NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: SA first state to establish Voice to Parliament

crowd with Aboriginal flags at announcement of SA Indigenous Voice to Parliament

The image in the feature tile is taken from an article South Australia becomes the first state to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament published in the National Indigenous Times on 26 March 2023. Photo: Matt Turner (AAP).

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

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

SA first state to establish Voice to Parliament

SA has become the first Australian jurisdiction to establish an Indigenous Voice to parliament, with premier Peter Malinauskas declaring it a “momentous” event. The SA government’s legislation passed the House of Assembly and was immediately given assent by Governor Frances Adamson in a public ceremony before a large crowd who had gathered to witness the event outside parliament house in Adelaide on Sunday.

Premier Peter Malinauskas said that “…the way we pay our respects…is not with our words, but in our deeds. And there are no more powerful deeds than SA becoming the first place in our nation to pass a law enshrining an Indigenous voice to our parliament.” The premier also lamented that while “almost all of us” had experienced Australian prosperity, the Bill marked just one a step towards addressing the gross inequalities faced by First Nations people.

“It is an even more remarkable Australian tragedy, that the one group of people that have been left most behind for the last 200 years, are the very people, who for over 65,000 years have provided great care and custodianship to the land we stand on today,” he said. He later wrote on social media: “Put simply, our First Nations people deserve the right to have a say on the issues that affect their lives. They will now have the opportunity to speak directly to decision makers at the highest levels of in this State.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article South Australia becomes the first state to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in full click here.

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas addressing crowd at lectern after the establishment of SA's Voice to Parliament

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas speaks after the establishment of SA’s Voice to Parliament. Photo: Matt Turner (AAP). Image source: National Indigenous Times.

CAAC supports vision loss prevention resources

Anmatyerre artist Curtis Haines sees a lack of hope in his community among people who have low vision or are blind. “I feel bad because I can see,” he said. “I want others to see too, what I see.” Indigenous Australians suffer from low vision or blindness at three times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. Now, Haines is part of a collaboration between Vision Australia and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) to create artwork and help close the gap.

Ellie Hudson is a vision loss specialist with Vision Australia, working with Congress, which is based in Alice Springs. She said the artworks were an important way of reducing the stigma around poor vision in First Nations people. “People don’t talk up much about eyes,” Ms Hudson said. “We want to say it’s alright, you can talk about it, and you can get help.”

The artworks will feature information on how to maintain eye health, as well as steps to seek help and receive treatment. They will also feature images showcasing connection to country, like hunting and connecting with family — aimed at demonstrating what can still be done if vision loss is prevented, or when treatment is completed.

To view the ABC News story Alice Springs Aboriginal artist develops health promotion material for vision loss prevention in full click here.

Ellie Hudson & Curtis Haines, Vision Australia

Ellie Hudson and Curtis Haines. Photo: Lara Stimpson, ABC Alice Springs.

AMA: ‘crumbling’ health system needs urgent funding

Expectations are growing that the upcoming May federal budget will be a ‘health budget’ after a slew of reports indicating that the Australian health system is “crumbling beyond repair”. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Professor Steve Robson, said the health system requires urgent funding now after being in crisis for years, with cracks starting to show even before the pandemic.

He released AMA’s analysis, delivered in a report Australian Public Hospitals in Logjam, that reveals only three of the 201 Australian public hospitals analysed are delivering care within recommended timeframes. The AMA’s report is not the only one to highlight the dire state of the public health system. Also in February, were two reports: one from the Health Services Union (HSU) by Impact Economics and Policy on the NSW health system, entitled Reform Critical – A Fragmented Health System at Breaking Point; the other from independent public policy think-tank The Grattan Institute.

The HSU report called for a Royal Commission into NSW state’s “chronic misallocation of resources and warped priorities” around health. The Grattan Institute report meanwhile indicated that Australia was “sleepwalking into a sicker future that will condemn millions of Australians to avoidable disease and disability”.

To read the mivision The Ophthalmic Journal article Eyes on Federal Budget to Address ‘Crumbling’ Health System in full click here.

bandaid over cracks in concrete wall / path

Image source: mivision The Ophthalmic Journal.

Mob drastically overrepresented in homeless deaths

New research presented at an inquiry into homelessness services has revealed at least 107 homeless or recently homeless people died in Perth in 2022, with 31% of those who died being Aboriginal people. The people were homeless at the time of their deaths or had recently experienced homelessness. The average age of death was 50 years.

The inquiry also heard that well over half of the public housing tenancies terminated in “no grounds evictions” last year were Aboriginal families. House the Homeless WA campaigners Dr Betsy Buchanan OAM and Jesse Noakes gave evidence at the WA Parliamentary Inquiry into the Financial Administration of Homelessness Services explaining how WA housing policy continues “to trap Aboriginal people in the system and makes Closing the Gap impossible”.

House the Homeless WA presented to the inquiry previously unreported data showing the WA housing crisis has “dramatically worsened” in recent years, and unfairly impacts Aboriginal families at “wildly disproportionate rates”; including that more than 50% of all public housing evictions in WA every year under the McGowan government having been Aboriginal tenancies.

To read the National Indigenous Times article Research reveals Indigenous people drastically overrepresented in Perth homeless deaths and evictions in full click here.

homeless person lying on pavement Perth CBD

Homeless person in the Perth CBD. Photo: Graeme Powell, ABC News.

Inaugural Pilbara Aboriginal Health Alliance newsletter

Pilbara Aboriginal Health Alliance (PAHA) Chair, Richard Ansey, says he is proud to introduce readers to the Inaugural Newsletter for PAHA. Mr Ansey goes on to explain the PAHA is a partnership between the three ACCHOs based in the Pilbara, Mawarnkarra Health Service, Wirraka Maya Health Service and Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service, with the purpose of the PAHA being is to provide strong advocacy and support to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait people, families and communities in the Pilbara Region.

Mr Ansey said the Boards and CEOs of the three ACCHOs have worked closely together over the past few years to secure funding to see their vision become a reality and today the PAHA is an established organisation working at a regional, state and federal level.

The newsletter includes:

  • Chair Report – Richard Ansey
  • CEO Report – Chris Pickett
  • Good News – Culture Care Connect program
  • Member Highlights
  • Prime Minister’s visit to Hedland
  • Global Health Challenge

You can view the APHA Newsletter Issue #01 March 2023 by clicking on this link.

L–R: Robby Chibawe CEO PAMS, Joan Hicks CEO MHS, June Councillor WMHSAC, Minister Mark Butler, Chris Pickett CEO PAHA

L–R: Robby Chibawe CEO PAMS, Joan Hicks CEO MHS, June Councillor WMHSAC, Minister Mark Butler, Chris Pickett CEO PAHA. Image source: PAHA Newsletter Issue #1 March 2023.

Alternative to Custody Program sets women on better path

Selina Newcastle knows what captivity feels, smells and sounds like — what an unairconditioned cell in the Central Australian desert does to a person. Taking in a deep breath of air, the 47-year-old Warlpiri woman and ex-prisoner said: “Freedom, it opens your eyes”. Ms Newcastle shared her story to a crowd of legal experts, politicians and government officials at the launch of the Smarter Justice campaign on Monday this week.

After participating in a six-month Alice Springs based diversion program in 2022, Ms Newcastle is now showing the Territory’s leaders what a new approach to crime can look like. Ms Newcastle is one of 20 women who have completed the Mparntwe/Alice Springs Alternative to Custody Program over the past two years.

“I needed some help because I didn’t want to go back to drinking alcohol again,” she said. “I got so much support when I was there. I could talk to them about my problems and share stories, and I learned how to manage myself and look after myself better. I want to get a job now and keep busy. I feel like I have a second chance at life.”

The above has been extracted from The Weekly Times article Mparntwe, Alice Springs Alternative to Custody Program setting women on better path. You can find out more information about the Alternative to Custody Program here.

Warlpiri woman Selina Newcastle took part in the Mparntwe/Alice Springs Alternative to Custody (ATC) Program

Warlpiri woman Selina Newcastle took part in the Mparntwe/Alice Springs Alternative to Custody (ATC) Program in 2022. Photo: Sierra Haigh. Image source: The Weekly Times.

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AI helps detect heart disease in remote Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing health gap needs more than booze, crime control

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

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

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

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

Dr Simon Quilty checking female ATSI women with stethoscope

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

Community Hubs based on ACCHO model

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia website.

New oral health education resources for mob

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

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

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

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

Medicare cards coming soon to the myGov app

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scanning QR codes

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

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

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

hand holding mobile phone with Australian Government myGovID

Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

‘Harmony Day’ obscures need for systemic change

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

Dietitians Week 20–26 March 2023

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

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

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

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

Image source: IAHA website.

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

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

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

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

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

CoP urges further reforms in response to CTG data

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: Australian Government Productivity Commission website.

Dr Karen Nicholls on the journey towards equality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lowitja O’Donoghue Foundation Nursing Scholarships open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Tom Marwick & vector image of heart

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

Program aims to help women regain long-term stability

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

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

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

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

Wayside healthcare director Lilon Bandler

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

Wide-ranging inequities affect women’s health

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

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

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

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

Baggarrook Yurrongi program participant - ATSI mum & bub

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: PHC investment needed for people living in poverty


elderly ATSI woman sitting head in hands, black dog, One Mile Dam community camp near Darwin

The image in the feature tile is on an Aboriginal woman at One Mile Dam, an Aboriginal community camp close to Darwin, where Indigenous people live in extreme poverty. Photo: Jonny Weeks, The Guardian.

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

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

PHC investment needed to help people living in poverty 

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called on government to help GPs get on with the job of caring for people experiencing poverty. It comes following the RACGP’s submission to the Senate Community Affair’s inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia. RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said that the solutions to poverty must include general practice care. “A key part of tackling poverty is improving the health of people living in poverty,” she said.

“If people are experiencing poor health, it makes it harder to work, and to care for themselves and their family. There are concrete steps government can take to help patients experiencing poverty get the right kind of care when they need it. Longer consultations with a GP are crucial for many people experiencing poverty when you consider that these patients are more likely to present with poorly managed chronic conditions and increased rates of mental health issues. GPs also spend lots of time helping out with complex paperwork for agencies including Centrelink, the NDIS and state housing, just to name a few.”

“The solution is boosting investment in general practice care. That way, we can put primary care on a more sustainable, long-term financial footing and ensure that no patients anywhere are left behind. If patients living in poverty can access care from their GP when they need it, they are far less likely to end up in a hospital bed with a condition that could – and should – have been managed in general practice. Even aside from the consequences of enabling people to work, care for their families and live their lives to the fullest extent possible, it just makes sense economically. To take one example, every dollar invested in primary health care in a remote Indigenous community results in savings in hospital care from $4 to $12.

To view the RACGP media release RACGP: Help GPs and practice teams care for people experiencing poverty in full click here.
outside view of Utju Clinic (Areyonga), Central Australia, NT

Utju (Areyonga) Clinic, Central Australia, NT. Image source: Flinders University website.

New my health app is live

As of today the my health app is live and available to download. my health is a secure and convenient way for Australians to view key health information that a consumer or healthcare provider has uploaded to an individual’s My Health Record. You can:

  • visit the Digital Health website here to learn more, and
  • download the app from the Apple App Store here and the Google Play Store here or search “my health gov” in your relevant store.

Please spread the word!

To help with the launch of the my health app, the Australian Digital Health Agency has created a range of promotional collateral that can be used on your channels. Refer to their Communications Overview for Partners here which contains key messages and an overview of how you can use these assets.

If a consumer or healthcare provider needs assistance, they can call the Help line on 1800 723 471 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week).

Shining a light on an invisible disability

Indigenous health experts are eager to shine a light on an “invisible disability” impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The new campaign Strong Born aims to raise awareness of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and the dangers of drinking while pregnant or breastfeeding. The program, being run by NACCHO, builds on the research done for the Lililwan (little ones in Kimberley Kriol) Project, led by the Aboriginal community of Fitzroy Crossing in WA, in partnership with Sydney University and George Institute for Global Health.

Chief executive of the Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre Emily Carter, a Gooniyandi and Kija woman who was part of the Lililwan Project, said from the beginning of the study in 2010, community had been at the centre. “For a long, long time there, this was seen as an Aboriginal problem,” she said. “But it was Aboriginal people, Aboriginal women as strong women, that brought it out to the wider consciousness of Australian society. “It was because of our grandmothers at that time were saying to us that their grandchildren’s behaviours were so different to their children growing up and they didn’t know why.”

Malarndirri McCarthy, the assistant minister for Indigenous health, said foetal alcohol spectrum disorder was not confined to any one community. “FASD is often referred to as the invisible disability but as far as many families and communities are concerned, it’s a very visible part of daily life,” she said. “It is a disorder that crosses socio-economic, racial and educational boundaries.”

To view the Perth Now article No blame and no shame: Focus on foetal alcohol syndrome in full click here.

Strong Born poster Aboriginal family with baby girl, grandmother, text 'pregnancy and grog don't mix, Our mob, strong babies, strong futures, NACCHO logo

Strong Born poster. Image source: NACCHO website.

NACCHO Chair addresses First Nations Conference

The aim of the Australia and NZ School of Government (ANZSOG) is to build public service capability in First Nations Public Administration, and ensuring public services are culturally competent. Public servants working in all areas of public administration must change their thinking and upskill, in order to engage successfully with First Nations peoples for improved outcomes. Part of this work is ANZSOC’s regular First Nations public administration conferences which bring together public servants, academics and not-for-profit community leaders to engage with First Nations speakers and listen to their views. These events deepen public sector understanding of the value of First Nations knowledges and cultures, and their importance to public policy

This year’s ANZSOG conference First Peoples to All Peoples: partnerships, devolution, transformation and sharing is being held in Brisbane from 1–3 March. The conference will examine First Nations policy through the lenses of Australia’s National Agreement on Closing the Gap commitments, particularly the four Priority Reforms, as well as the NZ Public Service Act 2020, which now clearly sets out the responsibility of the public service, particularly its leadership, in supporting the Crown’s relationship with Māori under the Treaty of Waitangi.

The title of Day two: session one held earlier this morning was Building the Community-Controlled Sector. At the opening plenary session NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills was one of three speakers addressing the question How do governments devolve responsibility for service delivery to First Peoples?

For more information about the conference, including details of the key speakers you can visit ANZSOG’s webpage 2023 First Nations Public Administration Conference: First Peoples to All Peoples – Partnerships, devolution, transformation and sharing webpage here.

tile for 2023 First Nations Public Administration Conference First Peoples to All Peoples: Partnerships, devolution, transformation and sharing - Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre 1-3 March; portrait of Donnella Mills, NACCHO Chair

Promotion tile for 2023 First Nations Public Administration Conference, ANZSOC website and NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills – image source: Wuchopperen Health Service website.

Pat Anderson – NT women’s leadership award winner

Pat Anderson AO, chair of Batchelor Institute, was announced yesterday as the 2023 NT Award recipient of the Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership. The prestigious award celebrates “exceptional Australian women who encourage change and make important contributions to advancing equity across all facets of our society”.

Ms Anderson, a proud Alyawarre woman known nationally and internationally as a powerful advocate for the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, will accept her award at the online Australian Women’s Leadership Symposium on 1 September. “It’s an honour to receive this award, I’d like to thank everyone who nominated me. I’d also like to thank everyone who has supported my work at The Lowitja Institute and Batchelor Institute over the years – and more recently with The Uluru Dialogues. There are so many women out there from different backgrounds doing incredible work, it’s hard not to feel energised and hopeful about the future,” she said.

The Award organisers said Ms Anderson’s work in advocacy for Indigenous rights and health “has had profound impacts on Australia and will continue to do so in years to come”. Women & Leadership Australia chief executive Karen Taylor noted that Ms Anderson has received numerous accolades “for her inspiring work as a human rights advocate”. “Ms Anderson is a role model, not only for Alyawarre women but for women across the nation, as she tirelessly campaigns for improved health, educational, and protection outcomes for First Nations people. We hope to shed light on her integral work in building a better future for First Nations as an advisor to the government on the path to a referendum on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Pat Anderson AO honoured with Excellence in Women’s Leadership award in full click here.

Pat Anderson AO standing at a podium

Pat Anderson AO. Image source: UNSW Sydney Centre for Ideas webpage.

Life-course approach to Aboriginal ageing

While we know that our population is ageing rapidly on a national and global scale, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations are in fact ageing at a faster rate than our non-Indigenous population. Aboriginal Australians also record high mid-life rates of multiple chronic diseases including heart disease and stroke, lung disease and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, for example, is more than twice as common in the Indigenous population than the non-Indigenous population. There remains a life expectancy gap of approximately ten years between the Aboriginal population and the non-Indigenous population.

Research conducted by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) is centred on partnering with communities to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Australians and find better ways to support their cognitive health as they age. An important part of this work involves finding better ways for Aboriginal communities to gain access to the health services they need as well as suggesting positive changes to services dedicated to improving Aboriginal health, especially in older populations.

Researchers at NeuRA have found that dementia prevalence is three to four times higher in Aboriginal people compared to estimates for the general Australian population. This disparity in dementia rates is consistent across remote, regional and urban communities. By liaising with Aboriginal communities and representatives, we have identified that there is great interest amongst Aboriginal people to understand the scope of age-related diseases like dementia in their communities.

For more information visit NeuRA webpage Aboriginal Ageing here.

Aboriginal female Elder & Aboriginal male Elder

Image source: NeuRA webpage Sharing the Wisdom of our Elders.

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: Pharmacist Scholarship Applications Open

Feature tile - NACCHO ATSI Pharmacist Scholarship applications open

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

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

Pharmacist Scholarship Applications Open

NACCHO is excited to announce that applications are open for the 2nd year of the NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship* which provides subsidy and support for prospective or current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy students.  


Each recipient will receive up to $10,000 per annum to contribute to university expenses. The scholarship also offers support and mentorship from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals and organisations to ensure ongoing integration and connection with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health sector.  


The scholarship program aims to build the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacist workforce and to raise the profile of the beneficial role that pharmacy and pharmacists can play in supporting appropriate and culturally safe care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  


For more information about the scholarship and how to apply, click here.


You can also contact Mike Stephens on 0408 278 204 or via email using this link.NACCHO ATSI pharmacist scholarship applications open tile

Scholarship opens door for speech pathology career

The art of being committed to your work at Victoria’s largest public health service while being a prominent advocate for First Nations wellbeing is all in a day’s work for CQ University alumnus Hannah Thompson. A proud Kara Kara woman from the Central Highlands, Hannah is an active member of five different Speech Pathology Australia groups and advisory committees, where she provides input on how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture relates to the organisation’s competency standards.

Ms Thompson received a BMA Indigenous Scholarship during her studies which she notes helped her embrace new career opportunities. “My goal is to combine my passion in speech pathology with my desire to help close the gap between First Nations and non-First Nations Australians in the healthcare and education sectors,” Ms Thompson said. “The experiences I had at CQ University, my BMA scholarship, and the connections I made throughout my studies opened doors for me post graduation.”

Upon graduating in 2018, Ms Thompson was employed at a Central Queensland therapy clinic before accepting an early career speech pathologist position in the public sector. “My current role has certainly changed my perspective of working in public healthcare,” she said. “Every day has its own challenges, especially being the primary speech pathologist on the COVID ward during the peak of the pandemic, however, the team around me are very supportive and uplifting. In the public space, you work alongside incredible people and learn so much on the job.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Scholarship put young Kara Kara woman on the path to speech pathology career in full click here.

CQ Uni alumnus Hannah Thompson standing in front of Aboriginal and TSI flags

CQ University alumnus Hannah Thompson. Image source: National Indigenous Times – 18 February 2023.

Celebrating WorldPride with WSLHD’s Darren Lee

Just six weeks into his new role at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD), Darren Lee already has a deep connection with the local community at Mount Druitt Hospital. Despite living in Darwin for over a decade, Darren has returned home. “I am born and bred in this area – all my family are here, I was born in Blacktown Hospital and went to the school just down the road; Plumpton High School, so it’s all really familiar to me,” he said. “This community is my home. I went to school here, my friends are now teachers here, I’ve got four or five friends who are now nurses and staff at Mount Druitt Hospital. It’s home. I’ve worked in other districts and I called Darwin home for 13 years but this is my home.”

Darren is an Aboriginal Sexual Health Promotion Officer at the WSLHD Aboriginal Health Hub, located at Mount Druitt Hospital. In the days leading up to Sydney WorldPride, and as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, Darren is urging his mob to have a great time during WorldPride, but to prioritise their health by getting tested and partying safely. “Gay, straight, green or blue, we all like to have sex. Our job is to remind people to do it safely.

“Being an Aboriginal Health Promotion Officer, it’s about promoting to my mob who we are, where we are and what our services do, and to normalise it. If you’re going for your annual health check for your blood sugar levels, what’s wrong with peeing in a cup or doing a swab or taking a blood test to check your full health. It’s about not stereotyping or stigmatising people for what they do in their personal lives. As an Aboriginal man and a gay man myself, I’m proud of both of those things completely equally.”

To view The Pulse article in full click here.

Long COVID causing job losses and homelessness

The federal government is developing a national Long COVID strategy, with a parliamentary inquiry hearing the condition has resulted in job losses and homelessness among some sufferers. The chief medical officer, Professor Paul Kelly, said the federal health department had been tasked with developing a national Long COVID strategy that would cover prevention, immunisation, treatment and research into the condition.

“That is well under way,” Kelly said at a public hearing on Friday, although he went on to say the strategy would probably not be finalised until after the health department had received advice following the parliamentary inquiry into Long COVID and repeated COVID-19 infections. Speaking at the inquiry’s third public hearing on Friday, Labor MP Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah said, “I think we’re going to probably land on a recommendation that we obviously need national guidelines … and perhaps living guidelines that keep evolving as the data keeps coming in.”

A lack of data about Long COVID in Australia was repeatedly raised as a concern during the hearing. Dr Jason Agostino, a senior medical adviser at NACCHO, told the inquiry that there was “no clear evidence on Long COVID cases among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – most jurisdictions have not shared data on presentations to their LONG COVID clinics by Indigenous status”.

To view The Guardian article Long COVID causing job losses and homelessness in Australia, inquiry hears in full click here.

4 COVID-19 Antigen test results - 2 negative 2 positive

Australian affected by long Covid told the parliamentary inquiry about months-long wait times to see specialists. Photo: Amer Ghazzal, Rex, Shutterstock. Image source: The Guardian – 17 February 2023.

Virtual reality part of mental health trial

Young people in the NT are stepping into the world of virtual reality (VR) as part of a new trial aimed at breaking down the barriers to mental health care. VR mental health sessions have started being trialled in parts of the NT’s Top End region, as part of a project from the NT’s Menzies School of Health Research and Aboriginal VR developer Brett Leavy.

By gamifying programs to address youth mental illness, cognitive disabilities and neurodiversity, the team hopes the project will help tackle major obstacles to care in the territory such as issues with remoteness and staffing. Mr Leavy, a Kooma man, said the project particularly took a new approach to the mental health of young First Nations people by connecting them to their culture and country through VR.

“It’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s a new technology,” he said. “It’s a new technology for an ancient culture.” The NT has the highest rate of suicide in the country, with young people and First Nations people particularly at risk.

To view the ABC News article Children explore virtual reality as part of trial for new NT youth mental health project in full click here.

Aboriginal teenager at Darwin school using virtual reality

Darwin school students test virtual reality software designed to improve mental health. Photo: Peter Garnish, ABC News.

Alice Springs alcohol rehabs desperate for support

Jocelyn Dhu has seen more desperation than most while working on the frontlines of alcohol addiction in Alice Springs. The Eastern Arrernte woman has watched people from all walks of life come through her door. Some for the first time, others for the tenth, but all battling shame, stigma and a sense they are “too far gone”. But Ms Dhu knows that’s never the case. “You have to see the person,” she said. “When you look at an individual, and you see their stories, and why alcohol or drugs became a problem for them — that’s what you need to fix.”

Alice Springs has attracted frenzied national attention in recent weeks amid a crime crisis. Liquor has been recognised as a major driver behind issues in the town. However, the NT’s peak drug and alcohol body said frontline addiction services had been chronically neglected by all levels of government.

Drug and Alcohol Services Australia, where Ms Dhu works as deputy chief executive, is just one Alice Springs service calling for help. It recently had to clear clients out of its ageing residential rehabilitation facility, Aranda House, because of a cockroach and bed bug infestation. Ms Dhu said it had sparked a waitlist of about 20 people. “I think the biggest issue is people’s level of motivation to change,” she said. “They might want to come in now, but having to wait, they change their mind and go, ‘Oh, no, I’m OK’.”

To view the ABC News article Alice Springs alcohol rehabs call desperately for support as liquor bans reinstated in full click here.

portrait shot of Jocelyn Dhu, Eastern Arrernte woman

Jocelyn Dhu says people can struggle with alcoholism for a wide range of reasons.Photo: Xavier Martin, ABC Alice Springs.

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

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

NACCHO CEO reflects on successful conference

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

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

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

Housing shortage potentially “life-threatening”

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

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

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

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

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

RHD landmark study makes inroads

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

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

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

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

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

Improving health for people with intellectual disability

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

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

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

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

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

Urapunga Store’s sugar cut success

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

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

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

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

Photo: Isabella Higgins, ABC News.

Sax Institute, a community-led research pioneer

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: Sax Institute website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Children’s Week 2022

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

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

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

For more information about Children’s Week click here.

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 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 ( 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.


Dads can join up online at – 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.