC News.

Caring for our mob, in health and wellbeing

Across Australia, the consumption of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) continues to cause a greater burden of disease within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities than in the non-Aboriginal population. In the Eastern Metropolitan Region of Melbourne, two EACH programs located in Ferntree Gully – the Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Team (AHWT) and Project HOPE/THRIVE – have been successfully working together to provide wrap-around services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD) concerns. Anecdotal evidence suggests that such collaborative care keeps clients with complex issues engaged, supported and hopeful along their recovery journey.

The Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup “Caring for our Mob, in health and wellbeing” report uses a case study approach to explore and develop a rich understanding of the key elements underpinning the collaborative model of care between EACH’s Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup AHWT and its HOPE/THRIVE program of federally-funded AOD support. This includes relationships and trust; good communication and frequent contacts; colocation of multiple services; supported transport; flexibility and responsiveness; a team-oriented, family-centric and holistic approach to AOD misuse, health and wellbeing; and operationalizing a philosophy emphasizing welcome attitude, empathy and hope. Three real-life client stories are presented in the report, in order to reveal what this collaborative model looks and feels like, from the perspective of those benefiting from it.

To access the Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup “Caring for our Mob, in health and wellbeing” report click here.

NE Arnhem Land health lab on wheels

Chronic diseases – such as diabetes and heart disease – cause suffering for thousands of Australians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The Menzies School of Health Research is letting people experience the effects of long-term diseases before they get sick. HealthLAB – a clinic on wheels – lets people see heart and kidney ultrasounds, hear their heart beating, and try on ‘alcohol goggles’ that mimic raised blood alcohol levels. An award-winning interactive Time Machine app completes the picture – literally – by showing how those choices affect appearance.

HealthLAB travels to locations around Darwin and Northeast Arnhem Land, giving locals the opportunity to talk to a range of scientists and health professionals about the science behind the inner workings of the human body, the technology behind the equipment they use, and exciting future careers in science.

To view the medianet. News for Business article An AI ‘Time Machine’ and a health lab on wheels – Northeast Arnhem Land, NT in full click here.

Image source: Menzies HealthLAB Facebook page.

Increasing odds GPs will work rurally

New research which links the amount of training time spent in rural areas with the odds of GPs working in rural and remote areas has been published in the American Journal of Graduate Medical Education. The study addresses an urgent need to understand how to increase the likelihood of junior doctors choosing to practice as GPs in rural or remote areas. The paper titled: Family Medicine Residencies: How Rural Training Exposure in GME Is Associated With Subsequent Rural Practice, shows that when junior doctors do their GP training in rural and remote areas they are more likely to subsequently decide to work in rural areas.

While other research has previously identified associations between rural training – particularly as a medical student – and subsequent rural practice, this study showed that as the amount of rural GP training of junior doctors increased, so did their likelihood of rural practice. Lead author, Menzies Senior Research Fellow Dr Deborah Russell, said that in the US, where this study was undertaken, almost all (91%) junior doctors training to be GPs have no rural training, leaving enormous scope for government policy to increase rural training opportunities for junior doctors. The findings of this US study are relevant for ensuring that enough Australian GPs choose to work in rural and remote areas of Australia.

To view the Menzies School of Health Research media release Increasing the amount of training time in rural areas increased the odds that GPs work rurally in full click here.

Image source: RACGP newsGP.

ACT Rising Woman of Spirit award winner

The Lifeline Canberra Women of Spirit Awards, announced yesterday, recognise women who have overcome adversity and gone on to make a positive contribution to our community, while inspiring others to do the same. A young Indigenous woman, Rachel Fishlock, who was a child carer for her mother who had mental health complexities, was honoured with the Rising Woman of Spirit award.

From the age of 12, Rachel became a full-time career for her single mum, who had severe mental health complications, and experienced systemic neglect during her mother’s frequent and prolonged hospitalisations. Through sheer determination, Rachel completed high school, and went on to found a successful international business, Lunar the Label. She closed this to pursue university education, graduating with a degree in social sciences in 2018 and has since earned a Master of Business Management.

A Yuin woman from Nowra NSW, Rachel now works in Canberra at Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit), the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention. Today, Rachel continues to push for policy reforms to ensure other child carers do not experience the neglect that she did.

To view the Riotact article ‘Leaving the world in better shape than they found it’ – meet the winners of Lifeline’s Women of Spirit Awards in full click here.

Indigenous HealthInfoNet calls for papers

The Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (formerly the HealthBulletin Journal) has been published online since 2020. In that time, it has received over 6,500 downloads, in 62 countries and 230 institutions around the world. You are being invited to submit an article to this rapidly growing publication.

Papers are being sought from researchers and practitioners that address key issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Our goal is to provide high quality information that is timely, accessible and relevant to support the everyday practice of those in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector workforce.

As of 27 June this year one of the most popular papers published by the Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet was Culturally Safe and Integrated Primary Health Care: A Case Study of Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services’ Holistic Model, available here.

You find more information here and visit the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet journal here to submit your work. All submissions are subject to double blind peer review.

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: On Children’s Day, hear voices of the future

The image in the feature tile is of Brooklyn Goodwin, kutalayna Collective and Pacey Riley, kanamaluka Collective. Both photos were taken by Kata Glover, Digital Communications Officer, Connected Beginnings, lutruwita.

On Children’s Day, hear voices of the future

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day (Children’s Day) is celebrated across Australia each year on 4 August. Historically this was the date used to celebrate the birthdays of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were taken from their families at a young age, without knowing their birthday –  they became known as being part of the Stolen Generations.

Now, Children’s Day is a time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities to celebrate the strength and culture of our children. The theme for this year’s Children’s Day is ‘My Dreaming, My Future’ – which askes our kids to reflect on what the Dreaming means to them, their lives, their identity, and the aspirations for the future.

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), the national peak body in Australia representing the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, actively supports and promotes Children’s Day.

TAC program supports strong beginnings

On National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, NACCHO would like to highlight the innovative work done towards improving the lives of our kids and building better outcomes for them by our affiliate, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), an ACCHO for the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.

The Connected Beginnings program aims to improve health, educational, developmental, and social outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-5 years to ensure every child is ready for the transition to school.

The program is delivered under an innovative Collective Impact framework that aims to elevate the Aboriginal community’s voice, support integrated service provision, advocate for culturally safe and appropriate services and facilitate positive actions to improve community outcomes.

TAC Chief Operations Officer and Program Director, Raylene Foster says, “A program like Connected Beginnings is vital to improving the whole ecosystem of service delivery for Aboriginal children.  This place-based program is essential for the successful delivery and utilisation of mainstream programs and child health, social, educational and development needs for Aboriginal children, to be delivered through an Aboriginal lens”.

The success of the Connected Beginnings program at kutalayna (Brighton), has led to the program’s expansion to two new sites in pataway (Burnie) and kanamaluka (George Town and Northern Suburbs Launceston). The expansion is a testament to the great work being carried out at TAC and to their ongoing commitment towards improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Connected Beginnings in pataway will be officially launched in tandem with the celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.

The program is jointly funded by the Department of Health and Aged Care and the Department of Education. TAC is the recipient of both streams of Connected Beginnings funding from the Departments and delivers the program across lutruwita, Tasmania.

  • read the kutalyana Collective media release here
  • read a related National Indigenous Times article here
  • listen to an ABC News radio (Northern Tasmania) interview with Chloe Woolnough from TAC and Project Manager of Connected Beginnings, lutruwita, here.

Background Information

The Connected Beginnings program forms part of the first Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation Plan. It aims are to contribute to achieving Outcome 4, that children thrive in their early years, under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Connected Beginnings currently fund 14 ACCHOs and Aboriginal Medical Services across Australia. In 2021, the Australian Government provided additional funding to expand the Connected Beginnings Program to a minimum of 50 sites by 2025 and are working in partnership with NACCHO on the delivery of the health component of the Connected Beginnings program.

The program demonstrates how change can be made within the new Closing the Gap partnership arrangements and how transformation can happen if everyone has a shared vision, trust, and commitment. The success of Connected Beginnings in lutruwita is being celebrated across the country, highlighting how, through Aboriginal community control, meaningful and lasting systems changes are best achieved.

You can find more information about Connected Beginnings on the Australian Government Department of Education and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations joint website page here.

katalayna Collective logo, Francis Ketley, katalayna Collective, Leveigh Bernes, kanamaluka Collective, Isabella Romanelli, pataway Collective. Photos: Kate Glover.

COVID vax for kids with comorbidities

The Australian Government has accepted the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommendations for COVID vaccination use in children 6 months to <5 years of age with significant comorbidities and these children will be eligible for a vaccine from Monday 5 September 2022.

The ATAGI have released a statement ATAGI recommendations on COVID-19 vaccine use in children aged 6 months to <5 years which is available on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website here.

Of particular note:

  • there are eligibility conditions for the vaccine and most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children WILL NOT be eligible for the vaccine. Only children with immunosuppression, significant comorbidities or a disability that requires significant assistance with daily activities will be eligible
  • the Department of Health and Aged Care is engaging ACCHOs around vaccination for this age group, with webinars with ACCHOs organised for next week to discuss how to support access for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait children, particularly in rural and remote areas.

Occupational therapist at Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service (WACHS). Image source: WACHS website.

Call for First Nations first responders

When Lismore was hit with its biggest flood in recorded history, national Indigenous newspaper the Koori Mail responded quickly to the needs of the community. The newspaper’s general manager Naomi Moran said she was able to salvage laptops and hard drives, but the building and most of its contents were destroyed. In the wake of the mud and wreckage, Ms Moran said they were forced to face the reality that for the first time in the organisation’s 30-year history, they would not be able to print the next edition, and possibly several after that. “We lost our building, we lost our first floor, we lost everything that the Koori Mail was for the past 30 years,” she said.

Far from calling it a day, the organisation pivoted and became a flood hub responding to the community’s needs for food, supplies, clothing and support. “We came up with a strategy and some ideas around how we, as an Aboriginal organisation – an independent organisation and business in this region – could utilise all of our resources, our contacts in our networks, to support the local community,” she said. In the days, weeks and months that followed, the Koori Mail team helped coordinate food, clothes, counselling and essential items for thousands of flood-affected residents relying on financial support from donations.

To view the ABC News article Success of Koori Mail flood response in Lismore prompts calls for First Nations first responders in full click here.

The Koori Mail’s Naomi Moran says the organisation used all its resources to support the community. Photo: Matt Coble, ABC News.

Pathway to improve services for mob

A new strategy that aims to increase opportunities for ACCOs to deliver culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal children, families and communities has been launched in Fremantle. The 10-year strategy was developed by representatives from 11 ACCOs across the State, Department of Communities and the Department of Finance. It aligns to several Priority Reform Areas and Socio-Economic targets identified within the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and aims to empower Aboriginal children, families and communities to choose their own futures from the foundations provided by ACCOs.

ACCOs hold an important role in delivering culturally secure services to Aboriginal people across WA. They provide a vast range of critical services and support including health, healing, safe homes, housing, education and training, child protection, disability support, justice, and maintaining strong connections to land and culture. As stated by Community Services Minister Simone McGurk: “Aboriginal people across WA have repeatedly told us that to truly change outcomes, Aboriginal communities must lead the way, and that is achieved through community-based and family-led solutions. We are committed to partner with and support ACCOs so that Aboriginal services can serve the unique needs of Aboriginal families alongside Communities ACCOs usually achieve better results, employ a majority of Aboriginal workforce and are the preferred providers by Aboriginal people over mainstream services.”

To read The Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) Strategy 2022 to 2032: Empowering Aboriginal children, families and communities to choose their own futures from secure and sustained foundations provided by ACCOs visit here.

Research shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled art centres play a significant role in supporting the health and wellbeing of older people and people living with dementia. Image source: Dementia Australia.

New health service for Mapoon

The community of Mapoon is preparing to celebrate the opening of a new purpose-built Primary Health Care (PHC) Centre on 23 August 2022. The Thimithi Nhii Primary Health Care Centre will be opened by Apunipima Chairperson and Mapoon Mayor, Aileen Addo, who will cut the ribbon on the new facility in front of elders, community members, the local Health Action Team and local and regional dignitaries who are all invited to come and enjoy the festivities.

“This is fantastic news. We’ve growing in size as a community and there was an increasing need for a PHC Centre to work alongside Queensland Health to match that population growth,” Mrs Addo said. The new facility was made possible thanks to local Traditional Owner group, the Rugapayn Corporation. “We’re extremely grateful to the Rugapayn Corporation for granting us the land to build a much-needed Primary Health Care Centre in Mapoon,” she said.

“What we are seeing with the new PHC Centre in Mapoon is exactly what ‘community control’ is all about. The Centre has been designed by community, it will be staffed and run by community and it will ultimately belong to the community,” said Apunipima CEO Debra Malthouse. Currently Apunipima delivers its health services from the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service premises in Mapoon. This arrangement has limited Apunipima’s capacity to increase primary health care services in the community. Community control was always the goal for the community and having a stand-alone centre will give Apunipima the opportunity to respond to community health needs in a way that community want.

To view the Apunipma Cape York Health Council media release Date announced for opening of new Health Care Clinic in Mapoon click here.

Health Worker Daphne De Jersey and Mapoon PHC Manager Debra Jia are excited about the PHC opening and what that means for their growing community. Photos supplied by: Apunipima Cape York Health Council.

Awabakal welcomes babies to Country

“It is important that our babies grow up knowing their identity and connection to country.” That’s the sentiment of Awabakal Ltd CEO Raylene Gordon after the organisation welcomed the next generation of First Nations children into the community at Newcastle City Hall earlier this week. Following a COVID-enforced hiatus, more than 200 families across Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Raymond Terrace and Maitland are expected to take part in Baby Welcoming Ceremonies this week, which coincide with National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day on 4 August.

“We have hosted this event since 2015,” Mrs Gordon said. “So, we’re glad to be back after a couple of years due to COVID-19. Our Baby Welcoming Ceremonies relate to the tradition of introducing newborns to the community where the Elders welcome them to the land. This sense of identity and belonging was denied for many of our people for so long. So, our ceremonies are a reminder to our community that you and your babies belong here – and they are loved. We all want to help them grow to be proud, safe and beautiful First Nations people.”

To read the Newcastle Weekly article Awabakal community welcomes babies to Country in full click here.

Awabakal Ltd hosted one its Baby Welcoming Ceremonies at Newcastle City Hall this week. Image source: Newcastle Weekly.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: More community control needed

Image in the feature tile is from the ACT Government 2022–23 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Budget Statement. The ‘Walk through Wiradjuri country’ painting was completed by two Wiradjuri men, Tony “TK” Levett and Trevor Ryan.

More community control needed

The ACT Council of Social Service’s Gulanga Program says the recent 2022–23 ACT Budget, which featured an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Budget Statement, responded to some of the calls from the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, but much more is needed to be done to improve outcomes for First Nations peoples in the ACT. Head of the Gulanga Program, Ms Rachelle Kelly-Church said: “While welcomed, these announcements follow a long period of inaction in implementing recommendations under the Our Booris Our Way and We Don’t Shoot Our Wounded Reports.

“We also need to see significant increases in investment to establish and expand Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs). We need to ensure there is a better distribution of funds so that new initiatives targeting our communities are delivered through Aboriginal community-controlled organisations – not just through ACT Government services. Time after time, experience shows that Aboriginal community-controlled organisations are best placed to support our community and achieve the improved outcomes that we are all desperate for.

“We also need investment to ensure that the services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are culturally safe and respectful. The announcement of $12m for the implementation of Corrections ACT’s Blueprint for Change must include the delivery of mandatory Aboriginal cultural competence training for staff involved in our justice system so that we can challenge ongoing systemic discrimination and racism.”

To read the ACTCOSS media release Gulanga Media Release: ACT Budget – more community control needed in full click here.

Mobile healthcare to remote NSW

A retrofitted motorhome will be used to bring medical care to remote NSW communities to help minimise the spread of COVID-19. Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) revealed it had purchased the vehicle through a BHP donation to provide medical care outside of traditional clinical spaces. It will allow ACCHOs to hold mobile vaccination clinics in communities, negating the need for people to travel to get vaccines.

AHMRC chief executive Robert Skeen said the service’s response team had been integral to the vaccine rollout. “With the help of the valuable partnership of BHP we’re able to provide care to all our mob in every community across the state,” he said. The motorhome will initially be used in the Northern Rivers region where flooding has impacted community clinics.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Aboriginal medical group prepares new motorhome for flood-hit NSW healthcare roadtrip in full click here. You can also find more details about the motorhome on the AH&MRC website here.

Image source: AH&MRC website.

Clinic doubles usual 715 health checks

A clinic in WA more than doubled its usual number of health checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients after introducing free walk-in assessments during NAIDOC week. Lockridge Medical Centre in Perth offered free MBS 715 Indigenous Health Checks to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients who came along during the week. “The health assessments were a great opportunity to offer support for preventive healthcare,” Dr Kayla MacKinnon, a GP at the clinic said.

The clinic doctors were given additional spaces to meet demand and accommodate walk-ins and all nurses agreed to work additional shifts for the week.  All doctors were rostered for one session per week, thereby sharing the experience. Dr Shashi Ponraja, also a GP at the clinic, said it was ‘an excellent opportunity for outreach’ and ‘patients seemed to really appreciate the flexibility in the appointment setup’.

When reflecting on the success of their NAIDOC week experience and increased health assessments, Director Mrs Watts said that “success is measured in many ways, such as the centre’s agreement to undertake Aboriginal Health Workers through Marr Mooditj Training, with the hope of employing an Aboriginal Health Worker as a result and the networking, the collaboration and the improvement in preparing the practice to be a culturally safe healthcare home for the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.”

To view the RACGP newsGP article NAIDOC week leads to more health assessments in full click here.

Boxing champion fights for mental health

Newly-crowned Australian masters boxing champion Darcy Brown knows whatever faces him in the ring, the larger fight on his hands is breaking down stigmas mental health, ADHD and autism. The 51-year-old Wiradjuri man won the national 75.1-80kg class in the 50-55 age bracket in July. Fighting under the name Buddy Oldman, Brown took to the sport fewer than two years ago to get back into physical shape before realising the bigger battle was fought upstairs.

Sexually abused as a child and later suffering from PTSD and depression through adulthood, Mr Brown shied away from boxing earlier in life. It was labelled a mug’s game by his late late father, who himself had been an exhibition tent-fighter in his youth. Brown’s dramatic rise from novice to national champ is spurred on partly by his own struggles, but even more so by the opportunity he hopes it brings to the lives of others.

Now living in Albury, he and his wife have fostered Aboriginal kids for 20 years and are currently the guardian to a neurodivergent child. Working in special needs and with an autistic son and grandson, Brown said representation through sport could have wide-reaching advantages. He fights to raise awareness for these conditions and for those diagnosed to be treated equally in all area’s of life. His message has stretched to include the Aboriginal health in general, and at times the LGBTQ+ community. “I’ve just taken it upon myself to make it happen,” Brown said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Boxing novice-turned national champion Buddy Oldman fights for mental health with every venture into the ring in full click here.

Newly-crowned Australian masters boxing champion Darcy Brown. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Telehealth provides care closer to home

A boy who accidentally slashed his throat when he rode his motorbike into a fence, a burns victim, and an elderly Indigenous woman who wanted to die on country – all are among rural patients successfully treated by telehealth, a conference has heard. The trio were seen by specialists through the WA Country Health Service Command Centre, which provides telehealth via video conferencing to help frontline doctors treat patients at rural hospitals. The centre is part of the world’s biggest rural service in geographical terms, covering more than 2.5 million square kms from Kalumburu in the Kimberley to Albany in the south.

Speaking at the National Rural Health Conference in Brisbane, the command centre’s managing director, Justin Yeung, said it aims to provide “care closer to home” for people in rural and remote areas across the vast state. “We see the whole gamut,” Dr Yeung told the conference, which is focusing on collaboration and innovation in rural health. The centre runs emergency care, inpatient treatment to reduce the number of patients who need to be transferred to bigger hospitals, maternity care, psychiatry and palliative care. Dr Yeung said telehealth is not a replacement for face-to-face care, but supplements traditional treatment.

To read The West Australian article Burns and injuries treated via video in WA in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

Diabetes youth webinar series

Menzies Diabetes Across the Lifecourse Northern Australia Partnership aims to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by targeting the intergenerational cycle of type 2 diabetes and is hosting a 10-part webinar series to give a comprehensive overview of youth type 2 diabetes, screening, management, multidisciplinary care, models of care and preventative strategies. The discussions will be co-led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals and community members in partnership with clinicians and researchers. Delivered fortnightly starting on Thursday 4 August from 12:45–1:45 PM. Those who cannot attend the live sessions but would still like to view the sessions can sign up to be sent a recording of the presentation.

You can view a flyer about tomorrow’s webinar here. Please register for the first event by following this link. Registered participants will be sent a calendar invite and a zoom link for the live presentation and a link to the recorded presentations for later viewing. Subsequent events will be communicated thereafter.

HealthInfoNet user survey and prize draw

Australian Indigenous HealthINfoNet is conducting an online survey designed to gather feedback from users of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (HealthInfoNet) as part of its continual improvement.

The survey will take about 5-10 minutes to complete.

Survey responses will remain anonymous. Choosing to answer the survey questions indicates your informed consent to participate. You can stop the survey at any time by closing the computer window in which the survey appears.

At the end of the survey, you have the option to submit an entry for a prize draw for a $350 Coles Group & Myer gift voucher. The winner’s name will be drawn at random and they will be contacted by phone or email after the survey closes. Your contact details will not be linked to your survey responses. Survey respondents who enter the prize draw within its first week will automatically be entered twice.

The survey is open now until 11.59pm (AWST) Sunday 21 August 2022.

You to complete the 2022 Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet User Survey by clicking here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Harmful impacts of cannabis use among mob

Image in the feature tile in from the ABC News article Cannabis use and psychosis: what is the link and who is at risk? – 25 April 2018.

Harmful impacts of cannabis use among mob

The Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre has published a Review of cannabis use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peopleAuthors of the review note that the health effects of cannabis use may not always be seen as a high priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, yet the impact of cannabis use on physical and mental health can have significant consequences. The use of high potency cannabis has increased over the last two decades, with a corresponding increased risk to health. In particular, young people and those who started using cannabis whilst young are at increased risk of experiencing harms to mental health. The increase in harms has been matched by a reduction in the perception that cannabis use is harmful. The use of cannabis with other drugs, especially  tobacco is also concerning and should be an important item on the Aboriginal health agenda.

This latest review says that physical harms to health include effects on the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, an increased risk of cancer, and in-utero effects from maternal use. Harms to mental health include an increased risk of psychotic episodes, depression, anxiety and problems with memory and paying attention. While generalising findings about cannabis use for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is problematic due to limited data, high rates of cannabis use have been identified and are a cause for concern. The review highlights protective factors that reduce harms from cannabis use and suggests future directions for collaborative culturally secure approaches in addressing cannabis related harms in communities.

The review is part of a suite of knowledge exchange products that includes an infographic summary of the review, a video (below) and a key factsheet ensuring the information reaches a time poor workforce in multiple ways.

Culturally tailored suicide prevention training

Even one suicide is one too many. For the family, friends and community left behind, it is a devastating and often unexpected loss. But talking about suicide can be deeply painful and complex. This issue can be compounded in Indigenous communities, where cultural sensitivity and awareness are fundamental to breaking down barriers and providing support. The University of Wollongong’s MIND the GaP initiative, based at Shoalhaven Campus, has partnered with the South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation (AMS) to develop and provide culturally tailored suicide prevention training to the region’s Aboriginal communities.

Known as Community Linkers, the project aims to reduce suicide by bridging the gap between at-risk community members and professional services. The project is training Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and organisations providing services to Shoalhaven’s Aboriginal communities in how to recognise at-risk behaviour and help those in need to easily and readily access support services.

To view the University of Wollongong Australia article Community Linkers tackle suicide in Shoalhaven’s Indigenous communities in full click here.

Image source: The University of WA website.

Bagot Elder reflects on end of alcohol bans

At 75, Helen Fejo-Frith’s life resembles a series of David versus Goliath battles against rivals, ranging from corporate giants to former prime ministers. She can recall who lives where in Bagot — the urban Darwin Indigenous community she presides over — with her eyes closed, and anyone causing trouble knows not to do it in her sight. But alcohol remains one of her biggest and oldest adversaries. Despite being banned, liquor still finds its way into the grid of streets that make up Bagot, putting neighbours, elders and children in harm’s way.

While alcohol remains banned in Bagot, liquor has begun flowing into other parts of the NT for the first time in at least 15 years, after intervention-era bans ended this month, when federal legislation quietly expired. NT laws have picked up where the intervention left off, except it has given communities the right to choose if they wanted alcohol to return, providing Indigenous leaders with a seat at the policy-making table. Some say prohibition has never worked, and putting policy control back in Indigenous hands will encourage self-determination and healing after a dark, 15-year chapter. Others are bracing for the territory’s sobering rates of alcohol-related harm to rise even further, due to what they say has been a “hasty” transition.

To view the ABC News article After 15 years of prohibition, the Northern Territory’s intervention-era alcohol bans come to an end in full click here.

A related article Indigenous Australians minister to meet NT chief minister over alcohol ban ending published in The Mandarin today can be accessed here.

Helen Fejo-Frith is the president of Bagot community in urban Darwin. Photo: Jesse Thompson, ABC News.

Healing practices critical in mental healthcare

At the recent Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Congress, psychiatrist Dr Loyola McLean presented an eloquent keynote highlighting the importance of embodying First Nations’ healing practices in mental healthcare

McLean, an expert in trauma-informed care and attachment, spoke to an Aboriginal paradigm where, instead of connecting stars to sketch constellations, it was the spaces between that were joined to form the whole, an “ecological matrix” where we sought coherence and understanding. Describing herself as a woman with a “stolen story”, due to family disconnection from kin and Country as a result of Stolen laws and practices, she is still on a journey to reconnect, McLean reflected at length on the power of relationships to shape and heal, with “distrust and disgust” corrosive to connection in ways that could become pathological.

To view the First Nations’ healing practices critical for cultural safety in mental healthcare article in Dr Amy Coopes and Alison Barrett’s report on the RANZCP 2022 Congress – ‘stronger bridges, safer harbours’ click here.

Phot:o Nicole Avagliano on Pexels. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Easing the grief of stillbirth

The Albanese Government is providing a package of $6.8 million in targeted funding to help ease the grief of stillbirth for bereaved women and families. Women and families mourning the death of a baby or infant will receive support through funding of $4.2 million to Red Nose Australia’s Hospital to Home program. A further $2.6 million will be for stillbirth education and awareness initiatives focusing on groups at higher risk of stillbirth, including First Nations women.

More than 2,000 women and families are impacted by stillbirth each year. The Government is delivering Australia’s first National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan, which aims to reduce stillbirth rates in Australia by 20% or more by December 2025. Improving holistic bereavement care and community support following stillbirth, and raising awareness and strengthening education, particularly in communities that have a disproportionately high rate of stillbirth, are priorities under the Plan.

To view the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, The Hon Ged Kearney MP’s media release Helping to ease the grief of stillbirth in full click here.

Image source: The Hippocratic Post.

Increasing hospital access for First Nations peoples

Many First Nations people who present to a hospital emergency department leave before they’ve even seen a doctor. Even if they are seen and admitted to hospital, First Nations people are 2.5 times more likely than non-First Nations people to discharge themselves early against medical advice, research from Federation University shows. Dr Aziz Rahman, Associate Professor of Public Health and Research Advisor from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, says changes are needed in hospitals so that First Nations people feel welcome, safe, understood and able to access full medical care.

The work is ongoing, with an extensive report on emergency departments published in 2020, based on research at three hospitals in Elizabeth, SA; Alice Springs, NT; and Nowra, NSW. “In my experience working in public health in different national and international contexts, and coming from a developing country [Bangladesh], I did not expect there would be differences in terms of access and treatments for First Nations people in Australia,” Dr Rahman says. “Yet there is a clear difference in health outcomes for First Nations people, such as a 10-year difference in life expectancy, so that was a big surprise to me. Why should that happen when they are accessing the same facilities?”

To read the Federation University article Making hospitals more accessible for First Nations peoples in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

100s of mob denied adequate medical care

A north Queensland community leader says he is aware of hundreds of First Nations people being denied adequate medical care as an inquiry into three deaths in 2019 continues. A coronial inquest which began Monday is examining the deaths of Betty Booth, Shakaya George and Adele Sandy who were alledgedly denied adequate medical care at Doomadgee Hospital in NW Queensland. The three young Indigenous women had severe rheumatic heart disease and died after seeking treatment at the hospital.

In March the ABC’s Four Corners program reported on the circumstances surrounding the deaths and found that Doomadgee Hospital had a track record of failing to follow basic medical procedures and keep up-to-date records of some patients’ medical history. Waanyi, Garawa and Gangalidda lore man Alec Doomadgee said the treatment of the women showed the health system did not care about the wellbeing of First Nations people. “There have been hundreds turned away, and people have died as well,” he said. “Many people have been beaten down by the system and they give up, a lot of our mob walk away from it. “It happens that I have a big mouth and I never give up – for more than two years I have been telling the story. “This is something we need to address and there are a lot of families out there that have not been able to do that.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Claim ‘hundreds’ of Indigenous people denied proper medical care amid Queensland hospital deaths probe in full click here.

Photo: Louie Eroglu ACS, Four Corners. Image source: ABC News.

Urban-regional divide affects children

Australia’s affluence can be seen in its cities: trendy coffee shops litter pristine streets against a backdrop of high-rise buildings from Melbourne to Perth. There’s data to back it up; Australia has the twentieth highest GDP per capita in the world, ahead of Japan, the UK and Canada, and boasts the fifth highest quality of life. Affluence is often harder to come by in regional and rural areas. Remote communities frequently lack the access to the services and amenities that urban Australians enjoy, and are generally less prosperous than their urban contemporaries.

Healthcare is more difficult to access in rural and remote areas due to challenges associated with geographic spread, low population density, limited infrastructure, and the higher costs of delivering healthcare outside of cities which are not accounted for in funding models. People living outside major cities are also 1.4 times more likely to experience family violence.

Indigenous Australians have a history of being not only left behind, but also forcibly excluded. Indigenous Australians are more likely to live in rural and remote areas, accounting for 32% of remote and very remote communities compared to less than 2% of major city populations. Indigenous communities have lower life expectancies, poorer health outcomes, lower wages, and face greater barriers to education and employment opportunities than non-Indigenous Australians due to limited access to public services and widespread discrimination. This must change.

To read the Pro Bono Australia article Affluent but unequal: how the urban-regional divide is affecting Australian children in full click here.

Photo: Ben Collins. Image source: 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.

National Pain Week

Chronic pain is arguably Australia, and the world’s, fastest-growing medical condition. 1 in 5 Australians live with chronic pain – including adolescents and children. This includes 1 in 3 people over the age of 65. 1 in 5 GP consultations involve a patient with chronic pain and almost 5% report severe, disabling chronic pain. The prevalence of chronic pain is projected to increase as Australia’s population ages – from around 3.2 million in 2007 to 5 million by 2050.

While there is limited data available on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s experience of chronic pain, lower socio-economic status and restricted access to effective pain management and other medical treatments increases Indigenous communities’ risk of living with chronic painful conditions.

National Pain Week is an annual awareness event coordinated each year by Chronic Pain Australia. For more information you can access the Chronic Pain Australia website here.

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

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

National Diabetes Week 10-16 July

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

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

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

SWAMS to extend programs and services

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

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

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

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

Hearing on NDIS in remote communities

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

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

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

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

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

Minister Burney on First Nations suicide

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

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

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

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

How dietitians can make a stronger impact

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

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

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

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

UQ academic on incarceration of youth

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

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

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

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

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

Deadly Vision Centre CTG on eye health

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

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

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

First Nations member sought for AMC

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

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

The application deadline is Friday 19 August 2022.

New process for job advertising

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

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

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

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

COVID-19 antiviral eligibility expanded

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

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

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

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

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

Winnunga health service comes a long way

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

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

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

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

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

Changing First Nations birth narrative

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

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

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

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

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

NT mob worse GI cancer survival rate

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

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

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

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

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

Palm Is receives grant for youth program

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

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

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

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

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

Docker River aged care facility upgrade

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

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

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

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

Better mental health for Minjerribah youth

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

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

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

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

Ex-NRL star tackles mental health challenges

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

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

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

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

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

New process for job advertising

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

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