NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Months after floods, mob still homeless

Image in the feature tile of the Lismore floods in March 2022. Image source: Southern Cross University article Lismore floodwater enough to fill half of Sydney Harbour published on 23 May 2022.

Months after floods, mob still homeless

After moving accommodation five times in five months, Nyangbal and Dunghutti woman Teresa Anderson has had enough. The elder’s Cabbage Tree Island home, nestled on a flood plain of cane fields in northern NSW, was deemed uninhabitable after the February floods. She has been homeless since. “I’ve been moved around five times,” she said.  It’s taken a toll on my health. I couldn’t even cope, I couldn’t go to work. It just got me really emotional.” Teresa Anderson was in good health before the floods. But she believes a series of new health issues have been direct result of the grief and stress of being displaced. “Im struggling,” she said.

According to the Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council, today, almost six months after the disaster, about 500 of the 1,296 northern NSW residents that are still homeless are First Nations people.  “That tells me clearly that we’re disproportionate again in relation to the numbers of people that are homeless,” Widjabul man and Jali Land Council chief executive Chris said.

To view the ABC News article Indigenous families still homeless months after the floods, as leaders say First Nations people are being overlooked for rentals in full click here.

After moving five times in five months, Teresa Anderson says she’s had enough. Photo: Emma Rennie, ABC News.

Discrimination a key homelessness factor

WA Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, Dr John Byrne AM, says a lot of discussion is had about how to fix homelessness once it has occurred.  While Dr Byrne says “this discussion is an extremely important one as we do need more affordable housing and shelters for people who cannot access WA’s ever inflating rental market” he believes “it is important to explore one of the major factors that allows homelessness to occur – discrimination.”

Dr Byrne said he’d “like to do this by focusing on three of the major grounds of discrimination: sex, impairment and race, which also relates to three major cohorts within the homeless population.” Systemic race discrimination is also a contributing factor to homelessness.  Aboriginal people make up around 3% of the total population and 28% of the homeless population. This is also a community impacted greatly by systemic discrimination and bias in employment. Aboriginal people are under-represented in decision making roles at work and over-represented in unemployment, this is also exacerbated by over representation of Aboriginal people in our prison system. Prisoners often need to have housing before release on parole and may remain in prison at significant expense to the state due to lack of housing.

To view the WA.gov.au article From the Commissioner – Fix homelessness by addressing discrimination in full click here. A related WA Department of Communities news story Homelessness Week 2022 ends highlighting progress is possible if we work together mentions the success of Booloo Bidee Mia, a supported accommodation service for Perth CBD rough sleepers, and is available here.

Aboriginal people living in Victoria make up 8% of those sleeping rough, despite being only 1% of the population. Photo: AAP. Image source: SBS NITV.

AMC mental health reforms criticised

The delivery of mental health services to detainees at Canberra’s Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) – particularly the 24% who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander – is ineffective, the Auditor-General declared in a March report. The ACT Government last week agreed to most of the report’s recommendations – 10 fully, eight in principle, and one noted, to be delivered through a different tool – by the end of 2023.

Aboriginal advocate Julie Tongs, head of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, which runs an autonomous Health and Wellbeing Clinic in the prison, is concerned some of these measures have been tried before and failed. “I feel like I’m in a time warp,” Ms Tongs said. “It’s a challenging environment, but why waste money when money’s short on the ground?”

Nor, she said, was Winnunga consulted; decisions were made without them. “All the buzz about co-design – the decision’s already been made – so how do you co-design around that? What role do we now have to play in that, when we weren’t at the table to discuss any of this?” Government, she says, must have a discussion or a roundtable to sort this out; she is keen to sit down with stakeholders and work out their processes and expectations.

To view the Canberra Weekly article ‘Time warp’: Winnunga critical of mental health reforms at AMC in full click here.

Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Ian Cutmore, ABC News.

Palliative Care Clinic Box launched today

caring@home today launched its Palliative Care Clinic Box which contains a suite of tailored resources to support the provision of palliative care at home for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The launch, taking place at the Compass Conference in Darwin, follows an 18-month nationwide consultation process with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, health professionals in specialist and generalist services and relevant peak bodies.

Project Director, Professor Liz Reymond said the resources can support the provision of at home palliative care symptom management. “When care at home is preferred, it can be provided to help connect family, culture, community, Country and the spiritual wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” This project is funded by the Australian Government and is conducted by a consortium involving Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives and Palliative Care Australia (CATSINaM) and is led by the Brisbane South Palliative Care Collaborative.

The caring@home Palliative Care Clinic Box is free and can be ordered from the caring@home website here. You can view the caring@home media release about the launch of its Palliative Care Clinic Box here.

Caleb follows pathway to healthcare job

As part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander career pathway day, Far North Queensland Indigenous students have been given a glimpse into the world of healthcare. Revolving around the opportunities available at Mater Private Hospital in Townsville, students from the region’s high schools attended an information day where they learnt about the healthcare needs of First Nations people and Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander traineeships. Mater Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander liaison officer Beth Hickson said the career day provided students with meaningful pathways they might not have otherwise known about.

One student who has benefited from the program is Caleb Baker, who recently won the school-based apprentice or trainee of the year. Mr Baker is currently working at the Mater Private Hospital while completing his Certificate III in health services assistance. “I was nervous about how I would transition from school to work, but just being acknowledged as someone who can work hard has made me feel really good about it,” he said.

Since he was young, Mr Baker has always wanted to make an impact. He cites empowering fellow Indigenous folk in healthcare as one of his main goals, with sights set on how better healthcare could help close the gap. “Having more Indigenous people in the health industry can help break down those barriers. It would make Indigenous people who are seeking help about their health feel a lot more comfortable, Mr Baker said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Caleb Baker’s life goal help people through healthcare, and it all started with a hospital work placement in full click here.

Mater Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander liaison officer Beth Hickson, Caleb Baker and Seed Foundation engagement officer De’arne French. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Health sector must lead on climate change

Over 300 people, including the Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly, attended the AMA and Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) webinar – Climate change and sustainability: leadership and action from Australian doctors earlier this week.

Laureate Professor Nicholas Talley outlined the duty medical professionals have in treating climate change as a global health emergency, and Professor Alexandra Barratt highlighted the carbon footprint of low value care. Eleven medical colleges provided updates on the climate action they are taking, and highlighted specific climate change health impacts related to their specialty.

Professor Robson wrapped up the webinar saying “As President of the AMA, I seek a strong and united coalition for action because I don’t think we have any time to lose. As a profession, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to bequeath a heathy planet to our children and their children. “Climate change will have health effects on a scale that people are barely able to comprehend. We’re already seeing a series of rolling health crises around the world, but these are just the beginning. We’re facing the prospect of literally billions of climate refugees across the planet, it’s a crisis so enormous that it’s almost impossible to grasp.”

You can read The National Tribune article AMA & DEA urge health sector to lead on climate change here and the joint AMA and DEA media release Governments and the healthcare sector must lead on climate change here.

Photo: Adobe Stock. Image source: Healio.

High-tech, low-resource medical training

Port Augusta is embracing its medical practitioners – or kulpi minupa – of the future. The town’s residents are in the midst of hosting an eight-week placement by seven second-year medical students. The aspiring GPs, dubbed “cloud doctors” in the Nukunu dialect, have spent time at the flying doctor service, the hospital and Aboriginal health services to gain an insight into what it would be like working in the country, potentially at Port Augusta.

In what is a new way of medical training, the Adelaide Rural Clinical School linked with the Indigenous community, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the University of Adelaide to launch the Kulpi Minupa Program. Student Tarran Dunn, who was among a group of undergraduates from Adelaide, NSW, Tasmania and elsewhere, said the experience would shape “the rest of our lives and skills in medicine” He said he and his colleagues had spent time with interns and surgical registrars at the hospital as well as gained an insight into Aboriginal health.

Professor Lucie Walters, director of the clinical school, said the scheme was a “high-tech, low-resource” medical training approach. “If we want to create the next generation of rural doctors to work at the flying doctor service and in remote Australia, we need to train them for the environment in which we want them to work,” she said. “The program brings Aboriginal medical students and rurally-based students to Port Augusta where we are piloting the kind of technology that we need to teach them to work in places such as Port Augusta, Cummins, Arkaroola or Roxby Downs.” The students will work at the ACCHO, Pika Wiya Health Service.

To read The Transcontinental Port Augusta article Port Augusta rolls out the welcome mat for second-year university medical students in full click here.

Image source: Pika Wiya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation 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.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

The image in the feature tile is a photo taken by Michael Amendolia (2014) featured on the Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

The new federal minister responsible for Indigenous health has stopped short of backing the previous government’s target to eliminate trachoma by 2025 as the pandemic continues to impact health outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Australia is the most developed country in the world where trachoma — which causes blindness and is linked to poor face hygiene — is still prevalent. New Assistant Minister Malarndirri McCarthy has declared overcoming trachoma is one of her priorities in the job, but said would need to fully appreciate the situation before she could set a timeline. “This is going to be an absolute priority for me and I will be travelling the country to talk to those experts to see what we can do to eradicate this scourge.”

Asked directly whether she backed the 2025 target, Senator McCarthy replied: “I’m having ongoing discussions, I’ve only been in this role a matter of weeks.” In 2009, the Rudd Labor government pledged to eliminate the eye disease by 2020. Since then, Cambodia, Ghana, Mexico and more have achieved the feat. But in Australia, the disease persists. The target was pushed back to 2022, but it is now clear Australia will not meet the commitment. The previous Coalition government announced a new target of 2025 to eliminate all avoidable blindness in Indigenous Australians, including beating trachoma.

To view the ABC News article Goal of eliminating eye disease trachoma by 2025 under threat as pandemic bites in full click here.

The Indigenous Eye Health unit travels to remote communities and teaches face hygiene. Photo: Jack Snape. Image source: ABC News.

Funding for Winnunga’s jail model of care

ACT Government says it is prioritising funding for community sector organisations that provide essential services and programs to Canberrans in crisis. Some the programs and organisations that will receive funding through the 2022–23 ACT Budget include: meeting health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC). The ACT Government will provide $9.40 million dollars over four years to continue a holistic model of health service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees. The funding will support the continuation of the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services’ model of care at the AMC.

To view the ACT Government website page More funding for the ACT community sector in full click here.

AMC cell converted into an Australian-first Indigenous health clinic in 2019. Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Canberra Times.

First Nations aged care voice boosted

The Federal Government has appointed Yugambeh woman Jody Currie to the National Aged Care Advisory Council. The appointment of Ms Currie, a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council, is part of efforts to close the gap in design and delivery of aged care programs and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Assistant Indigenous Health Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said First Nation voices were vital in the implementation of aged care reforms.

“For far too long older First Nations people have experienced barriers to accessing aged care services in their homes and communities,” she said. “To address service gaps and improve access to care, we must include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in the design, discussion and implementation of aged care reforms.” While 27% of non-Indigenous people participate in the aged care system’s key programs, only 17% of Aboriginal Elders participate.

In WA’s south-west, including Perth, the gap is the largest in the country, with only 8.6% of Elders participating in aged care programs. Aboriginal Community Elders Aged Care Partnership for Perth and South-West WA chairman Jim Morrison said there was discrimination in the ability for Aboriginal older people to access culturally appropriate aged care services. “All Stolen Generation people will be (at least) 50 next year, and we will qualify for aged care,” he said. “We want to consider our elder care and look after our older people…and it might be that our elder care centres be healing centres where our Elders can depend on their culture.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Jody Currie gains Federal appointment to tackle ‘discrimination’ in aged care system in full click here.

Image source: Compass (an EAAA project) website.

Shocking treatment of mental health patients

First Nations Victorians are being restrained and secluded at a higher rate than the general population, a shocking new report by the state’s peak mental health advocacy body has revealed. The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) third Seclusion Report found more than 5% of people admitted to Victorian mental health facilities subjected to seclusion were Indigenous, despite First Nations people making up just 3.5% of total people admitted. The rate of restraint among Indigenous patients was also higher at 4.6%. The findings come one year after the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System found poor mental health and substance use disorders accounted for as much as 14% of the health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

VMIAC CEO Craig Wallace said the new data made it clear why First Nations people might be apprehensive to seek help. “It’s these mental health services and the acute units where people are supposed to go to feel safe,” he said. “And then they’re being harmed by these practices, and traumatised by these practices. That makes people really concerned about seeking help in the future, knowing that these things have happened to them or could happen to them.” Djab Wurrung and Gunditjmara woman and Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) social and emotional wellbeing executive director Sheree Lowe said the figures revealed in the report the tip of the iceberg. “(The figures) indicate that people might have been secluded twice in their stay,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Restraint, seclusion of Indigenous mental health patients in Victoria laid bare in damning report in full click here.

Image source: Melbourne University Pursuit.

SEWB services consultation survey

NACCHO is conducting a consultation survey to better understand the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) services, support and coordination provided to communities by Affiliates and ACCHOs. The survey has been developed in partnership with Professor Pat Dudgeon from the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing (TIMHWB) project, led by the University of Western Australia. Responses to this survey will help to build a national picture of what SEWB services and support are currently available, help to map SEWB services nationally, and identify service gaps. This evidence base will inform NACCHO’s advocacy to government for improved support to Affiliates and ACCHOs to deliver SEWB services and inform policy development.

The survey covers the following topics:

  • SEWB services and support
  • SEWB workforce and training
  • barriers to providing SEWB services or support
  • other SEWB activities that your organisation may be involved in.

NACCHO members should have received a link to the survey, and we are keen to hear from all of you! The survey will be open until Sunday 7 August 2022. If you have any questions about the survey, please reach out to Sasha Banjavcic-Booker, Senior Advisor Mental Health Policy and Programs via email or call 0409 919 398.

VACCHO Biannual Statewide Social and Emotional Wellbeing Gathering. Image source: VACCHO website.

headspace Grad Program applications open

Applications for the headspace Graduate Program 2023 have now opened for First Nations Allied Health Graduate roles.

These rewarding positions will be situated in a clinical team at a headspace centre and closely linked to the First Nations Wellbeing & Healing Division at headspace National. You’ll work alongside passionate people and make a real difference to young people, families, and communities. Where you’ll hit the ground running and continue developing your skills and career in youth mental health/social and emotional wellbeing. Find your place at headspace.

These graduate positions are designed to provide social work, occupational therapy and psychology graduates access to a two-year comprehensive youth mental health training and development program with support of cultural supervision.

Further information about this opportunity, including our First Nations information and yarning session, can be accessed at the headspace Graduation program website available here.

Applications close Monday 22 August 2022.

Data shows kids picking up healthy habits

Two-thirds of Indigenous children in Victoria are meeting encouraging levels of key wellbeing indicators, according to a report from a pair of leading health researchers. The results, courtesy of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) found the vast majority of 9–12 year olds are getting enough sleep, practice a healthy diet with 84% meeting physical activity guidelines.

VACCHO and IHT also found relatively low levels of excess screen time, and a correlation between eating well and higher social and emotional wellbeing. Their Aboriginal Data and Action on Prevention Together report surveyed primary school students in 18 local government areas of the state’s Great South Coast, Goulburn Valley and Ovens Murray regions in 2019.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are the future of the world’s oldest population, and in my 25-plus years working in Aboriginal health there has always been limited data that can inform and assist us with decision making around improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Victoria,” VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher said. “Improving access to affordable healthy food is an important part of improving the holistic health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – our future.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Encouraging data reveals Indigenous Victorian children picking up healthy eating, excercise habits click here.

The Deadly Koolinga Chef Program involves cooking classes that teach skills in food and nutrition essential to improving Aboriginal health outcomes. Image source: Murdoch University Research Tweet 4 March 2021.

New process for job advertising

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

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

National Homelessness Week

Homelessness Week is held annually across the nation to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness. It’s also a time reflect on the collective action needed by community and all levels of government to help break the cycle of homelessness. In Australia there are over 116,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night. Homelessness Week aims to raise awareness of the impact of homelessness on Australia via national and local community events, including providing information on the importance of housing as a solution and educating communities on how they can make a difference.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made up 3% of the Australian population in 2016. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accounted for 20% (23,437 persons) (down from 26% in 2011) of all persons who were homeless on Census night in 2016. For further information about Aboriginal homelessness in Australia click here.

The theme for Homelessness Week 2022 is To end homelessness we need a plan. A range of resources are available on the Homelessness Australia website here including social media tiles, web banners, email signatures, posters and messaging to support your advocacy. One on the website you can also register for the Homelessness Week 2022 launch from 12:00 PM–1:30 PM Monday 1 August 2022.

Image source: The MHS Learning Network.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Members’ Conference registrations open

Image in feature tile from 2019 NACCHO Members’ Conference.

NACCHO Members’ Conference registrations open

In just over 100 days NACCHO delegates from 144 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, guests and presenters from across our sectors will come together to at the NACCHO Members’ Conference in beautiful Canberra to celebrate our successes over the years and discuss all the good work to come.

Please join us:

NACCHO Youth Conference 17 October 2022

NACCHO Extraordinary General Meeting and Annual General Meeting 18 October 2022

NACCHO Member’s Conference 19–20 October 2022

Early bird rates available (2-day conference package only).

For more information and to register click here.

NACCHO looks forward to celebrating with you all in October.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions the NACCHO Members’ Conference was not held in 2020 or 2021. You can watch a video below with highlights from the 2019 conference below.

AHCWA to deliver $17.6m mental health pilot

The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) has been awarded $17.6 million to deliver a mental health pilot to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal people. The regional Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB) Model of Service pilot program aims to increase access to social and emotional wellbeing and healthcare services for Aboriginal people of all ages in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Mid-West, Goldfields and South-West regions of WA.

Local ACCHOs will run the program in their communities:

  • Bega Garnbirringu Health Service in Kalgoorlie;
  • Derby Aboriginal Health Service in Derby;
  • Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in South Hedland;
  • Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service in Geraldton; and
  • South West Aboriginal Medical Service in Bunbury.

Through culturally secure prevention and community development, psychosocial support, targeted interventions and coordinated care by multidisciplinary teams, the pilot is expected to improve quality of life for Aboriginal people. The Mental Health Commission will work with AHCWA to support the governance and evaluation of the pilot.

To view the Government of WA Media Statement Mental health pilot to boost Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing in full click here.

Image sources: Wikivoyage, Queensland Government IMHIP webpage.

$1.25m NDIS grants to ACCHOs

NACCHO has delivered over $1.25 million in grants to 57 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to support the delivery of culturally safe and appropriate National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) services to their communities. The grants were delivered through the NDIS Ready program which is funded by the Department of Social Services.

The Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grants, worth $22,000 each, are designed to build the capacity of ACCHOs and ACCOs to deliver disability services sustainably under the NDIS by empowering them with the resources they need to be NDIS ready. This will support the growth of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander NDIS market and workforce and help improve access to culturally safe services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM welcomed the funding, “These grants will enable the ACCHO sector to expand into the NDIS, to provide additional essential supports for people with disability.” CEO of Danila Dilba Health Service in Darwin, Rob McPhee, said: “Danila Dilba is committed to helping our Mob with disabilities live the life they want. The IBSF grant will help us further the work we do in supporting our communities in accessing NDIS services. Demand for support and services is much higher than what we can provide alone – but the IBSF grant can assist in strengthening our internal business planning and development and organisational readiness for addressing the unmet need of many in our community with a disability.”

To view The National Tribune article $1.25 million to support community-controlled sector to deliver NDIS services for their communities in full click here.

Kelvina Benny, WA. Image source: NDIS website.

Staying physically and mentally healthy

The Australian Government Department of Health as produced two resources designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with tips on staying physically and mentally healthy. You can download the resources below:

Stay Physically Healthy – Let’s put looking after our physical health on our to do lists in 2022

Stay Mentally Healthy – Let’s put looking after our social and emotional wellbeing on our to do lists in 2022

You can also access the relevant Australian Government Department of Health webpages here and here.

Images from the Department of Health Stay Mentally Healthy and Stay Physically Healthy resources.

Lack of housing bites harder in winter

Djiringanj man Uncle Lewis Campbell has been homeless for seven years, and has been on the list for social housing just as long. In the last two years, his health has deteriorated rapidly and he has suffered multiple bouts of pneumonia due to repeated exposure to the cold. Uncle Lewis has been supported by services in the area to access temporary accommodation through motels, but said he can only access those services for four nights per week. Other nights he stays with friends in the community.

But beds with friends are becoming few and far between.

In early June Uncle Lewis was staying in a spare room with Aunty Kath Jones in her flat in Bega. Ms Jones said she had never seen the housing situation as bad as it had been in her community over the last two years due to multiple natural disasters and the pandemic. “He’s not the only one, I’ve got another homeless girl at the moment, so since she’s been there Uncle Lewis has been staying at the motel to let her have the room because she’s a woman,” Ms Jones said.

The above story is from a Bega District News article Lack of housing and refuges bites even harder in winter with health issues exacerbated for South Coast homeless.

Uncle Lewis Campbell from Bega has been homeless for seven years. His health has suffered immensely as a result, with several bouts of pneumonia in the last few years. He is pleading for more refuges for women and men on the Far South Coast. Photo: Ellouise Bailey. Image source: Bega District News.

LGBTQ+ mob shouting to be heard

For individuals who identify within multiple marginalised groups, their opinions and concerns in a climate of change can often go without consideration. In Pride Month (June) members of the First Nations LGBTQ+ community and leading organisations are shouting for their voice to be heard while creating an environment of support for those left out of the discussions effecting them. Indigenous LGBTQ+ advocacy group BlaQ Aboriginal Corporation founding director and chairman John Leha said recent policies ostracising trans people took an increased toll on First Nations people within the community.

Mr Leha described the recent religious discrimination bill and ban of trans women competing in elite swimming, international rugby league and policy reviews in other sports as a targeted onslaught. “I think the onslaught of this type of anti trans movement or people not having a true understanding of what it looks like and means for the community is the is what is of concern,” Mr Leha said. “Aboriginal trans people are one of the most highest populations that are faced with mental health, suicide rates across the country, and particularly young people.

To view The National Tribune article Indigenous LGBTQ+ support body stands up for community caught up in public debate in full click here.

Black Rainbow LGBTIQA+SB 2021 poster. Image source: Black Rainbow website.

Neoliberalism’s impact on oral health

A study examining the detrimental effect of neoliberalism on the oral health of Australian indigenous peoples was presented by Brianna Poirer of the University of Adelaide, Australia during the “Keynote Address; Global Oral Health Inequalities Research Network” session yesterday the 100th General Session and Exhibition of the International Association for Dental Research.

In Australia, Indigenous peoples experience poorer oral health than their non-Indigenous counterparts across nearly every oral health metric. Recently, neoliberalism has been suggested as an overwhelming contributor to Indigenous oral health disparities. The objective of this qualitative research was to generate an understanding of how neoliberal subjectivity exists for Indigenous peoples in the context of oral health in Australia. The authors argue that personal responsibility for health, as a tenet of neoliberal ideologies, furthers Indigenous oral health inequities and that neoliberalism as a societal discourse perpetuates colonial values by benefitting the privileged and further oppressing the disadvantaged.

To view the News Medical Life Sciences article Study examines the impact of neoliberalism on oral health of Australian indigenous peoples in full click here.

Kyleesha Boah receives a dental check-up at Mackay Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Services. Image source: NIAA website.

Take Home Naloxone Program update

This year’s Federal Budget included $19.6 million (over 4 years) for a Take Home Naloxone Program (THN) in all Australian states and territories which will commence on 1 July 2022. The THN program aims to provide people who may be at risk of an opioid overdose, or are likely to witness an overdose, access to free naloxone without a prescription from participating settings. Naloxone will be available at no cost and without a prescription to anyone who may experience, or witness, an opioid overdose or adverse reaction.

From 1 July 2022, Section 90 (s90) community pharmacies and Section 94 (s94) hospital pharmacies in all States and Territories will be able to register via the Pharmacy Programs Administrator (PPA) Portal at here to participate in the THN Program. In addition, naloxone will continue to be available at a range of other sites in NSW, SA and WA, including alcohol and other drug treatment centres, custodial release programs and needle and syringe programs. The Department will be working with jurisdictions that did not participate in the Pilot program in the coming months to support access through these non-pharmacy settings.

We do know that awareness around naloxone and its use can be improved. The roll-out of the THN Program at a national level provides an opportunity to start conversations to improve awareness of naloxone and support individuals to identify their personal risk, and where appropriate, access naloxone. The Department’s website will be updated on 1 July 2022 to include further information and resources around naloxone and the THN program. The THN Administrator’s website will also be updated from 1 July 2022 to reflect the new Program Rules and other resources to support the national program.

Your support in promoting the program through your networks is greatly appreciated as we work together to improve the lives of Australians who may overdose on opioids. Providing access to naloxone for free and without prescription will continue to remove barriers to access this important medicine and save lives.

Photo: Bridget Judd, ABC News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Time to end First Nations “economic apartheid”

Image in feature tile is of shack outside of Tennant Creek. Image source: ABC News.

Time to end First Nations “economic apartheid”

Experts from The Australian National University (ANU) have raised alarm bells about the “economic apartheid” facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and are calling for an urgent, nation-wide strategic approach to ensure their economic self-determination. This is the key theme of a landmark series of events to be held this week and led by the ANU First Nations Portfolio.

A first for Australia, the forum and symposium will chart the path to First Nations Australians’ economic development, wealth creation and a self-determined economy. Professor Peter Yu AM, Vice-President First Nations at ANU, said Australia remains the only Commonwealth country to have never signed a treaty with its Indigenous people.

To view the ANU’s media release Time to end First Nations “economic apartheid” in full click here.

A town camp outside Alice Springs, NT. Photo: Children’s Ground. Image source: The Guardian.

Children protection system under fire

Every year, Australia’s child safety departments remove thousands of children from their parents on the grounds they are not safe at home and need urgent protection. In doing so, the government becomes their guardian, taking responsibility for their lives. Far from being safe, some of these children are then preyed upon by the very people the government has vetted to look after them.

Indigenous children are 10 times more likely to be removed from their families. Departmental policy dictates that they are then placed with Indigenous carers to maintain contact with their culture, but that doesn’t always happen. Instead, Aboriginal children can languish in care hours from their land while some workers dismiss signs of sexual abuse in First Nations children as “cultural” behaviour.

Lisa Wellington from Aboriginal women’s health and welfare organisation Waminda said the child protection system had been failing Indigenous families since it had been set up. “In order for change to happen, the department needs to engage with the Indigenous community and listen to the families and walk alongside them,” she said.

To view the ABC article Bad Parent in full click here.

Image source: Aboriginal Family Legal Services website.

Health reform issues for new government 

Is Australia on the verge of a long-awaited and sorely needed move towards cooperative federalism to drive health reform? Encouraging noises to this effect have emerged from the first National Cabinet meeting (Friday 16 June) since the Federal election.

The NSW Premier said there had been “a real focus of working with the States and Territories in relation to substantive health reform going forward” something that had “been in the too-hard basket for too long.” The Queensland Premier said it had been “a refreshing change to be able to discuss health. Previously, we have tried to get this on the agenda. We’ve got a PM who listens and understands that health is a big issue and it is a national issue that’s affecting everybody across our nation”.

The Victorian Premier said: “…on behalf of every nurse, every ambo, every doctor, every patient in Victorian public hospitals I want to thank the Prime Minister. Politics was put aside at this meeting and we’ve put patients first and that is the most important thing. Now, the test for all of us will be to work hard in the weeks and months to come, to come up with practical ways in which we can make the system work as a true system.”

Associate Professor Lesley Russell will monitor the efforts of the Albanese Government to deliver on their election commitments in health, healthcare, Indigenous health and climate change (and in fact any issue that improves the health status and reduces the health disparities of Australians).

To view the Croakey Health Media article The Health Wrap: as National Cabinet sets a course for health reform, here are some key issues to address in full click here.

Image source: Choose Your Own Health Career website.

Call for action against racism, racial violence 

A Brisbane author brought her defiant call to action against racism and racial violence to Cherbourg last week, welcoming South Burnett community members to the Ration Shed Museum for a workshop on her 2021 book ‘Another Day in the Colony’. ‘Another Day in the Colony’ has attracted praise from fellow academics as well as members of the public, who commend the author on her uncompromising truth-telling and exposure of Australia’s intolerance.

“While I work as an academic, the book was written just for anyone to read – I wanted to write for mob and wanted my kids to be able to read it, regardless of whether they got a degree or not,” Dr Watego explained. “The thing that’s really hit me is mob getting back to me and saying ‘you wrote what I feel! You gave a language to what I already knew but didn’t know how to express.’

“Mob have been really moved by it, and that’s what I wanted to do – I wanted to speak to the souls of blackfellas. That’s the beautiful part: not the reprints, but the imprint it’s had on the community.”

To view the Burnett Today South, Central & North article Cherbourg Celebrates book tour in full click here.

Dr Chelsea Watego and her book Another Day in the Colony.

Top 3 men’s health questions

In celebration of Men’s Health Week (13-19 June 2022), Dr Lucas de Toca from the Australian Government Department of health has spoken on how family history and lifestyle impact our health and provides tips to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. The three top questions answered by Dr de Toca are:

  • What is Men’s Health Week?
  • How can men build healthier outcomes and reduce the risk of chronic disease?
  • How can men better engage with Australia’s health services?

To view the Department of Health’s Top 3 Qs article click here.

Health conference abstracts FINAL CALL

A final call for abstracts for the upcoming Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference is being put out. The closing date is just one week away – COB Monday 27 June 2022.

For further event information click here and to register to present click here.

Adam Goodes (virtually attending) and Sue-Anne Hunter will be keynote speakers at The 7th Annual Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference.

Mob left out of low unemployment figures

The National Employment Services Association says First Nations people and other disadvantaged Australians are being left out of record low unemployment figures. Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data reported unemployment remained at a record low 3.9% in May.

The real numbers were much higher. The employment rate among Indigenous Australians is considerably lower than it is for the rest of the population. Many First Nations people have historically been excluded from statistical analysis such as employment figures. Historically Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples unemployment rates have sat fairly consistently at three times that of their non Indigenous counterparts.

Discrimination is a factor in the employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That is ever so slowly changing so that disparity you know is trending in the right way, but not rapidly. To view the National Indigenous Times article Industry peak body calls out Indigenous exclusion in latest unemployment rates in full click here.

Image source: Monash University Lens website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Health Minister’s to-do list is packed

Note: the mage in the feature tile is of Winston, a traditional owner, land manager, artist and Aboriginal Health Worker from Blackstone (Papulankutja) community in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of WA, who was first diagnosed at Kings Canyon during an outreach screening service for Aboriginal rangers. His dense cataract caused him to go blind in his left eye, which he kept shut to keep out the painful glare. Image source: The Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Health Minister’s to-do list is packed

Dr Tim Woodruff, a specialist working in private practice, has written an article for Croakey Health Media arguing that when it comes to delivering better healthcare and better health for Australians, the new Federal Government has a lot of work to do. Dr Woodruff  says the government’s intention to review the NDIS is desperately needed, and if improvements introduced are the right ones, this will also help public hospitals by limiting unnecessary admissions and time in hospitals. It will also make primary healthcare for those with disability much easier to access and co-ordinate.”

Dr Woodruff goes on to note that “Primary healthcare is in increasing disarray. The GP workforce is aging and unable to provide adequate timely access. Co-ordination of care is chaotic even when access to the spectrum of care is available. Primary Health Networks are improving but have quite limited capacity, and fee for service funding is inappropriate for chronic disease.”

Dr Woodruff points out that ACCHOs and 80 Community Health Centres in Victoria who have demonstrated the success of different models of primary healthcare provision need to be supported and expanded. Co-ordination and integration are key elements for these services, rather than optional add-ons as they often are in standard GP-led practices, and primary prevention is an integral part of such practices.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Memo to Minister Mark Butler and colleagues: your to-do list is packed in full click here.

Image source: Croaky Health Media.

Labor’s Indigenous affairs agenda

Alongside reforms in Indigenous health, housing, welfare and the justice system, Labor is committing to a referendum on the voice to parliament in their first term of government, all spearheaded by the first Aboriginal woman in cabinet – the new Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney.

Guardian Australia’s Indigenous affairs editor, Lorena Allam, spoke to Linda Burney about how Labor intends to keep these promises in a podcast available here.

Linda Burney. Phto: Blake Sharp-Wiggins, The Guardian.

Pat Dodson on the Uluru Statement

Yawuru man Patrick Dodson has been at the forefront of change for much of his life. Well-known for his role at the helm of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in the 1990s, the Broome-based Labor Senator has also played significant roles in the fields of Aboriginal deaths in custody, native title and research. In 2019 he was widely tipped to become Australia’s first Aboriginal Federal Indigenous affairs minister before a shock result delivered the election to the Liberals and Ken Wyatt was elevated to the job.

Now, finally part of a government in office, Mr Dodson has been appointed a new role as Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement. From the Heart campaign director Dean Parkin said Mr Dodson’s appointment was well-deserved, “having his wisdom, experience and expertise involved in this in a very direct way is a great development and hugely encouraging for our prospects of success.” Mr Parkin, who is of the Quandamooka peoples of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in Queensland, said Indigenous-led decision making was vital to making progress. “A voice to parliament making sure people from those communities are sitting at the table advising the politics and the bureaucrats is the best way to make progress in Closing The Gap,” he said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Father of reconciliation Pat Dodson turns eye to Uluru Statement in new role in full click here.

Senator Pat Dodson. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Mob in city for medical care risk homelessness

Aboriginal people from regional WA visiting Perth for medical care are at risk of homelessness and relying on aged care facilities for accommodation in the city, a parliamentary inquiry has heard. During a recent inquiry into the financial administration of homelessness services in WA, Moorditj Koort Aboriginal Corporation told the panel chaired by Liberal MLC Peter Collier there was a “terrible increase” in individuals and families facing homelessness.

Moorditj Koort deputy chief executive Annie Young said at least one in every 10 clients was at risk of or already of homeless. “We have people with other issues including justice issues, they are involved with the Department of Child Protection, there are compounding issues as well,” she said. Ms Young said rental stress was acute for those accessing Centrelink and on low incomes. She encouraged the inquiry to also examine overcrowding and its impact on health of residents.

To read the National Indigenous Times article Aboriginal people visiting Perth for healthcare forced to rely on aged care system, inquiry told in full click here.

Raymond Ward (right) talks with Freddie in his shelter which he shares with up to six other people at the Tent City homeless camp in Perth. Image source: Daily Mail Australia.

Top 3 questions – flu vax and pregnancy

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMillan has given a presentation on why it’s important for women to get the flu vaccine when they are pregnant. In the presentation Professor McMillan answers the following questions:

  • Is it safe for women to receive a flu vaccination at any stage of their pregnancy?
  • What potential adverse reactions should pregnant women be aware of following the flu vaccination?
  • Does getting the flu vaccination while pregnant protect unborn babies from flu?

For further information you can access the Australian Government Department of Health’s webpage Top 3 questions – Flu vaccination & pregnancy with Professor Alison McMillan here.

Clinical Yarning program about trust

Clinical Yarning — a Mid West-led approach to build more trusting relationships between patients and clinicians — is set to keep spreading the word after receiving a funding injection. The research program, a patient-centred healthcare framework that marries Aboriginal cultural communication preferences with biomedical understandings of health and disease, will receive a share of $2.3 million in funding after being awarded an Implementation Science Fellowship.

Dr Ivan Lin, senior lecturer at the Geraldton-based WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH), which is part of the University of WA, was one of four recipients of the fellowship, which are conducted in partnership with the WA Country Health Service (WACHS). “(Clinical Yarning is) designed to address long identified issues reported by Aboriginal people when accessing health services, by improving health providers communication with these communities,” Dr Lin said.

To view the Sound Telegraph article Mid West-led Clinical Yarning program receives State Government funding boost thanks to fellowship in full click here. You can also view Professor Dawn Bessarab in the video below introducing the Clinical Yarning eLearning Program.

Jimmy Little’s early death to kidney disease

Dr James “Jimmy” Oswald Little AO was born on 1 March 1937. The eldest of seven children, he was raised on Cummeragunja Mission Station on the Murray River. The Yorta Yorta/Yuin man first picked up a guitar at 13, taking to it quickly he was playing local concerts in just a year. In 1955 he took the leap and moved to Sydney, pursuing a country music career. By 1956, he had signed to Regal Zonophone Records and recorded his first single Mysteries of Life/Hearbreak Waltz.

In 1963, Little hit the big time with his cover of gospel song Royal Telephone which hit #1 Sydney and #3 in Melbourne. Its success made history, being the first song by an Indigenous artist to hit the mainstream. Little was hitting his stride at a time when his people weren’t counted as citizens. In 1989, Little received the National Aboriginal Day of Observance Committee’s Aboriginal of the Year award, in 2002 he was named NSW Senior Australian of the Year, and in 2004 he was the recipient of the Australia Council Red Ochre Award. The same year he received an Order of Australia for his health and education advocacy and was recognised as a “living Australian treasure” via public vote.

In 1990, Little was diagnosed with kidney disease which led to kidney failure and Type II diabetes. In 2006 he established The Jimmy Little Foundation. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get check-ups often enough or soon enough to realise the possibility that my kidneys could fail,” he said. “I have seen too much fear and sadness caused by the early death and suffering from potentially preventable chronic illnesses by my Indigenous brothers and sisters. “I started The Jimmy Little Foundation to do something positive to curb the rate of chronic disease.” On April 2, 2012 Little died at Dubbo home, aged 75.

To view the NITV article Google pays homage to Indigenous music icon, Jimmy Little in full click here.

Dixon Patten’s Jimmy Little dedicated graphic for Google. Image source: SBS NITV website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: First Nations housing in crisis

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

First Nations housing in crisis

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

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

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

Aboriginal house on outskirts of Alice Springs

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

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

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

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

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Aboriginal woman with hands against security door to motel

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

Bushfire impact disproportionate for mob

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

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

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

burnt forest Yuin Nation S Coast NSW 2019 bushfires

Solutions to remedy nation’s dental system

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

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

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

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

Aboriginal man in dental chair receiving treatment

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

NT Melioidosis on the rise

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

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

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

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

Resources for mental health workers

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

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

Services for LGBTIQSB+ youth ineffective

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

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

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

COVID-19 booster vax and RAT demo

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

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

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

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

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 2022–2023 budget short-changes health

2022-2023 budget short-changes health

NACCHO released a media statement earlier today in response to the 2022–2023 Federal Budget announced last night:

Another big-spending budget short-changes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has already welcomed the previously announced four-year rolling funding agreement for the sector, but this is just a necessary adjustment to support the current arrangements. ‘Business as usual’ is not going to close the health gap.

NACCHO is tiring of singular announcements in Aboriginal health while the health gap fails to close. Structural reform is required and substantial funding investment. The last three big-spending budgets were the Government’s opportunity to address this. They have failed to act.

The CEO of NACCHO, Pat Turner said, “Although I am grateful to see the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme and support for screening services, mental health policy partnerships and $2.4m for ACCHOs to help in responding to the East Coast floods, I am disappointed that the core funding for our services has remained much the same. I am also worried that the Budget has assumed that ACCHOs’ expenditure will contract significantly after COVID. This may be a significant flaw in their modelling.”

In Cairns, the Chair of NACCHO, Donnella Mills said, “What we need is a substantial review of funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. In work we commissioned from Equity Economics it has been calculated – as conservatively as possible and using validated Government data – that the funding gap in Aboriginal health is $4.4 billion (= $5,042 per Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person). The Commonwealth’s share of this shortfall is $2.6 billion. Yet dangerous myths prevail that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is over-funded. How can we seriously expect as a nation to ever close the health gap if the funding gap is so large? We will continue to live lives 8-9 years shorter than other Australians.”

NACCHO serves well over 410,000 clients per year, delivering over 3.1 million episodes of care, of which 1 million are delivered in remote communities. Its clinics are favoured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and are directly controlled by the communities they serve. They are more cost-effective than mainstream health services and represent an effective investment means for the Commonwealth. The model was developed in 1971 – which predates Medicare itself – and can no longer be considered an unproved model of care.

The government has had the opportunity to fix the funding gap in three big-spending budgets focused on stimulus measures. If it had done so, at the same time, it could have delivered financial stimulus to the 550 local economies in which our services are located.

CEO Pat Turner said, “As long as this $4.4 billion funding gap remains and as long as there are funding gaps elsewhere – in particular, in housing – we cannot expect the unconscionable health gap to close. This Budget is an opportunity lost. NACCHO calls upon the Government to close the funding gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

You can view NACCHO’s media statement in full here.

Budget misses key suicide prevention priorities

Suicide Prevention Australia has welcomed additional funding in the 2022 Federal Budget but urged further investment for those most at-risk and across key whole-of-government priorities. Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray, said “Investment in local responses, suicide prevention research and young people at risk will help save lives. Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity for other priority populations including men, LGBTIQ+ and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We need to see extra support for those in distress, those who have attempted suicide and the loved ones of those touched by suicide. Greater investment is needed to ensure people with lived experience are integrated in all parts of suicide prevention and a comprehensive suicide prevention workforce strategy.”

To view the Suicide Prevention Australia’s media release in full click here.

First Nations voices needed in climate conversation

The urgency of tackling climate change is even greater for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and other First Nation peoples across the globe. First Nations people will be disproportionately affected and are already experiening existential threats from climate change. The unfolding disaster in the Northern Rivers regions of NSW is no exception, with Aboriginal communities completely inundated or cut off from essential supplies.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have protected Country for millennia and have survived dramatic climatic shifts. They are intimately connected to Country, and their knowledge and cultural practices hold solutions to the climate crisis. Despite this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to be excluded from leadership roles in climate solution discussions, such as the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

To read The Conversation article in full click here.

Student climate protest in Melbourne. Image source: The Conversation.

Help improve how pharmacists provide services

Have your say – Help improve how pharmacists provide services

NACCHO is working to make the guidelines for pharmacists working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples better.

We want to understand from you how pharmacists and pharmacies can be culturally safe and give the best care to you and your community.

Click here to complete the online survey.

Please pass this information on to any other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who would be interested in completing the survey.

WA COVID-19 resources for mob

The WA Department of Health has developed a factsheets to provide information about the COVID-19 vaccines and ensure WA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are informed about the vaccines and are aware of any misinformation.

Topics include:

  • vaccine mythbusters – click here
  • what the COVID-19 virus is – click here
  • available vaccines
  • why having the COVID-19 vaccine is important – click here
  • side effects of vaccines – click here
  • COVID-19 and pregnancy – click here.

For further information click here.

Connections improve hep C care for homeless

Aaron was shocked when his hepatitis C rapid test came back positive. When he was approached by a nurse and peer worker at the Hutt Street Centre to get tested, he had been pretty sure his results would be ok. If you’re homeless and have no symptoms, testing for hep C is probably low on the list of priorities. Aaron considered himself pretty clued in about blood-borne virus risk; he’d been injecting drugs for many years and was an expert in technique, always using clean equipment. He was keen to go on treatment straight away and was indeed referred immediately to get started. Viral Hepatitis Nurse, Lucy Ralton said Aaron later told her that he had seen his GP due to persistent fatigue but hadn’t been screened for an HCV infection at the time. “He was very glad he got talked into having a test that day and said he only did so because he was asked,” she said.

The testing clinic at the Hutt Street Centre was part of the PROMPt study where a nurse and a Hepatitis SA peer worker directly approach individuals to invite them to have a test. Anyone with a positive result is referred to the community Viral Hepatitis Nurses for treatment. What programs like this have shown is the importance of connections and support for community and health workers who provide services to clients who are homeless and at risk of hepatitis C.

One way to improve access to hepatitis C care for this vulnerable group, is to bring together different services to explore ways of working together to make the process as simple as possible for both service providers and clients.

New models of care that integrate peers and healthcare workers have demonstrated that community-based screening, point of care testing and on the spot prescribing by either a nurse practitioner or GP in a non-judgmental and friendly environment can improve screening and treatment uptake. PROMPt – the project which helped Aaron get cured of his hepatitis C – was one example of such a model.

C the Whole Story is an online forum hosted by ASHM to discuss this challenge. This forum will provide participants with the tools, contacts and confidence to be able to discuss HCV screening and treatment with their clients. As well, it will create an opportunity for people to connect and explore ways for services to work together. The forum is on Friday 1 April 2022 via Zoom. For more information and to register click here.

To read the HepSAY article Improve Hepatitis C Care for People who are Homeless article in full click here.

Image source: Hepatitis SA website.

We’ve Got Your Back toolkit for mob

The new online safety laws give greater protection from serious online abuse, and are available to all Australians. It’s important that everyone in the community knows about the new protections, including how to report serious online abuse.

A New Online Safety Laws: We’ve Got Your Back – Helping to protect Australians online – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stakeholder Toolkit and printed resources are available here to support the new online safety laws.

ATSI woman looking at laptop with sticker 'online safety laws we've got your back'

Image from cover of ‘New Online Safety Laws: We’ve Got Your Back – Helping to protect Australians online – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stakeholder Toolkit – Australian Government eSafety Commissioner.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Primary Care COVID-19 update

The latest in a series of webinars to update primary care on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout will be held from 11:30 AM–12:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 31 March 2022.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health this week will be Australian Government Department of Health Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, and Professor Nigel Crawford, Chair, Vaccine Safety, Special Risk Groups, Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

GPs and all health professionals are welcome to attend the webinar and can join using this link. If you’re unable to view this webinar live, you can view it on-demand using the same link, within a few hours of the live stream ending.

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Fourth dose recommended for vulnerable

Fourth dose recommended for vulnerable

On Friday 15 March 2022, the Australian Government has accepted the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s (ATAGI) recommendation that an additional booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine be provided to vulnerable population groups to increase their protection levels before winter. The winter dose will be provided to people who are at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. These people will have received their primary vaccination and first booster dose prior to receiving the winter dose. The groups are:

  • Adults aged 65 years and older
  • Residents of aged care or disability care facilities
  • People aged 16 years and older with severe immunocompromise (as defined in the ATAGI statement on the use of a 3rd primary dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older.

ATAGI recommends that the rollout of the additional booster dose for these groups start from April 2022, coinciding with the rollout of the 2022 influenza vaccination program. You can view Minister Hunt’s media release here and access further information from the Australian Government Deputy Chief Medical Officer here.

blue background, vector image of vials & syringe

Image: Nebojsa Mitrovic, Getty Images. ABC News website.

What to do if you get COVID-19

The Australian Government Department of Health has released an opinion piece from the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, about what to do to prepare for the possibility of testing positive for COVID-19 – and what to do if you do test positive. The document is available in English and a number of language translations:, including Kimberly Kriol; Pitjantjatjara; Torres Strait Creole – Yumplatok; Warlpiri; Western Arrarnta and Yolngu Matha.

You can download the fact sheet here.

blue glove hand holding positive RATS test for covid-19

Image source: Urgent Care La Jolla website.

Shelley Ware backs online safety campaign

The Online Safety Act 2021 came into effect earlier this year giving the safety commissioner more powers to remove serious online abuse from platforms. Shelley Ware, Australian Aboriginal TV personality, educator and corporate speaker is championing the online safety campaign for Mob . The eSafety ambassador explains that the new law provides a stronger protection to the community allowing victims to seek permanent removal of harmful content and providing avenues to press further charges. You can listen to the interview with Shelley Ware on NITV Radio here.

Shelley Ware, Aboriginal TV personality standing in front of Yalinguth Stories, Sounds, Knowledge sign

Shelley Ware, Australian Aboriginal TV personality, educator and corporate speaker champions online safety campaign for Mob. Photo: 33 Creative. Image source: NITV website.

Mental health, housing and homelessness

Good health and wellbeing rests, in part, on access to good-quality housing. Having adequate housing and a place to call home supports ‘connection to body’, one of the 7 domains for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing. Unreliable or poor quality housing and homelessness contribute to and perpetuate health inequities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

The health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be further compromised by (dis)connection from Country, which is another of the 7 domains of social and emotional wellbeing. There is emerging evidence that providing housing and addressing homelessness is important for preventing mental ill-health and suicide among Indigenous Australians. The relationship between housing and mental health is bi-directional. This means that someone’s mental health could be negatively affected by the lack of safe, affordable and high quality housing, and the experience of mental illness could affect access to suitable housing.

The recently release Australian Government Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Indigenous mental health, housing and homelessness paper

  • synthesises the evidence of what works and does not work for mental health and suicide prevention programs and policy initiatives that address housing and homelessness for Indigenous Australians
  • reports key information about research, evaluation, program and policy initiatives
  • identifies best-practice approaches and critical success factors for implementation
  • outlines limitations and gaps in the evidence.

You can access the AIHW Indigenous mental health, housing and homelessness report here.

Aboriginal art: The journey towards healing by artist Linda Huddleston

The journey towards healing by artist Linda Huddleston featured on the cover of the AIHW Indigenous mental health, housing and homelessness report.

A related article in the National Rural Health Alliance online Partyline magazine looks at how empowering rough sleepers via the charity, Wheels of Wellness (WoW) can save lives. WOW provides an innovative and dynamic model of primary health care to some of regional Australia’s most vulnerable people on the streets of Cairns in Far North Queensland.

WOW’s van is fitted out as a GP consulting room and goes out during the day and after hours with a doctor, Indigenous health worker and mental health social worker. They provide free holistic primary health care to people sleeping rough, staying in a night shelter, or living in transitional and temporary accommodation.

The focus of the WoW team is to build rapport and long-term relationships with the people they meet on the streets. They actively support those wanting to address their health issues, which may include chronic disease, acute care, pain management, mental health, post-trauma stress, domestic violence, drug and alcohol dependency – and the list goes on. The WoW team strongly believes that, along with stable accommodation, focusing on holistic primary health care is crucial to empowering the lives of our most vulnerable Australians.

You can view the Saving lives by empowering rough sleepers article here.

WOW outreach van. Image source: National Rural Health Alliance Partyline online magazine.

Action urged on health, justice and ‘Voice’

Leading Indigenous advocacy groups have called on the Coalition and Labor to promise major reforms to the justice, health and welfare systems ahead of the federal election, and for a Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the constitution. Change the Record, an alliance of legal, health and family violence prevention organisations, has demanded the major parties agree to increase Centrelink payments, raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and urgently build more housing in remote communities to address overcrowding.

Cheryl Axleby, a Narungga woman and co-chair of Change the Record, said problems in areas such as housing were linked to other issues like social security. “We’ve been saying this for decades; if we have appropriate shelter and affordable housing that would solve a lot of issues for our families who are living under welfare or are struggling to make ends meet,” she said. She added that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the need to urgently address overcrowded housing, which became a serious problem during an outbreak in western NSW last year. “Where family members are trying to self-isolate, well, how do they do that when they don’t actually have anywhere else where they can actually go?”

You can access the full article in The Sydney Morning Herald here.

Cheryl Axleby is the co-chair of Change the Record, which has made several key demands for the Coalition and Labor. Cheryl Axleby is the co-chair of Change the Record standing in front of yellow orange brown white Aboriginal art

Cheryl Axleby is the co-chair of Change the Record, which has made several key demands for the Coalition and Labor. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Growing positive food habits in remote schools

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation believes every young person deserves to benefit from a fun, hands-on approach to food education – in every part of the country. This is especially important for kids growing up in remote cities and towns, which form the backbone of the nation’s food system.

In the Gibson Desert, 550 kms north of Kalgoorlie, Willuna Remote Community School is revitalising their kitchen garden and striving to create connections to country. “We want to use the garden to bring Aboriginal cultural learning into the school,” explains teacher, Scott Olsen. “We already grow a native bush banana, a silky pear, and are having conversations with local elders about food native to the area.”

Teaching students how to grow food is a practical way to gain access to fresh produce. “Because we are a remote place, fresh food and vegies can be expensive and hard to find,” says Scott. “One thing we grew last year was peas – the kids absolutely loved picking the peas and eating them fresh in the garden. If they had to go to the shops to buy that big bowl of peas, they might have cost $50. Or they might not even stock them.”

To view the National Rural Health Alliance article in its online magazine Partyline in full click here.

collage: young Aboriginal boys holding seedling, 2 girls carrying water jerry, boy with tray in garden, close up image of plants

Students from Wiluna Remote Community School in kitchen garden.

caring@home Indigenous art competition winners

The caring@home for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families project recently announced the winners of its caring@home Indigenous Art Competition. What begam as am ‘off the cuff’ idea from Project Director, Professor Liz Reymond, grew into a powerful palliative and end-of-life care conversation starter in many communities around Austra.ia.

“The caring@home art competition has had an amazing impact here. Patients and families have really gotten into it and it has brought up amazing conversations about spirituality, culture and our multicultural community…the conversations it has started have been beyond anything I could have imagined.” Nurse, Remote Palliative Care Service

Thanks have gone out to:

  • the judging panel members: Karl Briscoe – CEO, National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP); Fiona Cornforth – CEO, The Healing Foundation and The Hon Ken Wyatt, AM MP – Minister for Indigenous Australians,
  • the 757 people voted in the People’s Choice Awards, and
  • the artists, whose experiences, stories and artistic expression provided a deeper and profound understanding of palliative care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

You can view all the artworks on the caring@home website here until June 2023.

winner of caring@home Indigenous Art Competition - Life's Journey by Lee Hall

Overall winner of the caring@home Indigenous Art Competition – Life’s Journey by Lee Hall.

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.

WA Aboriginal Family Safety Strategy

The WA Department of Communities is working with Aboriginal people and communities on a strategy to address family violence impacting Aboriginal families and communities. Aboriginal women and children experience family violence at disproportionately high rates with devastating impacts on their own health and wellbeing, and on the health and wellbeing of community.

The contributing factors to family violence in Aboriginal communities include colonisation, dispossession, intergenerational trauma and racism. We need to develop an approach that recognises these differences and considers the specific drivers of family violence in Aboriginal communities.

To guide deliberate work and coordinated effort from government and community over the next decade, we are developing a dedicated Aboriginal Family Safety Strategy. Comprehensive consultation with a range of Aboriginal stakeholders and Aboriginal community members has occurred to inform the content of the draft strategy.

Feedback on the draft Strategy is now open until 5:00 PM AWST Thursday 14 April 2022. To have your say complete the survey here. If you have questions or would like to speak to someone about the project, please send an email using this link.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Out of sight – chronic overcrowding

Image in feature tile from ABC News article Out of sight.

Out of sight – chronic overcrowding

In the crowded homes of the NT’s remote communities, residents are trying to keep their hopes of a better future alive. On most afternoons in the community of Rockhole, NT’s third-biggest town, about 340 kilometres south of Darwin, Evelyn Andrews can be found holding court in her front yard, sat beneath the shade of a tree. At house number 21, she shares her home with between 10 and 15 other people. “We love it in the community, we’ve got the river right there and the kids are safe,” she says. “But we need some more houses.”

Dr Simon Quilty, who has worked in medicine in the NT for over 20 years, says “the consequences of overcrowding on health are really quite profound”. “When people live in very close proximity in very warm houses that disconnect from electricity all of the time and often have serious problems with plumbing … then it is the ideal environment for the spread of infectious diseases,” he says. “I would say that housing circumstances for Indigenous people in the Northern Territory are by far and away the most significant driver of poor health outcomes universally.”

In a submission to the NT government’s 2016 inquiry into housing repair and maintenance on town camps, the Aboriginal-owned and operated Kalano Community Association, who manage housing in Rockhole, listed a number of conditions hampering its progress. These included “overcrowding and homelessness”, “a large backlog of repairs and maintenance”, “the condition of some housing being uninhabitable” and a “lack of land availability for the construction of new accommodation units within the Katherine township and [surrounds].”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

5 women, two toddlers one room of house in Rockhole

Image source: ABC News.

Funds for IUIH Early Childhood Wellbeing Program

Queensland is closing the gap on early childhood development under a $1.4m wellbeing program for Australia’s biggest and fastest growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in the state’s SE corner. On National Close the Gap Day last week Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford announced funding for the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) – one of Queensland’s largest Indigenous-controlled health organisations – to establish a local Early Childhood Wellbeing Program. “Queensland’s Closing the Gap commitment includes targets focusing on life expectancy, healthy birthweight, early childhood education attendance and early development,” Mr Crawford said.

IUIH CEO Adrian Carson said the funding “will build on the proven Birthing in Our Community (BiOC) model of care to continue supporting families through the early years. We know that strong families require us to support our people right across the life course and that journey starts with supporting Mum and Dad during pregnancy. We are now able to continue to support the family through the early years and into early childhood education,’’ he said. The Early Childhood Wellbeing Program will support positive health, social and wellbeing initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and children up to three years of age, including through comprehensive primary health care, early learning activities, playgroups and intensive support for families in priority need.

To view Minister Crawford’s media release in full click here.

Image source: IUIH website.

Important COVID-19 vax updates

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) Bulletin and associated information was released last week, on Tuesday 15 March 2022. The documents contain important updates on stock management and CVAS functionality changes as well as the results from the COVID-19 communication materials survey conducted between 12–20 February 2022 . You can access the documents by clicking on these links:

COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-out ACCHS update 15 March 2022

COVID-19 Vaccine Ordering System (CVAS) Ordering Amounts

Update of COVID-19 Vaccine Ordering System

COVID-19 communication materials survey findings March 2022

If you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact NACCHO using this email or the Commonwealth Department of Health using this email.

Image source: AMA website.

First Nations people and stroke

Australia’s First Nations people are 1.3 times more likely to die from a stroke than non-Indigenous people and are hospitalised 1.6 times more. Whether it’s in the statistics or stories of people affected by stroke, the existing gap in stroke outcomes is unacceptable.

Charlotte, a proud Wiradjuri woman, has shared her story through the Stroke Foundation’s Young Stroke Project which helps to shine a light on this issue. Charlotte is a mother of four and was working a double shift on the day of her stroke in 2018. Charlotte had a pounding headache, extreme fatigue and then noticed that her arm felt heavy and she could not lift it. She went to her local health clinic who called for an ambulance immediately. After the 23 hour wait, it was good treatment. I had doctors tend to my current situation, which was pretty good because I didn’t want to leave hospital knowing that I live in a rural area. I have no doctor here.

You can access the Stroke Foundation EnableMe newsletter with Charlotte’s story here and watch Charlotte tell her story in the video below.

National strategy to eliminate cervical cancer

On 17 November 2021 the Australian Government announced the development of a collaborative National Cervical Cancer Elimination Strategy (the Strategy), led by the Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer (ACPCC). This project will inform the Australian Government Department of Health’s future activities to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem in Australia by 2035.

The Strategy will be informed by a series of consultations with experts, representatives of priority communities, and other interested parties, to inform the three pillars of cervical cancer elimination – vaccination, screening, and treatment – and ensure a strong equity lens is applied at every step of the project. The overarching vision is to achieve elimination for all women and people with a cervix across the diverse communities we have in Australia. 

If you would like to be part of the development of a strategy to eliminate cervical cancer in Australia by 2035, you can register to join the consultation here.

Aboriginal artist Madison Connors, a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung, Kamilaroi woman from North East Victoria has created art inspired about the importance of cervical screening. Image source: Cancer Council Victoria website.

Women must lead equity drive

Equity for Indigenous women and girls is at the forefront of this year’s Closing The Gap Day message, with first Nations people still facing lower quality of life and shorter life expectancies compared to the rest of Australia. Last week’s Closing The Gap Day on March 17 marked the ongoing progress of the campaign to expand health, education and other fundamental expectations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Aoriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Close the Gap Co-Chair, Bunuba woman June Oscar, said gender equity was central to supporting strong families and communities to lead healthy lives. She reinforced the message that it was through Indigenous leadership that prospects for Indigenous people would improve. “This year’s report highlights in no uncertain terms what we already know,” she said. “It’s our organisations that know our people, carry our culture and knowledges, and deliver the services that we need.”

To view the 9 News article in full click here.

young Aboriginal girl with Aboriginal flag on shoulders of Aboriginal woman with Aboriginal art covid-19 mask

Indigenous women and girls must be central to the ongoing #MeToo movement, the Close The Gap campaign has said. Photo: Cole Bennetts. Image source: 9 News website.

Jail rates related to unmet basic needs

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service CEO and Yorta Yorta woman Nerita Waight says the justice system is incapable of benefitting First Nations people who are at a systemic disadvantage. Ms Waight said incarceration numbers reflected the position of Indigenous people within the political and social landscape as a whole. Homelessness, the education system, workforce discrimination, racism and over-policing were identified by VALS as contributors to disparity.

“Most people end up in the justice system because society has failed to provide them with basic needs, like a home or proper healthcare,” Ms Waight said. “Once our people are in the justice system they are subjected to systemic racism from police, the courts, and prison staff. Most people get trapped in the justice system for the rest of their lives.” VALS conceded the cost of inadequately addressing these issues would likely see devastating results.

To view the National Indigenous Times Aboriginal Legal Service calls out justice failures on Closing the Gap Day article click here.

A related article Shocking Numbers of Aboriginal Children are in Prison and it’s a threat to Closing the Gap cites Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) spokesperson and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee Chair Professor Ngiare Brown spoke to the ongoing damage that early incarceration can have on an Indigenous young person. “As the RACP has emphasised, along with other medical and First Nations experts, there is substantial evidence showing the detrimental and long term effects youth incarceration has on physical and psychological health and wellbeing.”

Rather than jump to incarceration, the report is calling for Attorney Generals to consider alternative approaches including earlier care, support and treatment options which will preserve human rights and hopefully, more just outcomes for the First Nations Youth community. It is hoped that continued advocacy and increased awareness will push the issue into the spotlight, encouraging critical reform and address the significant disadvantages experience by Australia’s Indigenous community. To view this NIT article in full click here.

Aboriginal man waist up no clothes, hands gripped together through jail bars

Image source: The Conversation.

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.

Multiple Birth Awareness Week

Multiple Birth Awareness Week (MBAW) is a national campaign to raise awareness around, and draw attention to, the unique realities for multiple birth families in Australia – and how advocacy, positive education and engaged communities can contribute to enabling positive health outcomes for families with multiples. You can access more information about MBAW on the Australian Multiple Birth Association website here.

Indigenous Australian twins and their mothers face unique challenges, according to research supported by Twins Research Australia. All mothers of twins face challenges but the study found these may be more difficult to overcome for some Indigenous Australian mothers. The study investigated the birth data of over 64,000 indigenous twins in NSW and WA.

It was found that many Aboriginal twin pregnancies and births are physically and practically challenging and the majority of multiples are born early and small. Factors included that they are: more likely to live far from specialist medical care, are younger, more socio-economically disadvantaged, and more likely to have older children. Researchers recommended that specific guidelines for the care of indigenous mothers and twins may be need to improve outcomes. The study highlights the importance of policies that support health services to meet the practical, financial and psychosocial needs of mothers and families, in addition to meeting their health needs.

You can read the Twins Research Australia article in full here, the paper in full here and a simplified explainer here.

Aboriginal women with her hands & partner's hands on her pregnant belly

Image source: Pathology Awareness Australia website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO announces pharmacist scholarship

feature tile text 'applications now open for NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist scholarship' & logo for scholarship

NACCHO announces pharmacist scholarship

NACCHO has announced that applications are now open for the inaugural NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship, proudly supported by a grant from Sanofi Australia. The Scholarship provides subsidy and support for prospective or current Aboriginal and  Torres Strait Islander pharmacy students and aims to build the pharmacist workforce amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Dr Dawn Casey PSM FAHA, NACCHO Deputy CEO said, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacists and pharmacy students are significantly underrepresented in the pharmacy profession. Building leadership and skills of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals is a critical enabler in supporting cultural safety in the health sector. This financial support combined with mentorship will provide a tangible way to help students to thrive in their professional training and stands to build confident and self-determined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy sector leaders.”

Associate Professor Faye McMillan, a proud Wiradjuri Yinaa (woman), Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner and Pharmacist said, “Another example of the outstanding leadership of NACCHO and the commitment to the future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy workforce through the inaugural NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship. So delighted to see scholarships supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy students.”

For more information on this exciting opportunity, visit the NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship webpage here.

Associate Professor Faye McMillan

Associate Professor Faye McMillan, a proud Wiradjuri Yinaa (woman), Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner and Pharmacist.

What ‘living with COVID’ means for mob

According to Jennifer Doggart, who has written an article What ‘living with COVID’ really means for so many people as Australia follows other countries in relaxing COVID public health measures, the needs of many Australians are being ignored. People with disabilities and chronic illnesses, the aged, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk from these policy changes.

A range of factors, including poorer (on average) underlying health status and structural barriers to accessing care, reflecting the ongoing impacts of colonisation place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at increased risk. This plays out in the pandemic having a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with data showing for instance that nine our of 10 COVID-19 patients in hospital in the NT are Indigenous.

To view the Croakey Health Media article in full click here.

Aboriginal artist, Greg Muir in wheelchair with Aboriginal painting in the background, paint brushes in hand

Aboriginal artist, Greg Muir lives with cerebral palsy. Image source: Scope.

Homeless, vulnerable and unjabbed

Paige Taylor, Indigenous Affairs Correspondent, WA Bureau Chief has written a story for The Australian about homeless Aboriginal couple Melinda Williams and Timothy Dick who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 more than a year after they were prioritised in the national rollout. It is a story that has played out in towns and cities across Australia. Neither considers themself to be an anti-vaxxer and both are dogged by health problems that make them more likely to get very sick if infected with COVID-19.

Yet no state or territory has had as much time as WA to protect the most vulnerable, or win their trust in order to convince them to protect themselves. Despite the luxury of time and a well-resourced vaccine drive in WA, a survey of 522 rough sleepers in the centre of Perth by Homeless Healthcare found that 32% had not had a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on 21 January. There are an estimated 1,000 rough sleepers in and near the city, 41% of them Indigenous.

Lisa Wood, from Notre Dame University’s Institute of Health Research, said the reasons why homeless people do not get vaccinated defy assumptions that suggest anyone who is not vaccinated by now does not want to be. Some homeless people had been involuntary mental health patients and were, as a result, wary of the health system, she said. Others had a deep distrust of authority because they been removed from their parents by child protection workers, or their children had been removed from them. Professor Wood said this was why vaccinating rough sleepers took time. It was important to build trust, ­answer questions and give people the chance to come back a few times. “There are also practical barriers to getting vaccinated, such as lack of transport, no phone or computer to book appointments, or to receive reminders,” Professor Wood said.

Indigenous woman Melinda Williams

Indigenous woman Melinda Williams sleeps rough on the streets of Perth and has been unable to secure a Covid vaccine. Photo: Tony McDonough. Image source: The Australian.

Yarrabah outbreak peaks

Yarrabah’s increased vaccination level combined with a slowing of transmission through the community has resulted in a sharp decrease in the daily infection rates. Daily infections continue to decrease with only 34 positive cases recorded in the past seven days, compared with 78 the previous week. Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Director of Clinical Services, Dr Jason King is confident the worst has passed for Yarrabah. “With a steady decrease in daily cases, it is obvious we are now moving through the tail of this outbreak. This will be welcome news for our community, but it will allow our teams to ramp up our vaccination drive,” he said.

Vaccination levels in Yarrabah continue to rise and currently are sitting at more than 50% of the 16+ community fully boosted. We have come a long way from the low 20% levels in August last year, to where we are currently with more than 83% of the community double vaccinated. Our focus is now to lift significantly our booster rates. With the change to the waiting time, down to 3 months, it’s critical that we increase our booster rollout and protect our community fully. The current outbreak has ripped through the community with more than 720 cases registered in the community. This figure could have been greater. As a community we were 70% double vaccinated at the start of the outbreak earlier this year.”

To read the GYHS media release in full click here.

Anthony Brown-Sexton and Wendy Stafford with mask, chatting over wire fence

Yarrabah resident Anthony Brown-Sexton and GYHS Care Team member Wendy Stafford.

Ending avoidable blindness by 2025

Professor Hugh Taylor, University of Melbourne, Indigenous Eye Health founder says great progress has been made in establishing regional stakeholder networks nationwide that link ACCHOs with service providers and local hospitals. The government has prioritised and committed to “End avoidable blindness by 2025” for Indigenous Australians. Now it needs to release its implementation plan to build and strengthen the services required. An important component will be improving leadership and ownership among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision was released in early 2012. When the government implements its priority to “End avoidable blindness by 2025”, the roadmap will have been essentially completed. The Indigenous Eye Health unit will then recast its role, focussing on technical support and advice to strengthen Indigenous leadership in the ACCHOs, the regions, the states and territories and nationally.

To view the Insight article in full click here.

Professor Hugh Taylor

Professor Hugh Taylor. Image source: The University of Melbourne.

Fewer young people in aged care

The number of Australians aged under 65 living in permanent residential aged care fell by 20% from almost 4,600 in September 2020 to around 3,700 in September 2021, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The number of Australians aged under 45 living in residential aged care fell by 24%, from 120 to 91 during the same time period. The report, Younger people in residential aged care, shows the number of younger people in permanent residential aged care decreased in every state and territory between 2020 and 2021.

‘The Australian Government has set targets to have no people under the age of 45 living in residential aged care by 2022, and under the age of 65 by 2025 (other than in exceptional circumstances), through the Younger People in Residential Aged Care Strategy 2020–25 released in September 2020. The AIHW report tracks progress against these targets over the past year,’ said AIHW spokesperson Louise York.

In September 2021, just over half (53%) of the younger people living in residential aged care were male and 10% were identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The majority (59%) of younger people living in residential aged care were aged 60–64. Nearly 4 in 10 (39%) were aged 45–59, and 2% were aged 18–44.

To access the Inside Ageing article in full click here.

ATSI carer hands holding ATSI hand

Image source: Aged Care Guide.

Highest rates of dementia in world

Studies have shown that Aboriginal Australians living in remote areas of the country are disproportionately affected by dementia, with rates approximately double those of non-Indigenous people. A new study shows that Aboriginal Australians living in urban areas also have similar high rates of dementia. The study was published in the 9 February 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Given that the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples now live in urban areas, these results are critically important,” said study author Louise M. Lavrencic, PhD, of Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney. “Aboriginal Australians have among the highest rates of dementia in the world, so we looked at some of the potential risk factors that may be facing this population.”

“While the study was not designed to examine factors such as the ongoing effects of colonisation, systemic racism, and the resulting social and health disparities across Aboriginal Australian communities, these factors are likely to contribute to the higher rates of dementia,” Lavrencic said. “Larger studies are needed to look at these effects and identify culturally appropriate and effective dementia risk reduction strategies.”

To read the Science Daily story in full click here.

Bidyadanga residents with dementia are supported by workers at the community care centre. From left: Angelina Nanudie, Zarena Richards, Rosie Spencer and Faye Dean

Bidyadanga residents with dementia are supported by workers at the community care centre. From left: Angelina Nanudie, Zarena Richards, Rosie Spencer and Faye Dean. Photo: Erin Parke, ABC Kimberley.

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.