NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Heart Week 2023 – learn about ARF and RHD

feature tile NACCHO generated ARF and RHD logo; text 'For Heart Week 2023 NACCHO is encouraging everyone to learn more about ARF and RHD'

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

Heart Week 2023 – learn about ARF and RHD

Acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) are entirely preventable conditions, and only occur in high income countries when the social and cultural determinants of health are not equitably addressed.

In 2022, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported the number of cases of ARF and RHD increased nationally from 2016–2020, with 92% of ARF diagnoses occurring in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and diagnoses of RHD 15 times more likely to occur than for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the same period. This is why it’s so important the ACCHO sector is co-designing approaches to prevent and manage ARF and RHD in Australia.

ARF occurs as an immunological response to a Group A Streptococcal (GAS) infection (be it of the skin or throat).

People affected by ARF usually present with a range of non-specific symptoms and signs, including fever, painful and tender joints, rash, chest pain, shortness of breath, tiredness, and jerky body movements. These symptoms can be easy to ignore so please check in with a health professional if you are worried. Ask the question: could this be ARF?

RHD occurs when the heart valves are damaged by recurrent, untreated episodes of ARF. Whilst effective treatments exist to prevent people diagnosed with ARF from developing RHD, ARF is too often misdiagnosed and mismanaged in Australia. Once the heart valves are damaged, there is no cure. However high quality, holistic care can prevent worsening of the valve damage and ensure people living with RHD can live a happy and healthy life.

For this year’s Heart Week, we are encouraging everyone to learn more about ARF and RHD.

If you have a sore throat or skin sores, visit the clinic and get it checked out.

Have a yarn with your health worker about getting a 715 health check. This could help diagnose ARF and RHD early and ensure you get the right treatment.

If you get ARF or RHD, regular antibiotics (injections or oral) can protect your heart valves and prevent worsening damage.

If you are pregnant or planning to start a family, have a yarn with your GP to check your heart for RHD as early as possible to plan for a safe pregnancy. If you have RHD, it will be important to get regular check-ups during pregnancy to protect your heart from further damage.

For further information, contact the NACCHO RHD team by email here.

tile text 'Heart Week 2023'

Scale of preventable blindness in Australia is massive

Urgent action is required to address the systemic barriers deterring access to eye health care in Australia, write Dr Gifar Hassan and Clinical Professor Leanne Rowe AM. For many years, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) and other eye health organisations have highlighted the massive scale of preventable blindness in Australia, including increasing diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and uncorrected refractive error.

After three years of reduced patient access to preventive eye care and elective eye surgery due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, medical practitioners at the front line of health care are increasingly recognising the fire impact of undiagnosed and untreated visual impairment. This includes falls, motor vehicle and other accidents and injuries, medication error, deterioration of other comorbid disorders due to inactivity, mental health problems, loss of independence and prolonged hospitalisation to name a few.

Based on what is known about the increasing prevalence of diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration in our aging population, it is likely millions of Australians are missing out on routine eye screening, follow-up and treatment, particularly in regional and rural areas. As many disadvantaged people continue to have inadequate access to health care as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also impossible to estimate the true extent of undiagnosed eye disease in vulnerable groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, ethnic minorities, and those with lower incomes.

To view the InSight article Medicare limitations causing preventable blindness in full click here.

ATSI man having eye test

Image source: Flinders University News webpage.

Attorneys General meeting to address justice reform

Last Friday (28 April 2023) the Standing Council of Attorneys General (SCAG), made up of Commonwealth Attorney General Mark Dreyfus and the AGs from each state and territory, met in Darwin. All Attorneys General present agreed “significant and transformational criminal justice reform” is needed to correct the ongoing impacts of the current system on First Nations people.

Currently, targets 10 and 11 of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody, “is going backwards”, according to the Council. At the adoption of the agreement in mid-2020, after more than a decade of steps towards it, the most recent set of Australian Bureau of Statistics data recorded an imprisonment rate of 2.2% among all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults. In the most recent set of data, from the December 2022 quarter, the number had risen to close to 2.4%. In June 2022, more than 32% of all prisoners in the country were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Council acknowledged the “significant role” they play in reducing the rate of First Nations adults in custody by at least 15% by 2031. “All Attorneys-General acknowledged the need to do better, collectively, to improve justice outcomes for First Nations Australians,” the SCAG said in a statement. Central to realising targets set out by the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, and a key pillar to incorporating principles and shared decision-making, is the Justice Policy Partnership (JJP) body made up of Coalition of Peaks (Indigenous peak bodies), coalition-appointed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts, and Australian, state and territory governments.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Attorneys General meeting flags reforms to reduce Indigenous incarceration rate, raising age of criminal responsibility in full click here.

ATSI man's arms / hands though jail bars

Image source: Law Society Journal Online.

Measure aims to protect against heart disease

The Albanese Government is acting to protect Australians against our country’s biggest killer – heart disease. As part of the 2023–24 Budget, the Albanese Government will extend the Medicare rebate (items 177 and 699) for heart health assessments until 30 June 2025. Each day 438 Australians are hospitalised with coronary heart disease. Heart disease is responsible for almost 1 in 10 deaths and for 6% of Australia’s total disease burden. Many Australians don’t know they are at risk of heart disease, as some factors – such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol – might not be noticeable without a medical assessment.

An assessment of a patient’s heart health with a general practitioner (GP) will help to identify the risk of heart attack or stroke in those patients who haven’t previously been diagnosed with heart disease. The Check takes less than 30 minutes with a GP and is the nation’s best tool for preventing heart disease. GPs can then work with their patients to make changes to their lifestyle or prescribe medicines to lower any identified risk of heart disease.

The items will also be amended to remove restrictions preventing First Nations people from claiming a heart health assessment within 12 months of an annual health check for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, supporting the earlier diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease in First Nations people.

To view Minister Butler’s media release Protecting Australians against heart disease in full click here.

red heart stress toy sitting on trace of heart rate, stethoscope

Photo: Krisanapong Detraphiphat – Getty Images. Image source: Prevention website.

Rural and remote deserve health reform that works

Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH) has welcomed the focus National Cabinet is giving to system-wide health reform. It was reinforced at their meeting of Friday 28 April and demonstrated by the announcement of $2.2b in extra Commonwealth funding to improve access health care in the community when and where people need it. Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Mark Butler MP, elaborated on the urgency for action and the proposed direction of reform in his address to the National Press Club on Tuesday 2 May, revealing more can be expected when the Federal Budget is announced next week.

Reforming our health system is a priority long overdue. Our system faces mounting pressures. Ministers acknowledge that key components are no longer fit-for-purpose, and this is putting the entire system at risk. Existing gaps in access and service capacity – long evident and unresolved – must be addressed.

On 4 April 2023, SARRAH convened a roundtable meeting of rural and remote health care providers and workforce organisations. Two things framed our discussion:

1. Chronic and continuing service and workforce shortages in rural and remote Australia – which contribute to, and correlate closely with, poor health and wellbeing outcomes across communities.

2. Current system and policy reform agendas – at the inter-government, intra-government and cross-sector levels which have the potential to enable more equitable, effective and sustainable health and care systems than have been achieved through the policy and delivery frameworks operating over recent decades.

To view the SARRAH media release People living in rural and remote Australia deserve primary health reform that works for them in full click here.

bitumen road through outback Australia

Image source: The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Save the Date – NACCHO Members’ Conference 2023

𝗬𝗼𝘂𝘁𝗵 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲: Monday 𝟮𝟯 𝗢𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗯𝗲𝗿
𝗔𝗚𝗠: Tuesday 𝟮𝟰 𝗢𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗯𝗲𝗿
𝗠𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿𝘀’ 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲: Wednesday 𝟮𝟱 October Thursday 𝟮𝟲 𝗢𝗰𝘁𝗼𝗯𝗲𝗿

This year’s Youth Conference, AGM and NACCHO Members’ Conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency, Noongar Boodjar (Perth).

The conference brings together people working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector to network, showcase, learn and celebrate the impact of our work on improving health and wellbeing across the country.

Registrations and sponsorship opportunities will open soon.

For up-to-date information about the conference visit the NACCHO website here.

Or follow us on social media here.

If you have any queries, please contact the NACCHO Conference Team by email here.

save the date tile: NACCHO Members' Conference 2023 26-28 October, Noongar Boodjar (Perth); photo of Perth at night in the background; graphic gold Aboriginal dot wave

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: AI helps detect heart disease in remote Australia

feature tile image ATSI man have echocardiogram; text 'AI has enormous potential for use in remote Australia to screen more people and catch heart ailments earlier'

The image in the feature tile is of a man in the Alice Springs Hospital undergoing an echocardiogram with the aid of artificial intellegience. Photo: Steven Schubert. Image source: the article ABC News article How artificial intelligence is helping to detect heart disease in remote Australia published by ABC News earlier today.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is a platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

AI helps detect heart disease in remote Australia

In a small room in the Alice Springs Hospital, Rhonda O’Keefe is giving a man an ultrasound on his heart, despite having no formal training to do so.  Ms O’Keefe is not a sonographer, she’s an Aboriginal Health Practitioner. She has some medical training, but not the two years of post-graduate study it takes to become a qualified sonographer.  Instead, Ms O’Keefe is being guided by artificial intelligence (AI) as she performs the echocardiogram, the ultrasound of the heart. The AI software prompts Ms O’Keefe on where she needs to hold the ultrasound probe, and how much pressure to apply, depending on what the echocardiogram is looking for. Her first attempt at performing the procedure was just two weeks ago, but already she is obtaining pictures that cardiologists can use for diagnosis.

It’s a remarkable achievement, according to Dr Angus Baumann, the only full-time cardiologist at the Alice Springs Hospital. Dr Baumann, who has been observing Ms O’Keefe’s training, said when he learned to conduct echocardiograms it took him months of practice to get usable images — despite already working as a specialist in the field after years of medical school. “With this technology, someone’s able to get usable images on their first go,” he said.

The images are uploaded to a cloud-based server, and then downloaded and analysed by cardiologists. who may be hundreds of kms away from the patient. Dr Baumann said he could see an enormous potential for the technology to be used in remote Indigenous clinics to try to screen more people and catch heart ailments earlier.

To view the ABC News article How artificial intelligence is helping to detect heart disease in remote Australia in full click here. You can also read a previous story, here, about the trial of this AI technology being run from the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service.

Aboriginal health practitioner Rhonda O'Keefe performs an echocardiogram as cardiologist Dr Angus Baumann observes

Aboriginal health practitioner Rhonda O’Keefe performs an echocardiogram as cardiologist Dr Angus Baumann observes

Closing health gap needs more than booze, crime control

In a letter to the Alice Springs News Editor, Dr Simon Quilty, who was formerly based at Alice Springs Hospital and is currently working with Purple House said: “While there is a lot of focus on alcohol, crime and violence in communities such as Alice Springs, it is the long-term, underlying issues that are the real problem here. We are definitely experiencing difficulty in attracting, retaining and housing health professionals right across the NT, addressing this issue in isolation of the greater social disparity only makes the problem worse.

When our patients do not have adequate housing, and are living in conditions that are extremely detrimental to the health, education and basic safety of their residents, this provides fertile grounds for youth disengagement, domestic violence and social disharmony. There is a pervasive sense of hopelessness that is a key contributing factor to the issues affecting these communities and this has been exacerbated by the social fallout after COVID which has resulted in the cessation of many social programs that previously supported many people, particularly youth, in these communities.

How does it look to our patients when doctors and nurses are provided with accommodation, when they are sleeping in shifts so they can fit in the increasing number of people needing basic shelter? Extreme disparity exists even within our Aboriginal health workforce. Alice Springs Hospital Aboriginal Liaison Officers, who provide interpreting services essential to the delivery of health care to our patients, are the lowest paid interpreters in the country. These are essential health workers, who speak many dialects, and the value of their skills must be equitable with interpreter salaries for government services for immigrants to Australia.

To view the Closing health gap needs more than booze, crime control article published in the Australian Rural & Regional News in full click here.

Dr Simon Quilty checking female ATSI women with stethoscope

Dr Simon Quilty with patient in Alice Springs. Image source: Stephanie Zillman, ABC News.

Community Hubs based on ACCHO model

Genuine community engagement is required to deliver equitable outcomes for people living in rural and remote Australia, according to Mark Burdack, CEO of the Healthy Communities Foundation Australia (the Foundation). The Foundation has a proposed policy for Community Hubs in rural areas, which Mr Burdac describes as “a one-stop-shop for services that are engaged in addressing the social determinants of health”.

Similar to the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health (ACCHO) model, Community Hubs would be funded by both state and commonwealth governments, and led and governed by communities, he says. The ACCHO sector has shown us how we can effectively support communities and merge health promotion, prevention and intervention using multi-jurisdictional funding models. We have the capacity and models to do things differently in rural and remote health if there is a will to do so.

But this requires decision makers to recognise that rural and remote people have the knowledge, skills and capacity to create more equitable access to healthcare, and more equitable health outcomes, if they receive the right support and investment needed to lead that change.

To view the Croakey Health Media article How Community Hubs could contribute to better health for rural and remote Australians in full click here.

group of smiling 7 ATSI youth & The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia logo

Image source: The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia website.

New oral health education resources for mob

For the last three years, the FDI World Dental Federation has used World Oral Health Day on 20 March to campaign for everyone around the world to ‘Be Proud of Your Mouth’. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults continue to have poorer oral health than non-Indigenous Australians. Due to the poorer oral health outcomes of First Nation peoples, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) embarked on the development of the culturally appropriate oral health education resources. On World Oral Health Day this week the ADA was pleased to launch these resources as part of its new Mob Smiles initiative.

According to Indigenous dental practitioners the available resources for use with children and adults in Australia do not resonate with this target population. The goal of the Mob Smiles resources is to develop oral health education kits purposely developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults. Poor oral health can affect individual quality of life and exacerbate chronic health conditions. Unfortunately access to affordable, and culturally appropriate dental care is difficult for many Indigenous Australians. The resources aim to provide education and oral health information in a culturally safe manner.

The suite of oral health resources consists of posters, flyers and factsheets for various ages including toddlers, teenagers, pregnant women and the elderly. The multiple resources provide education in caring for oral health and details on hygiene, diet and scheduling dental visits.

To view the Australian Dental Association article ADA Mob Smiles released on World Oral Health Day in full click here. You can also find more information about Mob Smiles here and World Oral Health Day here.

Medicare cards coming soon to the myGov app

Australians will soon be able to add their Medicare card to the digital wallet in the myGov app.

The new myGov app, available here, was released last year. The app has a digital wallet where people can securely store some government digital cards and certificates. People can already use the wallet to store their Centrelink concession and health care cards.

The new digital Medicare card in the myGov app will look similar to Medicare cards in the Express Plus Medicare app, available here and physical cards.

The myGov app has features to protect against fraud and theft of all items in the myGov wallet. Medicare cards and Centrelink concession and health care cards have:

  • an animated hologram to show the card is not a screenshot
  • a QR code that can be scanned to confirm the card is genuine and valid
  • the date and time of when the card was last updated at the bottom of the screen.

If a person is no longer eligible for Medicare, the card will be automatically removed from their myGov app.

When a person’s Medicare card expires, it’ll be replaced automatically in their myGov wallet if they’re still eligible.

Accepting a digital Medicare card and scanning the QR code is optional, you don’t have to accept it if you don’t want to. You can still verify a Medicare card in the same way you do now.

Scanning QR codes

You scan the code using the myGov app on your device. You don’t need to sign in to the app to scan the QR code.

You can find more information and instructions on how to scan the QR code on the myGov website here.

Further information will be provided when the Medicare card becomes available in the myGov app.

hand holding mobile phone with Australian Government myGovID

Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

‘Harmony Day’ obscures need for systemic change

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (IDERD) is observed around the world on 21 March, yet in Australia it’s called ‘Harmony Day’. The change came about in 1999 at the order of the Howard government who sought to replace the IDERD and portray a unified multicultural society, one that did not need to actively combat racism. This aligned with the personal views of the PM John Howard, who always maintained that racism was not an inherent problem in Australia.

But critics have said the positively framed ‘Harmony Day’ intentionally obscures the need for systemic change. “It’s absurd,” said Professor Chelsea Watego. “[It’s] quite telling that this country still insists on erasing the reality of racial violence in this place. We have a health system that makes aspirations [to be] free of racism, without a strategy for achieving that. We have a Race Discrimination Act which successive governments have suspended specifically in relationship to Indigenous people, on multiple occasions. The parameters for prosecuting a race discrimination case in this country are so narrow, that so few get through. The name Harmony Day tells us about the ways in which this country and all of its institutions have refused to deal with the reality of racial violence.”

To view the NITV article It’s the International Day of Eliminating Racial Discrimination. Why does Australia call it ‘Harmony Day’? in full click here.
black & white photo of 1960 Sharpeville massacre protestors & 4 silhouettes jumping holding letters of the word 'harmony'

While the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination commemorates the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, critics say Australia’s ‘Harmony Day’ obscures the need to fight systemic racism. Image source: NITV.

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.

Dietitians Week 20–26 March 2023

Today is the third day of Dietitians Week 2023 and as part of raising awareness of the role and value of dietitians, today we are sharing a case study of Jenna Perry, a Graduate Accredited Practising Dietitian. Jenna is originally from Lutriwata (Tasmania), where she has Aboriginal ancestry on her father’s side of the family. Although there was a disconnect with culture growing up, Jenna says she was always passionate about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and advocating for health care that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people delivered in a way that strengthened cultural identity and cultural beliefs of health and wellbeing.

A Bachelor of Dietetics wasn’t offered in Jenna’s home state, so she decided to move away to the Sunshine Coast on Gubbi Gubbi/Kabi Kabi country. There she started a Bachelor of Nutrition before transferring over into the Bachelor of Dietetics. While Jenna says she loved studying for a Bachelor of Dietetics, there was minimal education on cultural humility or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health through a strength-based lens. Because of this Jenna was very grateful to attend the Indigenous Allied Health Australia (AIHA) Health Fusion Challenge and complete a placement at the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH).

To view the Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) article My Journey into Dietetics Jenna Perry in full click here.

portrait shot of Jenna Perry & text 'My Journey into Dietetics Jenna Perry'

Image source: IAHA website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: CoP urges further reforms in response to CTG data

feature tile - Pat Turner AM, Lead Convenor of CoPs; text: CoPs urges further reforms to CtG

The image in the feature tile is of Pat Turner AM, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks. Image source: National Indigenous Times article National peak body for Aboriginal-controlled community organisations urges further reforms to close the gap published on 8 March 2023.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is a platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly. The content included in these new stories are not necessarily NACCHO endorsed.

CoP urges further reforms in response to CTG data

The Coalition of Peaks, the national representative body of more than 80 Aboriginal community-controlled peak organisations, has urged further reforms in response to the latest Closing the Gap data from the Productivity Commission revealing a lack of progress on the objectives of the Agreement, showing there are now four targets “on track” compared to the 11 which are “not on track”.

Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Patricia Turner AM, called for further change to close the gap, “When structural and systemic change is made, there will naturally be a positive effect on the trajectory of the Closing the Gaps targets. This is what the Priority Reforms are all about in the National Agreement, but we are not seeing them implemented properly by governments,” she said. “The Priority Reforms are about changing the way governments work with our people. It is the comprehensive adoption of them that government parties need to understand and embrace if we are going to be able to work together to finally close the gap.

“More than two years on from the signing of the National Agreement and some governments are still talking about how they might start to tackle and implement the Priority Reforms.” Ms Turner said that “a sense of urgency” should come from this data for “governments to get on with the structural change needed to the way governments work as set out in the Priority Reforms. It is clear that the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people depend on it.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article National peak body for Aboriginal-controlled community organisations urges further reforms to close the gap in full click here. You can also read the Coalition of Peaks media release Urgent need for governments to implement the National Agreement on Closing the Gap in full as new data paints grim picture here and access the Australian Government Productivity Commission’s Closing the Gap Information Repository webpage Supporting reporting on Closing the Gap here.

tile text 'Closing the Gap Information Repository' & Aboriginal art

Image source: Australian Government Productivity Commission website.

Dr Karen Nicholls on the journey towards equality

Yesterday on International Women’s Day, RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Chair, Dr Karen Nicholls, celebrated women who show leadership in challenging the systems in which they work. For Dr Nicholls, a Torres Strait Islander woman descending from Boigu Island in the Torres Strait, choosing a career in medicine was not always apparent, “I couldn’t see what I could be, because there were no Torres Strait Islander female doctors [at the time]..”

Today, with a growth of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GPs expected to continue, Dr Nicholls’ vision has shifted. “My hope is that, while we make up a small percentage of the Indigenous population overall, that we would continue to exceed society’s expectations,” she said. “Torres Strait Islander women definitely go on to do some really fantastic stuff in health. And I do want to acknowledge that there are some absolutely brilliant Torres Strait Islander doctors working at the moment, clinically and in research, and also advocating for better health outcomes and educational outcomes for everyone.”

Since receiving her Fellowship with the RACGP in 2010, Dr Nicholls has worked predominantly in the ACCHO sector and academia. Late last year she joined the college’s 65th Board when she was elected Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health – a role in which she feels privileged and proud to be a female GP representing this space.

To view the RACGP newsGP article IWD: Dr Karen Nicholls on the journey towards equality in full click here.

Dr Karen Nicholls, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

Dr Karen Nicholls, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, endeavours to empower women through equality and allyship. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation Nursing Scholarships open

Lowitja Institute and the Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation are proud to announce the inaugural Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation Nursing Scholarships now open for 2023. Upon its establishment in 2010, the Lowitja Institute was named in honour of its patron, Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue, arguably Australia’s most recognised Aboriginal woman – a powerful and unrelenting advocate for her people and an inspiration to many.

The Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation was announced on 1 August 2022 to celebrate the 90th birthday of Dr Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE DSG. Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, CEO of Lowitja Institute, said the opening round of the inaugural scholarships in nursing is a tribute to the dedication and passion Dr O’Donoghue displayed throughout her extensive career in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

To view the Lowitja Institute media release Inaugural Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation nursing scholarships now open in full click here.

World-first AI heart tech trial to run from Walgett AMS

A world-first randomised controlled trial using artificial intelligence-guided technology to perform a heart ultrasound has been launched in the Walgett. The trial will be run from the town’s Aboriginal Medical Service and rolled out by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

“We are very excited about this. One of the cornerstones of cardiovascular health is the ability to do an ultrasound test on the heart called an echocardiogram (ECHO) test, it shows us the heart valves and the cardio function,” Cardiologist and chief investigator, Professor Tom Marwick said.

Marwick explained that taking an ECHO test required a highly skilled stenographer who aren’t readily available in regional towns. The artificial intelligence (AI) technology will be able to guide a non-expert in how to take the image which will then be uploaded for Professor Marwick to examine.

To view the Western Plains App article World-first AI heart technology trial comes to Walgett in full click here.

Professor Tom Marwick & vector image of heart

Professor Tom Marwick. Image from: Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. Image source: Western Plains App.

Program aims to help women regain long-term stability

Today Wayside Chapel has launched a new comprehensive program to help disadvantaged women regain long-term stability. The program offers women a safe space and the opportunity to receive gender-specific support tailored to their individual experiences. There’s a kitchen, laundry facilities, shower and consultation room, co-located with the new Wayside Chapel Healthcare clinic. Specialised female care coordinators will be available to work on complex cases with referrals to other agencies including housing, welfare, addiction and legal support.

Ensuring clients could access culturally safe and trauma-informed care without repeating themselves is a key motivator for Wayside’s GP-led service. Free, equitable and accessible to all genders, it builds on a successful nurse-led pilot in 2021. Medical director Lilon Bandler said the service wouldn’t require a Medicare card and would aim to overcome barriers to healthcare such as trust and finances by bringing it under the Wayside banner.

About 30% of Wayside visitors were Indigenous people and their “consistent experience of health care is very poor”, Dr Bandler said. “There’s still a lot of racism experienced by them in their interactions with the health care providers,” she said. “So they’re quite reluctant to engage again.”

To view the Kyabram Free Press article Wayside brings help for women-in-need under one roof in full click here.

Wayside healthcare director Lilon Bandler

Wayside healthcare director Lilon Bandler says the service aims to overcome barriers to healthcare. Photo: AAP. Image source: Kyabram Free Press.

Wide-ranging inequities affect women’s health

Australia has rising inequity and according to the World Health Organization, wherever there is societal inequity, women are always disproportionately affected. In almost every aspect of their lives, women living with pervasive socio-economic disadvantage are more likely to be vulnerable and face discrimination. This directly affects those seeking healthcare where disadvantaged women face more barriers to quality care, for example, people living in rural and remote areas, women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and/or women who have or who continue to experience disadvantage.

The inequities are compounded by multiple stresses and responsibilities including paid and unpaid work. They may be looking after children or other family members, working and pursuing their careers, contributing to their communities, trying to cope with the rapidly rising costs of living, or dealing with the many layers of disadvantage caused by family violence and trauma. There are also gross inequities in terms of access to healthy foods at a cost that people can afford, particularly in rural and regional areas. The options for being physically active or taking other measures to prevent disease are limited for many women of culturally diverse backgrounds and for First Nations women.

These issues affect entire communities, but women often bear the brunt. For example, research has shown that young women in rural and remote areas experience higher rates of unplanned pregnancy. Tesearch has highlighted gaps in service provision including availability of contraception and medical abortion, higher rates of chronic disease, and a much greater burden of mental distress.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Systemic approaches needed to address wide-ranging inequities affecting women’s health in full click here.

Baggarrook Yurrongi program participant - ATSI mum & bub

Image source: The Royal Women’s Hospital Victoria’s webpage Maternity program awarded for improving Aboriginal health.

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: ARF and RHD resources available on NACCHO website

 

feature tile NACCHO ARF RHD logo and text 'ARF and RHD resources now available on the NACCHO website'

The image in the feature tile is the NACCHO designed ARF and RHD logo.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is a platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly. The content included in these new stories are not necessarily NACCHO endorsed.

ARF and RHD resources available on NACCHO website

NACCHO now has an Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) webpage. The webpage includes general information about ARF and RHD including:

  • Why are ARF and RHD an important priority for NACCHO?
  • What is ARF?
  • What is RHD?
  • Would you like to learn more about ARF and RHD?

In addition, the webpage includes links to a range of resources tailored for community and professionals including: guidelines and report; visual resources; eLearning modules, apps and videos (such as the one below).

To access the NACCHO webpage Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease click here.

Small amounts of drinking may change baby’s face

It is well known that heavy drinking while pregnant has a range of negative effects on an unborn child, and can disrupt development of the brain and other organs. What is less well known is the effects, if any, of drinking a glass of wine here or there throughout pregnancy. As facial features are determined by brain development during the first trimester, the way a child looks can also be affected along with motor skills, behaviour and learning.

A new study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, sought to understand whether low doses of alcohol during pregnancy changed children’s faces as they can be a reflection of overall health and development. They found that drinking the equivalent of one glass of wine a week during pregnancy may make a difference to the way a child looks.

For the study, researchers from Erasmus University in Rotterdam asked women about their drinking habits in the three months before becoming pregnant, whether they drank alcohol during the pregnancy and, if so, the quantity and for how much of the pregnancy they drank.

To read The Age article Can drinking small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy change a baby’s face? in full click here.

torso of pregnant Aboriginal woman with hands resting above and below pregnant belly

Image source: Gomeroi Gaaynggal Study website.

PIP-IHI updated and improved

Medical clinics have been encouraged to provide better, ongoing care to Indigenous Australians following the revamp of an incentive program designed to achieve better, long-term health outcomes. The Practice Incentives Program – Indigenous Health Initiative (PIP-IHI) has been updated and improved and will boost quality of care and outcomes for Indigenous people living with chronic health and mental health conditions.

The PIP-IHI pays medical practices to sign up to the program when a patient is registered and when certain patient outcomes are reached. A 2019 review of the initiative found that while many practices signed on and registered patients, there were low numbers of payments based on outcomes. This showed the program wasn’t doing what it was designed for – achieving continuity of care for patients with high needs.

To remedy these shortcomings and ensure efficiency, changes to the PIP-IHI include:

  • making some GP Mental Health Care Plan Medicare items eligible for outcome payments
  • shifting payment amounts to incentivise follow up care for patients, rather than registration
  • making patients under the age of 15 eligible for outcome payments
  • giving GP practices a 12-month rolling window to provide the required number of services.

Initial changes began earlier this year, with the updated payment structure transitioning in 2023 and 2024 to give practices time to adjust to the changes.

To view Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s media release Strengthening GP care for Indigenous Australians in full click here.

orange Aboriginal body paint art on dark blue background and words in white font 'Practice Incentives Program Indigneous Health Incentive'

Image source: Department of Health and Aged Care’s Changes to the Practice Incentives Program Indigenous Health Incentive webpage.

VACCHO “deeply disturbed” by latest suicide report

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Balit Durn Durn Centre have expressed deep sadness at the findings of new report, Suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by the Coroners Court of Victoria which reveals an “alarmingly high” suicide rate among Indigenous people, three times higher than that of the non-Indigenous population

In a statement VACCHO said “Of particular concern in the Coroners Court Of Victoria report are the stressors that were identified among the suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria. Breakdowns in interpersonal relationships, experiences of family violence, experiences of abuse, and substance abuse left untreated were all noted as stressors and factors that significantly contributed to losses of life. Alarmingly, over one third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who passed by suicide reported childhood exposure to family violence, and nearly 50% had experienced separation from parents.”

VACCHO noted the report revealed more than 80% of people who passed by suicide had been diagnosed with a mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety and/or mood disorders, “suggesting if services were responsive and able to meet the needs of Aboriginal people, these deaths could have been prevented. These stressors highlight the failings of fragmented mental health and child protection systems that do not provide people with culturally safe, holistic health and wellbeing services that they need.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Victoria’s peak Aboriginal health body “deeply disturbed” by latest report on suicide in full click here.

external view of VACCHO building with mural, VACCHO logo & name VACCHO

Image source: VACCHO website.

New Lowitja Journal invites submissions

Lowitja Institute and Elsevier are pleased to announce the launch of a new international journal in 2023. This community-controlled journal aims to uphold Indigenous rights to sovereignty and self-determination within research practice. The first issue, entitled First Nations Health and Wellbeing – The Lowitja Journal, is scheduled to be published in line with Lowitja Institute’s 3rd International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2023 from 14–16 June 2023.

The First Nations Health and Wellbeing – The Lowitja Journal invites submissions in a range of formats, including original research, reviews, case studies perspectives and commentaries. You can submit your next research article to this important new journal via  the First Nations Health and Wellbeing – The Lowitja Journal online portal here.

Papers should reflect the values and principles of Lowitja Institute and adhere to the policies outlined in the journal guide for authors, available here. There is also a requirement that the first, second or senior author are First Nations peoples. All articles in the first issue will be published open access with no article processing fee.

Submissions for this inaugural issue are due on or before Friday 10 March 2023 for peer review.

Submit your paper via the online submission system here or email any questions to Editor using this email link.

cover of First National Health and Wellbeing: The Lowitja Journal

Image source: First National Health and Wellbeing – The Lowitja Journal portal.

Mental health support for Northern Rivers mob

Northern Rivers residents are being reminded that free mental health support is only a phone call or web chat away, with in-person counseling also available. Healthy North Coast Chief Executive, Monika Wheeler, said that these next few weeks could be particularly challenging for Northern Rivers residents and urged locals to prioritise their mental health.

Ms Wheeler said “Looking out for each other is what has got our community through the past 12 months. There are many things about our current situation that we cannot change, but we can all take steps to look after our heads and hearts. If you or someone you know is struggling or could simply benefit from a friendly and supportive chat, I urge you to reach out. Healthy North Coast offers a range of free and after-hours services to support mental health and wellbeing for all ages, with a number of them made available through Australian Government and NSW Government flood recovery. There’s no shame in saying you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want to talk things through. I encourage all community members, including our hardworking primary care professionals, to prioritise their mental health care over the coming weeks.”

One of the services offered is the The Strong Community Program which provides free specialist mental health support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Rivers, age 12 years and over. Mental health and wellbeing supports include in-person counselling, mental health promotion in schools and outreach to communities in Cabbage Tree Island, Wardell, Ballina, Box Ridge, Woodburn, Lismore and neighbouring areas.

To view the Echo article Free mental health support for Northern Rivers communities in full click here.

backs of 4 young ATSI adults, sunset in the background

Image source: The Strong Community Program webpage of the Lives Lived Well website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: RACGP calls for QLD government to come clean

The image in the feature tile is from an RACGP newsGP article ‘Very disappointing’: UTI pharmacy prescribing pilot extended indefinitely published on 4 July 2022.

RACGP calls for QLD government to come clean

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called on the Queensland Government to come clean on the North Queensland Retail Pharmacy Scope of Practice Pilot. It comes following the RACGP lodging a Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) request to the Queensland Health Department on 28 March this year – 256 days ago. So far, no information has been forthcoming. The application sought access to meeting agendas, meeting papers (including notes and briefing papers), minutes, correspondence, budget documents and briefings relating to the pilot.

The college has previously cautioned that the pilot will fragment care and put patient safety and wellbeing at risk. In October this year, the RACGP doubled down on warnings that the experiment will result in poorer health outcomes for patients and much higher healthcare costs. Since then, several jurisdictions including Victoria and NSW, have forged ahead with their own pharmacy prescribing plans.

RACGP President and Mackay-based GP Dr Nicole Higgins said that scrutiny of the pilot was needed more than ever. “This is not rocket science, if due process has been followed then these documents exist, and it is in the public’s interest to know what they contain, especially as this pilot is the product of an election promise rather than responding to a demonstrable public need,” she said.

To view the RACGP media release What is the Queensland Government hiding on the controversial pharmacy prescribing pilot? in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Concerns mob missing out on eating disorder treatment

To view the ABC News article Concerns Indigenous Australians missing out on eating disorder treatment in full click here.

Wiradjuri and Wotjobulak man AJ Williams battled bulimia for three years. Image source: ABC News.

Remote housing: holding government to account

Royal Darwin Hospital’s Dr Nerida Moore and paediatric registrar Dr Tasmyn Soller have co-authored an article about how overcrowding and poor-quality housing are significant driving forces of death and disease in remote communities of the NT, saying “As health care workers, we bear witness to the devastating impact that overcrowding and grossly substandard infrastructure brings. We see mothers who are desperate to find solutions to enable them to wash their children’s clothes, limited by access to washing machines, power and water. Likewise, we see families advocating to reduce overcrowding in their community who are told to wait patiently for nearly a decade for a new house to be built.”

Inadequate housing and overcrowding are at crisis level in many parts of the NT – a fact that has been established over many decades. In Australia, the highest levels of overcrowding occur in very remote communities. In 2019, it was estimated that 51% of Indigenous Australians living in very remote communities resided in overcrowded homes. Estimates suggest an extra 5,000 homes are needed by 2028 to reduce levels of overcrowding to an acceptable level.

It is therefore unsurprising that remote communities experience some of the highest rates of devastating and preventable diseases such as acute rheumatic fever (ARF), rheumatic heart disease (RHD), acute post streptococcal glomerulonephritis, chronic suppurative lung disease, skin infections and otitis media. These diseases, even though they have different pathophysiology, all have common links to the social determinants of health. This is further highlighted by the steep decline of these diseases globally as living conditions have gradually improved across the world.

To view the InSight article Remote community housing: holding government to account in full click here.

Gloria Chula lives in a three-bedroom house of 16 people in Wadeye, one of the Northern Territory’s poorest and most troubled Indigenous communities. Image source: The Islander.

Nine-year-old ‘doctors’ set to graduate

A group of primary school-aged “doctors” are set to graduate in Melbourne’s north and become life-long health ambassadors for themselves and their communities. The 30-odd students in grades three and four at Reservoir East Primary School are graduating from the 15-week Malpa Young Doctors for Life program this week.

The program is culturally derived and teaches both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children traditional ways of healing, along with modern ways of keeping communities healthy. Interstate, nine South Australian schools signed up in 2022, and three schools are also part of the program in NSW in Dubbo South, and in Smithtown and Kempsey West in the Mid North Coast region.

The program “equips them with Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge which they end up sharing with others – I believe they are closing the gap for themselves,” Malpa leader Mel Harrison said. “At Reservoir, one of the main benefits is that it has dramatically improved school attendance. “The way the program is designed means that every child feels some form of success in Malpa.”

To view the Milton Ulladulla Times article Nine-year-old ‘doctors’ set to graduate in full click here.

Students from a primary school in Melbourne took part in the Malpa Young Doctors for Life program. Image source: Milton Ulladulla Times.

NT facing COVID-19 spike

COVID-19 cases have doubled in the NT in the past week, rising faster than anywhere else in the country. The NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles says the NT has moved out of the COVID-19 emergency phase but Aboriginal health care providers say that call is premature. Angus Randall reports that health services are very worried about a Christmas peak. The NT recently recorded a worrying COVID milestone, 100,000 cases since the start of the pandemic. Experts say that is likely an undercount, but the trend in the official numbers shows a steeper rise in the NT right now than anywhere else in Australia.

John Paterson the CEO, of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) said “Up until this year we’ve had 40 Aboriginal deaths in the NT, it’s killing Aboriginal people at younger ages, with the highest numbers of deaths in the 60-69 age group then the 50-59 age group compared to over 80 for the non-Aboriginal population, so you can see the Aboriginal population is at most risk.”

Mr Paterson is concerned about what will happen over the coming weeks as those in remote communities travel to the more populated centres during the Christmas season. “It is unfortunate and I think premature that governments are taking their foot off the pedal and not giving this issue the attention it deserves given we are now seeing a rise in COVID-19 numbers again. Our advice would have been to wait until after the Christmas New Year period to see what the numbers are like and reconsider any other public measures we might need to take during that period.”

You can listen to The World Today ABC broadcast NT facing COVID-19 spike in full here.

Photo: Steven Schubert, ABC News. Image source: ABC News – The World Today.

Australia’s annual sexual health check up

New data released last week by the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney reveals how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted testing and diagnoses of sexually transmissible infections (STI) in Australia. The report titled HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual surveillance report shows that in 2021 there were 86,916 diagnoses* of chlamydia, 26,577 of gonorrhoea and 5,570 of infectious syphilis in Australia.

“Prior to the pandemic we were seeing increases in chlamydia and gonorrhoea, but in 2021 we recorded a small decline. We believe this reduction is a consequence of both reduced testing and reduced sexual activity with new or casual partners, due to social restrictions and lockdowns during 2020 and 2021,” says Dr Skye McGregor from the Kirby Institute, one of the report’s authors. “On the other hand, syphilis has been steadily increasing among women of reproductive age, gay and bisexual men and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This reflects sustained and ongoing transmission across Australia, which is extremely concerning.”

To view the scimex article Australia’s Annual Sexual Health Check Up: STIs are mostly down, but reductions in testing could be the cause in full click here.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) webpage of 1800 My Options website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Spiralling impact of diabetes requires action

The image in the feature tile is from 2SER 107.3 website, 14 November 2018.

Spiralling impact of diabetes requires action

A new Diabetes Australia (DA) report has revealed the spiralling impact of diabetes and warned that unless urgent action is taken, the condition – and complications like vision loss – will threaten to overwhelm the country’s health system. In the last two decades, the report revealed the disease’s significant burden on the Australian economy, in terms of the cost of direct healthcare (up 289%), hospital costs (up 308%) and medicines (up 282%), while hospitalisations have increased by 149% since 2004.

Looking ahead, Diabetes Australia (DA) is warning that the number of people living with diabetes could climb to more than 3.1m by 2050, resulting in 2.5m hospitalisations per year and costing Australia around $45b per annum. To coincide with World Diabetes Day today – 14 November, the organisation released its report Change the Future: Reducing the impact of the diabetes epidemicwhich it described as “a call-to-arms to combat the diabetes epidemic”.

Diabetes Australia Group CEO Ms Justine Cain said the report looked at the best available evidence to assess the significant burden of diabetes and identified a number of areas of concern. “Diabetes Australia is particularly concerned about the number of people currently living with diabetes, the increase in younger Australians being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the impact of diabetes on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, rising numbers of mothers being diagnosed with gestational diabetes and the emergence of a number of recently identified complications,” Cain said.

To view the Insight article New Diabetes Australia report reveals dramatic jump in diabetes costs for economy, including a link to the Change the Future: Reducing the impact of the diabetes epidemic click here.

ACCHO expands into Permanency Support Program

Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation is now accredited with the Office of the Children’s Guardian to provide support to Aboriginal children and young people through the Permanency Support Program. The Permanency Support Program offers tailored services to vulnerable children so they can grow up in stable, secure and loving homes.

To support this initiative, Ungooroo has recruited a team of qualified and experienced staff, including caseworkers and carer engagement officers who will work with children, young people and their carers to identify the best permanency goal. Ungooroo CEO Taasha Layer says the program plays a crucial role in providing positive life outcomes for Aboriginal children and young people.

“Our priority is keeping families together safely and achieving permanency for Aboriginal children and young people. We know that vulnerable Aboriginal children and young people are much better off if they are living in a safe and stable home with relatives or kin, in community and on Country,” she said.

To read the Muswellbrook Chronicle article Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation expands into the Permanency Support Program in full click here.

Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation is now accredited to provide support to Aboriginal children and young people through the Permanency Support Program. Image source: Muswellbrook Chronicle.

Want to improve hearing health for our mob?

Do you work in the ear and hearing health space?

Do you want to improve hearing health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

Let us know what you think about the big challenges, the gaps, and what we need to be doing more of.

Researchers, service providers, government organisations, universities, peak health bodies, and anyone working in this space, we want to hear from you!

Let us know what you think in this survey here.

Any queries, contact NACCHO using this email link.

Trainers need to understand cultural needs

Trainers will need to understand the cultural needs of local communities if the transition to college-led training is to be successful in the NT, the head of the Territory’s RTO says. “It’s taken 20 years for us to really understand how to do this work in NT communities,” the NTGPE’s Dr Richard Zanner said, following a four-day tour of remote communities during which he hosted RACGP leaders.

“The curriculum, manuals and data – that’s all explicit knowledge or information that we can easily transfer to the colleges. But the real meat, the real essence, of course, lies in the tacit knowledge and that’s a very tricky thing to try and transfer to another organisation – but that’s where the value in our training lies. “If the IT systems don’t work perfectly on day one or day two that would be a shame, but it wouldn’t be a tragedy.”

The tour came less than three months before Australia transitions to training led either by the RACGP or ACRRM, but Dr Zanner is optimistic about these goals being achieved. “After flying around the Top End in and out of communities with [RACGP president-elect Dr Nicole Higgins and vice-president Dr Bruce Willett], I feel a lot more re-assured,” he said. “I’m convinced they recognise the importance of relationships and of that knowledge in the way we’ve gone about our work.”

To view The Medical Republic article Tour reveals secret to NT training success in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Republic.

HEAL 2022 conference next week

Join us at the Healthy Environments and Lives (HEAL) 2022 conference focusing on the latest research and policy priority setting on human health, climate and environmental change solutions in Australia. This two-day event will connect diverse Australian and international stakeholders from academia, policy, practice, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and local communities.

This innovative conference has a hybrid multi-node format allowing for interactions online and in-person at eight nodes located across Australia. To learn more about the conference and to register, please visit the HEAL Network website here.

You can also view a flyer about the conference here.

IAHA Conference 28-30 November

You are invited to join the First Nations Allied Health Workforce at the National Convention Centre Canberra, for the 2022 Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) National Conference. The theme for this year’s conference is Celebrating the past, present and future in Allied Health.

Can’t make it to the conference? Come along to our IAHA Markets on Wednesday 30 November at the Convention Centre. Open to the public. Register online by scanning the QR code (available in the flyer here) or visit the IAHA website here.

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.

ATSIHAW Virtual Trivia – 8 December 2022

Save the date!

Inviting all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services’ staff to join this year’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week (ATSIHAW) Virtual Trivia on Thursday 8 December 2022:

  • 1:00 PM – WA
  • 2:30 PM – NT
  • 3:00 PM – QLD
  • 3:30 PM – SA
  • 4:00 PM – ACT, NSW, TAS, VIC

Each year, ATSIHAW provides an opportunity for conversations in our communities to increase education and awareness about HIV, prevention and treatment, the importance of regular testing and to reduce stigma.

NACCHO are co-hosting the ATSIHAW Virtual Trivia 2022 along with the University of Queensland’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health.

A link to register your team for the virtual trivia will be sent later this week. Sexual health themed costumes and props are highly encouraged – there will be prizes for the best dressed!

If you have any questions please contact NACCHO using this email link.

The U and Me Can Stop HIV campaign was created by University of Queensland’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health in collaboration with the SA Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHRMI). Each year coinciding with World AIDS Day on 1 December, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week (ATSIHAW) is held nationally to refresh the conversations about rates of HIV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. ATSIHAW was launched in 2014 with support from the Commonwealth Department of Health and has been run annually by Professor James Ward and his team at the University of Queensland Poche Centre for Indigenous Health (and previously SAHMRI). ATSIHAW continues to expand growing bigger and more inclusive of the ACCHO sector running events that raise awareness, educate, inform, and promote testing for HIV in Communities. The theme for ATSIHAW is: ‘U and Me Can Stop HIV’ further promoting the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health being in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hands!

For more information about the history of ATSIHAW click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Annual Report 2021–2022

NACCHO Annual Report 2021–2022

The NACCHO Annual Report 2021–2022 s now available to view.

The cover illustration symbolises NACCHO as the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health working together with its members and affiliates towards the delivery of comprehensive and culturally competent primary health care.

It showcases the work and achievements of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector and includes the audited financial statements for 2021–2022 and can be accessed here.

NACCHO and BHP partner to improve RHD outcomes

NACCHO and BHP have announced a partnership aimed at eliminating Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) and Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. ARF and RHD are preventable diseases disproportionately affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in regional and remote areas. Between 2016 and 2020, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accounted for 92% of all ARF diagnoses in Australia.

As part of the agreement, BHP will provide $9.7m over three years, helping to fund critical health care initiatives delivered by ACCHOs across Australia. The funding complements the $18m already committed by the Australian Government. An additional $13.5m is also anticipated following the Labour Party’s election commitment to combat RHD in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This includes $1.5m that is prioritised for the investment in portable echo-cardiogram machines, training and support for primary health care workers, including Aboriginal Health Workers and Practitioners.

NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner, said: “NACCHO’s partnership with BHP and the Australian Government is the first-ever national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sector-led initiative to combat RHD in our communities. This partnership recognises that we are best placed to design and implement health services, including prevention, screening, early diagnosis, treatment and supportive care, for our own communities. This additional investment will expand the support provided by ACCHOs to deliver evidence-based ARF and RHD activities in their communities.”

BHP’s Chief Legal, Governance and External Affairs Officer Caroline Cox said: “BHP is proud to continue its support of NACCHO, building on partnerships established with the Aboriginal community-led health sector over many years. It is important that we back Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and put Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands, as NACCHO’s vision sets out. We are determined to play our part in the collective action required to address the underlying causes of these health issues, such as inequality, inadequate housing and long-standing health inequities.”

BHP’s investment follows $5.9m of donations to ACCHOs throughout the pandemic for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led COVID responses across the country.

You can view the joint NACCHO and BHP media release NACCHO and BHP partner to improve ARF and RHD outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in full on the NACCHO website here.

Image source: BHP.

Killings, disappearances a crisis in plain sight

Last night ABC Four Corners aired a story “How Many More?” – a special investigation into Australia’s murdered and missing Indigenous women. In Australia Aboriginal women are among the most victimised groups in the world, murdered up to 12 times the national average. In some regions, their deaths make up some of the highest homicide rates in the world. The killings and disappearances of Indigenous women across Australia were described in the program a crisis hidden in plain sight.

The program shows a snapshot of what this tragedy looks like. Four Corners revealed that at least 315 First Nations women have either gone missing or been murdered or killed in suspicious circumstances since 2000. But this is an incomplete picture. We will likely never know the true scale of how many First Nations women have been lost over the decades. This is because there is no agency in Australia keeping count, and there is no standard way of collecting this important data in each state and territory.

Canada calls it a genocide. The United States considers it an epidemic. But here in Australia, we’re only just waking up to the scale of the crisis.

To read the ABC News article The killings and disappearances of Indigenous women across Australia is a crisis hidden in plain sight click here and view the Four Corners episode here.

Prevalence of hearing loss research

The Australian Government has announced close to $7.5m funding to support research that will help prevent hearing loss and improve the health and wellbeing of those who live with hearing impairment. Nine projects have been funded, including a number of projects focused on improving access to hearing health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Researchers at Flinders University will co-design culturally appropriate methods to overcome difficulties experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children accessing hearing healthcare. At Curtin University, researchers will provide the first estimates of the number of Aboriginal children who have ear infections and hearing loss from 0 to 5 years of age and will demonstrate the feasibility of screening for ear infections and hearing loss from 2 months of age.

The grants are funded for three years through the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Targeted Call for Research into Hearing Health 2021: Evidence-based support services.

To read Minister Butler’s media release $7.5m for hearing health in full click here.

Image source: Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) Ear and Hearing Health webpage or CAAC website.

Mental health stigma a barrier for veterans

An Indigenous Navy veteran says the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has failed to address stigma around mental health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans. Professor Brad Murphy OAM, who now runs a veteran-focused GP clinic after serving in the Navy as a leading senior medic, has given evidence before the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

He told the commission the stigma attached to seeking help for mental health issues remained a “huge impediment” to caring for Indigenous veterans. “We’ve worked so terribly hard over the years to remove stigma associated with mental health,” Professor Murphy said. “No matter how much we’ve tried, we have failed in this regard. Having [Indigenous veterans] actually reach out, or having family or community that are strong enough and well resourced to actually reach out on their behalf is a significant challenge.”

Professor Murphy told the commission more support was needed for members transitioning out of service and back into civilian life. He said many members leaving the ADF were left disconnected from their sense of family and belonging. “Indigenous culture is very much about family and my own experience and certainly my understanding of military culture is of family,” Professor Murphy said.

To read the ABC News article Indigenous veteran Professor Brad Murphy tells Defence Suicide Royal Commission mental health stigma remains a barrier in full click here.

Photo: Siobhan Heanue, ABC News.

No progress in tackling obesity

Calls for a tax on sugary drinks and warning labels on junk food have increased after a new report showed Australia has made no progress in the fight to tackle obesity. Since 2017, the Food Policy Index has been tracking progress on federal and state government policies to reduce obesity rates in Australia. “Obesity is really a public health crisis in Australia,” said Gary Sacks, an Associate Professor at Victoria’s Deakin University, and a co-author of the latest update on the Food Policy Index. “We’ve got two thirds of adults are overweight or obese, and a quarter of kids are overweight or obese.

Inequities in socioeconomic status have meant certain populations are even more impacted by the prevalence of obesity. The groups include those at higher risk of chronic disease, such as Indigenous Australians and newly arrived migrants. “These communities are at extreme risk. In Central Australia, we’ve got 60% of the Aboriginal population living with Type 2 diabetes. Access to care, such as dialysis, is really complicated, you have to come off Country, water is a real issue,” Ms Martin said. “The supply of fresh food and sometimes flying food in when the wet comes is really, really challenging.”

The prevalence of being overweight or obese is higher in Indigenous Australians compared to the general population. Of First Nations people aged between 2 and 17, the prevalence is 38% versus 24% for non-Indigenous youths, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

To read the SBS News article ‘A public health crisis’: This is how many Australians eat a healthy diet in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

Extending scope of practice concerns

Louise Stone, a GP with clinical, research, teaching and policy expertise in mental health and Associate Professor in the Social Foundations of Medicine group, Australian National University (ANU) Medical School has written an article for AMA InSight about the push to enable health care workers to work “top of scope”.

Professor Stone says that while the scope of practice is traditionally defined by professional standards, codes of ethics and codes of professional conduct, and includes skills that an individual practitioner is “educated, authorised, competent and confident to perform” it has often implied extending practice beyond the traditional limits of a particular role.

According to Professor Stone, there seems to be an assumption that this is a good thing for health care workers, will be cheaper for the health service, and any opposition to it is merely a “turf war” argument designed to protect existing siloes. Professor Stone however doesn’t think any of us have the right to extend our scope of practice without accepting the responsibility of submitting to appropriate oversight to keep the public safe.

To view the InSight+ article “Top of scope”: no rights without responsibilities in full click here.

Associate Professor Louise Stone. Image source: InSight+.

Australia’s Biggest Quiz to end hep C 

Australia’s Biggest Quiz is coming up TOMORROW Wednesday 26 October 2022.

Hepatitis Australia is asking everyone to register and participate in Australia’s Biggest Quiz which is the national community activation of the Ending Hepatitis C Campaign. Register here and join this history-making world record breaking trivia event to have some fun while raising awareness about hepatitis C and its cure!

In the five years since hepatitis C cures became available to everyone, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with hepatitis C has declined by 17%. But more work is needed to close the gap! Australia’s Biggest Quiz aims to raise awareness that hepatitis C has a simple cure. You can get tested at your local Aboriginal Medical Service or GP. Australia’s Biggest Quiz will take place at 16 venues in all states and territories, alongside a national virtual audience, to try break a Guinness World Record, while raising awareness of hepatitis C, and its cure.

You can help promote Australia’s Biggest Quiz using the Stakeholder General Communications Kit, available here. The kit contains: tiles for social media, guidance on how to use the digital communications material, Australia’s Biggest Quiz logo, posters, social media tiles and zoom backgrounds!

This campaign is brought to you by Hepatitis Australia who is working in partnership with 80+ community groups, supported by the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care.

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: NACCHO CEO reflects on successful conference

The image in the feature tile is of Jadlyn David De Bush and Daniel Rosedal presenting feedback from the 76 delegates at the NACCHO Youth Conference 2022 to the 500 delegates at the NACCHO Members’ Conference 2022. Image source: NACCHO Australia Twitter post, 20 October 2022.

NACCHO CEO reflects on successful conference

In closing the NACCHO Members’ Conference 2022, NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM said it had been a wonderful event, with it being “great to be able connect to people face-to-face rather than the virtual connections we’ve had over the last 3 years with COVID-19 preventing us from being able to get together like this.”

Ms Turner said the NACCHO Members’ Conference is not only an opportunity to strengthen our network and get to know each other better but to hear about the amazing work that is being done right around the country, saying it was a testimony to the strength of the sector to come together, noting it was a long way for many and expensive.

Ms Turner said she hoped attendees at the conference had been inspired to pick up on good ideas and best practice shared at the conference and that they would be used to continue to strengthen the delivery of health services to our people. Ms Turner said we have got to be able to get the governments to understand the importance of the environments our people live in and what a negative effect overcrowded housing and unhealthy environments have on our people’s health, “as part of the comprehensive primary health care model its our job at every level to advocate for our communities in those areas as well.”

Housing shortage potentially “life-threatening”

Preston Mapuyu is on a public housing waitlist that on average takes more than half a decade to see any movement – but due to a chronic lung condition, he may not have that long to wait. Nurses in remote north-east Arnhem Land say a housing shortage has become potentially “life-threatening for patients” such as Mr Mapuyu, and is simultaneously burdening the health system.

Mr Mapuyu’s inability to access public housing has meant he’s been forced to rely on the kindness of relatives for accommodation, often overcrowded and unsuitable for someone with his condition. He and his wife, Serena Munyarryun, were living on a remote homeland 100km from the nearest hospital, where access via dirt road is seasonal and emergency planes can only land during the day. “If we call emergency for ambulance to get here, sometimes it takes them three to four hours to get here,” Ms Munyarryun said.

The pair has applied to access public housing in the nearest township of Nhulunbuy but, given a Territory-wide public housing shortage, they’re up against it. NT government data shows there is an average wait of six to eight years for applicants in Nhulunbuy. That stretches up to a decade for those seeking housing in hubs like Alice Springs. Across the NT there are nearly 6,000 applications for housing, but only 162 homes listed as vacant.

To view the ABC News article NT government’s years-long public housing waitlist putting a strain on remote health system in full click here.

Serena Munyarryun and Preston Mapuyu could be forced to wait years for public housing. Photo: Michael Franchi, ABC News.

RHD landmark study makes inroads

An entirely preventable “killer” disease plaguing remote communities in the NT will never end unless Aboriginal workers become the backbone of prevention, an Indigenous health organisation warns. Sunrise Health chairperson Anne-Marie Lee is the co-author of a four-year, landmark study – published in the International Journal of Environmental Research Public Health – which was conducted in three Aboriginal communities where it is not uncommon to see children under 10 bearing the vertical, long scars of open-heart surgery.

“Nothing can work in Indigenous communities unless you employ local people,” Ms Lee said. “Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is a killer. It’s a killer, and it’s killing a lot of my young ones.” RHD is mostly eradicated in first world countries and is only found in the most disadvantaged areas of developing countries. But in Australia, rates in remote Aboriginal communities beset by social disadvantage are among the highest in the world.

Studies to date have largely focused on secondary and tertiary prevention once somebody’s already been diagnosed, instead of the root causes, such as addressing severe overcrowding in houses and a lack of effective education. Ms Lee said in her community of Barunga, about an hour’s drive from Katherine, there was not enough suitable information about the disease for families. She lamented the notion that short-term fly-in-fly-out health workers could make meaningful inroads. “We need more of me … because they trust us,” Ms Lee said.

To view the ABC News article Rheumatic heart disease still killing Australian children but a landmark study makes inroads in full click here.

Anne-Marie Lee [L] says rates of RHD fell in her community during the study. Photo: Menzies School of Health. Image source: ABC News.

Improving health for people with intellectual disability

The Australian Government is investing more than $5 million in four research projects to improve the long-term health outcomes of people with intellectual disability. Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the research will develop the evidence base for future policies, interventions and other initiatives to improve the quality of life of people with an intellectual disability. A key factor in each of the projects is the involvement of people with intellectual disability, their families and carers in the design of the research and implementation.

Professor Sandra Eades from the University of Melbourne has received $792,020 to undertake a research project: Equitable access to health and disability services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with intellectual disability.

This project will improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous children with intellectual disability by recommending effective models of care to ensure appropriate, timely diagnoses and access to high-quality health and disability services. National Disability Insurance Scheme data and interviews with families, adolescents with intellectual disability, and healthcare and disability services will be analysed to identify barriers and facilitators to meeting the healthcare needs of Indigenous children with intellectual disability.

To view Minister Butler’s media release Improving long-term health outcomes for people with intellectual disability in full click here.

Image source: Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families of children with disabilities webpage of Community Early Learning Australia website.

Urapunga Store’s sugar cut success

Remote residents of Urapunga in the NT have reduced consumption of sugary drinks by 43% in the past year, due to a range of sugar-reduction measures implemented at their local grocery store. Urapunga Store, operated by the Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation and serviced by Outback Stores, has restricted the size of soft drinks sold, and implemented “Sugar-Free Wednesdays” – a day in which no full-sugar soft drinks are available for purchase.

“We knew the community was drinking too much sugar, so we came up with a plan to start changing that,” said Antonella Pascoe, board member of Urapunga Aboriginal Corporation. “As directors of the store, we felt like we could make a positive change.”

In the first six months, the proportion of sugary drinks sold has fallen by 4.7% which equates to 1,921 litres, or twelve bathtubs less of full-sugar soft drink consumed in the community. “We know that the community is now drinking less sugar,” says Ms Pascoe. “One of the best things is the way it has made the community think about what they are drinking, even on days when they can buy sugary drinks.

To view the Retail World article Urapunga Store’s sugar cut success in full click here.

Photo: Isabella Higgins, ABC News.

Sax Institute, a community-led research pioneer

The Sax Institute are pioneers of the community-led research model and have been building strong relationships with Aboriginal health organisations since 2003. These partnerships have been critical to enabling the design and conduct of health research that is most likely to meet the needs of Aboriginal communities and policy makers. The Sax Institute says these partnerships are an essential part of how they work and central to their success.

In 2003, Sax Institute formed a partnership with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) to set up the Coalition for Research to Improve Aboriginal Health (CRIAH) as a vehicle for bringing together Aboriginal communities and leading research expertise to support better health outcomes.

Over the past 15 years, the Sax Institute has worked with a number of ACCHOs across NSW to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people. Through these partnerships, ACCHOs nominate their research priorities, control how the research is conducted and take the lead in determining what works for them and their communities.

Four ACCHOs – Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Riverina Medical and Dental Aboriginal Corporation, Awabakal and Greater Western Aboriginal Health Service – have been cornerstone partners with the Institute in developing the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH), Australia’s largest long-term study of the health and wellbeing of urban Aboriginal children.

You can find more information on the Partnerships – How we work webpage of the Sax Institute website here.

Image source: Sax Institute website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Children’s Week 2022

Saturday marked the beginning of Children’s Week 2022 (22-30 October). Children’s Week is an annual event celebrated in Australia held around the fourth Wednesday in October. A diverse range of events and activities at national, state and local levels focus the attention of the wider community on children, their rights and achievements. Children’s Week celebrates the right of children to enjoy childhood.

Children’s Week promotes the Rights of the Child as proclaimed by the United Nations in 1954. It also exists to remind us of our responsibility to advocate for children as citizens and their right to a positive childhood.

The 2022 Children’s Week theme All Children have the right to a standard of living that supports their wellbeing and healthy development aligns with Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

For more information about Children’s Week click here.

Logo: ClipartMax. Photo: The North West Star. Image source: The Pulse.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Bowel screening test kits for ACCHOs

The image in the feature tile is from the article Targeted screening could improve bowel cancer diagnosis, but not cost-effective published in The Senior on 21 November 2019.

Bowel Cancer screening test kits for ACCHOs

NACCHO is working with the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to roll out bowel cancer screening kits to all ACCHOs. This new approach means that more community members can be supported to participate in bowel cancer screening. All participating ACCHOs will soon be able to issue kits directly to community members and bulk order additional kits from the Healthcare Provider Portal.

NACCHO is holding a free training webinar for all participating community-controlled organisations.

A live training webinar will be held from 12.30 PM – 2.00 PM (AEST) Monday 10 October 2022.

The training will guide staff through the simple steps to:

  • issue a kit to ensure that the completed kit can be easily linked to the participating community member. Linking completed kits to people means that the results of the screening can be successfully communicated to both you as the provider and the community member
  • bulk order additional kits
  • engage in conversations with community members about the importance of screening.

Attendees will also hear from community-controlled organisations who participated in the pilot program for this work and there will be lots of opportunities for questions.

NAATSIHWP and RACGP have provided CPD endorsement of the training webinar.

You can register for the training here.

If you have any questions, please contact the NACCHO Cancer team via this email link.

In the short video, Bowel Cancer Get Tested Early, Chris Lee, Assistant Director of Aged Care and Disability Programs from NACCHO, encourages mob to get tested and catch bowel cancer early so you can be around for your family and grannies.

Lack of telecommunications creates divide

A new AMA position statement looks at the many reasons telecommunication infrastructure and platforms must be rolled out and secured across the country. The AMA’s position statement on ‘Better Digital Connectivity to Improve Health Care of Rural Australians, available here, emphasises that technology telecommunication platforms must be able to accommodate developments in information and communications technologies, and provide digital connectivity through suitable combinations of fibre, mobile phone, wireless, and satellite technologies.

The position statement also highlights the need for enhancing the resilience of telecommunications infrastructure to natural disasters throughout the country to provide sustainable health care services for all Australians. The federal government’s decision on 1 July to remove Medicare rebate for longer telephone consultation but keep patient rebates for video calls of the same duration (20–40 minutes) and longer has excluded rural patients to access Medicare rebate through video telehealth.

Conducting video consultations is challenging with black spots and low internet speeds in rural setting. Government policies play a tremendous role in bringing internet access to remote regions and to ensure broadband services are reliable and affordable for all communities, business and services throughout the country.

To read the AMA article AMA says lack of telecommunication creates another health divide in the bush in full click here.

Image source: AMA website.

Improving newborn outcomes

Indigenous babies are generally born earlier and smaller than the rest of the population. The Government wants to close the gap, aiming for 91% of newborns to be at a healthy birthweight in the next decade. Michelle Kennedy from the University of Newcastle says “if we are going to close the gap we really need investment in ACCHOs who will drive the biggest change in our health and wellbeing.”

You can view the ABC News video VIDEO: Govt aims to improve Indigenous newborn outcomes featuring staff from Awabakal Aboriginal Health Service NSW by clicking on this link.

Mob encouraged to slow COVID-19 spread

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care has recently released the video below with Dr Aleeta Fejo, Aboriginal GP and senior Doctor, encouraging us all to do our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The collection also contains information on:

  • COVID-19 vaccination – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare workers talking about the COVID-19 vaccines
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Living with COVID-19 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

You can access the Department of Health and Aged Care webpage Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Dr Aleeta encourages us all to help slow the spread of COVID-19 here.

Baabayn Mums and Bubs Group initiative

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) works closely to support Baabayn, an Aboriginal Corporation that connects with individuals and families and provides them support and links to services that help them heal from the past and nurture their sense of confidence and pride in the future. One Baabayn initiative, Baabayan Mums and Bubs Group, helps young people in western Sydney grow and contribute to an Aboriginal-led movement for better outcomes for First Nations women and children.

Mercy Works supports the “bubs” component of the group which engages Aboriginal children in cultural, educational, health-promoting and healing activities in weekly three-hour sessions. This includes storytelling, learning culture, native gardening projects, motor skills activities and pre-school literacy and learning sessions.

The mums also participate in programs such as WSLHD’s Public Health Unit ‘Bedazzled Bras’ breast cancer initiative and Real Futures Job Training ‘Bring Your Bills Day’ with Legal Aid designed to empower, promote healthy lifestyles, and enhance life skills.

To read The Pulse article Western Sydney Baabayn mums shine a light at Vivid in full click here.

Advocacy for Bathurst mental health facility

A mental health facility which has had strong results for patients in other regional areas could be operating in Bathurst in the near future. Member for Bathurst Paul Toole has confirmed he will be advocating for a Safe Haven in Bathurst, similar to the ones already operating in Parkes and Dubbo, following news there is “one on the cards” for Orange.

There have been increased calls for improved mental health services for teenagers in regional areas following the death of Bathurst teen Tilly Rosewarne earlier this year. Tilly took her own life following what has been described as years of relentless online and schoolyard bullying. This call to reduce the number of young lives being lost to suicide across the western region is being led by Australian Community Media, publisher of the Western Advocate. Parkes’ Safe Haven opened in December 2021, which was followed by the opening of a similar facility in Dubbo in March 2022.

To read the Western Advocate article Toole confirms he will be advocating for Bathurst to have its own Safe Haven in full click here. The video below is from the NSW Government NSW Health webpage Safe Haven, available here, explains what a Safe Haven is.

Mala’la Health Service turning its health crisis on heart disease around

The National Indigenous Times (NIT) featured a story on how a local-led effort with an NT community is turning around the shockingly high rate of two dangerous heart diseases in Arnhem Land’s remote Maningrida community. Mala’la Health and community service manager Lesley Woolf said Maningrida was desperate for action to tackle the high rate of heart disease.

“Prior to the commencement of our program, Maningrida had the highest incidence of rheumatic heart disease and acute rheumatic fever in Australia, if not the world,” she said.

“In 2019, we had the opportunity to get Commonwealth funds. That gave us the chance to work with the community, who were very passionate about getting action, to develop and implement a plan. We were able to get additional staff and to look at environmental issues and addressing them.”

In 2018 more than 600 school children in the community were screened for RHD and one in 20 were diagnosed with rheumatic disease. Mala’la worked closely with the local school to provide education, health screening, health promotion, secondary prophylaxis and treatment to school children and their families.  This also included working with One Disease in treating scabies and providing education about skincare from a community-based approach.

Community engagement and awareness, as well as active case finding through echocardiographic screening, contributed to an increase in the number of people accessing care for RHD.

Read the story published in NIT here.

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.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and women are being urged to listen to their bodies and react quickly to any unusual changes. Being aware of changes in your breasts can mean prompt screening and early diagnosis which, in turn, can improve treatment outcomes.

“If you’re unsure about a possible symptom, you should make an appointment to discuss the change with your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker as soon as possible. This is particularly important if it’s been more than four weeks since you first noticed the change.”

“Everyone’s breasts are different. It is important that you get to know what your breasts look and feel like, so you know what is normal for you. There is no right or wrong way to check your breasts.”

What to look out for

  • A lump or hard area in your breast or underarm, especially if it is only on one side.
  • Change in the look of your breast: your skin looks like the skin of an orange, your skin looks and feels different in one area, redness, or rash.
  • Changes to the nipple: pulled inwards, leaking, itchy or has a sore that won’t heal.
  • Breast pain or discomfort, especially if it is only on one side.
  • A change in the size, shape or feel of your breast.

To access the WA Cancer Council webpage Listen to your body this Breast Cancer Awareness Month in full click here.

The graphic below is from the Know Your Lemons Foundation website and lists the 12 symptoms of breast cancer. Dr. Corrine Ellsworth-Beaumont MFA, PhD, is the founder of the Know Your Lemons Foundation (formerly known as “Worldwide Breast Cancer”) and the designer behind  Know Your Lemons, an innovative campaign teaching about the symptoms of breast cancer and the process for detection. Her groundbreaking work is creating a new paradigm of healthcare communication and has been viewed by over 1.5 billion people worldwide in 32 languages. Because the familiar, friendly lemon crosses common healthcare communication barriers of literacy, taboo and fear, #knowyourlemons is the only truly global breast cancer education campaign that works for diverse audiences regardless of age, ethnicity or gender.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: World Heart Day 2022

The image in the feature tile is from an article Cardiovascular disease risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged under 35 years: a consensus statement published in The Medical Journal of Australia, Monday 16 March 2020.

World Heart Day 2022

Today on World Heart Day 2022, we proudly share with you NACCHO’s new Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) logo. This logo has been created to promote the important work that we do around ARF and RHD. The logo depicts the flow of blood cells through a heart valve and also symbolises a healthy and happy person.

With the theme of World Heart Day being Use Heart for Every Heart, NACCHO would like to encourage all mob to get a health check so we can keep our hearts healthy. Cardiovascular disease can affect anyone at any age. It’s important for us to get checked out so we can live healthy lives.

For more information about World Heart Day click here.

Community-led approach to tackling RHD

On World Heart Day 2022, NACCHO would like to highlight the innovative work done towards improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and building better outcomes for them by our member, Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in Maningrida, NT. Below is an extract from the article Maningrida program aims to stop the spread of rheumatic heart disease published in The NT News earlier today, available here.

Top End locals quite literally sick of the high rates of disease in their community have taken their health into their own hands. Maningrida residents drove a community-led and owned approach to tackling the increasing incidence of rheumatic heart disease (RHD). The initiative began at the ACCHO Mala’la Health Service in 2018 and has already seen success, with the long-term goal to “eradicate it completely”. “We have done some great work and the program ran beautifully for three years,” Mala’la Health Clinic Health and Community manager Lesley Woolf said. “We are now looking at revitalising it and seeing how we can enhance it.”

The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows ARF cases increasing from 60 per 100,000 in 2016 to 69 per 100,000 in 2020. Ms Woolf said the community of just 3,000 people was identified as having some of the highest rates of ARF and RHD in the world. She said the residents had stabilised the number of new cases of heart disease where before it was dramatically rising. It is largely down to a handful of activities brought in to the community.

“What this looked like was community screening of all the school kids — we screened 400 kids and found that one in 20 had or were at risk of developing RHD,” Ms Woolf said. “It was a very high cohort of previously undiagnosed kids.” The students were educated on symptoms of heart disease and when they should present to the school nurse. “This led to a very good level of health literacy and certainly that has continued,” Ms Woolf said. It also lead to undiscovered cases able to receive earlier intervention and increase the health outcomes for these residents.

The council was also engaged to provide trailers for yard clean ups and help with repairs for housing which promoted healthy homes. As part of that Orange Sky was also brought in to provide residents with a free laundry service. Ms Woolf said the combined effort of these services and using “community champions” to ensure decision-making was all kept local was what made the program so effective. She said the introduction of the initiatives would be something of a lasting legacy in Maningrida. Ms Woolf said, “You may eventually eradicate it but in the meantime we will focus on education, promoting healthy homes and healthy environments.”

Orange Sky was brought into the community of Maningrida to help reduce incidence of ARF. Image source: Mala’la Health Service website.

Climate change victory for Torres Strait Islanders

In a groundbreaking decision last week, a United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Australia has failed to: “protect Indigenous Torres Islanders against climate change impacts, has violated their rights to enjoy their cultures, free from “arbitrary interference” with their private life, family and home.”

The decision sends a clear message that governments must act on climate change and places a duty on the Albanese Government to ensure Indigenous rights are upheld as part of climate policy and planning, according to Professor Kristen Lyons at The University of Queensland. Lyons says the decision will open “up new pathways for Indigenous communities – who are often on the frontline of the climate crisis – to defend their rights.”

To hear more about the win, a webinar will be held with the Torres Strait Group 8 and their legal team tonight, Thursday 29 September at 6.30 PM AEST. For more details about the webinar and to register click here.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Groundbreaking victory for Torres Strait Islander people in their fight against climate change in full click here.

Keeping FV victim-survivors in own homes

A program to keep victim-survivors of domestic violence in their own homes will be able to support another 1,000 families with its expansion into 14 local government areas where the critical service has been unavailable. Canterbury and Burwood, Georges River and Sutherland in Sydney, along with regional councils stretching the north, mid-west and south of the state will soon support the Staying Home Leaving Violence program that assisted more than 4,600 people last year.

The program, which attracted $32.5 million funding in the state budget, helps support victim-survivors remain in their home without the threat of their abuser. Home security audits, safety planning, counselling services and property repairs following acts of violence are among the services clients can access through the program.

In 2021-22 the program supported 4,621 clients, including 3,690 adults and 844 children, while more than 1,000 information and referral services were provided. South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation, Waminda, previously received $150,000 under the program. A spokeswoman said the high rates of Aboriginal clients accessing Staying Home Leaving Violence highlighted the importance of a culturally safe service. “This is especially significant, considering the under-reporting of domestic and family violence by members of our community,” she said.

To view the Brisbane Times article Critical service to help domestic violence victims stay in their homes expanded across NSW in full click here.

Image source: Pursuit, University of Melbourne.

Lessons in overcoming racism

Three-time boxing world champion Anthony Mundine has spoken about facing racism and major obstacles throughout his life to achieve his goals while speaking to a select audience in the South West last week. The Super League Premiership winner and NSW State of Origin representative held three Mundine: Mindset of a Cham’p workshops last week, hosted by the South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS).

“Everybody already has their power,” Mundine said. “We’ve got to teach them the basic skills and the fundamentals of how to get that power back.” In the context of the current racism scandals rocking the AFL and other smaller sporting clubs around the country, Mundine said people needed to become more educated. “I was called a black c…, a monkey, all that, you know — all my life when I was young, playing sport,” he said. “Its part of society, and always will be, but we just have to just try to educate people as much as we can.”

Mundine framed the workshops around helping people use their hardships to help build resilience and work towards their goals, but also to encourage people to ask for help when they need it. This mindset aligns with the goals of the SWAMS mental health outreach programs in schools, which aim to education young people on sexual health and youth-suicide prevention.

SWAMS mental health services coordinator Justin Brown said the service had a dedicated team with tertiary qualified Aboriginal counsellors and a social worker, alongside specialist mental health workers. “It is important to reach out if you need support, our Mental Health Team are here for a yarn,” Mr Brown said.

To view the Bunbury Herald article Mindset: Anthony Mundine reveals powerful lessons of overcoming racism to South West audience in full click here.

Anthony Mundine, centre, with staff from SWAMS at the workshop. Photo: Jacinta Cantatore. Image source: Bunbury Herald.

Prevention key to fairer, healthier future

Australians on low incomes are cutting back on healthy foods, skipping meals and reporting wide-ranging consequences for their physical and mental health as a result of escalating cost-of-living pressures, according to a report released this week by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS). Almost two-thirds of people on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment have had difficulty buying medication or getting medical care because they do not have enough money, the report found.

While the report’s recommendations are directed at the Federal Government, addressing cost-of-living pressures is also within scope for state, territory and local governments. When health leaders in Victoria were surveyed about key health issues ahead of the upcoming state election, many highlighted the importance of increased investment in prevention through addressing poverty, housing insecurity and the wider determinants of health.

Emma King, CEO VCOSS suggested the Government should prioritise and “formalise the role of community health” who are trusted and embedded in communities. “We saw this, it was highlighted throughout the pandemic,” she said. Community health services have a strong focus on the prevention of illness, operating with a social determinants of health lens, King said, and the “health literacy that they build is pretty phenomenal”.

Nerita Waight, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service CEO said “ACCHOs were recognised here and globally for keeping their communities safe” during the pandemic, showing strong evidence of the high quality care that community congtrolled health services provide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Community-led programs where people “identify their own needs and can get them addressed” are vital – “it’s them advocating for their needs”, according to Sampson at cohealth. “The issues are often the social determinants and they are often around mental health and social inclusion,” she said. “The barriers that are experienced by minority communities are disproportionate and so taking a one-stop-shop approach is not equitable.”

To read the Croakey Health Media article As Victoria faces an election, increased investment in prevention is key to unlocking the door on a fairer, healthier future in full click here.

Nerita Waight, CEO VALS. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Government policies fail to ensure adequate housing

Research findings show the social values of Aboriginal people differ significantly from non-Aboriginal values. Unfortunately, well-intentioned government policies too often ignore these crucial differences. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says everyone has the right to decent housing, which provides for their security, health and well-being.

However, past policies have not done enough to ensure Aboriginal people have adequate housing — it continues to lag behind non-Aboriginal housing across Australia. In 2020, the National Agreement on Closing the Gap included housing among its 16 key socio-economic targets to improve life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

However, the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has found closing the gap targets cannot be met without addressing the current lack of affordable and quality housing. As it stands:

  • a much higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in overcrowded and public housing
  • only 42% own their own home compared with 65% of non-Indigenous households
  • housing shortages are predicted to increase to 90,901 dwellings across Australia by 2031, of which 65,000 are in NSW

To view the Architecture and Design article AHURI research shows that Indigenous housing policies need to be based on their community’s needs in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

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.