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.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Aunty Jill’s bowel cancer journey

The image in the feature tile is of Jill Gallagher AO. Image source: Australian and NZ School of Government (ANZSOG) website.

Aunty Jill’s bowel cancer journey

When Gunditjamara woman Jill Gallagher was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer aged 54, she began self-reflecting on lifestyle choices which led her to this point. The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation CEO lived a busy life and found herself constantly tired and overworked, factors she blamed for her diagnosis. Ms Gallagher had experienced fatigue and persistent diarrhoea but had not associated the benign symptoms with bowel cancer.

After undergoing two major surgeries to remove sections of her bowel, part of her liver and growths on her diaphragm in 2010, Ms Gallagher said the path to recovery was lonely. “I’ve always been a very strong woman and never suffered with depression in my life until then, in the recovery phase, waiting to have chemo, waiting to see if I’m going to survive or die,” she said.

“The hospital took care of my medical needs, but there’s not a lot to take care of your emotional and spiritual needs.” After medication left her feeling unmotivated, Ms Gallagher turned to culture for comfort through the Healesville sanctuary where her son worked.

Ms Gallagher is among one in 15 Australians who will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately, it is a cancer which can almost always be treated if detected early. She wants her experience 14 years ago to serve as a warning to others out there to get checked and make use of free screening for those aged 50 to 74.

To read the National Indigenous Times article When Aunty Jill needed guidance while recovering from cancer, Bunjil the creator spirit was there for her in full click here.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Black Up! national camp for young mob

Blak Up! is a national First Nations event, led by the First Nations Team at Foundation for Youth Australian (FYA) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 16-35 years old. The time is now to build power and create connections for our future – a Blak future. The all Blak line-up will be a 4-day camp, all expenses paid including travel, featuring yarns from Elders and experienced campaigners, practical workshops, art and performances from Blak musicians. Blak Up! will help guide young mob to create connections with each other, strengthening bonds across these lands, and support them to create change in their own communities.

This idea came out of the nation-wide consultation we did for our First Nations Strategy – young mob told us that they wanted more opportunities to gather, connect and learn across communities and generations. The 50 young participants will be selected from applications by a panel of First Nations people. The First Nations team are encouraging and prioritising applications from young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16–35 years who have lived experience in the justice system, State care, mental health system, housing precarity and those mob who live remote, rural or regionally.

We want Blak Up to be an inclusive and safe place for young First Nations parents, young people with criminal records, disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ communities. There will not be drugs or alcohol allowed at this event. If you have young people in mind who would love to come but need additional support to attend (such as a person to travel with), please get in touch to discuss.

You can find key information about Black Up! here, a flyer here and an information pack here. Young mob who are interested in this event can apply here by Friday 30 September 2022. If you have any questions, please book in a time to discuss here or call 0478 772 390.

Kimberley Mum’s Mood Scale audit results

The Kimberley Mum’s Mood Scale (KMMS) project emerged from the concerns of Kimberley healthcare professionals that the mainstream perinatal depression and anxiety screening tool, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), was inappropriate for Aboriginal women. The first phase of the project involved a community based, participatory research action project with over 100 Kimberley Aboriginal women and 72 healthcare professionals to determine appropriate ways to screen for common perinatal mental health disorders. The resulting KMMS was validated in 2016 through a clinical trial involving 91 Kimberley Aboriginal women.

In 2017 funding was received funds from the National Health and Medical Research Council and WA Department of Health to progress the transferability of the KMMS in other geographic areas and implement the KMMS into routine clinical practice across the Kimberley. During 2017-2022 the KMMS was implemented in the Kimberley.

A recent audit of KMMS implementation demonstrated that it is the primary perinatal depression and anxiety screening tool across the Kimberley Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. Central to all phases of this project has been Aboriginal voice, participation and leadership. This has included ongoing consultation with Aboriginal women (end users); a strong team of Aboriginal Investigators; and robust partnerships with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

You can access the Implementation of the Kimberley Mum’s Mood Scale across Primary Health Care Services in the Kimberley region of Western Australia: a mixed methods assessment research article here as well as a plain language report for community here and a plain language report for clinics here.

Image from KMMS module. Image source: AMSED.

New tool to identify patient sepsis

Sepsis is a life-threatening time critical condition that can occur when the body is fighting any bacterial, viral or fungal infection. It can be difficult to diagnose sepsis as it can be masked behind minor visible symptoms, and if not treated quickly, can lead to organ failure and death. A new tool is being piloted at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD)’s Westmead Hospital, that will help clinicians assess a patient’s risk of sepsis while they are in the emergency department (ED) waiting room.

The Sepsis Risk Tool Dashboard combines a patient’s age, gender and vitals and calculates a sepsis risk percentage for each patient to support the clinician in assessing if sepsis is a risk or not. This dashboard has been designed to complement the existing Sepsis Kills program which was initiated by the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC). “There are other sepsis detection algorithms, but none focus on the ED waiting room, which is where sepsis is most likely to remain undiscovered,” said Dr Amith Shetty, Senior Staff specialist at Westmead Hospital and Clinical Director of NSW Health. “This is what makes this tool unique; it ensures that patients who are waiting for care are not missed or deteriorate.”

To view The Pulse article Innovative new tool to identify patient sepsis risk in Western Sydney emergency departments in full click here.

Image source: The Pulse.

Know your heart disease risk

When you have a family history of a disease, this means a member of your family has, or had that disease. Generally, if you have a family history of a heart condition, you may have a higher risk of developing a heart condition. Inherited conditions are caused by a fault (or mutation) in one or more of your genes. If one of your parents has a faulty gene, there’s a chance you’ll inherit it. Some common inherited conditions are:

  • Heart muscle diseases
  • Life-threatening heart rhythms
  • Very high cholesterol levels.

Family history is more complex. Rather than just a single faulty gene, it could be a combination of shared genes and environments passed down from one generation to the next, which increases the risk of developing a disease. Let your doctor know if you have a family history of heart disease. A Heart Health Check is recommended from the age of 45 (from 30 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples), but your doctor may want to assess your risk of developing heart disease earlier if you have a family history of heart disease. You may not be able to change your family history or genetics, but you can make positive changes to your lifestyle to lower your risk. Adopting the following healthy lifestyle habits can help lower your chances of developing heart disease:

  • Be smoke free
  • Do regular exercise
  • Eat a heart healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Lower your alcohol intake
  • Look after your mental health
  • Manage high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Manage diabetes.

To view the Heart Foundation webpage Know your risk: Family history and heart disease in full click here.

Image source: Heart Foundation.

NT Health Professional of the Year Award winner

A Pine Creek health practitioner has been named among the NT’s most outstanding primary health care workers that were recognised at the NT Health Professional of the Year Awards. Chris Rankine-Johnson from Top End Health Service in Pine Creek was named the Territory’s AMSANT Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner of the Year.

Over the past 12 months, Mr Rankine-Johnson has worked tirelessly to ensure the Pine Creek community was well engaged with health services, hosting BBQs and community meetings on his days off to discuss the risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccinations. He has provided the community with much needed reassurance, practical assistance, and comfort measures, and also took opportunities to develop and implement other primary and preventative health care initiatives, including a program assisting diabetic patients to effectively manage their medication. The health professional was also recognised for helping raise school attendance in the community and his engagement with local families has led to increased health checks, health literacy and immunisation rates.

To view the Katherine Times article Pine Creek health worker Chris Rankine-Johnson recognised in NT Health Professional of the Year Awards in full click here.

Pine Creek’s Chris Rankine-Johnson among the other winners in this year’s NT Health Professional of the Year Awards. Image source: Katherine Times.

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: How poor housing affects health

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

How poor housing affects health

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

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

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

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

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

Far North research to treat tuberculosis

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

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

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

Cairns Hospital. Image source: Tropic Now.

Strong Women for Healthy Country meet

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

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

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

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

Group A Streptococcus molecular POC testing

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

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

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

To view the article in full click here.

Group A Streptococcus. Image source: Microbiologics Blog webpage.

Mental health, substance use, reincarceration

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

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

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

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

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

Aboriginal SEWB Scholarships Program

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

Dementia Action Week 19–25 Sep 2022

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

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

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

For more information about Dementia Action Week 2022 click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: QLD health service delivery needs overhaul

The image in the feature tile is of the entrance to Doomadgee’s hospital emergency department. The photo is from an NCA NewsWire article Teenager given ‘shut-up pill’ before death, 7 March 2022.

QLD health service delivery needs overhaul

Speaking earlier this week at the the inquest of three young Indigenous women from Doomadgee who died with rheumatic heart disease between 2019–2020, Queensland health chief operating officer David Rosengren told the Queensland coroner health service in the town was too complicated. Gidgee operates branches across Queensland’s north-west and works with Doomadgee Hospital and the State’s health service, which the inquest heard could confuse patients on where to go for help. Earlier this week former Gidgee Healing CEO Renee Blackman said she faced significant barriers during her time in Doomadgee.

The coroner heard those roadblocks included gaining ACCHO accreditation, recruiting, securing premises for operation and a fractured relationship with the local state hospital. Similar concerns had been echoed by witnesses during the week. The court heard difficulties obtaining medical notes between services complicated the treatment of one of the women at the centre of the inquest in the months leading up to her death.

Ms Blackman’s said Gidgee used a seperate platform for lodging patient records to the state hospital leading to constraints accessing information. The court heard a laptop was provided to the hospital for access to Gidgee’s notes when needed. But evidence presented to the coroner suggested there was a strained relationship between the two providers which may have affected collaboration. Ms Blackman said without a positive relationship people “will fall through the cracks”.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Ex-health boss backs inquest calls to overhaul fractured QLD Aboriginal health service delivery in full click here.

Former Gidgee Healing CEO Renee Blackman. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

NACCHO leads environmental health workshop

A team from NACCHO had an awesome time last week in Darwin for the 13th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference 2022 (NATSIEH). The team hosted an Aboriginal-led workshop to identify longstanding issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander environmental health and new solutions through Closing the Gap.

This marked the beginning of NACCHO’s consultation for a National Strategic Roadmap on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Environmental Health Workforce with the NACCHO team excited to continue working closely with experts of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health sector.

For more information about the NATSIEH Conference 2022 click here.

NACCHO presentation at 13th NATSIEH Conference in Darwin, 5-8 September 2022.

ACCHOs consulted over RHD program

NACCHO held a meeting in Darwin last week with the first group of ACCHOs receiving funding through their new RHD program. This was a great opportunity to come together to discuss the program and hear from the participating ACCHOs and all the awesome work they are doing in community.

Organisations that attended included:

  • Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS)
  • Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation
  • Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation
  • Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation
  • Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation

as well the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) and Gurriny Yealamucka (Good Healing) Health Services Aboriginal Corporation who  as joined the meeting online.

ACCHO representatives who met with NACCHO staff in Darwin to discuss their participation in an RHD program.

Homelessness linked to vulnerability clustering

Poverty and discrimination are key issues tipping Indigenous Australians into homelessness, but a lack of funding, affordable housing and crisis accommodation remain bigger problems, a new report has found. Research by the University of SAhas revealed the homelessness rate for Aboriginal Australians is 10 times that of other people.

It found that dispossession of land, racism, profound economic disadvantage and cultural oppression continue to shape the lived experience of many Indigenous communities. And it identified poor literacy, education, criminal histories, domestic violence and lack of sustained tenancies as leading to a “revolving door” of homelessness among Aboriginal people in cities.

“Homelessness among Indigenous people arises from a clustering of vulnerabilities that easily spiral out of control,” the authors said in the report, commissioned by the Australian Housing and Urban Institute.

To view the Inverell Times article Funding call for Aboriginal housing in full click here.

Poverty and discrimination are key issues tipping Indigenous Australians into homelessness. Photo: Dan Peled, AAP . Image source: The Inverell Times.

Better drug treatment needed in Far West NSW

During a visit to Broken Hill on 14 September 2022, the President of the Law Society of NSW Joanne van der Plaat said the remote area needs an alternative approach to making its community safer. She told ABC local radio “I was keen to get out here and particularly to some of the other regions that are further away from Sydney to just see what is going on and to really listen to some of the practitioners … to see what they’re facing in terms of their daily practice.”

Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows rates across multiple offence categories in Broken Hill sit at two and three times the state average. “With illicit-drug offences in Broken Hill in the year to March 2022 at about double the state average, and bail breaches at almost three times the average NSW rate, it’s clear that current approaches are not working,” van der Plaat said.

President of the Far West Law Society Eric Craney said establishing health and culturally safe treatment services for drug and alcohol use in Broken Hill would be a major step in helping to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. “Additionally, the Government should extend the Dubbo Aboriginal Bail Pilot across regional areas including Broken Hill, to reduce the incidents of technical bail breaches that cause no safety risk to the community, but that can result in unnecessary incarceration of vulnerable defendants,” Mr Craney said.

To view the NSW Law Society Journal online article Calls for better drug treatment and rehabilitation in NSW’s far west in full click here.

Image source: Australian Journal of General Practice.

Dementia cases could be prevented

More than half of Indigenous dementia cases in far north Queensland could be prevented after scientists identified a series of risk factors linked to the condition. The James Cook University study found 11 risk factors contribute to up to 52% of dementia cases in its sample population. “Dementia is an emerging health issue among Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal peoples in Far North Queensland,” lead researcher Fintan Thompson said.

“We thought it likely that historically recent exposure to modifiable risk factors was contributing, and that a large proportion of dementia could potentially be reduced or delayed.” Analysing health data from more than 370 First Nations people in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula, the research team identified risk factors that could be modified. “The most important dementia risk factors are already public health priorities in this population. Risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and smoking were important contributors, which is somewhat similar to other populations,” the report said.

The study suggests rates of dementia could decline if these risk factors were reduced at a population level. The study also shows dementia risks in the Torres Strait region may be comparatively less certain. “Risks, such as social isolation and heavy alcohol consumption, contributed less to dementia in the Torres Strait region, which is great news,” Mr Thompson said.

To view the Pilbara News article Scope to lessen Indigenous dementia: study in full click here.

A study has found more than half of dementia cases in the Torres Strait region could be avoidable. Photo: Tracey Nearmy, AAP. Image source: Perth Now.

 

Youth held in police watch houses to sue

Three young people are taking on the Queensland government with a legal case claiming their human rights were breached when they were locked up in police watch houses. An anti-discrimination and human rights legal challenge is currently before the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

The police cells are meant for some of the state’s worst criminals, including adults accused of murder or sexual abuse. Katie Acheson, the outgoing CEO of the Youth Advocacy Centre, believes the case will shine a light on the practice which she believes should end. “It should be a wake-up to the Queensland government and the Queensland population,” she said. “I think many of us don’t realise that there are children right now in an adult watch house. “They’re scared and alone and they’re children and we have a responsibility to take care of them and not be further traumatising them.”

One organisation is trying to keep kids out of custody. Five nights a week the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane outreach team, lead by Pita Taimani, head to areas where at-risk young people like to hang out. They check on their safety and offer them a lift home before there’s any trouble. “We see that there’s a need to support young people that are in the CBD, where they’re not in the eyes of the police, not getting into the watch house,” Pita Taimani said. Mr Taimani’s team also offers crucial support to young people, like access to health care and vocational education.

To view the ABC News article Young people taking legal action against Queensland government after being held in watch houses in full click here.

Pita Taimani’s outreach team is focused on keeping at-risk youth out of police custody. Photo: Michael Atkin, ABC News.

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: Culturally appropriate sepsis resources

The image in the feature tile is from a research article Long term outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians after hospital intensive care published in The Medical Journal of Australia 15 June 2020.

Culturally appropriate sepsis resources

Yesterday Professor Anne Duggan who is the Chief Medical Officer at the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) issued the following statement:

World Sepsis Day 2022 – striving for better sepsis care 

Today is World Sepsis Day – an opportunity to unite globally in the fight against sepsis. The Commission actively supports this important initiative to highlight the devastating impact of sepsis, which affects more than 55,000 Australians of all ages every year.

Sepsis Clinical Care Standard

As part of the National Sepsis Program, the Commission released the first national Sepsis Clinical Care Standard in June, in partnership with The George Institute for Global Health. By outlining the best possible care for sepsis patients, the standard supports the work of healthcare services across Australia already striving to improve outcomes for sepsis. It’s clear the standard is a game changer that supports healthcare workers to recognise sepsis as a medical emergency and provide coordinated high-quality care. Refer to our implementation resources and case studies for guidance on integrating into practice.

National awareness resources 

Over the past year, the Commission has released a suite of resources under the theme ‘Could it be sepsis?’, focused on improving consumer awareness and clinician recognition of sepsis. I invite you to continue to spread the word about the signs and symptoms of sepsis using the resources in our communications toolkit. We have created culturally appropriate materials for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I also encourage you to watch and share our sepsis video series, offering a range of perspectives about why it’s so important to recognise and speak up about sepsis. By simply asking “could it be sepsis?”, we can encourage life-saving treatment that may help to reduce preventable death or disability caused by sepsis. Let’s continue to work together to reduce the burden of sepsis on our community.

Youth Steering Committee applications open

Applications for the Youth Steering Committee have now opened on the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition website here. A stakeholder kit including promotional and social media materials can be found on the Department of Education’s Youth Hub here.

The Youth Steering Committee will support the implementation of the new Youth Engagement Model by engaging in meaningful and ongoing conversation with Government to inform and develop successful youth policies. The committee will work closely with the Minister for Youth to provide advice and feedback on Government engagement with young people and youth programs and policies.

Any young person aged between 12 and 25 can apply. We are seeking a diverse group of people from across the country. No previous experience is required. 15 young people will be appointed to the committee. Committee members will be paid on honorarium to recognise contributions made over the committee term. The first meeting of the committee will occur in Canberra from Monday 21 November to Wednesday,23 November. Applicants must be available for this meeting. Travel and accommodation costs for this meeting will be covered for participants.

Applications are open until Wednesday 5 October 2022.

Please contact the Youth Team using either this email address or this email address if you require more information or support.

CVD and chronic kidney disease webinar

On Thursday 29 September 2022, the Heart Foundation is partnering with the World Heart Federation to bring to you a health professional webinar exploring the latest evidence on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and chronic kidney disease (CKD), including early detection of renal risk factors for CVD. This event will be chaired by Prof Garry Jennings, Chief Medical Advisor of the Heart Foundation, and we will be joined by Professor George Bakris, internationally renowned nephrologist, as well as Australian experts as they discuss the latest evidence and how it can be translated into practical preventative care.

Title: Filtering through the impact of Chronic Kidney Disease on CVD

When and Where: 8:00PM AEST Thursday 29 September 2022 – live and recorded, free Zoom webinar

This webinar has been accredited by RACGP for 2 CPD points. (Activity no. 367709). To REGISTER click here.

Chronic wounds costing lives and limbs

Band-aid solutions to chronic wounds are costing lives and limbs, and a simple solution could not only prevent those losses but cut billions in health system costs, AMA Vice President Dr Danielle McMullen told the Wounds Australia 2022 conference. Dr McMullen said people are dying prematurely and limbs are being amputated because the current system prevents some of the most vulnerable people in the country getting the right treatment at the right time.

“Chronic wound care is a poorly understood and under-funded public health issue, even though it affects around 450,000 Australians and costs $3 billion each year,” Dr McMullen said. “A lack of awareness about the significance of chronic wounds means vulnerable patients — mostly older Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, or patients with other chronic conditions — often suffer in silence and fall through the cracks in our health system.”

“The AMA is proposing a national scheme to fund medical dressings for chronic wounds and new MBS items to cover the unmet costs of providing care for patients suffering chronic wounds. Our analysis shows investing just $23.4 million over four years to deliver best practice wound care for diabetic foot ulcers, arterial leg ulcers, and venous leg ulcers would save the health system more than $203 million. This is a no brainer. I don’t know of many investments where for every $1.00 you spend, the return is $8.36, but this is the case with evidence-based wound care. The government often mentions its inherited trillion-dollar debt, so it should be looking for smart investments which will save the health system money and deliver better health outcomes for patients at the same time.”

To view the AMA’s media release Replacing band-aid wound solutions could save lives and millions in health system costs in full click here.

Wound care training in the Top End, NT. Image source: CRANAplus website.

Disparity in genomic medicine access

Globally there is a robust and growing evidence base that reveals access and outcomes across health systems are different for Indigenous populations. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, research reveals disparities in access to the Australian health system and the clinical services it provides, including diagnostic investigations, procedures, care planning, treatments, as well as service adherence to best practice treatment guidelines. However, to date, access to clinical genetic health services has not been quantified among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

Research investigating disparity in access to Australian clinical genetic health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been conducted as part of the Better Indigenous Genomics (BIG) Health Services Study funded by the Lowitja Institute. It was a university led project conducted in partnership with Australian clinical genetic health services. Formal support for this project was provided by Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), Machado-Joseph Disease Foundation, Bega Garnbirringu Health Service (Kalgoorlie), and the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) (via Ethics support). Extensive stakeholder consultation and engagement took place with 14 Aboriginal Health Organisations to identify research study priorities as part of the wider BIG study.

To view the Nature Communication article Investigating disparity in access to Australian clinical genetic health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in full click here.

Image source: Queensland University of Technology website.

Preventing suicide in vulnerable groups

The Territory Labor Government is investing in infrastructure and community programs to support mental health and suicide prevention initiatives. More than $50 million in funding includes a new 18 bed inpatient unit and Stabilisation and Referral Area in the Top End and the establishment of universal aftercare services, meaning Territorians discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt will receive immediate follow-up care. This week the NT Government has released the fourth Suicide Prevention Progress Report.

The report provides a snapshot of the key achievements of the NT Suicide Prevention Strategic Framework Implementation Plan 2018-2023. Some of the top achievements in the report include: Community Suicide Prevention Grants: 30 grants totalling $222,750 awarded for activities during 2022-2023. More than $1.22 million has been provided in community grants since 2018.Training for Staff and Community Members Working with Priority Groups: 1,463 Territorians trained in suicide prevention in the past 12 months. Priority groups include men, youth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, migrant and refugee communities, current and former defence force personnel, and the LGBTQ+ community.

Grant recipient, Northern Territory Aids and Hepatitis Council (NTAHC), has run a successful program with Tiwi Islands Sistergirls using imagery that speaks to the lived expertise of the Sistergirls. In its current grants program, NTAHC is developing resources to decrease stigma around sexual health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people and LGBTQ+ youth, groups which often have poor mental health outcomes.

To view the Mirage News article Report Card: Preventing suicide in vulnerable groups in full click here.

Image source: NT Independent.

Mum’s house clinic ‘disparity’ an inspiration

Worimi head and neck surgeon Kelvin Kong attributes his chosen career path to his life growing up witnessing firsthand the disparity between himself and his non-Indigenous friends. The University of Newcastle school of Medicine and Public Health doctor and Royal Australasian College of Surgeons fellow has always had interest in giving back and helping. Growing up with a nurse for a mum, Mr Kong often had mob around his house for basic procedures such as wound dressings and cyst removals.

“It wasn’t until we got to high school that we started asking why we weren’t going to hospital,” Mr Kong said. “None of my non-Indigenous friends had the same kinds of concerns – they weren’t going around to people’s houses to get medical care. You start realizing there is this disparity with access to care, particularly medical care.” Mr Kong’s career path appeared laid out before him from an early age, but a school visit from University of Newcastle doctors set his eyes on the prize. The key difference of that visit was the presence of Aboriginal doctors, a career Mr Kong had never previously thought was attainable for him.

“I still remember coming home and saying to my sister, wow you can actually go to university – that’s something we should pursue,” Mr Kong said. These days Mr Kong dedicates his time to rare diseases, in particular, otitis media, which disproportionately affects Aboriginal people. According to Mr Kong, otitis media affects the majority of children in Australia, but access to care is the one of the main reasons it affects Aboriginal kids differently.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Mum’s house clinic ‘disparity’ an inspiration for Worimi surgeon Kelvin Kong in full click 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.

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

The image in the feature tile is from the Hartmann Science Center website International Campaign Days webpage.

World Sepsis Day 2022

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to an infection that can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death. Every 2.8 seconds someone in the world dies from sepsis. Every year at least 18,000 Australian’s are diagnosed with sepsis, with around 5,000 losing their lives.

Sepsis has been coined the “silent killer” – it can rapidly cause death – sometimes within hours, but the signs of sepsis can be difficult to diagnose as early symptoms can be dismissed or confused with simple cold and flu symptoms or other similar conditions. Sepsis happens when the body is fighting an infection but it starts to attack itself. It can damage many parts of the body and cause death.

The best chance of getting better from sepsis is to treat it quickly. The public are being urged to educate themselves and get to know the signs of sepsis. If you suspect sepsis, seek urgent medical attention and never be afraid to ask – It it sepsis?

The below animation is from the T 4 Thomas Is It Sepsis? website here. You can also find more about World Sepsis Day 2022 on the Australian Sepsis Network (ASN) webpage here.

Farewell Uncle Jack Charles

The beloved star of stage and screen Uncle Jack Charles has passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones. The legendary actor, musician and activist celebrated his 79th birthday last week, and is being remembered as a towering figure of Indigenous culture. In a statement, his family stated that Uncle Jack Charles had suffered a stroke, before passing away at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Tuesday morning. “We are so proud of everything he has achieved in his remarkable life,” reads the statement. “May he be greeted by his Ancestors on his return home.”

The Boon Wurrung Dja Dja Wurrung Woiwurrung Yorta Yorta Elder is well known to generations of Australians as the actor with the treacle vocal cords, his rich baritone the soundtrack to innumerable plays, television programs and movies. His activism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander progress, especially regarding the Stolen Generations and education, was also an unfailing part of his efforts. Before he passed away, his family were able to send him off on Country during a smoking ceremony at the Royal Melbourne hospital.

To view the SBS NITV article Beloved Elder Uncle Jack Charles passes away in full click here. You can also view Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney’s media release Passing of Uncle Jack Charles here.

Uncles Jack Charles. Image source: NITV News.

Sowing seeds for a healthy future

A grassroots, community-based approach aims to address poor nutrition in remote Indigenous communities. EON Foundation, which works in partnership with 39 Aboriginal communities and schools to build edible gardens and develop and deliver nutrition programs, is setting up a program in Kalkarindji in the NT. Funding has been provided by the Katherine Region Communities for Children Facilitating Partner program, facilitated by the Smith Family and funded through the Australian Government.

In remote areas like this, accessing  fresh produce can be difficult, with fruit and vegetables  costing up to 50% more than they would in urban areas. As a result, the Victoria Daly Regional Council (VDRC) says 94% of Aboriginal children have an inadequate daily intake of fruit and vegetables. Poor nutrition then leads to health problems like heart and kidney disease and type two diabetes. Phase one of the Kalkarindji project will see a section of the Kalkarindji School grounds transformed into an edible bush tucker and sensory garden. Donna Donzow, the EON Foundation’s NT operations manager, said working closely with the school was a great way to teach kids about healthy eating habits.

To view the Pro Bono Australia article Sowing seeds for a healthy future in Kalkarindji in full click here.

Donna Donzow in front of the garden site. Image source: Pro Bono Australia.

We need to talk about family violence

Doctpr Gracelyn Smallwood does not have time to retire. “Some people my age would be sitting by the beach, drinking pina coladas,” she said with a laugh. “Not me, there’s too much work to do.” The 71-year-old Indigenous health and human rights advocate spoke at the Red Rose Domestic Violence fundraiser luncheon at Victoria Park Golf complex last Friday. “I had to cram about 200 years of knowledge into a 15-minute speech,” Dr Smallwood joked.

Founded in 2016 by chief executive Betty Taylor, the Red Rose Foundation works to address the impact of domestic and family violence in Australian communities. The national charity provides holistic medical, legal and trauma counselling support to victims of “high-harm and high-risk” domestic violence such as strangulation.

Mrs Taylor said Red Rose was honoured to host Dr Smallwood as their keynote speaker. “Gracelyn is an absolute champion of diversity and inclusivity,” Mrs Taylor said. Regarded as one of the most prominent First Nations health and justice experts, Dr Smallwood was a published author, a former consultant to the World Health Organisation, and the recipient of the 2022 Queensland Greats Awards.

To view The Catholic Leader article ‘Changing the ending’ – Why the Red Rose Foundation wants Australia to talk about domestic violence in full click here.

Red Rose founder Betty Taylor and Dr Gracelyn Smallwood. Phot: Martin Pouwelse. Image source: The Catholic Leader.

Quantifying myocardial inflammation

Dr Jessica O’Brien is a cardiologist and PhD student at Monash University and Alfred Health. Dr O’Brien received an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award from the Heart Foundation for her project Quantifying myocardial inflammation in acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD). This grant is focused on capacity building and increasing Indigenous representation at all levels of research. Dr O’Brien will use cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify myocardial inflammation (inflammation of the heart muscle) in ARF. The aim is to improve diagnostic accuracy and the ability to predict who is most likely to progress to RHD.

By being able to diagnose acute rheumatic fever early, this will help to improve access to effective medications (antibiotics) to prevent infection. The overall goal is to help reduce the impact of rheumatic heart disease in Australia. Dr O’Brien says, “Because of my background, I have always been interested in Indigenous health, but it wasn’t until I started medical specialist training that I saw the extent of the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. One of the many contributors to this issue is that there are not enough Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals and researchers, which is important to ensure Indigenous people can receive culturally appropriate, best practice care.”

To view the Heart Foundation article Q&A with Dr Jessica O’Brien in full click here.

Dr Jessica O’Brien. Image source: The Heart Foundation website.

Jalngangurru Health Trial

Cultural (traditional) healing can be used to address physical ailments, social and emotional wellbeing, mental health issues, drug dependence and culture bound syndromes (e.g. being sung). There are varied forms of healing practices from the Kimberley including mabarn, bush medicinal products, the smoking of various woods and leaves, the use of ochre and ceremonial songs, palliative care and child and maternal health.

The Jalngangurru Healing model is being trialled in Derby and Fitzroy Crossing with 19 healers currently registered. The model will enable the healers to be compensated for their work, with cultural safety and security embedded in the model, and will enable the safe keeping of knowledge for future generations. The trial is open until mid December 2022.

Jalngangurru Healing, formerly known as the Traditional Healing Practices Pilot (THPP) is a project managed by the Yiriman Project in partnership with Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation, auspiced by the Kimberley Law and Culture Centre (KALACC), funded by the WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), supported by the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service (KAMS) and it is being evaluated by Notre Dame University’s Nulungu Research Centre.

You can access Jalngangurru Healing Trial Explainer here and a Jalngangurru Healing Trial Poster here.

Photos: John Reed. Image source: 2022 Jalngangurru Healing.

Winnunuga News August 2022 edition

The August 2022 edition of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services newsletter Winnunga News is now available here. This edition includes a CEO Update and a range of articles including:

  • ACT Budget Leaves Health Behind
  • Poverty in the ACT?
  • AMC Under The Spotlight
  • August Anniversary Events
  • Julie’s Tough Turning Point: Sober Up or Kill Yourself
  • Report Into Death of Detainee at AMC Identifies Serious Shortcomings
  • Keira Brown v. Director General of the Justice and Community Safety Directorate
  • Maconochie’s Experiment
  • COVID-19 and Influenza Update

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: Learning from people with lived experience

The image in the feature tile is from the Aboriginal heart health webpage of the Heart Foundation website.

Learning from people with lived experience

Communities and individuals have a right and a duty to participate in the design and delivery of their health care. In tackling the complex global epidemic of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and mental health conditions, people with lived experience offer powerful expertise and narratives to shape policies, programs and services, and influence and inform those in power. Despite the right of participation, many global health interventions are top–down, one-size-fits-all or donor-driven models.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a short film documentary that sheds light on the experiences of people living with noncommunicable diseases and mental health conditions around the world. Nothing for Us, Without Us: listening and learning from people with lived experience highlights six individuals with diverse health conditions, including rheumatic heart disease, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, cancer, bipolar affective disorder and auto-immune disease and includes perspectives from Australia, Brazil, Lebanon, Nepal, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.

These individuals provide powerful expertise and evidence of why including the voices of people with lived experience is critical in the co-design of related policies, programs and health services. In addition to the full-length film, there is also the opportunity to learn from the experiences of the individuals, including the CEO of Aboriginal Medical Service Co-operative Limited, LaVerne Bellear, through a series of short films.

Click here to access the WHO’s Nothing for us, without us: new film series on people living with noncommunicable diseases and mental health conditions webpage. You can also access the WHO report Nothing for us, without us: opportunities for meaningful engagement of people living with NCDs here.

Addressing health holistically for 25 years

Addressing health holistically can go a long way to improving the quality of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. On a day-to-day level, it’s services like Goolburri Aboriginal Health Advancement in Queensland that makes all the difference. The incorporated community not-for-profit organisation has been providing culturally safe and sensitive services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people in Queensland’s Toowoomba and Darling Downs regions, and SW Queensland for 25 years.

Goolburri knows that encompassing the importance of connection to land, culture, ancestry and how these impact on overall wellbeing of the individual and broader community cannot be underestimated. Goolburri supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with a range of services to strengthen families and community relationships, while also protecting the vulnerable and those at risk. These services include GPs, dental services, home support, healing and wellbeing services and a family wellbeing service. It also extends to problematic substance abuse, domestic violence, social and emotional wellbeing, safety plans for children and in-home support.

To view The Sydney Morning Herald article Strengthening communities by advancing health care options in full click here.

Goolburri employs around 80 team members across 10 offices. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Condo SkyFest supports mental health initiatives

The recent Condo Skyfest Miima Warrabinya (Seeking the Stars) festival washosted by Wiradjuri Condobolin Corporation (WCC) and Big Skies Collaboration. The festival showcased works from a number of local community organisations and individuals including the:

  • Condo SistaShed, where Sistas meet regularly to enjoy arts and crafts activities;
  • Marathon Health’s Wiradjuri Wellness Project’s Shine group, who meet regularly to paint, sew, yarn and relax. Their artworks celebrate good mental and physical health and positive attitudes;
  • Focus on the Sky: Suicide Prevention Program exhibition, by participants of workshops conducted by Condobolin artist Karen Tooth for the Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Primary Health Network supported by Western Plains Regional Development, Condobolin Aboriginal Health Service and Lachlan Arts Council.

To view the Eastern Advocate article Condo Skyfest Miima Warrabinya (Seeking the Stars) held at the iconic Wiradjuri Study Centre in full click here.

Some of the Sistas at the Condo SistaShed with some of their lantern experiments. From left, Aleesha Goolagong, Zanette Coe, Bev Coe, Charmaine Coe. Photo: Merrill Findlay. Image source: Arts OutWest website.

Scholarships to support health workers

Applications for 400 scholarships for personal care workers and nurses undertaking vocational, undergraduate and postgraduate courses related to aged care, leadership and management have opened. There are also 100 scholarships available for allied health professionals to focus on dementia-related post-graduate qualifications under the three-year commonwealth program, which launched last year. Students are eligible to apply if their course commences or continues in 2023. There is a guaranteed number of scholarships per year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. All scholarship recipients are eligible for a completion bonus on successfully finishing their course.

Chief nursing and midwifery officer Professor Alison McMillan said the priority of the scholarships is to develop skills for aged care nurses in leadership and clinical management, and to improve expertise in areas such as palliative care, dementia care and infection prevention and control. “I’d encourage all nurses and aged care workers working in aged care to look at what courses are available and consider applying for study that will support their career in the long term,” Professor McMillan said in a statement.

“Personal care workers interested in becoming an enrolled nurse should consider applying for a scholarship to complete a Diploma of Nursing. Enrolled nurses can apply for a scholarship to complete a Bachelor of Nursing to become a registered nurse,” she said. For allied health, courses related to aged care including clinical gerontology, behavioural management, dementia, continence and palliative care are eligible in addition to leadership and management courses.

Aged care nurse practitioner Khera said the scholarships changed her life. “The best part about my studies is applying the theories and learnings in the workplace and seeing the positive outcomes.”

For more information you can access the Australian Ageing Agenda article More scholarships for aged care nursing, care, allied health staff in full here.

Image source: VACCHO website.

$2.1m for Pilbara Aboriginal Health Alliance

With access to health services a big issue for Aboriginal communities in the Pilbara, BHP is providing $2.1 million in funding to help establish the Pilbara Aboriginal Health Alliance (PAHA). BHP’s partnership with PAHA will help transform how Indigenous health services are provided in the Pilbara, by establishing new services and creating a strong voice for Indigenous health care.

The Alliance brings together three member organisations, Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (Newman), Wirraka Maya Health Service (Port Hedland) and Mawarnkarra Health Service (Roebourne and Karratha). Through their collective expertise and community connections, PAHA has a unique understanding of Indigenous health challenges in the Pilbara. Their goal is to work towards breaking down the barriers and improving the health and resilience of Aboriginal people now and in the future.

Wirraka Maya Health Service CEO, June Councillor, says the funding will make a huge difference in driving real improvements in the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people in the Pilbara. “It will help us identify, develop and roll out the Indigenous health services that will have the greatest impact on our communities in Newman, Port Hedland, Roebourne and Karratha.”

To view the BHP article Transforming Indigenous healthcare in the Pilbara in full click here.

PAHA logo, PAHA health workers. Image sources: PAHA Facebook, BHP website.

Indigenous Literacy Day

Today, Wednesday 7 September 2022 is Indigenous Literacy Day. This is a yearly initiative by Australia’s Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Through literacy programs, the organisation seeks to improve the lives and possibilities of Indigenous Australians. Not just any literacy program, but one that puts the knowledge and wisdom of the Indigenous people first.

Australia’s First Peoples have a deep knowledge of community, culture, and land. These are concepts of “literacy” that the western world may not understand. We must redefine what literacy means for different communities and their needs. To create forward-thinking spaces without losing roots. Indigenous Literacy Day advocates people’s right to an education in the languages they speak at home. It celebrates Indigenous freedom of expression and participation in public life just as they are.

For more information about Indigenous Literacy Day click here.

Eating disorders research grants available

Sydney’s first eating disorders research and translation centre offers nationwide grant opportunity to progress prevention, treatments and support in partnership with research, lived experience, clinical and community experts. The Australian Eating Disorders Research and Translation Centre, led by InsideOut Institute at the University of Sydney, has launched the IgnitED Fund to unearth new ideas that have the potential to solve the problem of eating disorders.

Open to anyone living in Australia, IgnitED offers grants of up to $25,000 to develop and test innovative ideas that have potential to improve outcomes for people with eating disorders and their loved ones. It is the Centre’s first funding initiative following the $13m grant awarded in January to establish the new national centre.

According to the Centre’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Co-Lead, Leilani Darwin, First Nations Australians are believed to experience high rates of eating disorders, disordered eating and food insecurity issues. “The IgnitED Fund facilitates Indigenous innovation,” said Darwin. “For the first time, we are uniquely positioned to elevate the need to better understand the issue of eating disorders and to build the evidence and best practice for our communities.”

For further information you can access The University of Sydney webpage National eating disorders centre ignites research fund for new solutions 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.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Hope for reducing rheumatic fever cases

The image in the feature tile is of Paediatric Cardiologist Dr Bo Remenyi with RHD patient Trenton. Image source: The Katherine Times, 1 July 2019.

Hope for reducing rheumatic fever cases

Findings from a new study in the NT provide hope for reducing rheumatic fever cases and the bacterial infections that trigger the condition. The study – part of a 4-year collaboration with Menzies School of Health Research, Telethon Kids Institute, Sunrise Health Service and NT Health – focused on reducing household health risks through community-based activities led by Aboriginal Community Workers, in a bid to curb infection rates. Housing and environmental health support – such as fixing showerheads, broken pipes and other health hardware – as well as information-sharing about rheumatic fever and assisting families to navigate healthcare, made up the focus of the activities.

People gained the knowledge needed to seek medical treatment, which initially increased the number of reported infections. Because those infections were then able to be properly treated, rates of infection decreased to below baseline levels, especially in children. Study co-author and Chairperson of the Board for Sunrise Healthcare, Anne-Marie Lee, said the findings suggested the community-led activities translated into a reduction of the types of infection that drive rheumatic fever. The number of new cases of rheumatic fever also decreased during the study.

To view the Menzies School of Health Research media release Community-led approach delivers promising results to reduce rheumatic fever in full click here.

Children from Maningrida, Arnhem Land, NT. Photo: Lucy Marks, ABC News.

National Medicines Policy Review – have your say

An online consultation survey in relation to Australia’s National Medicines Policy is now available here. It focuses on the revised draft that was started on 17 August 2022 and is open for six weeks until 11:59 PM Tuesday 27 September 2022 via the Department of Health and Aged Care’s Health Consultation Hub available here.

In addition to the online survey, there will be:

  • targeted consultation sessions hosted via WebEx with a range of key stakeholder groups, including: consumers; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives; the medicines industry; the pharmacy sector; prescribers; and state and territories
  • an open stakeholder forum in September 2022

Information including the precise timing of the consultation sessions and how people may register interest to attend is available on the Health Consultation Hub. If you or your associates have questions regarding the NMP Review or the consultation process, please contact the NMP Secretariat via email here.

Background

On 29 July 2022, the Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon. Mark Butler MP announced that the National Medicines Policy (NMP) Review was set to restart.  Professor Michael Kidd AM FAHMS, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Principal Medical Advisor, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care, was reappointed as the sole reviewer to complete the NMP Review and provide a final report to Government later this year.

All interested stakeholders will have the opportunity to engage and provide feedback on the revised draft of the 2022 NMP which will be accompanied by a Summary Consultation Report and Recommendations with the outcomes of the previous round of consultations and the former NMP Review Committee’s recommendations (reflected in the latest draft NMP 2022). The diverse perspectives, experience and knowledge of all stakeholders is highly valued and will contribute to the report to Government and finalisation of the 2022 NMP.

Image source: AMA website.

First Nations-led employment policy needed

On the eve of the federal government’s Jobs and Skills Summit from 1–2 September 2022, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers, union representatives, peak bodies and researchers gathered in Canberra for a First Nations Workplace Symposium earlier this week to ask some critical questions. Now we have a new government and a new policy environment, what do First Nations people want around work and work policy? And how do we ensure Indigenous-led policy is a feature of the mainstream employment landscape?

The symposium was hosted by the First Nations Employment Alliance (which includes the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, the ACTU, Reconciliation Australia, Kara Keys Consulting and PWC’s Indigenous Consulting) and aimed to listen to mob and establish a work plan and strategy to explore the future of First Nations employment that is First Nations-led and implemented.

Nareen Young, Industry Professor, Jumbunna Institute of Education and Research, University of Technology Sydney, who attended the symposium said, “First Nations workers are everywhere, but labour market experiences can be very different to those of non-First Nations workers. Existing policy doesn’t always address those needs or relate to the experiences of First Nations workers. Australia needs Indigenous-led policy design to meet the needs of First Nations workers.”

To view The Conversation article First Nations workers are everywhere. The jobs summit must tackle Indigenous-led employment policy too in full click here.

Image source: The Heart Foundation website.

Culturally safe ASD education resources

When Tanika Davis’s son was diagnosed with autism at just two years old, the Worimi mother was confronted with the stigma surrounding the developmental disorder, but also surprised at the lack of consideration for Slade’s Indigenous culture. “It came as a bit of a shock,” Ms Davis said. Her young family attended countless health appointments and consultations but found health professionals lacked the knowledge needed to appropriately treat and assist Indigenous families. “We thought that everything could be quite readily available to us as a family … but unfortunately it wasn’t,” she said.

Ms Davis said she had to inform professionals, including speech pathologists and occupational therapists, about culturally appropriate resources such as Indigenous books and activities. “Too often, as an Aboriginal family, we were required to kind of educate allied health services and professionals around cultural safety and our son’s world,” she said. Ms Davis decided to launch The I Am, Movement. The organisation provides culturally sensitive educational resources including flashcards featuring Indigenous artwork.

To view the ABC News story The I Am, Movement designs ‘culturally safe’ education resources for Indigenous children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in full click here.

Ms Davis’s background in Aboriginal health promotion helped her develop The I Am, Movement. Photo: Mark Graham, ABC Heywire.

Supporting PHC in remote NT communities

A new project supporting comprehensive primary health care (PHC) in remote communities in the NT has just been announced as part of the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre program of works. The project – a partnership between the University of Sydney, the Menzies School of Health Research (Alice Springs), NT Health, the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care, Health Direct Australia, and NT Primary Health Network (PHN) – focuses on working closely with First Nations communities in the Northern Territory, as well as Indigenous providers and consumers to develop community-centred care models.

“While telehealth has been widely used in remote communities, there is a significant gap in our understanding of how Indigenous Australians want to use technology to support their health and wellness,” said Professor Time Shaw, project lead, and Charles Perkins Centre member. This is a great team and continues the Charles Perkins Centre’s collaborative approach to all its work, particularly when working with First Nations communities. Embedding Indigenous researchers in the team will help to ensure that this community-led model has impact.

To view The University of Sydney article Supporting primary health care in remote NT communities in full click here.

Wadeye, NT. Photo: James Dunlevie, ABC News.

Ngar-wu Wanyarra conference registrations open

The annual Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Conference will be delivered by The University of Melbourne, Department of Rural Health and is in its 7th year running.

The aim of the conference is to facilitate the exchange of information on key issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and wellbeing through the delivery of high impact keynote addresses by national leaders from within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The conference also provides a forum for the presentation of cutting-edge program initiatives and research findings in Aboriginal health and wellbeing by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners and their colleagues.

Conference date: Wednesday 12 October 2022

Location: The Department of Rural Health, Shepparton campus on Yorta Yorta Country or online.

You can register and purchase tickets for the conference here.

AMS Redfern 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner

The Aboriginal Medical Service Co-operative Ltd Redfern is inviting you to join them at a Gala Dinner to celebrate more than 50 years of Aboriginal Leadership and outstanding contributions made by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

You will enjoy an evening to remember as AMS Redfern celebrates their unique history. The evening will feature a formal dinner and spectacular entertainment showcasing traditional and contemporary performers.

The Gala Dinner will be held at the International Convention Centre Sydney, Darling Harbor on Saturday 26 November 2022 with doors open from 6:00PM.

Tickets can be purchased 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.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: The Voice explained

The image in the feature tile is of Torres Strait Islander man Thomas Mayer, a tireless campaigner for a constitutionally enshrined First Nations voice. Image source: Twitter, 26 August 2022.

The Voice explained

The Albanese government has put forward a preferred form of words to insert into the constitution to enshrine an Indigenous voice to parliament, starting with a simple question for us all to vote on. “We should consider asking our fellow Australians something as simple as: ‘Do you support an alteration to the constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?’” Anthony Albanese said in July during a landmark speech at the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land.

The government is now in “the consultation phase of this important nation-building project”, according to the minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney. She has promised a public education campaign ahead of the referendum, to answer the most commonly asked questions. But the PM has said there is “already an extraordinary level of detail out there from the work that Marcia Langton and Tom Calma did”.

The Guardian article How would an Indigenous voice work and what are people saying about it? available in full here, goes on to answer the following questions:

  • What do we already know?
  • How would the national voice work?
  • How would it be structured?
  • How would local and regional voices feed in?
  • What would a voice not do?
  • How would disputes be resolved?
  • What action is being taken?
  • What are people saying about the plan?

NBA legend supports the Voice

The PM has enlisted the support of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal in calling for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians and a Voice to Parliament. Anthony Albanese praised O’Neal after meeting with the basketball great in Sydney on Saturday morning, highlighting his work “in the United States about social justice and lifting people up who are marginalised”.

“He knows that we’re a warm and generous people,” Mr Albanese said. “And he wanted to inform himself about what this debate was about.” The PM argued the world was watching the debate in Australia about recognition of First Nations people. “I just believe that it will send a really positive message to the world about our maturity as a nation,” Mr Albanese said.

The PM, along with Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, presented O’Neal with a boomerang handmade by First Nations artist Josh Evans, and two jerseys from Mr Albanese’s beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs. “I’m here in your country, whatever you need from me, just let me know,” O’Neal said.

To view the ABC News article Shaquille O’Neal joins PM as Anthony Albanese says ‘world is watching’ Voice to Parliament debate in full click here.

Image source: ABC News website.

Healing Works suicide prevention workshops

Healing Works Australia is an Indigenous Company that provides an array of suicide prevention and cultural services is leading the rollout of I-ASIST training across Australia and in August / September the development of the safeYARN suicide alertness workshops to 12 Aboriginal community controlled health organisations in NSW involved in the “Building on Aboriginal Communities Resilience initiative “ with NSW Health.

They aim to empower organisations and communities through education and sustainable outcomes. Healing Works achieve this by working with organisations and communities, to determine their unique needs so that they can more effectively respond to suicide and broader emotional wellbeing. The two workshops on offer are I-ASIST Indigenous Applied Suicide Skills Training, and safeTALK/YARN, Suicide Alertness For Everyone. Their delivery model for suicide prevention training is stepped in care and built around a solid framework that directly relates to their community members.

To view the Healing Works Australia press release in full click here.

Australia’s HIV diagnoses lowest ever

There were 552 new HIV diagnoses in Australia in 2021, meaning the number of new diagnoses has halved over the past 10 years, according to a new national HIV report released today by UNSW’s Kirby Institute.

  • There were 552 new HIV diagnoses in Australia in 2021, the lowest number since the beginning of the HIV epidemic.
  • The majority of new diagnoses remain in gay and bisexual men (68%), but have reduced by more than 52% over the past 10 years. The decline is due to a range of successful HIV prevention strategies including the scale-up of biomedical prevention tool PrEP, particularly over the past five years.
  • HIV diagnoses among heterosexual people have reduced at a lower rate; 28% in the past 10 years.
  • In 2021, HIV diagnoses remained stable among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Almost half (48%) of new diagnoses were ‘late diagnoses’, meaning that the person may have been living with HIV for four or more years without knowing. It is estimated that nearly one in 10 people living with HIV are unaware they have it.
  • Timely initiation of treatment is crucial, and by the end of 2021, an encouraging 98% of people on treatment had achieved viral suppression, which makes HIV untransmittable.
  • Further work is needed to optimise and tailor HIV programs to meet our global and national targets, and to achieve virtual elimination of transmission in Australia.

To read the scimex article Australia records lowest ever HIV numbers, but late diagnoses are concerning in full click here.

In a related Queensland University of Technology (QUT) article Zeroing-in on HIV transmission in Australia, available here, QUT health expert Dr Jo Durham says Australia had done well to reduce HIV transmissions, but insufficient focus on cultural and language differences had created inequities in healthcare access. We can’t reduce the number of people already living with HIV, but we want to stop further infections by reducing the transmission. A more targeted approach is needed to ensure access to HIV information and health care for populations experiencing HIV, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples” Dr Durham said.

Image source: Health Times website.

Sleep disorders common for NT’s Top End kids

Sleep disorders are more common and more severe in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children than non-Indigenous children, with Indigenous children often having higher screen use before bed, later bedtimes and reduced sleep, an analysis of NT data has found. The authors say targeted interventions and further resources are needed to address sleep quality issues, in order to improve the health of NT children.

“While sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), are a common and significant health issue in children, there has been very little research investigating their prevalence in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children in the Top End region of the NT,” says study senior author Associate Professor Subash Heraganahally, affiliated with Flinders University in the NT and a respiratory and sleep physician based at the Darwin Private Hospital and Royal Darwin Hospital.

“If left untreated, OSA and issues with overall sleep quality can lead to the development of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, anxiety and depression, in addition to the potential lasting effects of reduced academic engagement in childhood. Given what we know from previous research in other populations into the impact of sleep disturbances, the presence of OSA and other sleep disorders is likely to have a dramatic impact upon the Indigenous and non-Indigenous paediatric population”

To read the scimex article Sleep disorders common for children in NT’s Top End region in full click here.

Image source: Australian Institute of Family Studies website.

Trek tackles Australia’s rising RHD rates

A group of highly experienced doctors, health workers, and First Nations’ leaders from across the nation have begun a ‘Deadly Heart Trek’ in Queensland. The trek aims to help tackle the rising rates of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. While virtually eradicated amongst non-indigenous Australians, rates of RHD in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly those living across northern and central Australia, are the highest in the world.

“If not diagnosed or treated, RHD can cause heart failure, disability, and even death,” says Paediatric Cardiologist and Deadly Heart Trek member Dr Bo Remenyi. “Without action, it is estimated that more than 9,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, most under 25 years of age, will develop acute rheumatic fever or RHD by 2031. “We must prevent this, through education, the upskilling of local community members, and early detection and treatment – particularly in communities with restricted access to medical facilities.”

The trek started on Thursday Island and will see two teams travel from Cape York to Mount Isa, visiting communities by invitation, where there is a high burden of disease.

To read the Retail Pharmacy Assistants article Trek tackles rising RHD rates in Australia in full click here.

Image source: Take Heart Deadly Heart website.

RPHC Manuals August 2022 update

The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) are currently being reviewed and updated with monthly updates being provided to health services and other organisations to keep them up-to-date during the review process.

The RPHCM team recently attended the National Rural Health Conference in Brisbane to promote the upcoming publication of the new manuals. The team will also attend the Council of Remote Area Nurses of Australia (CRANAplus), Rural Medicine Australia and NACCHO conferences. All manuals are now making their way to the publishers for final formatting and editing.

All sales of the Clinical Procedures Manual will cease tomorrow Wednesday 31 August 2022.

The RPHCM team will be meeting with health services and key organisations over the coming months to discuss the changes made to protocols and new content in the latest edition. You can access the RPHCM Project Update August 2022 flyer here, the Remote Primary Health Care Manuals website here and the RPHCM team by email here if you would like a change to the report or to meet the team.

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: Everyone needs to be represented

The image in the feature tile is of Pat Turner presenting at the National Press Club. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 September 2020.

Everyone needs to be represented

An interview with NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks regarding her views on the Voice to Parliament was aired on multiple radio stations yesterday. In the interview Ms Turner said “the national voice has to be elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives from each jurisdiction so that everybody is represented.” Ms Turner said “there will be cases put forward for the Torres Strait Islands to have their own representative and there will be large areas in states like NSW, Queensland, NT and WA that will want to have at least different areas of those states and territories represented. So the top end for example of the NT is very different to Central Australia, and the Kimberley is very different to the south-west of WA and likewise with outback NSW versus people who live in Sydney and along the coast.”

Ms Turner said she knows people are rushing on this, but an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island representative group needs to work with the Australian government on the nitty gritty of going to a referendum – the issues of what the referendum question should be, what approach the government takes and timing all need be sorted out first.

The interview appears from 3:05 to 3:29 of the ABC Radio Overnights with Rod Quinn recording here.

Image source: Institute of Public Affairs website.

Australia fails to deliver on UNDRIP

It is now well recognised that Indigenous peoples worldwide have a binding relationship to Earth and Nature which is integral to their health and wellbeing. In 2007 the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), was announced. It was expected to lead to improved understanding and delivery of the spiritual and cultural needs of Aboriginal peoples in relation to their attachment and ownership of lands. In turn this would benefit the health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities.

In 2007 a majority of 144 nations voted for the Declaration. There were 4 votes against, Australia, Canada, NZ and the USA, all with a history of colonisation. Australia was reticent to sign, but eventually did in 2009. We are committed to implement the Declaration and promote indigenous people’s enjoyment of rights on an equal basis. However an Australian Human Rights report in 2021 shows the Australian Government  has not taken steps to implement the UNDRIP into law, policy and practice; has not negotiated with Indigenous peoples a National Action Plan to implement the UNDRIP; and has not audited existing laws, policies and practice for compliance with the UNDRIP.

These need to be addressed urgently in the context of Aboriginal health and well being, which has been a laggard in the Closing the Gap assessments, and in the spirit of moving forward in the context of the new Prime Minister’s commitment to constitutional change.

To read the National Tribune article Australia is failing to deliver on the UN Rights of Indigenous people in full click here.

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Co-Chair Jackie Huggins delivered an intervention at the UN in New York on 19 April 2018 during the 17th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Image source: The Mandarin.

Booze bans ‘not a long-term fix’

Early intervention and reducing community demand for alcohol is the key to tackling problem drinking in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions, the head of an Aboriginal health and rehabilitation service said last Friday. Earlier this week new WA police commissioner Col Blanch said he would support a ban on takeaway alcohol apart from light beer in the Pilbara and Kimberley if it is deemed to be the most effective option for reducing alcohol-related harm.

Milliya Rumurra Aboriginal Corporation chief executive Andrew Amor said he understood police and others were frustrated with the issue of problem drinking which he said was getting worse in Broome. “This is part of a complex issue that has been evolving over many generations. It will take generations to appropriately address,” he said. “Supply reduction measures do provide short-term relief and potential respite for frontline services, however, it is not a long-term solution. “The most effective approach is to reduce the community demand for alcohol. This must be a whole of government and community priority.”

To read the National Indigenous Times article Kimberley and Pilbara booze bans ‘not a long-term fix’, Aboriginal health group warns in full click here.

All booze except light strength may be banned in WA’s North West. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Wounds a costly health system sore point

A new report from the AMA shows the crippling cost of medical dressings and treating chronic wounds could be mitigated through targeted investment which would save the health system $203.4 million over the next four years. The report — Solutions to the chronic wound problem in Australia — says chronic wound care is a poorly understood and under-funded public health issue, despite studies indicating chronic wounds affect 450,000 Australians and cost $3 billion each year.

The AMA is calling on the Commonwealth to provide more support for GPs to provide high quality wound care for patients through the establishment of a national scheme to fund medical dressings for chronic wounds and extra Medicare funding to cover the unmet costs of providing care for patients suffering chronic wounds. AMA modelling shows chronic wounds treated in hospitals place an additional burden on an already stretched system, with the AMA’s modelling indicating they resulted in close to 32,000 hospital admissions in 2019–20 costing $352 million and 249,346 patient days. The report provides costed solutions to improve wound management in general practice and estimated savings associated with the proposed MBS items.

To read the AMA media release Wounds a Costly Sore Point for the Health System in full click here.

Image source: AMA website.

Caring for your kidneys

Looking after yourself includes keeping your kidneys healthy and having Kidney Health Checks. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 4 times more likely to have chronic kidney disease (CKD) and develop End Stage Renal Disease (ESRN). In remote communities ESRN is especially high, with rates almost 20 times higher than non-Indigenous people. Getting a regular Kidney Health Check is important because often there are no warning signs for sick kidneys. That’s why kidney disease is sometimes called a ‘silent disease’.

Healthy kidneys filter waste from your body; keep good blood pressure; maintain salt and water balance; keep your bones strong; and help make strong blood. If you have sick kidneys, your body can’t filter your blood properly and that means you can get really sick and even die. When you go to the doctor for a Kidney Health Check, one of the things they will ask you is how you feel and how you live. They will also check your height and weight and measure the size of your waist.

You should have a Kidney Health Check at least once a year! Yarn to your local healthcare worker about your Kidney Health Check today. For more information visit the Kidney Health Australia website here. To view The National Tribune article Chronic Kidney Disease click here.

Image source: Department of Health and Aged Care.

Stay COVID-19 safe!

Masks help protect people from viruses like COVID-19 and help stop them from spreading between people. Wearing a mask is something easy that you can do to protect yourself. Wearing a mask when in crowded places like public transport or at the supermarket is strongly recommended. Encouraging your loved ones to do the same will help protect them too.

Help stop the spread:

  • Wash or sanitise your hands
  • Maintain physical distancing (1.5m or two big steps)
  • Keep your COVID-19 vaccinations up to date, and
  • Stay at home and get tested if you’re unwell.

When wearing a mask:

  • Wash (or sanitise) your hands before putting on the mask
  • Make sure it covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face
  • Do not touch the front of the mask while wearing it or when removing it. If you do touch the mask, wash or sanitise your hands immediately
  • Do not allow the mask to hang around your chin or neck
  • Wash or sanitise your hands after removing the mask, and
  • Wash cloth masks after each use, or daily at a minimum.

Important: People with chronic respiratory conditions should seek medical advice before wearing a mask.

You can find more Stay COVID-19 safe! resources on the Department of Health and Aged Care’s website here and view Dr Ngiare Brown explaining how to correctly wear a face mask in the video below.

Red Lily installs defibrillator

The Red Lily Team have installed an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) at the community hall in Warruwi. It will certainly play a significant role in saving lives if someone has a sudden cardiac arrest in the community. The community has 24/7 access to this device.

Support for the AED was received from the Warruwi Community, TOs, West Arnhem Regional Council – Warruwi Team, the Warruwi Health Centre, Yagbani Aboriginal Corporation, ALPA for their advice to select the installation spot and also the St. John Ambulance who partnered with Red Lily.

You can view the West Arnhem Regional Council article 24 hours access to lifesaving device here.

Red Lily Transition Manager Steve Hayes is with Red Lily Health Board Director from Warruwi Mary Djurundudu in front of the newly installed Warruwi community AED (Automated External Defibrillator). Image source: Red Lily Health Facebook page.

New process for job advertising

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

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