NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Landmark mental health report welcomed

silhouette of hand holding white sketch of brain against landscape with sunset

Landmark mental health report welcomed

Beyond Blue today welcomed the release by the Prime Minister of the Final Report of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health and the National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s Interim Advice. Beyond Blue Chair the Hon Julia Gillard AC said: “These are seminal reports that will shape the future of the mental health and suicide prevention systems in this country. Importantly, they put people at the centre of what we hope will be landmark reforms. Beyond Blue looks forward to working with governments, sector colleagues and, crucially, people affected by mental health issues and suicide, to remake these systems so they provide the right support at the right time for all people in Australia.”

The country’s leading provider of suicide prevention training says the release of the Productivity Commission’s Report into Mental Health is a reminder that co-ordination is a key to saving many more Australian lives. LivingWorks Australia CEO Shayne Connell said the Commission’s call for structural changes to the delivery of suicide intervention deserved widespread acceptance by the sector. “We echo the call for a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention across different levels of government and portfolios,” Mr Connell said. “We continue to work with primary health networks supporting communities, priority populations, first responders, workplaces, financial touchpoints, veterans , health staff and in schools.”

Mental Health Australia has today welcomed the release of the Final Report from the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health, and the interim report from the National Suicide Prevention Adviser, and sees the government response to these reports as a crucial next step in the future of mental health reform and service delivery in Australia. Mental Health Australia CEO Dr Leanne Beagley said the Final Report from the Productivity Commission is a culmination of nearly two years of extensive consultation and consideration, and could not come at a more important and critical time. “Today’s release of the Final Report from the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health is a moment many of us have been waiting for. This is not just a vital report for our mental health sector, but for every Australian,” said Dr Beagley.

To access the Productivity Commission’s report click here, and click on the following organisation names to view their media releases: Beyond Blue, LivingWorks, Mental Health Australia, Carers Australia,     

COVID-19 sparks plague of health care ideas

Australians’ experience with COVID-19 has stimulated more active consumer and community involvement in health care decision-making, the Consumer Health Forum (CHF) says.

Authors writing in CHF’s ejournal, Health Voices, have reported on a range of developments spurred by COVID where consumers are having an influence. A standout has been Health Consumers Queensland which during COVID has formed working links with the State’s Health Department to develop consumer-effective policies, promoting online engagement with consumers to alert government on a range of areas including delayed access to health care, advice on testing and face masks.

The CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said a feature of the many of the 20 articles in this edition was the diversity of ways in which COVID had generated changes in thinking and services to meet the crisis. “The rush of the authorities to respond in the early stages of COVID-19 meant the value of consumer and community knowledge was often overlooked,” Ms Wells said. “But what followed that initial response was a greater realisation of the importance of community and consumer input in shaping more thoughtful and effective ways to counter COVID.

To view the CHF’s media release click here.

gloved hand holding COVID-19 test with blood vial in background

Image source: Community Care website.

Joint Council on CTG meets

Yesterday the Joint Council on Closing the Gap (CTG) convened for the first time since the historic National Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect on 27 July 2020 with a review of the parties collective responsibilities for the implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Patricia Turner AM, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and Joint Council Co-Chair said the meeting focussed on making sure strong partnerships are being established and strengthened to support the implementation of the National Agreement in each state and territory. Pat Turner said “The National Agreement commits governments to a new way of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, based on negotiation and shared decision-making, to address the inequality too many of our people still face.”

Consistent with the National Agreement, funding will initially be invested in the early childhood care and development, housing, health and disability sectors, with the Joint Council on CTG agreeing yesterday to investment in community-controlled early childhood and housing.

To view the Joint Council on CTG communique click here and read the NACCHO and Coalition of Peaks joint media release click here.tiles: Housing to Close the Gap! and Looking after our kids to Close the Gap with cartoon characters of two carpenters and two children with building blocks

WHO strategy to eliminate cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is one cancer the world can actually eliminate: it’s time to do it. The world already has the necessary tools; they just need to be made accessible. Following a Call to Action in May 2018 from the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros, 194 countries collectively resolved to end needless suffering from a cancer that is both preventable and curable.

In August 2020, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution calling for the elimination of cervical cancer and adopting a strategy to make it happen. It is a testament to the enthusiasm for this important goal that, even in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world have affirmed their support for this important priority. On 17 November, following the close of the 73rd World Health Assembly, WHO officially launched its cervical cancer elimination strategy.

While elimination is possible, we still need concerted efforts to address persistent inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Compared to non-Indigenous women, Indigenous women are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and are 3.8 times more likely to die of cervical cancer.

To view further details about the launch of the WHO’s Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical click here.

vector image of microscope over female reproductive organs

Image source: MedPage Today website.

Kamilaroi woman wins highest honour

A world-leading researcher and advocate for Indigenous health was among the University of Newcastle the 2020 University of Newcastle Alumni Excellence recipients. The Awards recognise innovation, creativity, and the exceptional leadership of alumni who have inspired others through their local, national and international achievements.

Professor Gail Garvey was awarded the Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence, the highest honour of the University of Newcastle’s Alumni Awards. A proud Kamilaroi woman, Professor Garvey is Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Menzies School of Health and Deputy Division Leader for the Wellbeing and Preventable Chronic Diseases Division.

Professor Garvey’s research career has focused on investigating cancer experiences and outcomes of Indigenous Australians. She has publicly advocated for better prevention and treatment of cancer in remote areas in Australia. Her work in cancer has illuminated critical shortcomings in health system performance for Indigenous Australians affected by cancer and has identified pathways to improve equity of access and outcomes.

To view the University of Newcastle’s article click here.

portrait image of Professor Gail Garvey

Professor Gail Garvey. Image source: Charles Darwin University Australia website.

Be You mental health education program extended

Be You – the national mental health in education initiative – will continue for two more years. Developed by Beyond Blue and delivered in partnership with Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and headspace, Be You provides every Australian educator with free online training, practical resources and guidance so they can confidently support the mental health of children and young people and look after their own mental health and wellbeing. In addition, early learning services and schools are supported by expert staff to implement and tailor Be You to match the specific needs of their learning community. Almost 11,000 schools and early learning services have adopted Be You since its launch in November 2018 – 70% of all Australian schools and a quarter of all early learning services. Educators have turned to Be You in record numbers in 2020.

ECA has welcomed this extension of Be You for another two years.  General Manager of the ECA Be You initiative, Judy Kynaston says ‘the extension will allow Be You to increase the number of participating early learning services and develop the capacity of educators to build foundations of lifelong mental health and wellbeing in children and young people.’

To view the Beyond Blue media release click here and ECA’s media release click here.be you and Beyond Blue logos

Australian Institute of Infectious Disease to be established

An Australian Institute for Infectious Disease in the heart of Melbourne’s renowned Parkville biomedical precinct to lead the fight against future pandemics. “The Victorian Budget 2020/21 will include an investment of $155 million towards the $550 million institute, with the University of Melbourne and its partners contributing a further $150 million and the remaining funds to be sought from the Commonwealth Government. Our contribution includes an immediate allocation of $5 million to complete a business case for the facility, which will combine the strengths of some of the world’s leading research institutes. The business case is due for completion in mid-2021 and construction of the Institute would create 350 jobs. Once operational, the Institute will provide a massive boost to the biomedical sector and could support up to 5,000 jobs, including up to 850 jobs at the Institute itself.”

The Victorian Chapter of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (VicAAMRI) applauds Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ announcement today of a $155 million investment to establish the new Australian Institutes for Infectious Diseases and Global Health. This significant investment will build on Victoria’s place as a world leader in medical research, while creating new high-skilled jobs and economic opportunities for Victorians. “The Victorian Government has a long history of investing in medical research, and that support is a key reason that our medical research sector is the world leader that it is today,” said Professor Brendan Crabb AC, Chair of VicAAMRI and Director and CEO of the Burnet Institute.

To view the Victorian Government’s media release click here. and to view VicAAMRI’s media release click here.

two gowned masked researchers in a laboratory one looking through a microscope

Image source: Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Little support for GP role in mental health care

A proposal to scrap GP mental health treatment plans and replace them with an online assessment tool would undermine the holistic approach needed to care for patients with mental health concerns, according to AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid. The proposal is among the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s long-awaited Mental Health Inquiry Report, which calls for a $2.6 billion overhaul of the system, estimating the total cost of poor mental health and suicide to be as much as $70 billion per year.

Dr Khorshid said the report recognises the crucial role that GPs play in delivering frontline mental health care, but then delivers proposals that result in diminished support for this role. “The AMA welcomes the report’s aspirations for a person-centred mental health care system, focusing on prevention and early help – both early in life and early in illness,” Dr Khorshid said. “But we cannot accept recommendations that take away support for GPs at a time when the burden of mental illness is growing.

“The report highlights the fact that GPs are the first port of call for Australians seeking mental health support, with one in five Australians having a mental health consultation with their GP every year, and a satisfaction rate of more than 80 per cent. “Yet it offers little in the way of extra support, other than the introduction of a Medicare item for GPs to get advice from a psychiatrist about a patient in their care. While this is sensible policy that recognises the expertise of psychiatrists and encourages collaboration, it falls short of the support GPs need.

“The report also proposes abolishing Medicare-funded GP mental health treatment plans, which are fundamental to providing well-coordinated care and engaging with a patient about their care needs.

To view the AMA’s media release click here.black and white image of a head bowed

Youth sexual health status revealed

The results are in for the latest Australia-wide sexual health survey of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The GOANNA Survey was led by SAHMRI researchers in partnership with Aboriginal community organizations and included more than 1,300 participants aged 16-29 from urban, regional and remote parts of mainland Australia. The survey focused on relationships, sexual behaviours, use of health services and knowledge about sexually transmissible infections (STIs), HIV and hepatitis C.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research leader, Professor James Ward of the University of Queensland (formerly of SAHMRI) led the GOANNA survey for the second time. Professor Ward said rates of STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis as well as HIV and hepatitis C, remain unacceptably high in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly in remote Australia. “These survey findings provide a snapshot on a range of factors that might contribute to risk for these infections” Professor Ward said.

To view the full article click here.

the Pill, the morning after pill, a condom, diaphram & IUD on blue surface

Image source: Medical Xpress.

Professor Kong receives prestigious award

Australia’s first Aboriginal surgeon, the highly acclaimed ear, nose and throat surgeon, Associate Professor Kelvin Kong has been awarded the prestigious Menzies Medallion. The medal recognises Associate Professor Kong’s leadership in Aboriginal health service delivery, advocacy and research, in particular his work to improve ear health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The Menzies Medallion is the highest award offered by Menzies School of Health Research, one of Australia’s leading medical research institutes dedicated to improving Indigenous, global and tropical health.

A proud Worimi man from Port Stephens, the breadth and depth of Associate Professor Kong’s work is far reaching and includes his role as chief investigator for the Menzies-led Centre for Research Excellence in Ear and Hearing Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children. Currently practising in Newcastle as a surgeon, he specialises in paediatric and adult otolaryngology, head and neck surgery (ear, nose and throat surgery), and lectures in allied health at the University.

To view the full article click here.

Professor Kelvin Kong receiving Menzies Medallion

Professor Kelvin Kong with Menzies Medallion. Image source: The University of Newcastle website.

Woorabinda optical care funding in doubt

For years Gunggari woman and Woorabinda resident Florence Brown saw the world as if she were looking through a foggy window. But her vision is now clearer and brighter after free cataract surgery. “Everything’s changed for me,” Ms Brown said. “Hopefully I won’t suffer anymore after this.”

Ms Brown is one of 40 people from across central Queensland who have undergone eye surgery through Queensland-based charity Doctors for All, which has been servicing the area over the last year. But there are fears for the program’s future as funding dries up.

To view the full article click here.

image of Florence Brown with eye patch sitting in passenger side of a car with red Aboriginal dot patterned shirt

Florence Brown. Image source: ABC News website.

Australia-wide remote locations – Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

2021 Census Operations Manager (Remote) Locations x 50

50 Census operations roles are available now across Australia for the 2021 Census. Census Operation teams will help ensure people in regional and remote areas in NSW, NT, SA, Queensland and WA are counted in the Census. Census Operations teams will be responsible for collecting Census data from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people living or working away from home. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people living in regional and remote areas such as pastoralists.

In this role, they won’t just be helping the Census to collect and make statistics. They will be helping to inform how Census data contributes to service delivery for your community. For example, Census data is used to understand housing needs and priorities to plan affordable and culturally appropriate community housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Census data also helps organisations, like the Bodhi Bus, provide affordable transport to remote communities allowing people to connect with family or local health clinics. The Wheatbelt Business Network uses Census data to help guide how they support women in rural business. These services help develop enterprise, support towns and contribute to the economic growth of the region.

To view the Census Operations Manager recruitment brochure click here; to view the list of remote locations click here and to access the applicant information kits and to apply click here.

Applications close Friday 27 November 2020.become an ABC Census Operations Manager Help tell your community's story 10-month contract $53.21 phr

feature tile text 'partnering withACCHOs key to tackling health disparity', painting of brick wall with Aboriginal flag overlaid with hand holding stethoscope for yellow centre of flag

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Partnering with ACCHOs key to tackling health disparity

feature tile text 'partnering withACCHOs key to tackling health disparity', painting of brick wall with Aboriginal flag overlaid with hand holding stethoscope for yellow centre of flag

Partnering with ACCHOs key to tackling health disparity

The Heart Foundation has welcomed a NSW Government announcement of a $7.4 million investment towards its Closing the Gap commitment. “Investing in and partnering with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, as well as enabling them to lead the way, is key to tackling the conditions of disadvantage that affect Indigenous Australians, such as housing and health,” said Heart Foundation Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly AM. “This commitment also recognises that community and Indigenous leadership is a pivotal step forward in Closing the Gap and ending rheumatic heart disease (RHD) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “The NSW Government’s expansion of the Aboriginal Community Controlled organisations in the key sectors of early childhood, housing, disability and health is a step closer to making sustainable change to close the gap.

To view the full article click here.

Weigelli Centre Aboriginal Corporation metal sign

Image source: Aboriginal Medical Research Council of NSW website.

Record high vaccination rates

More Australian families are vaccinating their children, with new figures showing four quarters of growth in all childhood coverage rates to September 2020, the highest on record. Each year, the Morrison Government invests more than $400 million in the National Immunisation Program to protect young and vulnerable Australians. The highest rates of vaccination are among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at five years, at more than 97%. The coverage rate for all five-year-olds continues to grow towards the aspirational 95% target. In the year to September 2020, it reached 94.9%. Among all two-year-old children, the coverage rate has risen to almost 92.4 per cent, which is the first time it has climbed above 92 per cent since 2014. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander two-year-old vaccination rate has also risen to almost 91.2 per cent in the current quarter.

To view the media release  click here.

NSW $7.4m for new National CTG Agreement

The NSW Government has announced funding of $7.4 million as a first step to begin state-based actions to support the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Don Harwin confirmed this new investment at the 400th meeting of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC), held at Broken Hill. “This investment demonstrates the NSW Government’s commitment to achieving a critical priority under the Closing the Gap National Agreement – strengthening the capacity of Aboriginal Community Controlled organisations,” Mr Harwin said.

To view the media release click here.

Closing the Gap banner Aboriginal art black and white hands thumbs interlocked

Image source: Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service.

Better hospital healthcare free webinar

Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association (AHHA), with support from HESTA, is presenting a free webinar on better healthcare in hospitals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during NAIDOC week. The webinar will cover the latest research from Australia and North America on how hospitals can deliver better care. Following the presentations a Q&A session will be facilitated by AHHA Strategic Programs Director. 

Webinar: Better healthcare in hospitals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Date:  0.30 am – 11.30 am Thursday 12 November 2020 (EDST).

To register for the free webinar click here.

female Aboriginal patient, Aboriginal support person and Aboriginal health worker in hospital room

Image source: Creative Spirits website.

Changing the future of heart health

Heart disease is one of Australia’s biggest health problems, representing one in four of all deaths, with over one thousand people a day hospitalised and costing the economy $7 billion each year.

Monash University is aiming to change the future of heart health, with the establishment of the Victorian Heart Institute (VHI), which will focus on training and leading a future focused workforce, extensive research and innovation to deliver measurable change in the rates of heart disease in Australia. The Institute will be located within the Victorian Heart Hospital (VHH) upon its completion in 2022. The VHH is a collaborative partnership between the Victorian Government, Monash Health and Monash University and will be Australia’s first stand-alone heart hospital and research facility. 

To mark the launch of the Victorian Heart Institute and explore the important issues around heart health, Monash University will be hosting a free live event A Different Lens: Matters of the Heart at 7.30 pm on Thursday 5 November 2020 with leading experts in heart disease. For more information about the event and how to join click here.

National health campaign: How’s Your Head Today? 

A national COVID-19 mental health campaign How’s your head today? is being rolled out to urge people to prioritise their mental health, raise awareness about how to identify when something is wrong, and encourage people to seek help. The campaign has been launched on TV, radio, in shopping centres and venues, online and through social mediaand will continue through to next year. How’s your head today? encourages all Australians to check in with how they are feeling. Through animated characters, the campaign recognises the emotions many people are feeling and illustrates the actions they can take to help themselves feel better.

To view the media release click here.

Greg Inglis' face & text 'I want people to know that they're not alone'

Greg Inglis opens up about mental health battles. Image source: ABC Australian Story.

Stars Foundation program for young women

Students at Newman Senior High School will be among the first in WA to take part in a motivating mentoring program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and young women. The pilot of the Stars Foundation program would run at Newman Senior High School and Butler College in Perth. Stars Foundation staff will work with the school communities this year to identify the needs of the students before the program starts in 2021. The Stars Foundation program provides mentoring and targeted support to improve the health and education outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and young women. The program at Newman Senior High School will operate full time in a dedicated ‘Stars Room’ supporting students to develop their confidence, self-esteem and the life skills needed for school and beyond.

To view the full article click here.

close up face of Aboriginal young girl with Aboriginal face paint and Stars Foundation logo

Image source: Stars Foundation Facebook page.

Community pharmacies critical role during disasters

The report of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements has acknowledged the critical role played by community pharmacies during disasters. The report also called for the inclusion of primary healthcare workers, including pharmacists, in disaster management and planning bodies. The report says Australian, State and Territory Governments “should develop arrangements that facilitate greater inclusion of primary healthcare providers in disaster management, including: representation on relevant disaster committees and plans, and providing training, education and other supports”.

Elsewhere the report highlights the importance of community pharmacists and other healthcare providers by stating they are generally the main point of contact that Australians have with the health system. “They are the entry level to the health system and are a broad group, including general practitioners, pharmacists, Aboriginal health workers, nurses and allied health professionals. Primary care providers have valuable local knowledge and strong connections with the communities they support,” the report says. The importance of continued dispensing during emergencies also is highlighted in the report.

To view the full article click here.

male and female Aboriginal people with pharmacy sign

Image source: The Conversation.

Lung cancer symptoms

Lung cancer remains the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia and the most common cause of cancer death according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data. Smoking is linked to as many as 80 per cent of lung cancers with current smokers almost nine times more likely to develop lung cancer than people who have never smoked.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and the WA is community is being reminded of the symptoms of lung cancer and what to do if they notice any unusual changes to their body. The Cancer Council WA Cancer Prevention and Research Director, Melissa Ledger, said many people don’t realise a cough which lasts for three weeks or more needs to be investigated. “If you have a long standing cough that worsens or changes for three weeks or more, it needs to be investigated,” Ms Ledger said. “If you have repeated chest infections, you notice you are becoming more short of breath or lacking energy, and have had any of these symptoms for more than four weeks, they should be investigated too. “If you cough up blood – even once – it’s really important to visit your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker right away to find out the cause. “It doesn’t mean you’ve got cancer, often it turns out to be something less serious, though,” she says. “Remember, the chances of successful treatment are much higher when cancer is found early,” Ms Ledger said.

To view the Cancer Council WA’s full article click here.

David Gulpilil with image of his younger self as an actor on a computer screen in the background

In July 2019 Yolngu traditional dancer and actor David Gulpilil revealed he was dying from lung cancer. Image source: SBS NITV.

Culturally secure community services funding

The WA McGowan Government has allocated an immediate additional $1.2 million to deliver workforce development in the mental health, alcohol and other drug community sector. This initial suite of programs will support workforce development in key areas identified by peak bodies, service providers, stakeholders and consumers and carers. They cover key focus areas of need including building the peer workforce; Aboriginal culturally secure services; building capacity in trauma-informed care; and providing employment pathways.

The programs follow the release of the WA Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Workforce Strategic Framework 2020–2025, which outlines priority areas and principles to guide the growth and development of the mental health, alcohol and other drug workforce in WA. The workforce development program will include future phases and will support peer workers, the Aboriginal workforce, clinicians, counsellors, social workers and more who assist and care for people with mental health, alcohol and other drug issues.

To view the media release click here.

Aboriginal painting of a head with footprints across the head

Image source: NSW Governement SafeWork website.

CTG education target will improve health

The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap has a higher education target for the first time. It’s also the first time an agreement between governments on Indigenous issues was negotiated and signed by Indigenous Australians. The Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations represented Indigenous Australians. Endorsed by the National Cabinet on July 30 this year, the 10-year agreement replaces the 2008 National Indigenous Reform Agreement. The higher education target is for 70% of Indigenous Australians between 25 and 34 years of age to have a tertiary qualification by 2031.

In 2016, 42.3% of Indigenous Australians in this age group had tertiary qualifications at the target’s required level. The proportion had more than doubled from 18.9% in 2001. By contrast, however, 72% of non-Indigenous Australians had such qualifications in 2016. Achieving higher Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education levels has a flow on impact of improvements in other CTG targets including health, child protection, housing, employment, community safety, language and land.

To view the full article click here.

11 Aboriginal graduates Cooktown Townsville

Image source: The Bouverie Centre.

Housing and health linked

The World Health Organisation has always been interested in housing as one of the big “causes of the causes”, of the social determinants, of health. The WHO launched evidence-based guidelines for healthy housing policies in 2019. Australia is behind the eight ball on healthy housing. Other governments, including in the US, UK and NZ acknowledge housing as an important contributor to the burden of disease. These countries have major policy initiatives focused on this agenda. In Australia, however, we do housing and we do health, but they sit in different portfolios of government and aren’t together in the (policy) room often enough. Housing should be embedded in our National Preventive Health Strategy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink how we approach health and protect our populations. It has amplified social and economic vulnerability. The pandemic has almost certainly brought housing and health together in our minds. Housing – its ability to provide shelter, its quality, location, warmth – has proven to be a key factor in the pandemic’s “syndemic” nature. That is, as well as shaping exposure to the virus itself, housing contributes to the social patterning of chronic diseases that increase COVID-19 risks.

To view the full article click here.

Aboriginal art from APY lands SA showing poor living environment

Image source: Health Habitat Housing for health website.

Medicines Australia-NACCHO Committee seeks representatives 

Consumer representatives are being sought to participate in the Medicines Australia-NACCHO Committee. As the national leadership body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in Australia NACCHO provides advice and guidance to the Australian Government on policy and budget matters while advocating for community-developed health solutions that contribute to the quality of life and improved health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Medicines Australia leads the research-based medicines industry of Australia. Its members discover, develop and manufacture prescription medicine products, biotherapeutic products and vaccines that bring health, social and economic benefits to Australia.

NACCHO and Medicines Australia have established a Committee to lead and support medicine related measures that improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients and communities. The role of the Committee is to provide advice for projects, programs and services in addressing the medicines priorities and challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia. The Committee is comprised of representatives from the ACCH sector, including NACCHO, and from Medicines Australia and its members. 

The Committee is now recruiting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumer representatives.

Interested consumers will have some experience with the health system and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumer issues. The appointment is for a twelve-month term, with the possibility of extension.  The meetings will be held quarterly and are virtual. If you are interested, please email a letter of endorsement from a supporting health consumer organisation with discussion of your links to health consumer base and/or community using this link. You may consider including a short CV (no longer than two pages) in pdf format. The deadline is COB 16 November 2020.

The nominations will be reviewed by a small panel of NACCHO and Medicines Australia representatives and based on a set of criteria related to the consumer’s skills, knowledge and experience. Please contact NACCHO here if you have any questions.

range of multi-coloured pills

Image source: Australian Journal of Pharmacy website.

NSW – Taree – Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre

Aged Care Manager

Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre (BACMC) provides a wide range of culturally-appropriate health and well-being services covering communities across the mid-northern NSW region. BACMC have a vacancy for an Aged care Manager who will responsible for the day to day management of the Aged Care team to meet the strategic goals of BACMC.

To view the job description click here. Application close 9.00 am Monday 9 November 2020.Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre banner

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: world-first virtual healthcare technology will improve remote area training access

feature tiel - two nurses using virtual healthcare training goggles

World-first virtual healthcare training trial

Training for healthcare workers is about to go virtual for the first time as part of a new partnership between industry, TAFE and NSW Health. Learning how to take a blood test will no longer need to be done in a real health setting. Instead, trainees including doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and Indigenous health workers will be able to learn the procedure while fully immersed in a virtual hospital, including sound effects such as blipping machines.

The NSW government said the virtual reality training technology was a world first that would be piloted in a yet-to-be named regional hospital. The virtual reality blood testing pilot was developed by TAFE NSW with NSW Health Pathology, CognitiveVR and diagnostic solutions company Werfen. Healthcare workers will use a virtual reality headset to learn “hands-on” blood testing. The simulation aims to provide healthcare professionals across the state, including in regional and remote areas, with greater access to hands-on training scenarios, ultimately increasing the quality of care while also reducing time away from clinical care.

To read the full article in The Sydney Morning Herald click here.

Werfen Australian NZ GM Sally Hickman demonstrates virtual reality blood testing - wears virtual reality goggles, hand is outstretched

Werfen Australian NZ General Manager Sally Hickman. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Purple House HESTA Excellence Award finalist

Purple House is one of six finalists in the Outstanding Organisation category of the HESTA 2020 community services awards. Purple House has been recognised for getting Indigenous dialysis patients home to country and providing a home away from home in Alice Springs. Purple House is an innovative Indigenous-owned and run health service operating from a base in Alice Springs. It runs dialysis units in 18 remote communities across the NT, WA and SA, and a mobile dialysis unit called the Purple Truck and has a focus on getting patients back home so families and culture remain strong.

Before Purple House, patients were forced to leave country and move far away for dialysis, leaving communities without elders to share knowledge and families disrupted. Many patients are now home but there are still communities without dialysis and patients who need to live short or long term in Alice Springs. Purple House’s base in Alice also offers primary health care, allied health, wellbeing, aged care, NDIS and a bush medicine social enterprise.

To view the full article click here.
Purple House CEO Sarah Brown with patient Rosie Patterson from Yuelamu

Purple House CEO Sarah Brown and patient Rosie Patterson. Image source: Hospital and Healthcare.

Homelessness affects children’s health

Seven new Flinders University research projects have been funded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation, including support for special studies to help homeless, at-risk, migrant and autistic children and Indigenous health. Nurse practitioners working with social service agencies is one way to help the estimated 22% of Australian children living in temporary or precarious living conditions, with families hit hard by unemployment and other problems created by the pandemic. These children – some skipping health checks, vaccinations and even nutritional meals – may not have regular doctor appointments, and poorer access to health services, leading to more physical and mental health issues and emergency department presentations.

To view the full article click here.

small Aboriginal child with tangled hair, scrapped knees sitting on concrete floor with head in knees, hands wrapped around legs

Image source: Flinders University website.

NT 2021 Australian of the Year Award nominees

Across Australia (except Vic & Tas) – Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

2021 Census Engagement Manager x 35 (25 in remote areas, 10 in urban/regional locations)

The ABS is recruiting Census Engagement Managers for the 2021 Census. Due to the close working relationship with the community, 35 Census Engagement Manager positions will be only open to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicants. Census Engagement Managers are specialised roles requiring a high degree of community interaction. They will be working within communities telling people about the Census and ensuring everyone can take part and get the help they need. Where possible, Census Engagement Managers will be recruited locally. To view a recruitment poster click here.

For further information on the roles and to apply click here.

Applications for Census Engagement Manager roles are open now and close Thursday 5 November 2020.

NACCHO Aboriginal News: A free COVID-19 vaccine will be available throughout 2021, if promising trials prove successful

Prime Minister’s announcement on COVID-19 vaccines

Last week the Prime Minister announced Australia has secured onshore manufacturing agreements for two COVID-19 vaccines. This could mean a free vaccine for all Australians as early as January 2021 if proven safe and effective for use.

Advising the Australian Government on potential vaccines is the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation and the COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatments for Australia – Science and Industry Technical Advisory Group.

Remember to keep up to date with changing state, territory and border restrictions.

There are now 147 GP led respiratory clinics in operation across Australia, providing assessment of people with fever and respiratory symptoms and COVID-19 testing. You can find testing locations on the Health Direct website.

Cancer patients to be ‘wrapped in culture’ as they undergo treatment

Yorta Yorta woman Leah Lindrea-Morrison knows all too well the experience of undergoing cancer treatment, both as a patient and as someone watching a loved one go through it.

As a survivor of breast cancer, Ms Lindrea-Morrison counts herself lucky, and she has started a project to revive a local Aboriginal tradition to bring comfort to other patients.

  • The project will create a possum skin cloak to be used by Indigenous cancer patients
  • It will be made during a workshop bringing together local people touched by cancer
  • A film will also be made to show the value of adding a cultural healing element to the medical process.

Read the full story here.

Image source: ABC

Victoria continues to move towards a Treaty with First Nations people

The Victorian Government is helping Traditional Owners build stronger nations and to ensure every voice is heard on the path to Treaty. Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams today announced more than $4.3 million will be made available as part of the Traditional Owner Nation-Building Support Package to make communities stronger.

Funding will be used to support specific outcomes, such as improving governance arrangements, boosting youth engagement or building projects that will deliver economic and cultural benefits. Under the principles of the Nation-Building fund, it’s important Traditional Owners are engaged with their communities and are self-determining with strong identities, governance and knowledge, as well as economically sustainable and independent.

For further information click here.

Image source: Shutterstock

Government announces $13 million in funding for community nursing

Nurses are set to be recognised for their immense contributions in keeping Australians safe as a part of Nursing in the Community Week.

Starting on Monday, the week is about recognising the important role nurses have played during the pandemic and ensuring the most vulnerable are kept safe and healthy.

The federal government is planning to highlight the important role nurses have played for remote and regional communities, particularly in Indigenous and Defence Force health services.

Read the full story here.

Recent updates to Australian Immunisation Register

Improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a national priority. The National Immunisation Program (NIP) for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people provides additional vaccines to help improve the health of Indigenous people, and close the gap between Indigenous and non- Indigenous people in health and life expectancy.

Until recently, the AIR used information from Medicare to record whether a person identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Read the full article here.

Aboriginal child receiving an injection.vaccination

Image source: Deadly Vibe website.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service August Newsletter

Winnunga AHCS August Newsletter is out! To read the newsletter click here.

New COVID-19 mental health clinics in Victoria

Minster for Health, Greg Hunt, says from Monday 14 September 2020, Victorians will have access to additional mental health support with 15 new dedicated mental health clinics opening to the public.

“The clinics, announced on 17 August as part of a $31.9 million federal government mental health package to support Victorians during the COVID-19 pandemic, have been rapidly rolled out across the state at a cost of $26.9 million.

Image Source: Department of Health

“There will be nine HeadtoHelp clinics located in Greater Melbourne and six in regional Victoria. The locations are: Greater Melbourne: Berwick, Frankston, Officer, Hawthorn, Yarra Junction, West Heidelberg, Broadmeadows, Wyndham Vale, Brunswick East and Regional Victoria: Warragul, Sale, Bendigo, Wodonga, Sebastopol and Norlane.”

To read the full press release click here.

Image source: Department of Health

Adverse Childhood Experience Coordinator – Yerin, NSW Central Coast

Yerin is seeking an experienced Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Case Coordinator to work with children, young people and their families on the NSW Central Coast, Darkinjung country wo are experiencing multiple vulnerabilities and whose children are at risk or have experienced an adverse childhood trauma. Through screening children and families, you will provide appropriate intervention care by arranging the required services to address the Adverse Childhood Trauma.

Read the full position description here.

To apply and know about other job vacancies at Yerin click here.

2021 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference

Indigenous Eye Health has announced the dates for the 2021 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference (previously the ‘Close the Gap for Vision by 2020 National Conference’). The conference will take place virtually from 20 April – 22 April 2021.

The full conference announcement can be read on the IEH website, here.

NACCHO Aboriginal News: Input Required to Renew Indigenous Suicide Prevention Strategy

 

Input required to renew Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy

Marking World Suicide Prevention Day, Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia (GDPSA) announced the renewal of the 2013 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy (NATSISPS) and called for stakeholders to make sure their voices are heard during the process.

GDPSA CEO Mr Tom Brideson explained, “The NATSISPS was released in May 2013. It was developed by Indigenous experts and leaders in mental health and suicide prevention and remains a sound evidence-based strategic response to Indigenous suicide. However, it also responded to a set of circumstances that have changed since 2013 and that require it to be renewed.

“GDPSA would like to hear from you to inform the NATSISPS renewal process. To that end, between now and the end of 2020, we will be hosting a number of targeted subject matter roundtables and Zoom consultations with particular groups, but there is also the opportunity to participate through our website and to make submissions against a Discussion Paper we have developed.”

Professor Pat Dudgeon, GDPSA director and National Director of the Centre of Best Practice in Indigenous Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) continued, Australian governments announced the renewal of the NATSISPS, alongside the development of a new mainstream national suicide prevention plan, in the 2017 Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. GDPDSA has been asked by the Australian Government to renew the NATSISPS and will work closely with CBPATSISP and the Prime Minister’s National Suicide Prevention Taskforce to that end. We also want to hear from a range of stakeholders and – on behalf of both GDPSA and CBPATSISP – I strongly encourage you to participate – including Indigenous and non-Indigenous stakeholders.”

GDPSA Chair Professor Helen Milroy said, “Preliminary advice we have provided to the Taskforce are that there are two priority areas for consideration in NATSISPS renewal. The first is establishing Indigenous governance of Indigenous suicide prevention including at the national, regional and community levels. The second is establishing what is important to include in integrated approaches to Indigenous suicide prevention in our communities. In particular, with reference to ATSISPEP’s Solutions That Work report, and the to-be-released learnings from the Indigenous-specific suicide prevention trial sites. This includes consideration of clinical and cultural support elements of mental health and suicide prevention service provision.

To find out more or to make a submission please visit: https://www.gayaadhuwi.org.au/sp-strategy-renewal/

NACCHO highlights ACCHO work on World Suicide Prevention Day

National Indigenous Times (NIT) feature:

Currently, suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for Indigenous people in Australia, with rates twice as high as that for non-Indigenous Australians. ACCHOs are delivering place-based, community-led strategies and solutions to decrease suicide rates.

“For NACCHO and our communities, reducing suicide rates and improving the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has always been a priority,” said NACCHO Chair, Donnella Mills.

“We know our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are best placed to deliver these essential services because they understand the issues our people go through.”

Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) in WA are working tirelessly to ensure suicide prevention is a top priority in their region.

“Every loss of life due to suicide is tragic because it is preventable. What we are trying to do in the Kimberley is trying to better understand the reasons why the rates are so much higher, they are twice that of other Aboriginal people in Australia and three times the rate of non-Aboriginal Australians,” said Rob McPhee, KAMS Chief Operating Officer.

“It is really about getting to the root cause of that over representation and being able to work with communities to be able to address the issues associated with them.”

KAMS has been heavily involved with the Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial which is currently in its fifth and final year.

To read the full article click here.

Empowered Young Leaders Forum 2019’ in Broome WA

Health and safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Three recent reports and a new book share some critical messages for addressing systemic failures that are harming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, reports Associate Professor Megan Williams, a Wiradjuri scholar from the University of Sydney.

Her article is published on what would have been the 58th birthday of Tanya Day, whose death in custody in December 2017 is the subject of one of these reports. Across social media today, supporters shared photographs of themselves wearing pink to pay their respects, using the hashtag #PinkforTanya, in response to a request by her family.

Commission recommendations, Inquest findings and Ombudsman reports about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health and wellbeing are frequently quoted in attempts to improve systems and prevent further harms and deaths occurring. Their pages often include recommendations for mainstream, non-Indigenous workforce development, ranging from disciplinary actions to supervision and training.

To read the full story published in Croakey click here.

 

Stronger Together, There’s More to Say After #RUOK? 

Steven Satour, Stronger Together Campaign Manager, R U OK? says looking out for your mob is more important than ever in 2020, as it has been a challenging year for everyone and circumstances have made it even more important for us to stay connected.

“We know as a community we are Stronger Together. We know knowledge is culture and emotional wellness can be learned from our family members, so sharing resources, educating each other and providing guidance on what to say if someone answers they are not okay amongst our families is vital,” says Mr Satour.

Learn what to say next at www.ruok.org.au

Johnathan Thurston opens doors for Logan youth with ‘deadly’ new program

A new Deadly Choices jersey will be launched at Marsden State High School on September 11 by JT Academy Managing Director Johnathan Thurston – a key part of the JTConnect program that encourages the youth of Logan to believe in yourself and have the courage and confidence and pursue employment.

The JTConnect program is an initiative of the Johnathan Thurston Academy, sponsored by the Deadly Choices’ Indigenous health campaign, and is designed to empower young people to believe in themselves and be the difference. Students who complete the JTConnect program and are up to date with their 715 Health Check through their participating community controlled health service will receive a JTConnect Deadly Choices jersey.

“I’m excited about the new Deadly Choices jersey collaboration with the JT Academy and JTConnect – the program has already visited a number of high schools around Cairns and Logan,” Thurston said.  “We truly believe that by instilling a strong sense of self belief, confidence and courage will empower young people to pursue a career or a job for a better life.

“In everything we do, we aim to inspire our youth to feel proud and strong with their identity and who they are as individuals and this program will go a long way towards this goal.”

IAHA call for the long-term retention of temporary MBS telehealth items

Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA), the peak organisation for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health workforce, calls on the government to extend access to Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) telehealth items for allied health professionals.

Introduced in March 2020 in response to the impacts of COVID-19 on the ability of people to access in person care, 36 new telehealth allied health items were included on the MBS, replicating existing MBS allied health items traditionally provided face-to-face. Scheduled to expire at the end of September 2020, IAHA joins calls from other stakeholders for the longerterm retention of these telehealth items on the MBS.

Read the full IAHA press release here.

Feature Image tile - Aboriginal Health News Coalition of Peaks Close the Gap Interview Save the Date NITV The Point

NACCHO Aboriginal News: Coalition of Peaks Housing Interview on NITV

Tune in this Sunday 16 August at 7pm for the FINAL exclusive installment of interviews with Coalition of Peaks members working to Close the Gap. This week Jamie Lowe, National Native Title Council and Josie Douglas, Central Land Council, join John Paul Janke from NITV’s The Point to discuss housing, a really important issue that impacts all areas of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives.

Australian Medical Students’ Association declare climate health emergency

The Australian Medical Students’ Association has joined Australia’s peak medical groups, representing around 90,000 or 75% of the nation’s doctors, in calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to commit to a climate-focused health recovery from COVID-19. A joint letter has been coordinated by Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA), an independent organisation of medical doctors protecting health through care of the environment.

For further information about DEA and to view the joint letter to PM Scott Morrison click here.

Australian peak medical bodies, 10 in total

CHF calls for mandatory supply of health worker face masks

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) has warned an inadequate supply of face masks in some hospitals and widespread confusion about when and what masks are needed represents a serious public health hazard that endangers many Australians.

CHF CEO, Leanne Wells said “The ongoing problems with the supply of masks generally, and particularly of hospital-grade masks, highlight the need for mandatory measures to ensure all health settings are adequately supplied.”

To view CHF’s 11 August 2020 Media Release click here.

Two health workers with PPE

Image source: AAP: David Mariuz – ABC News.

Boots for All charity sports store

Located in Melbourne, Boots for All is the only charity sports store in Australia. BFA was created in 2006 to provide high-quality recycled and new sports equipment at low prices to enable as many Australians as possible — no matter where they live or their economic circumstances — to participate in sport and physical activity.

Relying on donations from individuals, sporting clubs and sports apparel companies, Boots for All provides a valuable service for families in the local community, as well as distributing sports equipment across Australia, including many Indigenous communities and organisations.

Funds generated by Boots for All are used to provide training and employment opportunities for young people in the Melbourne area.

Boots for All has a broad range of new and high-quality used sports equipment: the main items are football boots (and footballs), running shoes, basketball gear, tennis and cricket gear, and team uniforms. All at bargain prices!

The Boots for All sports store has been closed for the past several months due to COVID-19, but purchases can be made online or by calling the CEO (and founder) Joanne Rockwell on (0408) 102 918.

Boots for All is currently running an online promotion on the sale of football boots — good quality footy boots are available for as little as $10.

For more information or to purchase apparel please visit here.

Aboriginal kids legs with boots, Boots for All logo

Image source: Boots for All website.

Lack of Australia-wide preventative program investment

A successful remote cattle station youth-at-risk program, that has been operating for the past 30 years without any public funding, has received $4.5 million from the NT government to run intensive youth camps for the next five years.

Meagan Krakouer, Director at the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project, said the funding is a “step in the right direction” however “small steps, even if in the right direction, are not enough”- there is a lack of Australia-wide investment in preventative programs and funding to date has been insufficient to make a real difference in people’s lives.

To read the full National Indigenous Times article click here.

Photo of Seven Emu Stattion owner Frank Shadforth standing in front of bush vehicle in outback

Seven Emu Station owner Frank Shadforth works with at risk kids to develop life skills and cultural connection. Photo supplied by Office of the NT Chief Minister.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Research Alert : @HealthInfoNet releases Summary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019 social and cultural determinants, chronic conditions, health behaviours, environmental health , alcohol and other drugs

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet has released the Summary of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019

This new plain language publication provides information for a wider (non-academic) audience and incorporates many visual elements.

The Summary is useful for health workers and those studying in the field as a quick source of general information. It provides key information regarding the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the following topics:

  • social and cultural determinants
  • chronic conditions
  • health behaviours
  • environmental health
  • alcohol and other drugs.

The Summary is based on HealthInfoNet‘s comprehensive publication Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019. It presents statistical information from the Overview in a visual format that is quick and easy for users to digest.

The Summary is available online and in hardcopy format. Please contact HealthInfoNet by email if you wish to order a hardcopy of this Summary. Other reviews and plain language summaries are available here.

Here are the key facts

Please note in an earlier version sent out 7.00 am June 15 a computer error dropped off the last word in many sentences : these are new fixed 

Key facts

Population

  • In 2019, the estimated Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 847,190.
  • In 2019, NSW had the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (the estimated population was 281,107 people, 33% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population).
  • In 2019, NT had the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in its population, with 32% of the NT population identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders
  • In 2016, around 37% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in major cities
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is much younger than the non-Indigenous population.

Births and pregnancy outcomes

  • In 2018, there were 21,928 births registered in Australia with one or both parents identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (7% of all births registered).
  • In 2018, the median age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers was 26.0 years.
  • In 2018, total fertility rates were 2,371 births per 1,000 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
  • In 2017, the average birthweight of babies born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers was 3,202 grams
  • The proportion of low birthweight babies born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers between 2007 and 2017 remained steady at around 13%.

Mortality

  • For 2018, the age-standardised death rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT was 1 per 1,000.
  • Between 1998 and 2015, there was a 15% reduction in the death rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT.
  • For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people born 2015-2017, life expectancy was estimated to be 6 years for males and 75.6 years for females, around 8-9 years less than the estimates for non-Indigenous males and females.
  • In 2018, the median age at death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT was 2 years; this was an increase from 55.8 years in 2008.
  • Between 1998 and 2015, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infant mortality rate has more than halved (from 5 to 6.3 per 1,000).
  • In 2018, the leading causes of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT were ischaemic heart disease (IHD), diabetes, chronic lower respiratory diseases and lung and related cancers.
  • For 2012-2017 the maternal mortality ratio for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was 27 deaths per 100,000 women who gave birth.
  • For 1998-2015, in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT there was a 32% decline in the death rate from avoidable causes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 0-74 years

Hospitalisation

  • In 2017-18, 9% of all hospital separations were for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • In 2017-18, the age-adjusted separation rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 2.6 times higher than for non-Indigenous people.
  • In 2017-18, the main cause of hospitalisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was for ‘factors influencing health status and contact with health services’ (mostly for care involving dialysis), responsible for 49% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander seperations.
  • In 2017-18, the age-standardised rate of overall potentially preventable hospitalisations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 80 per 1,000 (38 per 1,000 for chronic conditions and 13 per 1,000 for vaccine-preventable conditions).

Selected health conditions

Cardiovascular health

  • In 2018-19, around 15% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having cardiovascular disease (CVD).
  • In 2018-19, nearly one quarter (23%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults were found to have high blood pressure.
  • For 2013-2017, in Qld, WA, SA and the NT combined, there were 1,043 new rheumatic heart disease diagnoses among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, a crude rate of 50 per 100,000.
  • In 2017-18, there 14,945 hospital separations for CVD among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, representing 5.4% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hospital separations (excluding dialysis).
  • In 2018, ischaemic heart disease (IHD) was the leading specific cause of death of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT

Cancer

  • In 2018-19, 1% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having cancer (males 1.2%, females 1.1%).
  • For 2010-2014, the most common cancers diagnosed among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Vic, Qld, WA and the NT were lung cancer and breast (females) cancer.
  • Survival rates indicate that of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Vic, Qld, WA, and the NT who were diagnosed with cancer between 2007 and 2014, 50% had a chance of surviving five years after diagnosis
  • In 2016-17, there 8,447 hospital separations for neoplasms2 among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • For 2013-2017, the age-standardised mortality rate due to cancer of any type was 238 per 100,000, an increase of 5% when compared with a rate of 227 per 100,000 in 2010-2014.

Diabetes

  • In 2018-19, 8% of Aboriginal people and 7.9% of Torres Strait Islander people reported having diabetes.
  • In 2015-16, there were around 2,300 hospitalisations with a principal diagnosis of type 2 diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • In 2018, diabetes was the second leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • The death rate for diabetes decreased by 0% between 2009-2013 and 2014-2018.
  • Some data sources use term ‘neoplasm’ to describe conditions associated with abnormal growth of new tissue, commonly referred to as a Neoplasms can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) [1].

Social and emotional wellbeing

  • In 2018-19, 31% of Aboriginal and 23% of Torres Strait Islander respondents aged 18 years and over reported high or very high levels of psychological distress
  • In 2014-15, 68% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over and 67% of children aged 4-14 years experienced at least one significant stressor in the previous 12 months
  • In 2012-13, 91% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported on feelings of calmness and peacefulness, happiness, fullness of life and energy either some, most, or all of the time.
  • In 2014-15, more than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported an overall life satisfaction rating of at least 8 out of 10.
  • In 2018-19, 25% of Aboriginal and 17% of Torres Strait Islander people, aged two years and over, reported having a mental and/or behavioural conditions
  • In 2018-19, anxiety was the most common mental or behavioural condition reported (17%), followed by depression (13%).
  • In 2017-18, there were 21,940 hospital separations with a principal diagnosis of International Classification of Diseases (ICD) ‘mental and behavioural disorders’ identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • In 2018, 169 (129 males and 40 females) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA, and the NT died from intentional self-harm (suicide).
  • Between 2009-2013 and 2014-2018, the NT was the only jurisdiction to record a decrease in intentional self-harm (suicide) death rates.

Kidney health

  • In 2018-19, 8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Aboriginal people 1.9%; Torres Strait Islander people 0.4%) reported kidney disease as a long-term health condition.
  • For 2014-2018, after age-adjustment, the notification rate of end-stage renal disease was 3 times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than for non-Indigenous people.
  • In 2017-18, ‘care involving dialysis’ was the most common reason for hospitalisation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • In 2018, 310 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people commenced dialysis and 49 were the recipients of new kidneys.
  • For 2013-2017, the age-adjusted death rate from kidney disease was 21 per 100,000 (NT: 47 per 100,000; WA: 38 per 100,000) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and NT
  • In 2018, the most common causes of death among the 217 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were receiving dialysis was CVD (64 deaths) and withdrawal from treatment (51 deaths).

Injury, including family violence

  • In 2012-13, 5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having a long-term condition caused by injury.
  • In 2018-19, 16% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had experienced physical harm or threatened physical harm at least once in the last 12 months.
  • In 2016-17, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hospitalised injury was higher for males (44 per 1,000) than females (39 per 1,000).
  • In 2017-18, 20% of injury-related hospitalisations among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were for assault.
  • In 2018, intentional self-harm was the leading specific cause of injury deaths for NSW, Qld, SA, WA, and NT (5.3% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths).

Respiratory health

  • In 2018-19, 29% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having a long-term respiratory condition .
  • In 2018-19, 16% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having asthma.
  • In 2014-15, crude hospitalisation rates were highest for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people presenting with influenza and pneumonia (7.4 per 1,000), followed by COPD (5.3 per 1,000), acute upper respiratory infections (3.8 per 1,000) and asthma (2.9 per 1,000).
  • In 2018, chronic lower respiratory disease was the third highest cause of death overall for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in NSW, Qld, WA, SA and the NT

Eye health

  • In 2018-19, eye and sight problems were reported by 38% of Aboriginal people and 40% of Torres Strait Islander people.
  • In 2018-19, eye and sight problems were reported by 32% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and by 43% of females.
  • In 2018-19, the most common eye conditions reported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were hyperopia (long sightedness: 22%), myopia (short sightedness: 16%), other diseases of the eye and adnexa (8.7%), cataract (1.4%), blindness (0.9%) and glaucoma (0.5%).
  • In 2014-15, 13% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, aged 4-14 years, were reported to have eye or sight problems.
  • In 2018, 144 cases of trachoma were detected among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children living in at-risk communities in Qld, WA, SA and the NT
  • For 2015-17, 62% of hospitalisations for diseases of the eye (8,274) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were for disorders of the lens (5,092) (mainly cataracts).

Ear health and hearing

  • In 2018-19, 14% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported having a long-term ear and/or hearing problem
  • In 2018-19, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-14 years, the prevalence of otitis media (OM) was 6% and of partial or complete deafness was 3.8%.
  • In 2017-18, the age-adjusted hospitalisation rate for ear conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 1 per 1,000 population.

Oral health

  • In 2014-15, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4-14 years with reported tooth or gum problems was 34%, a decrease from 39% in 2008.
  • In 2012-2014, 61% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5-10 years had experienced tooth decay in their baby teeth, and 36% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 6-14 years had experienced tooth decay in their permanent teeth.
  • In 2016-17, there were 3,418 potentially preventable hospitalisations for dental conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander The age-standardised rate of hospitalisation was 4.6 per 1,000.

Disability

  • In 2018-19, 27% of Aboriginal and 24% of Torres Strait Islander people reported having a disability or restrictive long-term health
  • In 2018-19, 2% of Aboriginal and 8.3% of Torres Strait Islander people reported a profound or severe core activity limitation.
  • In 2016, 7% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a profound or severe disability reported a need for assistance.
  • In 2017-18, 9% of disability service users were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with most aged under 50 years (82%).
  • In 2017-18, the primary disability groups accessing services were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a psychiatric condition (24%), intellectual disability (23%) and physical disability (20%).
  • In 2017-18, 2,524 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Disability Agreement service users transitioned to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Communicable diseases

  • In 2017, there were 7,015 notifications for chlamydia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, accounting for 7% of the notifications in Australia
  • During 2013-2017, there was a 9% and 9.8% decline in chlamydia notification rates among males and females (respectively).
  • In 2017, there were 4,119 gonorrhoea notifications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, accounting for 15% of the notifications in Australia.
  • In 2017, there were 779 syphilis notifications for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accounting for 18% of the notifications in Australia.
  • In 2017, Qld (45%) and the NT (35%) accounted for 80% of the syphilis notifications from all jurisdictions.
  • In 2018, there were 34 cases of newly diagnosed human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia .
  • In 2017, there were 1,201 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with hepatitis C (HCV) in Australia
  • In 2017, there were 151 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with hepatitis B (HBV) in Australia
  • For 2013-2017 there was a 37% decline in the HBV notification rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • For 2011-2015, 1,152 (14%) of the 8,316 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) were identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait people .
  • For 2011-2015, there were 26 deaths attributed to IPD with 11 of the 26 deaths (42%) in the 50 years and over age-group.
  • For 2011-2015, 101 (10%) of the 966 notified cases of meningococcal disease were identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • For 2006-2015, the incidence rate of meningococcal serogroup B was 8 per 100,000, with the age- specific rate highest in infants less than 12 months of age (33 per 100,000).
  • In 2015, of the 1,255 notifications of TB in Australia, 27 (2.2%) were identified as Aboriginal and seven (0.6%) as Torres Strait Islander people
  • For 2011-2015, there were 16 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with invasive Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) in Australia
  • Between 2007-2010 and 2011-2015 notification rates for Hib decreased by around 67%.
  • In 2018-19, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reporting a disease of the skin and subcutaneous tissue was 2% (males 2.4% and females 4.0%).

NACCHO Aboriginal #CoronaVirus News Alert No 39 : April 16 #KeepOurMobSafe : #OurJobProtectOurMob : Anyinginyi ACCHO partners in new report “Fix housing and you’ll reduce risks of coronavirus and other disease in remote Indigenous communities “

” Remote Indigenous communities have taken swift and effective action to quarantine residents against the risks of COVID-19.

Under a plan developed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group, entry to communities is restricted to essential visitors only.

This is important, because crowded and malfunctioning housing in remote Indigenous communities heightens the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

High rates of chronic disease mean COVID-19 outbreaks in Indigenous communities may cause high death rates. ” 

Originally published in the Conversation

 ” Rapid-testing machines that detect COVID-19 in 45 minutes are being sent to 83 indigenous communities where remote health clinics are currently waiting up to 10 days to find out whether an Aboriginal resident has coronavirus.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced the Australian government was investing $3.3m to establish the rapid coronavirus testing program for remote and rural ­Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The commonwealth is choosing the sites in most need and most at risk with help from state and territory governments and health services, and aims to have 83 ­machines in place by mid-May.”

See full story Part 2 below :  Coronavirus: Rapid tests on way to remote Indigenous communities.

Read full release Here

The “old story” of housing, crowding and health continues to be overlooked. A partnership between the University of Queensland and Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, in the Northern Territory’s (NT) Tennant Creek and Barkly region, re-opens this story. A new report from our work together is titled in Warumungu language as Piliyi Papulu Purrukaj-ji – “Good Housing to Prevent Sickness”. It reveals the simplicity of the solution: new housing and budgets for repairs and maintenance can improve human health.

Infection risks rise in crowded housing

Rates of crowded households are much higher in remote communities (34%) than in urban areas (8%). Our research in the Barkly region, 500km north of Alice Springs, found up to 22 residents in some three-bedroom houses. In one crowded house, a kidney dialysis patient and seven family members had slept in the yard for over a year in order to access clinical care.

Many Indigenous Australians lease social housing because of barriers to individual land ownership in remote Australia. Repairs and maintenance are more expensive in remote areas and our research found waiting periods are long. One resident told us:

Houses [are] inspected two times a year by Department of Housing, but no repairs or maintenance. They inspect and write down faults but don’t fix. They say people will return, but it doesn’t happen.

Better ‘health hardware’ can prevent infections

The growing populations in communities are not matched by increased housing. Crowding is the inevitable result.

Crowded households place extra pressure on “health hardware”, the infrastructure that enables washing of bodies and clothing and other hygiene practices.


Read more: Homelessness and overcrowding expose us all to coronavirus. Here’s what we can do to stop the spread


We interviewed residents who told us they lacked functioning bathrooms and washing machines and that toilets were blocked. One resident said:

Scabies has come up a lot this year because of lack of water. We’ve been running out of water in the tanks. There’s no electric pump … [so] we are bathing less …

[Also] sewerage is a problem at this house. It’s blocked … The toilet bubbles up and the water goes black and leaks out. We try to keep the kids away.

A lack of health hardware increases the transmission risk of preventable, hygiene-related infectious diseases like COVID-19. Anyinginyi clinicians report skin infections are more common than in urban areas, respiratory infections affect whole families in crowded houses, and they see daily cases of eye infections.

Data that we accessed from the clinic confirmed this situation. The highest infection diagnoses were skin infections (including boils, scabies and school sores), respiratory infections, and ear, nose and throat infections (especially middle ear infection).

These infections can have long-term consequences. Repeated skin sores and throat infections from Group A streptococcal bacteria can contribute to chronic life-threatening conditions such as kidney disease and rheumatic heart disease (RHD). Indigenous NT residents have among the highest rates of RHD in the world, and Indigenous children in Central Australia have the highest rates of post-infection kidney disease (APSGN).


Read more: The answer to Indigenous vulnerability to coronavirus: a more equitable public health agenda


Reviving a vision of healthy housing and people

Crowded and unrepaired housing persists, despite the National Indigenous Reform Agreement stating over ten years ago: “Children need to live in accommodation with adequate infrastructure conducive to good hygiene … and free of overcrowding.”

Indigenous housing programs, such as the National Partnership Agreement for Remote Indigenous Housing, have had varied success and sustainability in overcoming crowding and poor housing quality.

It is calculated about 5,500 new houses are required by 2028 to reduce the health impacts of crowding in remote communities. Earlier models still provide guidance for today’s efforts. For example, Whitlam-era efforts supported culturally appropriate housing design, while the ATSIC period of the 1990s introduced Indigenous-led housing management and culturally-specific adaptation of tenancy agreements.

Our report reasserts the call to action for both new housing and regular repairs and maintenance (with adequate budgets) of existing housing in remote communities. The lack of effective treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19 make hygiene and social distancing critical. Yet crowding and faulty home infrastructure make these measures difficult if not impossible.

Indigenous Australians living on remote country urgently need additional and functional housing. This may begin to provide the long-term gains described to us by an experienced Aboriginal health worker:

When … [decades ago] houses were built, I noticed immediately a drop in the scabies … You could see the mental change, could see the difference in families. Kids are healthier and happier. I’ve seen this repeated in other communities once housing was given – the change.


Trisha Narurla Frank contributed to the writing of this article, and other staff from Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation provided their input and consent for the sharing of these findings.

Part 2 :  Coronavirus: Rapid tests on way to remote Indigenous communities

Rapid-testing machines that detect COVID-19 in 45 minutes are being sent to 83 indigenous communities where remote health clinics are currently waiting up to 10 days to find out whether an Aboriginal resident has coronavirus.

There are no known cases of COVID-19 in indigenous communities but health authorities are on high alert for a breakout, particularly in Western Australia, where 11 health workers in the far north Kimberley region tested positive. After a doctor in the Kimberley town of Halls Creek saw Aboriginal patients while he was potentially infectious, those ­patients have been deemed not to be close contacts.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced the Australian government was investing $3.3m to establish the rapid coronavirus testing program for remote and rural ­Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The commonwealth is choosing the sites in most need and most at risk with help from state and territory governments and health services, and aims to have 83 ­machines in place by mid-May.

The test, called the Xpert SARS-CoV-2 test, uses rapid ­technology to detect COVID-19 infections by using a nasal swab polymerase chain reaction test in the early phases of the illness.

“It’s vital we do all we can to protect our rural and remote ­Aboriginal and Torres Strait ­Islander communities,” Mr Hunt said.

“This world-first testing response means that we can continue to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to fighting this virus.

“If an outbreak is detected, local health services can move quickly to protect the community and activate established evacuation procedures.”

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said indigenous people were more vulnerable if they contracted coronavirus.

“There are higher rates of chronic conditions and other health issues in these communities and it can be hard to access healthcare,” Mr Wyatt said

“This means that an outbreak of COVID-19 in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community has the potential to be very serious.

“This testing program will help protect indigenous Australians against the virus.”

The program is an initiative of the Kirby Institute, in partnership with Flinders University.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SocialDeterminants : #MovetoTown Housing bureaucrats are in talks with Aboriginal organisations to convert all town camps into proper suburbs with metered water and electricity

” The suspension of services comes as part of a slow but significant change.

The McGowan government is investing heavily in 10 of the state’s largest remote communities, including by installing sewerage and water systems that residents will for the first time be billed for.

It is also helping Aboriginal families move off dilapidated town camps into new or refurbished homes in the suburbs in a program called Move To Town.

The changes could mean the end of town camps that have been marred by violence and anti-­social behaviour.

Housing bureaucrats are in talks with Aboriginal organisations to convert all town camps into proper suburbs with metered water and electricity.” 

From the Australian 9 March 2020

Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Housing Articles HERE

Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Social Determinant Articles HERE

The West Australian Labor government has quietly suspended essential services at 25 remote Aboriginal communities five years after their Liberal predecessors suffered a political backlash for proposing the closure of most of the settlements.

The Australian has obtained a list of 25 settlements across the far north Kimberley where ­essential services such as maintaining bores and generators are “suspended” because the communities were considered abandoned or inhabited too infreq­uently to justify the cost to the taxpayer.

The West Australian Department of Communities, which is responsible for remote housing, said the suspensions followed consultation with Aboriginal people. It is part of a policy of ­investing in larger remote settlements while razing town camps and moving residents to suburbs in larger communities.

Former Liberal premier Colin Barnett sparked mass protests, a rebuke from the UN and was criticised by the state Labor ­opposition when he announced in November 2014 that most of Western Australia’s 274 remote communities would close.

Read NITV Article HERE

Opposition Treasury and ­Aboriginal affairs spokesman Ben Wyatt asked the state’s lower house to condemn Mr Barnett for “ongoing uncertainty, confusion and fear that he has created in remote Aboriginal communities”. The policy crisis was largely a result of a federal ­decision that states and the Northern Territory would bear the full cost of remote housing, ending an arrangement in which the federal government paid half.

Mr Barnett said there was no way Western Australia could carry that cost. While WA Labor wanted the federal government to reverse or delay its decision, Mr Barnett became the target of anger when he linked community closures to child-sex abuse. “They cannot look anyone in the eye and guarantee the safety of little boys and girls,” he told parliament.

Prime minister Tony Abbott was also criticised when he ­described the decision to live in remote settlements as a lifestyle choice.

The list of communities that have had services suspended by the McGowan Labor government includes Osmond Valley at the foot of the Bungle Bungles where flood then fire drove residents away several years ago.

The Australian understands Warmun Community Incorporated uses its own budget to carry out basic maintenance at ­Osmond Valley amid hopes it can one day become a tourist destination that generates income for Aboriginal people.

Other communities on the state government’s “suspended” list include Kurlku in the Great Sandy Desert, which was established by the late artist Jimmy Pike in the 1980s. It has no permanent residents though rangers had in recent years camped there when carrying out work. Some other remote communities on the list are outstations that had previously been recorded as having small permanent populations or were seasonally occupied.

The suspension of services comes as part of a slow but significant change. The McGowan government is investing heavily in 10 of the state’s largest remote communities, including by installing sewerage and water systems that residents will for the first time be billed for. It is also helping Aboriginal families move off dilapidated town camps into new or refurbished homes in the suburbs in a program called Move To Town.

The changes could mean the end of town camps that have been marred by violence and anti-­social behaviour. Housing bureaucrats are in talks with Aboriginal organisations to convert all town camps into proper suburbs with metered water and electricity.

But the department has shown it is prepared to raze those town camps if that is what traditional owners want. So far, one camp called One Mile on the outskirts of Broome has been bulldozed and all residents of the Kennedy Hill town camp in the centre of Broome have opted to move to better housing elsewhere in the town. One boarded-up house ­remains at Kennedy Hill and will be demolished within a week.

Paul Isaachsen, assistant ­director of general strategy and transformation at the Department of Communities, said the West Australian government was maintaining services in remote places where people lived.

“When the state government establishes that a remote community it supports is no longer ­occupied, which can be the case with very small outstations, the maintenance of essential and ­municipal service assets is suspended pending any return of residents,” he said. “For example, the regular inspection (and, if necessary, ­repair) of generators and bores does not occur during the suspension period. Currently, ­services are suspended in 25 remote communities following ­numerous visits to the communities and consultation with community members, service providers and other relevant stakeholders.”

WA Housing Minister Peter Tinley said he hoped the Labor government’s collaborative approach could succeed where the former Liberal government failed. “Aboriginal people are the most marginalised and vulnerable in Australia — even more so when they live in remote communities, out of sight and generally out of mind to the vast majority of us,” he said.

“The McGowan government does not believe that people should be denied access to basic services based on where they live.

“Everyone has the right to ­expect running water, proper sewerage systems, power supplies, education and health services and suitable housing.

“The challenge to providing such services arose when the state government’s long-term funding partner in the joint arrangement that used to deliver those same services — the commonwealth government — walked away from its responsibilities, axed its funding contribution and laid the entire financial burden on the state government.

“The result is an ongoing ­annual $100m hole in the state’s budget.”

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SocialDeterminants “Poor housing is not an issue of indigeneity; it is an issue of poverty” – Dr Paul Torzillo

Aboriginal health, more specifically, is often characterised as wicked.

But when it comes to the link between housing and Indigenous health at least, Dr Paul Torzillo says emphatically,

“This is not some issue about cultural dissonance. This is not a wicked problem.”

Dr Paul Torzillo is a founding director of Healthabitat. A non-profit company that has been working for more than three decades to identify a quantifiable link between housing and health in remote Aboriginal communities, and to offer solutions to clearly articulated, fixable problems.

Drawing above showing Healthabitat’s nine Healthy Living Practice

This article by Habititat and Tracey Clement

“It’s going to get too hard for ngurraritja to live in the desert soon. I might shift somewhere when the desert dries up – up north, down south.”

Without action to stop climate change, people may be forced to leave their country,”

Climate change is a clear and present threat to the survival of our people and their culture,”

Living in “unbearable concrete hot boxes” doesn’t help.

People resort to sleeping outside, or cramming everybody into the coolest room, with all the well-known consequences for the spread of diseases.

It’s also common for people to sleep in shifts, with young people roaming the streets at night where they get into trouble, and sleeping during the day when they should beat school.

You can sometimes see people in communities hosing the outside of their Besser brick walls with garden hoses to keep cool despite the water shortages – that’s how desperate they are.”

” Too hot for our mob ” From Central Land Council’s Head of Policy, Josie Douglas

Download Land Rights News 

Land-Rights-News-March-2020_(2)

Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Housing Articles HERE

Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Social Determinant Articles HERE

Drawing above showing Healthabitat’s nine Healthy Living Practice

The company applies a scientific approach to what some have seen as a social and cultural problem.

Some problems are so complex we label them ‘wicked.’ As the Australian Public Service Commission (APS) explains, “The term ‘wicked’ in this context is used, not in the sense of evil, but rather as an issue highly resistant to resolution.”

In a document titled, ‘Tackling wicked problems: A public policy perspective,’ the APS, a policy unit within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, cites climate change, obesity, land degradation and Indigenous disadvantage as examples.

In 1985, Torzillo was working as a medical officer for the Nganampa Health Council at the Pukatja (Ernabella) health clinic in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia. There he met architect Paul Pholeros (1953–2016) and anthropologist Stephan Rainow.

They began working together at the invitation of elder Yami Lester, who could see that people in the community were still getting sick, despite improved health services. In 1987, the trio released a report known as the Uwankara Palyanku Kanyintjaku (UPK) – a plan to “stop people getting sick”, in the local Pitjantjatjara language.

In the UPK, Torzillo, Pholeros and Rainow – who would become the founding directors of Healthabitat – identified a clear link between deficiencies in the built environment and the poor health of community members.

The report outlined nine Healthy Living Practices: washing people, washing clothes and bedding, removing wastewater safely, improving nutrition through the ability to store prepare and cook food, reducing the negative impact of over-crowding; reducing the negative effects of animals, insects and vermin; reducing the impact of dust; controlling temperature in the living environment; and reducing hazards that cause physical trauma.

These practices are still at the core of what Healthabitat does today.

Healthabitat primarily works on projects that focus on improving health by fixing what Dr Fred Hollows (1929–1993) called “health hardware,” in this case the physical infrastructure in a home that enables occupants to undertake the nine Healthy Living Practices. Since 1985, licensed contractors overseen by Healthabitat have completed some 287,919 repair jobs, mostly in remote Indigenous communities. But recently they also conducted projects in densely populated urban areas in both Australia and the USA. “And those projects have provided data to support the important thesis that poor housing is not an issue of indigeneity,” Torzillo says, “it is an issue of poverty.”

While a common misconception persists that occupants in remote Aboriginal communities have destroyed their own homes, Healthabitat’s extensive collection of data has demonstrated that vandalism (or even unsuccessful repair work) accounts for only seven percent of damaged health hardware.

Overwhelmingly, poor design, poor material choices, shoddy or incomplete initial construction (19%), and lack of routine maintenance (74%) are the factors that lead to substandard infrastructure in the homes that they have worked on.

As Torzillo puts it, “We have found that you can improve health hardware in these communities for an affordable cost. And we have also shown that the key reasons that these houses aren’t performing are not reasons which are philosophical, or race related, or even occupant dependent. They are issues that are fixable.”

Small teams of local people undertake Survey-Fix work as part of Healthabitat’s “yellow caps” house repair program.

This all seems fairly straightforward. After all, the link between sanitation and health has been widely accepted since at least the Victorian era. A functioning toilet, kitchen and shower should be standard in all homes, and yet the problem of healthy housing in Indigenous communities is ongoing.

Which is not to say that Healthabitat has not had some success. “I think what we have done is we have unequivocally changed the language and the rhetoric around housing in Australia. So at every housing conference somebody talks about the nine Healthy Living Practices, and at every conference people talk about housing for health, and most bureaucratic statements include language that would suggest that they are adopting the principles,” Torzillo explains. “The difficulty is in the implementation.”

Despite clearly defined solutions and quantifiable evidence that its projects work, Healthabitat’s methodology has yet to be meaningfully translated into Federal and State government policy within Australia. When asked why, Torzillo admits that there is no easy answer. For him, “the hard question”, as he puts it, is why do those in authority insist on labelling the problem as ‘wicked’?

Tackling this question is one of the reasons Healthabitat became an industry partner on a Housing for Health Incubator, led by Professor Tess Lea and facilitated by the Henry Halloran Trust. Beyond the big, complex ‘why’ questions, Lea and her team are also examining the interactions between politics and bureaucracy and probing the ‘how.’

They are asking questions, Torzillo says, such as: “How is it that we are still building houses that don’t perform? How is it that we are losing housing stock because we don’t have sustainable maintenance systems? How does that happen?” Their research, which will conclude later this year, also addresses another apparently wicked problem: climate change.

As Torzillo explains, “Our work started with me thinking predominantly about child health, predominantly about infectious disease and the impact of washing and waste disposal in the 1980s. Most of that still stands, but now there is a whole other set of issues.” Climate change is perhaps the issue of our times, and it is already hitting hard in the communities Healthabitat works with. “Lots of remote communities now have temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s centigrade. And they are not going to have the money to afford the energy to control temperature. So communities are going to be threatened by that,” Torzillo says. “This is a big issue right now. So we want to bring that into the centre of what we’re doing.”

With this in mind, the Henry Halloran Trust Incubator is looking at updating, modernising, and refocusing Healthabitat’s work with an emphasis on the impact of the climate crisis on housing for poor people.

As Torzillo points out. “It’s not a future issue, it’s a here-and-now issue.”

Tracey Clement is an artist and writer based in Sydney, Australia.