NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO CEO reflects on successful conference

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

NACCHO CEO reflects on successful conference

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

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

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

Housing shortage potentially “life-threatening”

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

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

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

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

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

RHD landmark study makes inroads

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

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

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

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

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

Improving health for people with intellectual disability

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

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

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

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

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

Urapunga Store’s sugar cut success

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

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

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

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

Photo: Isabella Higgins, ABC News.

Sax Institute, a community-led research pioneer

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: Sax Institute website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Children’s Week 2022

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

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

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

For more information about Children’s Week click here.

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO’s Youth Conference – it’s started!

NACCHO’s Youth Conference – it’s started!

The National Youth Conference, being held today, Monday 17 October 2022 at the National Convention Centre, Canberra, has brought together almost 100 youth from around Australia to gain experience and exposure to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sector on a national level. During the conference the youth will engage in discussion, share their experience and learn from other peers from across the country. The conference will allow the youth to learn about informing policy, influencing change and provide a pathway so their voices are heard and represented by NACCHO throughout the sector.

For further information about the NACCHO Youth Conference click here. Below is a short video of about the 2019 NACCHO Youth Conference.

Health Literacy Strategy Framework

The National Health Literacy Strategy Framework Paper is now open for public consultation, with feedback being sought on the framework’s content and design.

The document is now live on the Australian Governments Department of Health and Aged Care Consultation Hub here and will be available online for comment for a four-week period and will close at 11:59 pm on Wednesday 9 November 2022.

You can access the strategy and online survey below:

Consultation Paper – Development of the National Health Literacy Strategy

National Health Literacy Strategy Framework Consultation Survey Questions

National Health Literacy Strategy Consultation Online Survey, available here.

Image source: Australian Commission of Safety and Quality in Health Care.

First care standard on stillbirth

You are invited to join the online launch of the first national Stillbirth Clinical Care Standard, developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. The event will be streamed live from the Annual National Stillbirth Forum being held from 3–4 November 2022.

Stillbirth is a tragic and profound experience that affects more than 2,000 families in Australia every year. Despite being the most common form of perinatal death in Australia, the experience of stillbirth can be hidden due to stigma, taboo and a culture of silence.

At the launch of the Stillbirth Clinical Care Standard from12:30 PM – 1:30 PM AEDT Friday 4 November 2022 you can hear leading experts discuss best practice in preventing stillbirth, investigations after stillbirth and the importance of bereavement care after perinatal loss. This event is relevant to all healthcare professionals involved in providing care during pregnancy, and after stillbirth or other forms of perinatal loss.

Click here to register.

Supporting child health in remote Australia

An article Needs and strengths: supporting child health in remote Australia published in the InSight+ newsletter today begins with words from Ms June Oscar AO, a senior Bunuba woman from the Fitzroy Valley and Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner:

The failure to close the gaps in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequality, and other measures of social and economic disadvantage, cannot be justified by more rhetoric or data in another report. For us, the harrowing failure to close the gap is felt through sorry business, the countless funerals of family and friends, the hospital visits and the coronial inquiries that we continue to painfully endure. So many of our losses were and are preventable – that is the failure and pain we carry. A sensible way of doing business is long overdue as, apart from small gains, the attempts to close the gaps in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy, health and education have failed.

The article outlines the poor health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, the reasons for such poor health and efforts to date to support child and family health. The authors review strategies to improve health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and what is needed to successfully implement those strategies.

To view the article in full click here.

Photo: Getty Images. Image source: BBC.

Overcrowding reduced by only 3.2%

The NT government has spent $2.65bn over the past 15 years to improve the quality of housing in remote Indigenous communities, but overcrowding remains a problem and many houses need repairs. Under the national partnership for remote housing NT policy, the government was supposed to improve housing conditions and reduce overcrowding in 73 remote communities and 17 town camps around Alice Springs. But the most recent data on overcrowding in remote communities managed by the national partnership reveals it has only been reduced by 3.2% in five years.

None of this is new to Miriam Charlie. Since 2015, the Yanyuwa Garrwa artist has been capturing the state of housing across all four town camps at Borroloola, with her Polaroid camera. “All them houses, they’re too small, overcrowded,” she says. “So I went around and took photos of everybody’s houses. What part wasn’t fixed and what part was fixed.”

NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner, said in an interview with The Australian in March this year, the standard of housing in remote communities underpinned several targets in Closing the Gap and outlined that if the targets are not achieved, it would be because governments had not “invested the necessary resources in programs and services to support our people”.

To view The Guardian article ‘Waiting for too long’: Why Miriam Charlie photographs overcrowded Indigenous housing in full click here.

Miriam Charlie photographing her eldest daughter, Jade, and other family at Yanyuwa camp. Image source: The Guardian.

Videos to tackle men’s mental health

In the Central Australian desert, there’s a growing and often silent, crisis of male suicide in Aboriginal town camps. But a group of men is speaking out for change. You can watch a short video about the Tangentyere Men’s Family Safety Group, a group town camp leaders, who are focused on improving safety and wellbeing in their community. They have written, performed and directed a series of videos in English and in language hoping to shatter stigma around mental health and suicide. For these men it has been a deeply personal project.

You can view the short video in full here.

Free tool to measure LGBTQ inclusive care

Pride in Health + Wellbeing runs a national annual index (Health + Wellbeing Equality Index) that is FREE and open to every organisation to measure their LGBTQ inclusive across their service delivery and internal workforce.

This benchmarking index has been designed based on international best practice standards for LGBTQ inclusive care and can assist service providers to baseline their current LGBTQ inclusion work, benchmark across the sector and identify gaps and areas for improvement as well as year-on-year growth. Individualised reports are sent to participating services and participation can be anonymous, and you don’t have to be a member to take part.

The HWEI also has optional staff and service user surveys. These allow services to not only measure what they are doing organisationally but see how well supported staff feel within their workplace, as well as their understanding, tools and comfort levels in providing LGBTQ inclusive care. The service user survey can then also be used to match your inclusion work to experience, to see if the inclusion initiatives are improving the quality of care being received.

For more details visit the Pride in Health + Wellbeing website here. You can register your interest to take part in the HWEI 2023 here.

Image source: Edith Cowan University website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

The image in the feature tile is of woman watching Kevin Rudd’s apology to Indigenous Australian on 13 February 2008. The image appears in an article Rudd’s apology, 10 years on: the elusive hope of a ‘breakthrough moment’ published in The Guardian on 12 February 2018. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams, Getty Images.

World Mental Health Day 2022

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, and Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Emma McBride, says today is World Mental Health Day – a day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy. Right now, demand for mental health support has surged to record levels across the country, with the pandemic having a significant impact on all Australians. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2020–21, more than two in five Australians will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life. More than one in five people also experienced a mental health disorder in the previous year, with anxiety being the most common issue.

According to a landmark report titled Report to the Nation commissioned by Mental Health Australia, and released today, one in two Australians have needed mental health support in past three months. Nine in 10 Australians who accessed mental health support said it improved their mental health and nearly all respondents (98%) felt safe and respected in the support they received. The Report to the Nation, which is based on a new national survey that covers every age group from age 0 to 80+, also reveals:

• Australians 18-39 years old self-rate as the least mentally well in age comparisons – 6.2 out of 10, with 10 meaning living with excellent mental health;
• First Nations Peoples (5.2) and LBGTQIA+ (5.7) self-rate even lower;
• 66% of Australians have felt happy in the past three-months;
• of the top-five things important for mental health and wellbeing, 41% of Australians cite family/partner support, love and socialising with friends as being key; and
• when Australians have needed mental health support, 55% reached out to family, friends, colleagues, or teachers, 44% went to a GP, doctor or nurse, and 30% went to a psychologist, psychiatrist or counsellor.

You can also view a joint media release from Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler and Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Emma McBride World Mental Health Day here. You can also view the Mental Health Australia media release Mental Health Australia reports to the nation on World Mental Health Day in full click here. The below is a video Aboriginal perspectives on wellbeing is from the Australian mental health and wellbeing initiative, Kids Matter.

Support for mob struggling with mental health

New data released today has revealed the mental health of First Nations people is lower than the general population. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die of suicide at more than double the rate of the general population. According to 2020 data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 5.5% of First Nations people die of suicide, compared to 1.9% of non-First Nations People.

One woman is trying to change that. Shannay Holmes was consumed by grief at age 11 when her big brother died. That sadness, prolonged and throbbing, triggered her to try and take her own life some years later. It was only when Ms Holmes found herself in an acute mental health ward that the tide shifted on how she would treat her crippling mental health. Leaning on the “great support system” of her mother, teacher and peers, she was able to overcome her battles. And Ms Holmes wants to see more of her community lifted up, with the right support, too.

In a bid to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Shannay has launched the Heal Your Way project, funded by NSW Health’s Zero Suicide initiative. Ms Holmes said Heal Your Way provides resources for friends of First Nations people, both targeted Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to be better allies in the way they support those who are struggling with their mental health. “Let’s stop putting this in a category that we need to be ashamed of having these conversations, but also shining on the light of why people go through this,” she said. “You don’t have to be a psychologist, you don’t have to be a mental health professional. The important thing about this campaign is that it’s for everyone.”

To view the SBS News article Shannay tried to take her life as a teen. She never wants anyone else to suffer in silence in full click here.

Shannay Holmes created the Heal our Way campaign, aimed at assisting First Nations communities with suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Image source: SBS News.

SBS launches Mind Your Health portal

SBS has launched its Mind Your Health online content portal featuring articles, podcasts and videos in multiple languages, aimed at sharing the rich diversity of cultural knowledge and experiences across communities and showing pathways to support improving the mental and physical wellbeing of all Australians. This follows the success of SBS’s multilingual Coronavirus portal launched in March 2020, which has received 11 million unique Australian visits accessing trusted in language information throughout the pandemic, from updates on changing restrictions to the vaccine rollout.

Mind Your Health targets culturally diverse and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences, with key focus on 10 languages, plus bespoke content for specific communities. The Mind Your Health site includes links to stories such as How former NRL star Owen Craigie turned hardship into happiness, available here. Speaking on NITV’s Feeding The Scrum, the former star opens up about his battles with mental health and addictions and how he’s running initiatives that help people who face similar issues.

To view the radioinfo article Mind Your Health, a new multilingual portal aimed at improving health and wellbeing for multicultural and First Nations Australians in full click here.

Image source: SBS About Mind Your Health webpage.

SMS4DeadlyDads comes to the Kimberley

SMS4DeadlyDads sends short texts with tips, info and support to soon-to-be and new First Nations dads.

SMS4DeadlyDads will be officially launched in the Kimberley this week with workshops for health workers and community in Broome tomorrow on Tuesday 11 October 2022 and Fitzroy Crossing on Thursday 13 October 2022. You can access an invitation to the workshops here.

SMS4DeadlyDads was first developed as a research project at the University of Newcastle (SMS4dads.com). The messages have been co-designed in consultation with an Advisory Group of senior First Nations men representing Aboriginal Controlled Health organisations. First Nations dads have also contributed to the messages to ensure they are culturally appropriate and hit the mark with dads.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Dads can join up online at SMS4DeadlyDads.com – it’s easy and FREE!

Three text messages are sent to dads each week from 12 weeks into a pregnancy up until bub turns one.

The messages are brief and to the point and talk about:

  • Bonding and your baby’s development
  • Working as a team with your partner
  • Looking after yourself and getting help if things get stressful

SMS4DeadlyDads is a FREE service available to dads all around Australia.

Make sure dads know about it!  You can access the SMS4DeadlyDads website here.

Image source: SMS4DEADLYDADS website.

Return of Targeting Cancer Fun Run 

The Royal Australian and NZ College of Radiologists (RANZCR) is pleased to announce the return of the Targeting Cancer Fun Run to the 72nd Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) in Adelaide on the morning of Saturday 29 October after two years’ absence. One in two cancer patients would benefit from radiation therapy, but fewer than one in three patients actually receive radiation therapy. The Fun Run 2022 aims to raise awareness of radiation therapy for cancer treatment with a focus on closing the care gap for Indigenous populations in Australia and NZ.

A breaking study on outcomes for Aboriginal people with cancer in NSW to be presented at RANZCR ASM 2022 is the largest and most comprehensive population-based study of Aboriginal cancer patients in Australia to date. It reports that Aboriginal patients have worse overall and cancer-specific survival rates than non-Aboriginal patients (10-year survival rate: 53% vs. 66%; 5-year survival rate: 60% vs. 64%). After adjusting for many factors (such as sex, age, degree of spread, socioeconomic status, accessibility to cancer service, receiving radiotherapy), the risk of dying from cancer was higher for Aboriginal patients than for non-Aboriginal patients. Aboriginal people have a higher utilisation rate of radiation therapy than non-Aboriginal patients (30% vs. 25.7%) likely due to adverse factors such as presenting with more advanced cancer and inability to afford surgery.

To view the RANZCR media release Targeting Cancer Fun Run Returns to Call for Closing the Care Gap in full click here.

Image source: RANZER, Faculty of Radiation Oncology, Radiation Oncology Targeting Cancer website.

New housing for Alice Springs town camps

Aboriginal construction workers and apprentices have been working on remote housing programs across Mparntwe (Alice Springs) town camps. Rolling out across 11 town camps, the developments will see the construction of 64 dwellings, increasing the combined number of bedrooms across the various communities by 242. Local decision making has been applied to the builds, with the Aboriginal community informing housing compositions which include three, four and five bedroom homes as well as duplex facilities.

Five territory construction companies including Aboriginal Business Enterprises Blueprint Construction and Tangentyere Constructions are carrying out the works, with a combined Indigenous employment rate of 46.4% across the entire project. The $40 million investment by the NT Government has seen 39 of the 64 homes currently in various stages of completion with some houses delivered to residents in September, nine weeks after on-site construction commenced. It is anticipated that at least 35 buildings will be completed by year’s end across town camps including Charles Creek, Hoppy’s, Hidden Valley, Ilpeye Ilpeye, Warlpiri, Karnte, Larapinta Valley, Little Sisters, Mount Nancy, Morris Soak, and Trucking Yards.

NT Housing and Homelands Minister Selena Uibo said the project improves the welfare of town camp residents. “The Territory Labor Government’s investment means residents of Alice Springs will have much-needed, better, safer homes,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article First Nations apprentices contribute to housing developments across Alice Springs town camps in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Animation to combat deadly disease

In response to a call-out from the council’s environmental health team for Hendra virus educational resources, Charles Sturt University student Bernard Higgins created a high-tech animated video as part of his creative arts studies. The Indigenous creative says he’s determined to utilise his talents to help others. “As a Wiradjuri man, I wanted to explore how to use my skills and knowledge to help First Nations communities,” Mr Higgins said. “Designing animal health communication is one area where there’s a gap in our knowledge.”

He is hopeful that the animation, created through significant engagement with the community and health bodies, will help make an important health message more relatable. “The layperson can get bogged down with all the jargon. We saw that with COVID — we got bombarded with so much information,” Mr Higgins said. “At a community level, by putting together [a short] animation, which has all the pertinent information, it’s not as intimidating as a government-made brochure.” The animation also features imagery from the Yarrabah community.

To view the ABC News article Creative approach to combat potentially deadly disease in full click here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

World Homeless Day 2022

World Homeless Day aims to draw attention to homeless people’s needs both locally across Australia and internationally. The concept of ‘World Homeless Day’ emerged from online discussions between people working to respond to homelessness from various parts of the world. The Inaugural World Homeless Day was marked on the 10 October 2010. Since its founding, World Homeless Day has been observed on every continent except Antarctica, in several dozen countries.

The 2016 Census found that Indigenous Australians accounted for one-fifth of the homeless population nationally (20% or 23,440 people); that is, among people whose dwelling is considered inadequate, they have no tenure or their initial tenure is short and not extendable, and they have no control of and access to space for social relations. The 2016 rate was down from 26% in 2011. The 2016 Census found that of the total Indigenous population (649,000) 3.6% or 23,440 were homeless, a rate of 361 per 10,000. This decreased from 4.9% (26,700) or 487 per 10,000 in 2011.

Of homeless Indigenous Australians in 2016, 70% (down from 75% in 2011) were living in severely crowded dwellings (needing four or more extra bedrooms under CNOS), 12% were living in supported accommodation for the homeless, and 9% were living in improvised tents or sleeping out. This compares with non-Indigenous homeless people, of whom in 2016, 42% were living in severely crowded dwellings, 15% were in supported accommodation, and 6% were in improvised dwellings, tents or sleeping out. Of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over, in 2014–15, 4 in 10 (41%) had experienced not having a permanent place to live. Among these, the reasons included problems with family, friends or relationships (40%) and having just moved back into a town or city (22%).

For more information about World Homeless Day 2022 click here and for further information from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing and homelessness click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NTRAI extended for two years

The image in the feature tile is of the remote community of Yarralin, west of Katherine, has received 25 new homes since 2016. Photo: Hamish Harty. Image source: ABC News article NT pleads with Canberra to pay for new homes on Aboriginal homelands, plays catch-up on remote housing targets, published on 4 October 2021.

NTRAI extended for two years

The Australian and NT Governments have signed the two-year extension to the National Partnership on NT Remote Aboriginal Investment (NTRAI). The agreement provides an additional $173.2 million for health, education, community safety, Aboriginal interpreter services in remote NT communities and ensures continuity for 400 jobs.

Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT) will contribute to overseeing the extension agreement, reflecting the knowledge, expertise and lived experience of Aboriginal people living in remote parts of the NT to inform future funding options.

During the extension period, the National Indigenous Australians Agency and the Department of Health and Aged Care will work in partnership with APO NT and the NT Government to design options for future investment in remote Aboriginal communities, giving life to the priority reforms identified in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

To read Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy’s media release NTRAI extended for two years click here.

Bonnie Camphoo lives in a tent just outside of Tennant Creek. Photo: Jane Bardon, ABC News.

Recommendation to continue MUP on alcohol

Health and community organisations have welcomed  a new report released by the NT Government, which recommends that the minimum unit price (MUP) on alcohol be continued. An MUP on alcohol was implemented across the Territory in 2018, which resulted in a standard drink of alcohol not being sold for under $1.30.

In 2018 the NT Government introduced a comprehensive package of reforms to prevent and reduce alcohol harms. The report: Evaluation of Minimum Unit Price of Alcohol in the NT, released this week by the NT Government, shows that there have been significant reductions of alcohol harms since the introduction of these reforms. This includes:

  • Significant reductions of alcohol-related assaults
  • Declines in the number of alcohol-related emergency department presentations per capita
  • Decreases in alcohol-related road crashes across many parts of the Territory
  • Large declines in child protection substantiations
  • Strong decreases in the wholesale supply of cask wine.

“A comprehensive approach is needed to prevent and reduce the harms caused by alcohol. This report shows the need to stay the course on these reforms as a foundation to prioritising the health and wellbeing of Territorians,” said Dr John Paterson, CEO of The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT).

To read the joint media release Health and community organisations welcome recommendation to continue minimum unit price in the NT in full click here.

Photo: Jane Gibson. Image source: ABC News.

Mental health tech a gamechanger

Games can power good: that’s the message from this year’s Melbourne International Games Week. Featuring games designed to promote social impact in areas like mental health and community services, the week is a reflection of how games can touch our lives. One of the projects on show was the Biik Bilik (meaning ‘my place’ in Wurundjeri language) an animated game designed to help start conversations on important social issues in Aboriginal communities.

Biik Bilik was born out of a partnership between Dandenong and District Aboriginal Cooperative and social enterprise the Institute of Games, which developed the Streets of My Town social impact game platform. Streets of My Town is designed for young people and educates them about the support services available in their local community. It functions as a platform that can be tailored to different organisations and communities depending on their location and need.

Founder and CEO Steven Dupon, a social worker, wanted to find a way to appeal to young people on sensitive and tricky topics. “We had this idea to give that information as part of the game so young people would have fun while they’re learning about some of those more challenging things that could happen in their life,” he explained.

To read the Pro Bono Australia article Gamechangers: mental health tech on show at games week in full click here.

Image source: Pro Bono Australia.

Orange Door helps families in crisis

After years of campaigning, a centre to help families in crisis has arrived in a regional city where family violence is ranked as the most reported crime. The Orange Door network connects people who need help with child protection, domestic violence, and child wellbeing with service providers in the community.

“We know that Horsham’s most reported crime is family violence and family violence is in the top five most reported crimes in other LGAs around our area such as Yarriambiack, Hindmarsh and Northern Grampians,” Kara Johnson, a team leader at Orange Door Wimmera said. “It just proves that there are people in this area that need that support.”

Ms Johnson said since its doors opened, the centre in Horsham has received one to two walk-in cases a day, compared to most other rural centres which receive one to two walk-ins a week. Most people had been referred to Orange Door from neighbouring hubs and partner agencies like Uniting Wimmera, Grampians Community Health and Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-operative.

To view the ABC News article Long-awaited Orange Door arrives to the Wimmera to help tackle family violence in full click here.

The new centre will reduce the need for Indigenous women fleeing family violence to leave their country. Photo: Alexander Darling, Wimmera ABC.

$6.9m for BBVSTI research

Three major projects, focusing on reducing stigma, community-led models and assessment of people living with chronic hepatitis B, have received funding. UNSW Sydney researchers from the Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH) and The Kirby Institute have been awarded more than $6.9 million over four years, in grants through the federal government’s Blood Borne Viruses (BBV) and Sexually Transmissible Infections (STI) Research Program.

Director of the CSRH Scientia Professor Carla Treloar has received $3.6 million, Kirby Institute epidemiologist Dr Skye McGregor has been awarded $1.65 million, and UNSW Scientia Fellow and Program Head, Therapeutic Research and Vaccine Program at the Kirby Institute, Professor Gail Matthews has received $1.63 million.

Scientia Professor Vlado Perkovic, Dean of UNSW Medicine & Health congratulated the researchers, and said the grants would lead to better outcomes for patients and more personalised approaches to treatments. “These projects are an exciting development in STI and BBV health policy and practice research and offer hope for people affected by, living with or at risk of blood-borne viruses and STIs in Australia,” he said.

To read the University of NSW article UNSW researchers receive $6.9m for blood borne virus and STI research full click here.

Image source: University of Melbourne website.

Supporting recovery from addiction

For Daniel Wilson, support from his family, a sense of connection and community, and the strength of his ancestors were key to leading him out of heroin addiction two decades ago and into his work now at Melbourne’s Odyssey House treatment centre. A senior alcohol and other drugs (AOD) clinician and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural advisor, he told the recent Rethink Addiction national convention about his experience of addiction, of using heroin “nearly up to the point that it killed me”.

Wilson was speaking in a lived experience session of the conference that highlighted the need for better treatment and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with alcohol, other drugs and gambling addictions. Each of the speakers talked about the importance of family, of safe spaces, and the need to connect to culture and community. They also described the role of trauma in addiction, particularly for the Stolen Generations and their descendants, and new generations now being impacted by escalating rates and risks of child removal.

To read the Croakey Health Media article Culture and community: supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in recovery from addiction in full click here.

Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Building back after the floods

Building back smarter from floods is about more than infrastructure. As Australia is finding out, improvements to healthcare are key to the solution. In the aftermath of the devastating floods that hit eastern Australia in early 2022, affected residents were left with serious questions about the country’s resilience to intensifying extreme weather events and the institutions tasked with mopping up afterwards.  It is a matter of when, not if, the next destructive flood hits — and lives depend on strengthening the long-term resilience of health and social services across the country.

The 2022 floods across areas of NSW and SE Queensland brought death, housing and infrastructure damage, and disruptions to healthcare and other important services.  But the visible, immediate effects that make the headlines are only a fraction of the overall health burden of floods. People affected by floods can experience long-lasting mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. The problem is even more pronounced for vulnerable groups with existing health inequalities, such as people with disabilities, First Nations people, and socio-economically disadvantaged communities.

To read the article After the flood written by Veronica Matthews, who heads the Centre for Research Excellence, an Indigenous-led collaboration strengthening systems to improve primary health care and the social and cultural determinants of wellbeing, in full click here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

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

How poor housing affects health

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

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

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

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

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

Far North research to treat tuberculosis

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

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

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

Cairns Hospital. Image source: Tropic Now.

Strong Women for Healthy Country meet

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

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

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

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

Group A Streptococcus molecular POC testing

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

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

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

To view the article in full click here.

Group A Streptococcus. Image source: Microbiologics Blog webpage.

Mental health, substance use, reincarceration

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

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

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

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

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

Aboriginal SEWB Scholarships Program

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

Dementia Action Week 19–25 Sep 2022

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

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

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

For more information about Dementia Action Week 2022 click here.

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

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

QLD health service delivery needs overhaul

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

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

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

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

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

NACCHO leads environmental health workshop

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

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

For more information about the NATSIEH Conference 2022 click here.

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

ACCHOs consulted over RHD program

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

Organisations that attended included:

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

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

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

Homelessness linked to vulnerability clustering

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

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

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

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

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

Better drug treatment needed in Far West NSW

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

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

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

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

Image source: Australian Journal of General Practice.

Dementia cases could be prevented

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

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

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

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

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

 

Youth held in police watch houses to sue

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

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Vanuatu eliminates trachoma

The image in the feature tile if from the World Health Organization’s news release Vanuatu leads the way for Pacific elimination of trachoma – the world’s biggest infectious cause of blindness published on 12 August 2022.

Vanuatu eliminates trachoma

The Fred Hollows Foundation has welcomed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) confirmation that Vanuatu has ended trachoma as a public health problem, making it the first Pacific island nation to eliminate the disease. The foundation, with the support of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, The UK Government’s The Commonwealth Fund and the Australian Government’s Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) funding, has helped drive the final push to eliminate the infectious disease.

It comes as Australian health authorities struggle to stamp out trachoma in Indigenous communities, with a 2020 elimination target pushed out to 2022 due to COVID, and then again to 2025. Australia remains the only developed nation with endemic trachoma. According to Fred Hollows, the disease thrives in areas where drinking water and sanitation is poor. It is easily spread through personal contact and by flies that have been in contact with people’s eyes or noses. It disproportionately affects mothers and children.

Fred Hollows CEO Mr Ian Wishart congratulated Vanuatu for declaring trachoma is no longer a public health problem. It’s the second neglected tropical disease eliminated from the archipelago nation of 83 islands, after lymphatic filariasis in 2016.

To read the Insight News article Vanuatu first Pacific island nation to eliminate trachoma in full click here.

Dr Anasaini Cama, Fred Hollows Pacific trachoma expert, assessing a child’s eye health. PHoto: Shea Flynn, RTI International. Image source: Insight News.

47 years since start of land rights movement

The historically significant gesture of then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pouring a handful of red soil into the hands of senior Gurindji man, Vincent Lingiari on 16 August 1975, symbolised the legal transfer of more than 3,000 square kms of the Wave Hill cattle station back to the Gurindji people. It also meant the Gurindji became the first Aboriginal community to have land returned to them by the Commonwealth Government and would be a turning point – the start of the Aboriginal land rights movement for the rest of Indigenous Australia, that continues even today.

“Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people and I put into your hands part of the earth itself as a sign that this land will be the possession of you and your children forever,” Gough Whitlam said.

Almost 56 years ago on the 23 August, the Gurindji people of the NT made their name across Australia with the 1966 Wave Hill Walk-Off. A landmark event that inspired national change: equal wages for Aboriginal workers, as well as a new Land Rights Act. Many people know a small part of the walk-off story because of the song From Little Things, Big Things Grow about 200 stockmen, house servants and their families who walked off Wave Hill Station on 23 August 1966, in protest at appalling pay and living conditions. But what is not widely known is that the walk-off followed more than 80 years of massacres and killings, stolen children and other abuses by early colonists.

You can read more about the Wave Hill Walk-Off and the transfer of leasehold title to the Gurindji on the National Archives of Australia website here.

Prime Minister Whitlam pouring a handful of earth back into the hand of Gurindji elder and traditional landowner Vincent Lingiari – marking the return of his people’s is traditional lands. Photo: Mervyn Bishop. Image source: Head On Foundation.

$3m to address family violence in Alice Springs

Foot patrols and women’s support services will be among programs funded under a Federal Government deal to address high family and domestic violence rates in Alice Springs. Announced on Wednesday, the $3 million injection of funding to address domestic and family violence hopes to address disproportionately high levels of abuse across the NT. Among organisations to receive funding is the Tangentyere Council Aboriginal Corporation, which will expand patrol activities and increase support services through its Women’s Family Safety Group.

“One woman dies every ten days at the hands of her former or current partner in Australia. This is unacceptable,” Federal Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said. “We know Indigenous women are more likely to experience family and domestic violence – more than 34 times likely. We’re committed as a whole-of-government to reducing this scourge.” The provisions intend to expand the reach of local services, support victims and increase work to prevent reoffending in central Australia. Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjara Women’s Council Aboriginal Corporation will similarly expand its rollout of women’s support services.

Federal Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney self-determination played a key role in addressing domestic violence “As well as intervention and responding to incidents, (the funding) will empower leaders in the community to address some of the underlying factors that lead to violence and unlawful behaviour, and support women to take a leading role in keeping the community safe,” she said.

To read the National Indigenous Times article Federal cash injection for street patrols, safety services to tackle Alice Springs domestic violence in full click here.

Alice Springs. Photo: Neda Vanovac. Image source: ABC News.

Is vaping a threat to public health?

With their alluring scent and brightly coloured packaging e-cigarettes or vapes have become increasingly popular with young people but their addictive nature and a lack of understanding about what’s really in them continues to spark concern. Megan Varlow, Director Cancer Control Policy at Cancer Council Australia, says e-cigarettes are deliberately made in a way that is attractive, marketed and made in flavours and designs that are interesting and engaging for younger people.

Research show the vast majority of Australians are supportive of action to better regulate the usage of e-cigarettes. Unlawful over the counter availability is threatening to undo decades of public health success in Australia. You can listen to the SBS News – News in Depth podcast Is vaping a threat to public health? in full here.

Image source: News Medical Life Sciences.

Pharmacist of the Year takes on UTS role

Along with winning Pharmacist of the Year at PSA’s Excellence Awards, Faye McMillan MPS was recently appointed Professor of Indigenous Health at Sydney’s University of Technology (UTS). But growing up in remote NSW, Wiradjuri woman Associate Professor Faye McMillan AM MPS never expected a career in pharmacy – let alone becoming the first Aboriginal registered pharmacist. Working as a pharmacy assistant in the local pharmacy in Trangie, about 75 kms from Dubbo in central west NSW, Faye McMillan enjoyed interacting with the local community. ‘People would come in just to talk about how their day was going or if something significant had happened in the town,’ she says. ‘It really was such a wonderful place to be.’

Encouraged by the pharmacist she worked with, A/Prof McMillan became a dispensary technician before deciding to study pharmacy as a mature-aged student at 27.  After graduating in 2001, A/Prof McMillan did her intern year at a community pharmacy in Wagga Wagga. She became fully registered in 2002, unknowingly becoming the first Aboriginal person in Australia to do so. ‘For me personally, I didn’t think about it … But when it was pointed out to me, I felt a sense of obligation as part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to take it on,’ she says.

To read the Australian Pharmacist article New beginnings for PSA’s Pharmacist of the Year in full click here.

Pharmacist of the Year Associate Professor Faye McMillan MPS. Image source: Australian Pharmacist.

Final chance to win $350 voucher

Australian Indigenous HealthINfoNet is conducting an online survey designed to gather feedback from users of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet as part of its continual improvement. The survey will take about 5-10 minutes to complete. Survey responses will remain anonymous. Choosing to answer the survey questions indicates your informed consent to participate. You can stop the survey at any time by closing the computer window in which the survey appears.

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

For your final chance to win a $350 Coles-Myer voucher, take the HealthInfoNet’s 2022 User Survey by the end of this week. The survey is open until 11.59pm (AWST) Sunday 21 August 2022.

Click here to start the survey.

Extent of WA homelessness revealed

New data shows Aboriginal people remain radically over-represented in WA’s homeless population. The figures also show a sharp rise in the number of people using government-funded homelessness services in the state, particularly in the north. Compiled by the University of WA Centre for Social Impact, the Ending Homelessness in WA 2022 report provides an overview of homelessness in WA, a decade of data held by community agencies, and studies of the initiatives and programs aimed at ending homelessness in the state.

Centre director Paul Flatau said the data showed a significant over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in WA’s homeless population. “While making up only 3.1% of the general population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders form 29.1% of the homeless population in the Census,” he said. “Aboriginal people make up an even higher proportion of those receiving support form homeless services. The population of people experiencing homelessness in WA is characterised by an over-representation of Aboriginal people who have experienced family or domestic violence, people with mental health issues, young people, and people with substance use issues.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article New report reveals extent of Indigenous WA homelessness crisis in full click here.

The Fremantle Homeless camp is providing a sense of community and security. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

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: 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.