NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: RACGP calls for QLD government to come clean

The image in the feature tile is from an RACGP newsGP article ‘Very disappointing’: UTI pharmacy prescribing pilot extended indefinitely published on 4 July 2022.

RACGP calls for QLD government to come clean

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called on the Queensland Government to come clean on the North Queensland Retail Pharmacy Scope of Practice Pilot. It comes following the RACGP lodging a Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) request to the Queensland Health Department on 28 March this year – 256 days ago. So far, no information has been forthcoming. The application sought access to meeting agendas, meeting papers (including notes and briefing papers), minutes, correspondence, budget documents and briefings relating to the pilot.

The college has previously cautioned that the pilot will fragment care and put patient safety and wellbeing at risk. In October this year, the RACGP doubled down on warnings that the experiment will result in poorer health outcomes for patients and much higher healthcare costs. Since then, several jurisdictions including Victoria and NSW, have forged ahead with their own pharmacy prescribing plans.

RACGP President and Mackay-based GP Dr Nicole Higgins said that scrutiny of the pilot was needed more than ever. “This is not rocket science, if due process has been followed then these documents exist, and it is in the public’s interest to know what they contain, especially as this pilot is the product of an election promise rather than responding to a demonstrable public need,” she said.

To view the RACGP media release What is the Queensland Government hiding on the controversial pharmacy prescribing pilot? in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Concerns mob missing out on eating disorder treatment

To view the ABC News article Concerns Indigenous Australians missing out on eating disorder treatment in full click here.

Wiradjuri and Wotjobulak man AJ Williams battled bulimia for three years. Image source: ABC News.

Remote housing: holding government to account

Royal Darwin Hospital’s Dr Nerida Moore and paediatric registrar Dr Tasmyn Soller have co-authored an article about how overcrowding and poor-quality housing are significant driving forces of death and disease in remote communities of the NT, saying “As health care workers, we bear witness to the devastating impact that overcrowding and grossly substandard infrastructure brings. We see mothers who are desperate to find solutions to enable them to wash their children’s clothes, limited by access to washing machines, power and water. Likewise, we see families advocating to reduce overcrowding in their community who are told to wait patiently for nearly a decade for a new house to be built.”

Inadequate housing and overcrowding are at crisis level in many parts of the NT – a fact that has been established over many decades. In Australia, the highest levels of overcrowding occur in very remote communities. In 2019, it was estimated that 51% of Indigenous Australians living in very remote communities resided in overcrowded homes. Estimates suggest an extra 5,000 homes are needed by 2028 to reduce levels of overcrowding to an acceptable level.

It is therefore unsurprising that remote communities experience some of the highest rates of devastating and preventable diseases such as acute rheumatic fever (ARF), rheumatic heart disease (RHD), acute post streptococcal glomerulonephritis, chronic suppurative lung disease, skin infections and otitis media. These diseases, even though they have different pathophysiology, all have common links to the social determinants of health. This is further highlighted by the steep decline of these diseases globally as living conditions have gradually improved across the world.

To view the InSight article Remote community housing: holding government to account in full click here.

Gloria Chula lives in a three-bedroom house of 16 people in Wadeye, one of the Northern Territory’s poorest and most troubled Indigenous communities. Image source: The Islander.

Nine-year-old ‘doctors’ set to graduate

A group of primary school-aged “doctors” are set to graduate in Melbourne’s north and become life-long health ambassadors for themselves and their communities. The 30-odd students in grades three and four at Reservoir East Primary School are graduating from the 15-week Malpa Young Doctors for Life program this week.

The program is culturally derived and teaches both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children traditional ways of healing, along with modern ways of keeping communities healthy. Interstate, nine South Australian schools signed up in 2022, and three schools are also part of the program in NSW in Dubbo South, and in Smithtown and Kempsey West in the Mid North Coast region.

The program “equips them with Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge which they end up sharing with others – I believe they are closing the gap for themselves,” Malpa leader Mel Harrison said. “At Reservoir, one of the main benefits is that it has dramatically improved school attendance. “The way the program is designed means that every child feels some form of success in Malpa.”

To view the Milton Ulladulla Times article Nine-year-old ‘doctors’ set to graduate in full click here.

Students from a primary school in Melbourne took part in the Malpa Young Doctors for Life program. Image source: Milton Ulladulla Times.

NT facing COVID-19 spike

COVID-19 cases have doubled in the NT in the past week, rising faster than anywhere else in the country. The NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles says the NT has moved out of the COVID-19 emergency phase but Aboriginal health care providers say that call is premature. Angus Randall reports that health services are very worried about a Christmas peak. The NT recently recorded a worrying COVID milestone, 100,000 cases since the start of the pandemic. Experts say that is likely an undercount, but the trend in the official numbers shows a steeper rise in the NT right now than anywhere else in Australia.

John Paterson the CEO, of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) said “Up until this year we’ve had 40 Aboriginal deaths in the NT, it’s killing Aboriginal people at younger ages, with the highest numbers of deaths in the 60-69 age group then the 50-59 age group compared to over 80 for the non-Aboriginal population, so you can see the Aboriginal population is at most risk.”

Mr Paterson is concerned about what will happen over the coming weeks as those in remote communities travel to the more populated centres during the Christmas season. “It is unfortunate and I think premature that governments are taking their foot off the pedal and not giving this issue the attention it deserves given we are now seeing a rise in COVID-19 numbers again. Our advice would have been to wait until after the Christmas New Year period to see what the numbers are like and reconsider any other public measures we might need to take during that period.”

You can listen to The World Today ABC broadcast NT facing COVID-19 spike in full here.

Photo: Steven Schubert, ABC News. Image source: ABC News – The World Today.

Australia’s annual sexual health check up

New data released last week by the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney reveals how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted testing and diagnoses of sexually transmissible infections (STI) in Australia. The report titled HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual surveillance report shows that in 2021 there were 86,916 diagnoses* of chlamydia, 26,577 of gonorrhoea and 5,570 of infectious syphilis in Australia.

“Prior to the pandemic we were seeing increases in chlamydia and gonorrhoea, but in 2021 we recorded a small decline. We believe this reduction is a consequence of both reduced testing and reduced sexual activity with new or casual partners, due to social restrictions and lockdowns during 2020 and 2021,” says Dr Skye McGregor from the Kirby Institute, one of the report’s authors. “On the other hand, syphilis has been steadily increasing among women of reproductive age, gay and bisexual men and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This reflects sustained and ongoing transmission across Australia, which is extremely concerning.”

To view the scimex article Australia’s Annual Sexual Health Check Up: STIs are mostly down, but reductions in testing could be the cause in full click here.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) webpage of 1800 My Options website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Ancient practice helping Kimberley

The image in the feature tile is of a cultural healer treating a patient’s knee by rubbing in red ochre and singing healing songs. The image appeared in an article ‘The women’s song is so strong’: cultural healing in the Kimberley published in The Guardian yesterday, Monday 14 November 2022. Photo: Richard Wainwright, AAP.

Ancient practice helping the Kimberley

Deep in WA’s outback, in a region haunted by trauma and loss, a group of elderly women carry out an ancient healing practice. Red ochre is rubbed into a patient’s knee as they sing a powerful song, their arthritic hands working in a liquid motion. The healers have seen plenty of pain – both physical and spiritual – among those seeking their help.

“We see their eyes when they come to us. We see the eyes and the eyes tell us that person is sick,” a healer said. “They come to us ladies and we sing that healing song to them. We put the red ochre on them first to protect them, because the women’s song is so strong. And after that, they feel real good. They feel settled and calm and everything.”

Jalngangurru Healing is a trial program connecting patients in the Kimberley with male and female cultural healers. It targets clients in Fitzroy Crossing, Derby and surrounding communities, supported by the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre and Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation with federal funding. But the demand for its services is flooding in from across the nation.

“It went active on social media and it just went mad,” said Emama Nguda chief executive Ben Burton. “There were people from all over Australia sending messages trying to access help … people who are just desperate, in pain and suffering from mental health, loss after loss after loss and depression. All the feedback so far from people is it’s just life-changing.”

To view the Australian Associated Press article Ancient practice helping to heal Kimberley in full click here.

Tammy Solonec is helping people access traditional cultural healing in WA’s north. Photo: Richard Wainwright. Image source: AAP.

Repeated breaches of child rights at detention centre

Save the Children is appalled by the footage from WA’s Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre aired by ABC’s Four Corners and condemns the conduct as a gross violation of children’s rights. The video shows a boy being handcuffed, forcibly held down and sat on by guards in a dangerous restraint technique known as ‘folding up’, with reports several other boys have been subjected to similar practices. The ABC footage is further evidence that children’s rights are continuing to be violated at Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre, highlighting the urgent need for an overhaul of WA’s youth justice system before more irreparable harm is done.

To view the Save the Children media release Repeated breaches of child rights in WA youth detention must end now in full click here.

In a related article Union: ‘Chronic understaffing’ contributing to stress and aggression among Banksia Hill child detainees available here a union representing youth custodial officers say “chronic understaffing” at Banksia Hill Detention Centre is contributing to the heightened stress and aggression among child detainees.

The CPSU/CSA on Monday released a letter its leadership sent to the Department of Justice in May 2021 – 18 months ago – that sounded the alarm on safety concerns at the facility. The letter said dangerously low staffing levels was putting the workforce at risk, denying the children in custody proper rehabilitation and resulting in “rolling lockdowns”.

The 15-year-old boy spent more than 60% of his recent stint in custody, in unlawful solitary confinement. Image source: ABC News.

Flooding makes existing disadvantage worse

Australia is currently experiencing its third consecutive year of a La Niña weather cycle, with more rainfall than average expected over the spring and summer months and a heightened risk of floods, tropical cyclones, prolonged heatwaves and grass fires in southern Australia.  According to the Human Rights Council Report 75-80% of the world’s population will be negatively impacted by climate change. It also states climate change will exacerbate existing poverty and inequality and have the most severe impact on our poor.

Indigenous people in Australia make up just 3.8% of the population. Still, they account for nearly 30% of those living in poverty and up to 50% in remote communities. Many live in poor, overcrowded housing not prepared for natural disasters or the effects of climate change such as persistently hotter temperatures. In addition, there is limited nearby infrastructure or resources to prepare for and respond to emergencies.

All levels of government have been criticised for a lack of action in supporting Indigenous communities during times of crisis. This now needs to be addressed urgently, given the destructive weather is forecast to continue in the coming months. Earlier this year, when floods hit the town of Lismore in NSW, the local Indigenous community was left to fend for themselves, with many people losing their homes and possessions. First Nations communities were among those worst affected, with many people stranded without access to food or clean water.

To read the Mirage article Effects of climate change such as flooding makes existing disadvantages for Indigenous communities so much worse in full click here.

Chelsea Claydon (left) and Izzy Walton (right) have been running the Koori Kitchen in Lismore, which is still providing 100s of meals to flood-affected residents on the Northern Rivers. Photo: Matt Coble. Image source: ABC News.

Workplace racism leaves workers traumatised

Between 2018 and 2020, Ms Jacqueline Stewart worked within the NSW Health Education Centre Against Violence (ECAV) — a unit responsible for helping with the prevention and response to violence, abuse and neglect, including within Indigenous communities. She resigned in 2021 after, she said, her complaints to NSW Health management about racism and bullying were not properly addressed.

There were several incidents, but some of the main ones she made formal complaints about included that a contracted worker in her team painted her face black at a work function and then posted it on the ECAV’s Facebook page at the time. Ms Stewart describes her time at NSW Health as “emotional destruction” and says the impacts of racism and bullying are long lasting. “It’s impacted my family. It’s been a massive impact.”

Research conduct last year by consulting firm MindTribes and the University of Melbourne, found that 76% of respondents either witnessed discrimination, experienced discrimination, or had both witnessed and experienced it, and 69% of respondents felt “low or no confidence” in the reporting process.

The latest data follows a report from Diversity Council Australia (DCA) called Racism at Work, released earlier this year found 88%t of respondents agreed racism was an issue in Australian workplaces and 93% agreed organisations needed to take action to address it. While support for organisations to tackle workplace racism was high, only 27%t of survey respondents said their organisations were proactively preventing workplace racism.

To view the MSN article ‘Isolated and traumatised’ workers subject to racist slurs call for employers to do more to stamp out bullying and harassment in full click here.

Jacqueline Stewart, a former employee of NSW Health, was a victim of racism. Photo: Daniel Irvine, ABC News.

Calls for input on draft Australian Cancer Plan

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, said the Australian Government is calling for stakeholder input on the draft Australian Cancer Plan (ACP) which is designed to provide lasting change and improve outcomes for all people affected by cancer. Australia leads the world in cancer outcomes however, it is still the leading cause of death in this country. This year alone, 50,000 people will lose their lives to cancer.

The draft ACP presents the opportunity for all Australians to comment on a ground-breaking national strategy that sets out strategic objectives, ambitions, goals and priority actions for cancer control. To make a difference we need coordinated system-wide engagement.

To view Minister Butler’s media release Consultation opens on draft Australian Cancer Plan in full click here.

Indigenous Eye Health Unit to launch book

Indigenous Eye Health Unit invite you to the launch of “Minum Barreng: The story of the Indigenous Eye Health Unit” (IEHU). This book documents the work and achievements of the IEHU over the last 15 years.
The launch will be from 10:00 – 11:30AM on Friday 2 December 2022 in the Woodward Centre, Level 10, Melbourne Law School, 185 Pelham Street, Carlton.

Registrations for the launch close on Thursday 24 November 2022.

For more information you can access a flyer about the book launch event here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: $22.5m for Birthing on Country

The image in the feature tile is from the Birthing on Yuin Country Model of Care webpage of the Waminda website.

$22.5m for Birthing on Country

The Albanese government has cemented their commitment to supporting First Nations Women and their families with the announcement of $22.5m for the advancement of Waminda’s Birthing on Country Centre of Excellence, in Nowra.

Melanie Briggs, Waminda’s Minga Gudjaga & Birthing on Country Manager, says that this funding is a huge step forward for Aboriginal women on the South Coast and NSW. “…A First Nations led Birthing Centre of Excellence with wrap around supports, is at the forefront of decolonising maternity care systems for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in this country. Aboriginal maternity models of care are the answer to improving the outcomes for First Nations mothers and babies.”

Waminda and the Minga Gudjaga program (Waminda’s Maternity & Childcare program) is already advancing in ready laid plans that will continue in to 2023. “…We are currently securing land, and we will be building a purpose-built facility, so that our mums can birth their babies in this place. We’re designing our birth centre. It’s designed by Waminda’s Cultural Committee and our women in community.”

To read Waminda’s media release $22.5 Million for Birthing on Country! in full click here.

Midwife Melanie Briggs holds newborn Talekai during a special cultural ceremony. Photo: Naomi Locke Photography. Image source: ABC News.

We must act NOW to save lives

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed 3,144 Australians died by suicide in 2021, compared to 3,139 in 2020. Sadly, eight to nine people die by suicide every day. There were 2,358 male suicides (18.2 deaths per 100,000) and 786 female suicide deaths (6.1 per 100,000). Suicide was the 15th leading cause of death overall in 2021. Suicide was the most common cause of death for young people aged 15–24 years. In 2021, 219 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died by suicide. The median age of death by suicide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was 30.2 years, more than a decade younger than the median age of death by suicide for the general population of 44.8 years. The gap is widening compared to last year (31.3 vs 43.5).

Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray said, “Suicide rates remained stubbornly high in 2021. One death by suicide is one too many and more needs to be done to turn the trend towards zero. “Data is incredibly important in suicide prevention. It helps inform how we approach suicide prevention and influences service and program delivery. Access to causes of death data is part of the picture, but we also need more timely data on suicide attempts to better understand and respond to distress in our communities.

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article We must act now to save lives, ABS data confirms in full click here.

Inclusive healthcare design fundamental

Inclusive design is not aspirational; it is fundamental. The places we create should reflect and include the voices of many different people, and this is particularly true for essential services such as healthcare.

Hassell’s research, ‘Equal access is not an optional extra,’ identifies that to create a truly inclusive environment, designers should go beyond regulatory accessibility compliance requirements and consider a more holistic and humanist approach to the concept of universal design. A wide range of principles addressing the issues of social integration, personalisation, and cultural appropriateness must be considered.

In Australia, the greater burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders compared to the non-Indigenous population underscores the need for specific policies that improve the health of First Nations people through increasing cultural safety. If an environment doesn’t feel safe, it’s not.

To read the Architecture and Design article Hassell ramps up its research on healthcare design in full click here.

Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service Healthcare Hub, WA. Image source: Australia Architecture News.

Empowering women to manage PCOS

New, culturally safe, easy-to-understand and beautifully designed resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have been developed by Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC).

“This project has been a great opportunity to inform Aboriginal women in our community about PCOS, and importantly help them understand that there are things that they can do to help manage the condition,” says Tahnia Edwards, Manager of CAAC’s Alukura Women’s Health Service.

Ms Edwards is referring to an exciting cooperation between Jean Hailes for Women’s Health and CACC funded by the Australian Government. The result of the cooperation? New, free, much needed and easy to understand health information for First Nations communities in the form of unique, engaging brochures, educational kits and animations to recognise and manage symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

PCOS affecting 1 in 6 women with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background

To read The Pharmacy Guild of Australia article Empowering First Nations women to learn about and manage polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in full click here.

Decolonising mental health systems webinar

Indigenous peoples are custodians of knowledge systems vetted and refined by thousands of centuries of practice-based evidence. Prior to colonisation, these knowledge systems ensured the survival, health, and harmony of Indigenous peoples, communities, and ecosystems. Post-colonisation, the health and mental health gaps between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples has widened at alarming rates.

Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing (TIMHWB) is hosting a FREE WEBINARDecolonising Mental Health Systems: Global Experiences for Wellbeing from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM on Friday 11 November 2022.

In this webinar, six Indigenous global leaders in mental health and wellbeing, from four colonised countries (Australian, NZ, Canada and the USA) will share their experiences of walking in two worlds and of navigating mental health systems to ensure the wellbeing, healing, and self-determination of Indigenous peoples. A holistic worldview is offered that moves away from the deficit- and individually- focused narrative of mental illness and considers the social, cultural, political, and historical context of health and the structural drivers of health inequality.

You can view a flyer with further details about the FREE webinar here and register here.

Limiting health impacts of climate change

Healthy Futures, an organisation of healthcare workers and community members working to limit the health impacts of climate change and pollution are currently inviting health organisations to support a letter to the NSW Government and Opposition, seeking a bipartisan commitment to 100% renewable stationary energy prior to the next election to reduce the health impacts of both fossil fuel combustion and climate change.  Pollution and climate change are likely to disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Pollution and climate change are likely to disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Healthy Futures are inviting as many healthcare workers and organisations as possible to endorse this letter by Wednesday 30 November 2022 to be able to deliver the letter well ahead of the March 2023 election.

You can access the letter to the NSW Government and Opposition here. The below video is part of Royal Society of Medicine’s Health Emergency of Climate Change 10-part series available on the Healthy Futures website here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Bandana Day 2022

Held on the last Friday in October, National Bandanna Day is the flagship fundraising and awareness campaign for Canteen. Since Bandanna Day began it has raised more than $35 million to support young people impacted by cancer.

For more information on Bandana Day tomorrow Friday 28 October 2022 click here.

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

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

NACCHO CEO reflects on successful conference

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

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

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

Housing shortage potentially “life-threatening”

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

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

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

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

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

RHD landmark study makes inroads

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

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

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

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

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

Improving health for people with intellectual disability

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

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

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

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

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

Urapunga Store’s sugar cut success

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

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

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

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

Photo: Isabella Higgins, ABC News.

Sax Institute, a community-led research pioneer

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: Sax Institute website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Children’s Week 2022

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

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

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

For more information about Children’s Week click here.

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

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

NACCHO’s Youth Conference – it’s started!

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

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

Health Literacy Strategy Framework

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

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

You can access the strategy and online survey below:

Consultation Paper – Development of the National Health Literacy Strategy

National Health Literacy Strategy Framework Consultation Survey Questions

National Health Literacy Strategy Consultation Online Survey, available here.

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

First care standard on stillbirth

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

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

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

Click here to register.

Supporting child health in remote Australia

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

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

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

To view the article in full click here.

Photo: Getty Images. Image source: BBC.

Overcrowding reduced by only 3.2%

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

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

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

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

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

Videos to tackle men’s mental health

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

You can view the short video in full here.

Free tool to measure LGBTQ inclusive care

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

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

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

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

Image source: Edith Cowan University website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

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

World Mental Health Day 2022

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

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

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

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

Support for mob struggling with mental health

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

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

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

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

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

SBS launches Mind Your Health portal

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

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

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

Image source: SBS About Mind Your Health webpage.

SMS4DeadlyDads comes to the Kimberley

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

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

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

HOW DOES IT WORK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: SMS4DEADLYDADS website.

Return of Targeting Cancer Fun Run 

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

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

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

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

New housing for Alice Springs town camps

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

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

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

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

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Animation to combat deadly disease

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

World Homeless Day 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

NTRAI extended for two years

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendation to continue MUP on alcohol

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Jane Gibson. Image source: ABC News.

Mental health tech a gamechanger

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

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

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

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

Image source: Pro Bono Australia.

Orange Door helps families in crisis

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

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

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

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

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

$6.9m for BBVSTI research

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

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

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

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

Image source: University of Melbourne website.

Supporting recovery from addiction

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

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

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

Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Building back after the floods

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

The image in the feature tile is from an article Cardiovascular disease risk assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged under 35 years: a consensus statement published in The Medical Journal of Australia, Monday 16 March 2020.

World Heart Day 2022

Today on World Heart Day 2022, we proudly share with you NACCHO’s new Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) logo. This logo has been created to promote the important work that we do around ARF and RHD. The logo depicts the flow of blood cells through a heart valve and also symbolises a healthy and happy person.

With the theme of World Heart Day being Use Heart for Every Heart, NACCHO would like to encourage all mob to get a health check so we can keep our hearts healthy. Cardiovascular disease can affect anyone at any age. It’s important for us to get checked out so we can live healthy lives.

For more information about World Heart Day click here.

Community-led approach to tackling RHD

On World Heart Day 2022, NACCHO would like to highlight the innovative work done towards improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and building better outcomes for them by our member, Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in Maningrida, NT. Below is an extract from the article Maningrida program aims to stop the spread of rheumatic heart disease published in The NT News earlier today, available here.

Top End locals quite literally sick of the high rates of disease in their community have taken their health into their own hands. Maningrida residents drove a community-led and owned approach to tackling the increasing incidence of rheumatic heart disease (RHD). The initiative began at the ACCHO Mala’la Health Service in 2018 and has already seen success, with the long-term goal to “eradicate it completely”. “We have done some great work and the program ran beautifully for three years,” Mala’la Health Clinic Health and Community manager Lesley Woolf said. “We are now looking at revitalising it and seeing how we can enhance it.”

The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data shows ARF cases increasing from 60 per 100,000 in 2016 to 69 per 100,000 in 2020. Ms Woolf said the community of just 3,000 people was identified as having some of the highest rates of ARF and RHD in the world. She said the residents had stabilised the number of new cases of heart disease where before it was dramatically rising. It is largely down to a handful of activities brought in to the community.

“What this looked like was community screening of all the school kids — we screened 400 kids and found that one in 20 had or were at risk of developing RHD,” Ms Woolf said. “It was a very high cohort of previously undiagnosed kids.” The students were educated on symptoms of heart disease and when they should present to the school nurse. “This led to a very good level of health literacy and certainly that has continued,” Ms Woolf said. It also lead to undiscovered cases able to receive earlier intervention and increase the health outcomes for these residents.

The council was also engaged to provide trailers for yard clean ups and help with repairs for housing which promoted healthy homes. As part of that Orange Sky was also brought in to provide residents with a free laundry service. Ms Woolf said the combined effort of these services and using “community champions” to ensure decision-making was all kept local was what made the program so effective. She said the introduction of the initiatives would be something of a lasting legacy in Maningrida. Ms Woolf said, “You may eventually eradicate it but in the meantime we will focus on education, promoting healthy homes and healthy environments.”

Orange Sky was brought into the community of Maningrida to help reduce incidence of ARF. Image source: Mala’la Health Service website.

Climate change victory for Torres Strait Islanders

In a groundbreaking decision last week, a United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Australia has failed to: “protect Indigenous Torres Islanders against climate change impacts, has violated their rights to enjoy their cultures, free from “arbitrary interference” with their private life, family and home.”

The decision sends a clear message that governments must act on climate change and places a duty on the Albanese Government to ensure Indigenous rights are upheld as part of climate policy and planning, according to Professor Kristen Lyons at The University of Queensland. Lyons says the decision will open “up new pathways for Indigenous communities – who are often on the frontline of the climate crisis – to defend their rights.”

To hear more about the win, a webinar will be held with the Torres Strait Group 8 and their legal team tonight, Thursday 29 September at 6.30 PM AEST. For more details about the webinar and to register click here.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Groundbreaking victory for Torres Strait Islander people in their fight against climate change in full click here.

Keeping FV victim-survivors in own homes

A program to keep victim-survivors of domestic violence in their own homes will be able to support another 1,000 families with its expansion into 14 local government areas where the critical service has been unavailable. Canterbury and Burwood, Georges River and Sutherland in Sydney, along with regional councils stretching the north, mid-west and south of the state will soon support the Staying Home Leaving Violence program that assisted more than 4,600 people last year.

The program, which attracted $32.5 million funding in the state budget, helps support victim-survivors remain in their home without the threat of their abuser. Home security audits, safety planning, counselling services and property repairs following acts of violence are among the services clients can access through the program.

In 2021-22 the program supported 4,621 clients, including 3,690 adults and 844 children, while more than 1,000 information and referral services were provided. South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation, Waminda, previously received $150,000 under the program. A spokeswoman said the high rates of Aboriginal clients accessing Staying Home Leaving Violence highlighted the importance of a culturally safe service. “This is especially significant, considering the under-reporting of domestic and family violence by members of our community,” she said.

To view the Brisbane Times article Critical service to help domestic violence victims stay in their homes expanded across NSW in full click here.

Image source: Pursuit, University of Melbourne.

Lessons in overcoming racism

Three-time boxing world champion Anthony Mundine has spoken about facing racism and major obstacles throughout his life to achieve his goals while speaking to a select audience in the South West last week. The Super League Premiership winner and NSW State of Origin representative held three Mundine: Mindset of a Cham’p workshops last week, hosted by the South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS).

“Everybody already has their power,” Mundine said. “We’ve got to teach them the basic skills and the fundamentals of how to get that power back.” In the context of the current racism scandals rocking the AFL and other smaller sporting clubs around the country, Mundine said people needed to become more educated. “I was called a black c…, a monkey, all that, you know — all my life when I was young, playing sport,” he said. “Its part of society, and always will be, but we just have to just try to educate people as much as we can.”

Mundine framed the workshops around helping people use their hardships to help build resilience and work towards their goals, but also to encourage people to ask for help when they need it. This mindset aligns with the goals of the SWAMS mental health outreach programs in schools, which aim to education young people on sexual health and youth-suicide prevention.

SWAMS mental health services coordinator Justin Brown said the service had a dedicated team with tertiary qualified Aboriginal counsellors and a social worker, alongside specialist mental health workers. “It is important to reach out if you need support, our Mental Health Team are here for a yarn,” Mr Brown said.

To view the Bunbury Herald article Mindset: Anthony Mundine reveals powerful lessons of overcoming racism to South West audience in full click here.

Anthony Mundine, centre, with staff from SWAMS at the workshop. Photo: Jacinta Cantatore. Image source: Bunbury Herald.

Prevention key to fairer, healthier future

Australians on low incomes are cutting back on healthy foods, skipping meals and reporting wide-ranging consequences for their physical and mental health as a result of escalating cost-of-living pressures, according to a report released this week by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS). Almost two-thirds of people on JobSeeker, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment have had difficulty buying medication or getting medical care because they do not have enough money, the report found.

While the report’s recommendations are directed at the Federal Government, addressing cost-of-living pressures is also within scope for state, territory and local governments. When health leaders in Victoria were surveyed about key health issues ahead of the upcoming state election, many highlighted the importance of increased investment in prevention through addressing poverty, housing insecurity and the wider determinants of health.

Emma King, CEO VCOSS suggested the Government should prioritise and “formalise the role of community health” who are trusted and embedded in communities. “We saw this, it was highlighted throughout the pandemic,” she said. Community health services have a strong focus on the prevention of illness, operating with a social determinants of health lens, King said, and the “health literacy that they build is pretty phenomenal”.

Nerita Waight, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service CEO said “ACCHOs were recognised here and globally for keeping their communities safe” during the pandemic, showing strong evidence of the high quality care that community congtrolled health services provide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Community-led programs where people “identify their own needs and can get them addressed” are vital – “it’s them advocating for their needs”, according to Sampson at cohealth. “The issues are often the social determinants and they are often around mental health and social inclusion,” she said. “The barriers that are experienced by minority communities are disproportionate and so taking a one-stop-shop approach is not equitable.”

To read the Croakey Health Media article As Victoria faces an election, increased investment in prevention is key to unlocking the door on a fairer, healthier future in full click here.

Nerita Waight, CEO VALS. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Government policies fail to ensure adequate housing

Research findings show the social values of Aboriginal people differ significantly from non-Aboriginal values. Unfortunately, well-intentioned government policies too often ignore these crucial differences. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says everyone has the right to decent housing, which provides for their security, health and well-being.

However, past policies have not done enough to ensure Aboriginal people have adequate housing — it continues to lag behind non-Aboriginal housing across Australia. In 2020, the National Agreement on Closing the Gap included housing among its 16 key socio-economic targets to improve life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

However, the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) has found closing the gap targets cannot be met without addressing the current lack of affordable and quality housing. As it stands:

  • a much higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in overcrowded and public housing
  • only 42% own their own home compared with 65% of non-Indigenous households
  • housing shortages are predicted to increase to 90,901 dwellings across Australia by 2031, of which 65,000 are in NSW

To view the Architecture and Design article AHURI research shows that Indigenous housing policies need to be based on their community’s needs in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

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

How poor housing affects health

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

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

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

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

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

Far North research to treat tuberculosis

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

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

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

Cairns Hospital. Image source: Tropic Now.

Strong Women for Healthy Country meet

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

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

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

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

Group A Streptococcus molecular POC testing

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

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

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

To view the article in full click here.

Group A Streptococcus. Image source: Microbiologics Blog webpage.

Mental health, substance use, reincarceration

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

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

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

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

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

Aboriginal SEWB Scholarships Program

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

Dementia Action Week 19–25 Sep 2022

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

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

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

For more information about Dementia Action Week 2022 click here.

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

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

QLD health service delivery needs overhaul

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

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

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

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

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

NACCHO leads environmental health workshop

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

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

For more information about the NATSIEH Conference 2022 click here.

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

ACCHOs consulted over RHD program

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

Organisations that attended included:

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

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

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

Homelessness linked to vulnerability clustering

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

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

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

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

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

Better drug treatment needed in Far West NSW

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

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

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

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

Image source: Australian Journal of General Practice.

Dementia cases could be prevented

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

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

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

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

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

 

Youth held in police watch houses to sue

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

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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