NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Keep mob safe this winter

Keep mob safe this winter

With winter here, the best way you and your family can stay well and keep doing the things you love is to:

  • Wear a mask when out in crowded spaces
  • Stay home and get tested if you’re not feeling well
  • Get together outside or in well ventilated places
  • Stay up to date with your vaccinations, including COVID-19 and flu

The NSW Government have prepared a range of new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander winter and flu resources to promote help these messages. Your help in sharing these resources through your channels is appreciated to help protect the community this winter.

Even if you’ve had COVID-19, it is still important to stay up to date with your vaccinations to boost your immunity and protect yourself and others. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) now recommends waiting 3 months to receive your vaccine after a confirmed COVID-19 infection.

There are antiviral treatments available for people at higher risk of getting really sick from COVID-19, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 35 years and over and those with underlying health conditions. You can access more information about antivirals here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over are also eligible for a winter COVID-19 vaccine (second booster) four months after your first booster dose to help keep your immunity strong. If you get COVID-19 before your winter booster dose, wait three months to receive it.

For more information you can view the NSW Government’s Keep Our Mob Safe COVID-19 Newsletter here and access the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander winter and flu resources, including videos (screenshot of the Keep Our Mob Safe video below), posters, graphics and fact sheets here.

Lowitja Institute CEO reflects on NAIDOC Week

Lowitja Institute CEO, Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed says that “NAIDOC Week can’t just be a tick box, where people invite us in for one week of the year, listen, take some notes, and then go back to business as usual. We need to celebrate and take pride in our First Nations peoples every day of the week and to examine our role in continuing injustice and inequity.”

“This year’s NAIDOC theme encapsulates this idea, it asks us all to: Get up! Stand up! Show up! My people already have a proud history of getting up, standing up, and showing up. From our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers who fight everyday for improved care, our Grannies fighting for our kids in out-of-home care, to our activists who scream for justice and remind us of the toll. Just to name a few.

We have been seeking to make change since the first days of colonisation. As an Elder at the NAIDOC flag-raising event on Naarm reminded us, our peoples have been long told ‘Sit down, and shut up, or be locked up!’ So I see this year’s NAIDOC theme as a call to action to non-Indigenous people, to the broader community and to the institutions and organisations that we work with and within. A call to create environments where racism is actively dealt with and prevented. Where governance at all levels privileges Indigenous leadership – and not just by putting an Indigenous person on a reference group. We need authentic involvement. True allyship. And a clear focus on those three NAIDOC Week calls to action.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article Get up, stand up, show up – and listen up in full click here.

Lowitja Institute CEO Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed. Image source: Better Futures Australia.

RACGP slams QLD pharmacy pilot extension

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has slammed Queensland Health’s decision to extend the UTI pharmacy prescribing pilot despite concerns raised by leading health groups, including the RACGP. It follows reports of Queensland Health advising that the controversial pilot, which allows pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for uncomplicated urinary tract infections or UTIs, will continue while work takes place “determining the future of the scheme”. They also pointed towards a 118-page evaluation report, which has been made public for the first time. Some of the contents of the report were previously reported on by The Australian several months ago.

To view the RACGP media release RACGP slams pharmacy prescribing pilot extension in full click here.

Photo: AAP. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Improving kidney care for mob

The Adelaide-based Aboriginal Kidney Care Together – Improving Outcomes Now (AKction) project aims to transform Indigenous kidney health and healthcare. It is founded on long-term relationships, a shared determination for systemic change, and recognition of the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership, autonomy and governance.

Last week, the @AKction2 team took the reins of Croakey’s rotated Twitter account @WePublicHealth and shared knowledge, language and insights into the cultural determinants of health, plus photos from the recent Renal Society of Australasia conference.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Sharing vibrant, productive and creative journeys to improve kidney care for First Peoples in full click here as well as read more about AKction’s work here.

Support for VIC ACCHO frontline workers

The Andrews Labor Government is supporting more Aboriginal organisations across Victoria to provide vital health services in culturally safe ways with a landmark investment in new jobs across the state. Minister for Treaty and First Peoples Gabrielle Williams has announced $25 million is being shared across 26 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations as part of the second tranche of the Aboriginal Workforce Fund.

The fund was established to support organisations to set their own workforce priorities, with a focus on new jobs, staff wellbeing and building organisations’ capacity to continue delivering vital services to their communities. Recipients include:

  • Aboriginal Community Elders Service, which received $1.6 million to deliver holistic mental health and alcohol and other drug services, and to enhance Elders’ connections with their culture and community
  • Victorian Aboriginal Health Services has also been allocated $1.4 million to strengthen the capacity and capability of its workforce to deliver a range of medical, dental and social services for Victoria’s Aboriginal community
  • Oonah Health and Community Services, which will expand its clinical arm and employ new staff to support the delivery of health, education, community and employment services, and
  • Kirrae Health Service, which will invest in skills training for its Aboriginal workers.

To read the Victorian Government’s media release Supporting Frontline Workers At Aboriginal Services in full click here.

Michael Graham, the CEO of Victoria Aboriginal Health Services, is pictured receiving his COVID-19 vaccination in Melbourne. Photo: Luis Ascui, NCA NewsWire. Image source: news.com.au

Coles raises funds for First Nations health

To raise funds for Indigenous health this NAIDOC week, Coles supermarkets and Express stores in the NT and select regional stores in WA have launched a ‘Purple House’ campaign. Purple House – also known as the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation – is a First Nations-owned not-for-profit health service that provides dialysis services to people suffering from chronic kidney disease in 19 remote communities across NT, WA and SA.

Through the campaign, Coles will donate $1 to Purple House for every customer who wears the colour purple during their shopping trip or fuel stop at participating Coles supermarkets and Coles Express sites in WA and the NT until Sunday 10 July. “The money raised will help dialysis patients who are forced far from home for treatment, to get back on country for important cultural business and precious time with family,” said, Sarah Brown, Purple House CEO.

To view the Inside Retail article Coles NT, regional WA stores raise funds for Indigenous health in full click here.

Image4 source: Coles Group.

AMSA call for greater disability representation

The Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) is calling for medical schools and healthcare systems across the nation to actively support students and professionals with disabilities. Considering almost 20% of Australians have reported to have a disability, the current healthcare systems are lacking the protocols and resources to adequately address the various challenges encountered by medical students and health professionals.

“The bottom line is our current approach is not good enough. We are leaving an important part of the population behind, which is unacceptable. We need to see the appropriate pathways for more students and professionals with disabilities in healthcare. We need more role models,” said Jasmine Davis, President of AMSA.

“Inclusion in medicine is important for so many reasons, including creating a better healthcare system for people with disability by embedding those with lived experience within it,” said Jimmy Jan, a current medical student and Ambassador for Wings for Life.

To view the AMSA media release ‘We need more role models’ – Medical students call for greater disability representation and support in the healthcare world click here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Thurs 30.6.22

Image is feature tile is of health staff working long hours to test residents in Bidyadanga. Photo: KAMS. Image source: ABC News 28 February 2022.

KAMS’ quick response to COVID-19

At last week’s Communicable Diseases and Immunisation Conference, Dr Lorraine Anderson shared some valuable insights from the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service’s (KAMS) response to COVID-19.

Medical director at KAMS, Anderson showcased their quick response to the pandemic, urging all conference delegates to consider the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) model of care to “help bring all people on board in the health space”.

In her presentation, Anderson said that communication, leadership, governance and the prioritisation of Aboriginal cultural and spiritual ways, self-determination and empowerment were critical.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Aboriginal leadership key to successful management of COVID-19 in the Kimberley region in full, including Anderson’s full presentation, as delivered at the conference on 21 June 2022 click here.

Vaughan Matsumoto, Senior Aboriginal Practitioner at the Beagle Bay clinic receives a coronavirus vaccine. Photo: KAMS, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

Leading the way to improve RHD outcomes

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, between 5 and 15 years of age are 55 times more likely to die from rheumatic heart disease (RHD) than other Australian children. The broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with RHD than other Australians. The prevalence of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is also significant. This was released in a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in April 2022.  

To address these alarming issues, NACCHO will develop a new service delivery model for the national Rheumatic Fever Strategy (RFS), for the prevention, treatment, and management of RHD and ARF. This model will be co-designed with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector. 

A Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) will oversee the strategy and be co-chaired by NACCHO and the Australian Government Department of Health. The JAC has been established to create a nationally cohesive approach to ARF and RHD, with a focus on improving care pathways and RHD data and includes representatives from: 

  • State and Territory Government Health representatives – NT, QLD, SA, and WA 
  • NACCHO Affiliates – NT, QLD, SA, and WA 
  • Heart Foundation 
  • Australian Medical Association
  • Members of the NACCHO RHD Expert Working Group.

A NACCHO RHD Expert Working Group has also been established and comprises representatives from the ACCHO sector.   

The JAC will meet bi-monthly during the establishment phase of the program. A meeting communique will be publicly available and provided to relevant stakeholders.  

Click here to read the JAC February 2022 communique.  

If you would like to be kept informed about progress in this space, you can contact the NACCHO RHD team using this email link.

Dr Josh Francis, Shannon Brown and Trey Brown in Maningrida. Photo: Mike Hill, Take Heart Program. Image source: NRHA Partyline on-line magazine.

Decolonising healthcare – a call to action

In her final story from the 21st International Conference on Emergency Medicine, Dr Amy Coopes has written about the call to decolonise healthcare, and for health workers to challenge “inequity and injustice in their work”. Dr Coopes explains that structural inequities and injustices as a legacy of colonisation can only be dismantled by acknowledging that a script of subjugation continues to be played out in healthcare settings, perpetuating a cycle of prejudice and ill health for oppressed peoples.

Disrupting this narrative is urgent work for all healthcare professionals, and begins with reflexive action, interrogating the motivations, power imbalances and potential for oppression, violence and injustice in our practices and approaches in health. These were the central messages of a compelling call to action for emergency doctors at a recent global summit held in Melbourne centred on the themes of equity, sustainability and innovation.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Decolonising healthcare: a call for equity in action in full click here.

REFOCUS makes profound difference

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! and it calls on the community to rally for systemic change and continue to support and secure institutional, structural, collaborative and co-operative reforms.

On a local level, one organisation working day in, day out to make a difference is REFOCUS. The charity is making a profound difference in the wellbeing of Indigenous youth and their families across the region. REFOCUS has been delivering wellbeing support services to the Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay and Gympie regions since 2010.

The charity stands for ‘Redirecting and Empowering Families through Culturally Unique Services’ and provides a range of programs to support children to reach their full potential. REFOCUS CEO Darcy Cavanagh first began working in the youth and child protection sector in 1998 and knows firsthand the need for this type of support in the local community. “My interest in this line of work comes from my brief experience of being placed in the foster care system with my two brothers and the life that followed being returned home,” he says.

Launching REFOCUS with six staff, and now with a team more than 60, the charity supports thousands of individuals through a variety of programs across its catchment area, with a specific focus on children under 18. Programs include family wellbeing services, family participation programs, NDIS support services, foster and kinship care as well as Aboriginal medical service Gunyah of Wellness.

To view the My Weekly article It’s time to come together in full click here and to access the REFOCUS website click here.

Calls for VIC Treaty Authority

Last week, Co-chairs of the First People’s Assembly of Victoria called on Victorian parliamentarians to pass legislation enabling the establishment of the Treaty Authority in Victoria. In what Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder Aunty Geraldine Atkinson described as an “umpire” independent from government, a Treaty Authority would “support Treaty-making in Victoria between the First Peoples of Victoria and the state government.”

Marcus Stewart, a proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, said “the Treaty Authority agreement is decolonisation in action”. Although an agreement has been signed between the First People’s Assembly and the Victorian Government, legislation is required to facilitate the operation of Authority. The Treaty Authority bill passed the Victorian Parliament’s lower house last week.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Lore, law and cultural authority at the heart of Victorian Treaty Authority in full click here.

Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Census lacks detail about people’s lives

The census counted 812,728 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on census night, making up 3.2% of the total people counted. That’s up from 649,171 in the 2016 census, an increase of over 25%. Many have estimated the population prior to the arrival of the British was between 750,000 and 1 million. So the exciting news is in only 234 years we are nearing pre-colonial numbers.

Whenever there is an increase in the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, there is always speculation as to why. Of course the politics of identity is always at play. There will be the usual commentary that targets the way people look in those old arguments that refer to skin colour as the measure of who counts as Aboriginal and the idea that lighter skin signifies less Indigenous or no Indigenous identity at all.

These worn out tropes never take into consideration that colonial policies and practices such as those that led to the Stolen Generations directly targeted people with mixed heritage. These targeted people suffered unimaginable violence in the nation’s mission to breed the colour out of us.

But unfortunately, given the lack of information in the census about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ lives, we can’t be sure if overall health among Indigenous people is improving and why lifespans seem to be improving. And the census has failed to investigate other ways Indigenous people may choose to identify, and how we live as families.

To view the SBS NITV article OPINION: First Nations population has increased, but census lacks details about Indigenous lives in full click here.

Three generation Aboriginal family. Image source: CHF Journal Health Voices – June 2022 edition.

Preparation for work in communities

Charles Sturt University paramedicine students and First Nations mental health students recently participated in training scenarios as part of their preparation for work in communities throughout Australia.

Associate Head of School – Paramedicine Dr Sonja Maria in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences in Bathurst said the scenarios were designed to give both groups of students insights into the possible needs of First Nations patients and how the paramedics in particular operate when on-call. Dr Maria said the interdisciplinary training day was created with the assistance of Dr Jola Stewart-Bugg, the Discipline Leader for First Nations at Charles Sturt.

To read the Charles Sturt University article ‘Together we are stronger’; health students strive for better First Nations patient outcomes in full click here.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) paramedicine students and First Nations mental health students in training. Image source: CSU website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Maningrida flu outbreak worsens

Note: image in the feature tile is of Sharana Turner and her daughter Collette seeking treatment for influenza at Maningrida. Image source: ABC News.

Maningrida flu outbreak worsens

Maningrida. a remote NT Indigenous community is medically evacuating two residents a day as the Top End deals with a “tsunami” of flu cases during its worst outbreak in years. For the past week, one or two people have been flown out of Maningrida — 370 kms from Darwin on the north coast of Arnhem Land — each day due to a severe outbreak of influenza. “These are unprecedented numbers in volumes per day,” local health clinic manager Jessica Gatti said. “The flu season definitely has come a lot earlier and a lot harder than was anticipated, so we didn’t have the opportunity to do a mass vaccination,” she said.

She said management of the flu outbreak was much different to COVID-19. “With COVID-19, there had been so much pre-preparation going into it and we had so many policies and procedures and workflows around how we were going to internally manage an outbreak,” Ms Gatti said. “The flu outbreak is definitely worse in the sense that it’s a huge strain on the staffing and on the patients in that [we’re] trying to see them all in a timely manner.

AMSANT CEO John Paterson said Maningrida was not the only community struggling to contain outbreaks of influenza. He said the flu season normally peaked in August or September in the NT. “For some unknown reason, it’s arrived early and it’s caught our clinicians a little bit off guard,” Mr Paterson said.

To view the ABC News article Two patients a day evacuated from Maningrida as flu outbreak worsens in Northern Territory in full click here.

Maningrida on Arnhem Land’s north coast is experiencing a severe influenza outbreak. Photo: Hamish Harty, ABC News.

Galambila receives health and wellbeing funding

Galambila Aboriginal Health Service, which works in and around Coffs Harbour and Bellingen, is one organisation on the Mid North Coast receiving a share of $834,000 that has been granted to eleven regional charities and community groups by the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation for projects improving health and social wellbeing for those most in need, and initiatives supporting disadvantaged and at-risk young people.

Tracy Singleton, CEO at Galambila Aboriginal Health Service said “It’s about improving health and closing the gap. We are looking at ten families every term, so 60 families over twelve months, which is a fair goal. Our footprint takes in Coffs Harbour and Bellingen shires across Gumbaynggirr country – though Gumbaynggirr country is much bigger than that. We have a population of over 5,000 Aboriginal people in our area and I think that if we can reach 60 families that’s a really good start.”

The program will be based around early childhood development. “We may start with something like hearing and bring in speakers and have playgroups where we bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families together, that live on Gumbaynggirr country, and they’ll be able to talk through issues that they actually deal with that may not be issues the broader community deal with, so they’re not going to be isolated in what they bring to the table.”

To read the News Of The Area article Galambila Aboriginal Health Service Granted Funding For Health And Wellbeing Program in full click here.

Image source: Galambila Aboriginal Health Service website.

Jail now rehab for First Nations women

A drug and rehabilitation facility to be established in remote Australia is finally offering women battling addiction the chance to seek treatment with their family and on country. Yetta Dhinnikkal Centre, a former prison, sits on more than 10,000 hectares in Brewarrina in north-west NSW and has been vacant since its closure in 2020. The property is now being handed back to the First Nations community for two vital purposes; to become a women’s rehab facility and to be used by the Ngemba Traditional Owners for cultural and agricultural purposes.

The Orana Haven Aboriginal Corporation has taken on the role of turning the former prison into a rehab exclusively for women and will allow them to remain with their children while receiving residential care. Acting CEO Tracy Gordon said there was a serious shortage of services for women struggling with addiction. “We’ve had numerous phone calls for a women’s rehab as well calls to see whether we take all of the family as well,” Ms Gordon said. “It’s just hard when you have to say no, we don’t have the services available. We have eight beds in this area for women to get help with drug or alcohol dependency,” Ms Gordon said. “We provide detox for females but from there, they have to go away.”

To view the ABC News article Jail turned rehab facility in remote NSW offers new hope for First Nations women battling addiction in full click here.

The former prison’s infrastructure will be repurposed into a rehabilitation facility. Image source: ABC News.

Tasmania to raise age of detention

The Tasmanian Minister for Education, Children and Youth, Roger Jaensch, has announced that Tasmania’s minimum age of detention will be raised from 10 to 14 years. This will be one key element in our plan to build a nation-leading, best practice approach to young people in conflict with the law. We know that detention does not support rehabilitation or reduce the likelihood of re-offending for younger children. Early exposure to a detention environment can also further traumatise young people, expose them to problem behaviours of older detainees and increase criminal networks.

You can view Minister Jaensch’s media release in full here.

Amnesty International Australia welcomed the announcement with their Indigenous Rights Advisor, Rodney Dillon, saying: “although we don’t have a lot of detail on the plans at this stage, Amnesty welcomes this significant step in a smarter approach to justice. Putting children in prisons causes irreparable harm, governments know this, but continue to allow children to be subject to this treatment. That the Tasmanian Government has recognised that children don’t belong in prison, and there are alternatives to dealing with crime, is a huge step forward.”

You can view Amnesty International Australia’s media release Tasmania’s commitment to raise the age of detention to 14 welcome, Time to raise the age of criminal responsibility here.

Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Tasmania. Image source: The Examiner.

NT on alert for Japanese encephalitis

NT residents and visitors are being reminded to protect themselves from mosquito bites following an increase in the number of feral pigs that have tested positive for Japanese encephalitis (JE) in the Top End region. Since March 2022, 44 feral pigs infected with JE have been detected in the Victoria Daly, Litchfield, Marrakai-Douglas Daly and Cox-Daly region, as well as the Tiwi Islands.

Nina Kurucz, Director of the Medical Entomology Unit, NT Health, said JE is a serious disease spread by mosquitoes that can infect humans and animals, such as pigs, horses and some birds. “The highest risk period for being bitten by an infected mosquito is after sundown within five kilometres of wetlands where feral pigs and water birds potentially infected with JE are present,” Ms Kurucz said.

To view the NT Government NT Health media release NT on alert for Japanese encephalitis click here and for further information about the Japanese encephalitis virus you can access the Australian Government Department of Health Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) webpage here.

Launch of national standard of sepsis care

You are invited to the online launch of the first national Sepsis Clinical Care Standard, hosted by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that is difficult to recognise. Early action saves lives and reduces the risk of serious complications and death. The after-effects of sepsis extend beyond the acute crisis, posing challenges for coordinated follow-up in hospital and post-discharge.

Join the webcast from 12:00PM – 1:00PM AEST Thursday 20 June 2022 to hear the experts discuss timely recognition of sepsis, systems to support time-critical management, the ongoing effects of sepsis, and the importance of multidisciplinary, coordinated sepsis care.

This event, The event will be hosted by broadcaster and commentator Julie McCrossin AM, is relevant to all healthcare professionals who may need to recognise and respond to sepsis on the ward, in the emergency department or in pre-hospital and community settings.

To register for the webinar click here.

New Health Professional Education Resource

Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) HPOS is an internet based portal, providing a simple and secure way for health professionals and organisations to do business with government online. HPOS enables online self-service access to government programs, payments and services. You need a Provider Digital Access (PRODA) account to access HPOS. The Health Professional Education Resources Gateway contains an a vast and growing range of customised educational resources for health professionals.

A new education resource that examines HPOS in now available. This new simulation, HPOS Fundamentals, gives providers and their delegates,

  • An insight on setting up HPOS,
  • Overview of the key HPOS features, and
  • Closer analysis of some specific HPOS features.

To view and learn more about the new simulation click here and for further information about the new HPOS education resource click here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NT mob 80%+ less Medicare funding

NT mob 80%+ less Medicare funding

Medicare, Australia’s universal health insurance scheme, provides financial protection against the cost of medical bills, and makes public hospital care available without any charge to the patient. For the large majority of Australians in urban settings, it is a brilliant system – providing subsidised access to care. But subsidised access is only useful for those who have access. If there is no doctor nearby, there is nothing to subsidise. This creates a huge inequity – most of Australia has good access to doctors, but the NT does not.

NT residents receive roughly 30% less Medicare funding per capita than the national average (A$648 compared with A$969). The gap is worse for First Nations Australians in the NT, who attract only 16% of the Medicare funding of the average Australian. The inequitable funding is even worse when the poorer health status of First Nations Australians and the additional costs associated with geographical remoteness are taken into account. Despite Medicare’s intended universality, the NT is systematically disadvantaged.

People in the Territory have poorer access to primary health care, which includes GP services and those provided by Aboriginal community-controlled health services. Aboriginal health services receive some special additional funding separate from the Medicare-billing funding. However, even with that extra funding, there is still a shortfall  to NT residents of about A$80 million each year.

To view The Conversation article First Nations people in the NT receive just 16% of the Medicare funding of an average Australian click here.

Photo: Shutterstock. Image source: The Conversation.

Comprehensive truth-telling project

The most comprehensive truth-telling project in Australian history is documenting every law and policy that has targeted or had a disproportionate impact – deliberate and accidental – on Indigenous people since 1788 commencing with NSW. “Towards Truth” is the first attempt to chronicle in forensic, legal detail the story of how Australian governments and institutions have touched every aspect of the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The interactive database The interactive database has drawn on the pro-bono skills of legal researchers from some of Australia’s top law firms to document the story of colonisation in NSW. Pioneered by Professors Megan Davis and Gabrielle Appleby, two constitutional lawyers from UNSW Law involved in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the University of NSW’s Indigenous Law Centre are creating the database and website to tell the story of how dispossession has occurred methodically under the rule of law.

Towards Truth’s project coordinator is 30-year-old lawyer Corey Smith, a Ngemba man whose work on the database helped him understand in vivid detail the pressures on his own great grandmother May Biles not to be proud of her Aboriginality. May lived in Brewarrina at a time when the NSW government exempted Aboriginal people from the draconian restrictions of the Aborigines Protection Act if they could prove they did not speak their language or associate with other Aboriginal people. “It meant access to publicly-funded health, education and housing,” Mr Smith said.

To view The Australian article Facing the truth about Indigenous Australians in full click here.

Indigenous lawyer Corey Smith. Photo: John Feder. Image source: The Australian.

AMA election health report card

The AMA’s election health report card released yesterday, gives Australians an overview of each of the major parties’ health commitments made during the campaign so far. AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said healthcare, for good reason, had been one of the major concerns of the public during the election campaign, but despite this neither major party had committed to a public hospital funding model which would help alleviate the enormous stress on the hospital system.

“The AMA’s logjam campaign has called on Government and Opposition to commit to a new hospital funding agreement with State Governments, aimed at addressing the crisis of ambulance ramping, overloaded emergency departments and delayed essential surgery,” he said. “But the lack of commitment to the necessary $20.5 billion investment is disappointing as the incoming PM, whoever it may be, will be forced to negotiate a new agreement with States regardless.

To view the AMA’s media release AMA releases its election report card in full click here.

Lifting of alcohol bans “disgraceful”

Booze will be allowed back into hundreds of NT remote Indigenous communities under “disgraceful” new laws replacing Intervention-era alcohol bans. The NT government says its amended liquor laws, which were passed by parliament late on Tuesday this week, will give communities “greater power” to choose if they want alcohol restrictions when a commonwealth law expires in July.

But social service groups say the legislation is disappointing, disgraceful, and lacks integrity. “The passing of this legislation before any consultation has been done with Aboriginal communities and against the advice of Aboriginal community controlled organisations in the NT is disgraceful,” NT Council of Social Service chief executive Deborah Di Natale says. “At best the government’s process around these significant liquor changes, lacks integrity.”

Under the law, communities must choose to remain alcohol free. If they don’t there will be no alcohol restrictions or bans when the commonwealth law expires on 17 July this year. The Northern Land Council called on the NT government to withdraw the legislation and consult with health experts and Indigenous groups. “For us this is about our lives and our people,” chair Samuel Bush-Blanasi said. “The government has to take time to listen to the concerns of our health professionals and community leaders when they are making these important decisions that affect our mob out bush.”

To view the The West Australian article NT laws replacing remote booze ban slammed click here.

Image source: news.com.au.

Optimising health checks research

UNSW Sydney researchers will receive $4.7 million in funding from the NSW government for prevention research in infectious diseases, drug and alcohol use and primary health care.

The funding, announced as part of NSW Health’s Prevention Research Support Program (PRSP), is designed to support NSW research organisations conducting prevention and early intervention research that aligns with NSW Health priorities. The program supports research infrastructure and strategies to build research capability and translate evidence from research into policy and practice.

A team of researchers at The Kirby Institute at UNSW have been awarded $1.8 million to undertake research aimed at preventing people acquiring a range of infectious diseases, including:

  • Developing capacity for the evaluation of HIV prevention interventions implemented within clinics and community settings
  • Monitoring and evaluation of hepatitis C elimination
  • Organising and co-designing HPV immunisation services with students with disabilities
  • Community led models to optimise the uptake of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health checks and embed syphilis testing.

“The Kirby Institute has a strong track record of impactful prevention and early intervention research, including scale-up of HIV prevention programs, research to prevent STIs among young Aboriginal people and studies to prevent the spread of hepatitis C in prisons,” the Kirby Institute’s Director, Professor Anthony Kelleher, said.

To view UNSW Sydney Newsroom article UNSW receives $4.7m to pursue health prevention research click here.

Image: Shutterstock, UNSW Sydney website.

Protecting mob this winter

The NSW Government has produced a range of COVID-19 and flu information resources specifically for Aboriginal communities

You can access the resources, including the video below here.

Concerns over lack of gender-affirming care

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is extremely disappointed with recent comments made by members of the federal government regarding the trans and gender diverse community. AMSA expresses deep concern over the stigmatising representations of the trans community in the political debate, a lack of gender-affirming care in political statements and the disregard for the mental health of trans and gender diverse communities.

“Gender affirming care is not a matter of personal belief or subjective concern – it is a matter of access to evidence-based, patient-centred healthcare,” said Flynn Halliwell today, Chair of AMSA Queer. “Not only is the ‘concern’ purported by our politicians regarding children’s access to gender affirming surgery stigmatising, but it is also factually incorrect,” continued Mr Halliwell. In Australia, genital surgery is only available to adults over the age of 18 years old [1].

“Trans and gender diverse people are continually being framed as talking points for political attention, without consideration of subsequent effects on the mental health and wellbeing of these communities. Publicly debating the validity of gender-affirming healthcare is not the solution. It is part of the problem.”

To view the AMSA media release in full click here.

Image source: University of Florida website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO CEO joins pre-election health discussion

Image in feature tile, NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 2022.

NACCHO joins pre-election health discussion

Yesterday Dr Norman Swan, who hosts the ABC Radio National Health Report, said as it has been a long election campaign with not much on health it had been decided for last Health Report before the election to try and cover health issues that have not been covered in the campaign by the major parties. Dr Norman Swan has hosted the pre-election health discussion with four experts talking about the pressing issues: what are the most pronounced problems, what type of care is the most effective, how should rebates work, and what health questions have not been raised at all.

The discussion begins with Dr Swan asking NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM about the recent study done of the economics of health care in Aboriginal communities. Ms Turner said that NACCHO commissioned Equity Economics to look at the gap in health expenditure in terms of what is paid by the government for all Australians and for Aboriginal people. It was found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people require an additional $5,042 per head of population which equates to a $4.4 billion shortfall in funding Aboriginal health in this country – $2.6 billion from the Commonwealth and $1.8 billion from the states and territories in terms of what they should be inputting.

Ms Turner said the figures had been adjusted for the health status of Aboriginal people, who have, on average, over two times the burden of disease that other Australians with a life expectancy still 8–9 years below that of other Australians. Ms Turner then outlined some horrific statistics: Aboriginal people are 3.7 times more likely to have kidney disease, 3.3 times more likely to have diabetes, 3.2 times more likely to suicide as youth, 2.1 times more likely to die in infancy and youth are 55 times more likely to die from RHD. What is driving this is, Ms Turner said, is the overall lack of equal funding to make up for the health gap, “we can’t close the gap between the life outcomes of our people until we get at least equal funding as other Australians do, on basis of need.”

You can listen to the ABC Radio National episode Considering health issues ahead of an election of the Health Report with Dr Norman Swan here.

Nigel Morton and half of the 500 residents of his town, Ampilatwatja, NT have diabetes. Image source: ABC News website.

Remote communities pay 39% more for food

Residents in remote Aboriginal communities pay the highest average price for food in Australia. Advocates say the next PM must act to ensure affordable, healthy food is available for all Australians. The local supermarket is the heart of Wirrimanu, a remote Aboriginal community on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in WA’s Kimberley region. It’s the only shop of its size for 300 kms and it’s only open limited hours each day, supplying fresh and dry food, as well as clothing, basic furniture and some white goods.

Plastic curtains hang over the front door to keep dust and flies out, as residents enter to pick up their goods and use the ATM. But what’s really surprising about the store are the prices on the shelves. When SBS News visited the Wirrimanu Community Store, a 380g jar of Vegemite was selling for $13.25; a plain loaf of white bread for $4.99 and a two litre bottle of orange juice was priced at $7.20. A 500g bag of San Remo pasta cost $4.40 while a 250g packet of Arnott’s biscuits cost $5.85.

The National Indigenous Australians Agency estimates that residents of remote communities pay 39 per cent more for supermarket supplies than consumers in capital cities, and the gap could be widening. Wirrimanu resident Ronald Mosquito was browsing the aisles, and told SBS News the community has little option but to pay the prices. “If people are desperate and hungry, they will buy whatever they must,” he said. Ronald has diabetes and said he’s trying to improve his diet, but the availability of fresh, affordable food is a major problem.

To view the SBS News article Remote communities pay 39 per cent more at the supermarket checkout than city shoppers. Here’s why that’s a problem. in full click here.

Wirrimanu resident Ronald Mosquito says the community has few other options but to pay the prices. Image source: SBS News website.

Opportunity to transform Australia’s eye health

One of the most important presentations at this year’s 52nd RANZCO Congress was the launch of the college’s Vision 2030 and Beyond plan to overcome Australia’s long-standing and complex eye health equity issues. One of the presenters Dr Kristen Bell called for an Atlas of healthcare delivery to help address healthcare variance, depending on where people live. In her presentation on service delivery issues, Dr Bell – the Vision 2030 and Beyond clinical lead – said ophthalmology differs from other specialties, with 80% being outpatient care-based and 20% surgical. Chronic sight threatening conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration make up the bulk of ophthalmic service delivery, with acute care often bypassing surgery and emergency to the outpatient setting.

Dr Bell presented maps of Australia showing very few public care areas outside of urban areas. NT and WA fund outreach from Darwin, Alice Springs and Broome, respectively, while Tasmania has recently started funding an additional service in the NW of the state, giving these three jurisdictions the best regional coverage. But across Australia, 30% of entire population and 65% of Indigenous patients have no or limited access to a publicly funded local outpatient service.

To view the Insight article A pivotal opportunity to transform Australia’s eye health in full click here.

Auntie Emily at the Danila Dilba Aboriginal Health Service, Darwin Photo: Brien Holden Vision Institute. Image source: Optometry Australia.

TIS National Coordinator on new vaping laws

In the below video, National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking, Professor Tom Calma AO answers questions including:

    • What is vaping?
    • What are the current laws around nicotine vapes?
    • Can nicotine vaping help me stop smoking?

This video forms part of a campaign created by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the National Best Practice Unit for Tackling Indigenous Smoking. You can view other resources, including a brochure and posters, developed for the campaign here.

NPS MedicineWise low literacy consumer resource

NPS MedicineWise has developed a number of low literacy consumer resources, which aims to support conversations between a Health Care provider and patient (or patient representative) regarding medicine choice for treatment of mild COVID illness in people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and are at higher risk of disease progression.

The medicines mentioned in the resources are the two oral antivirals and the monoclonal antibody Sotrovimab. There are also FAQs for prescribers and dispensers working in ACCHOs for these same three medicines. The links below to the low literacy factsheets for use in ACCHOs and remote communities can be found on the NPS MedicinesWise website.

Paxlovid, Lagevrio (Molnupiravir), Sotrovimab (Xevudy). Image sources: FirstWord Pharma+, Medical Update Online, The Guardian, GSK UK Products.

Health services need to cater for the whole person

The University of Melbourne on-line Pursuit magazine has published an article Embracing Queer Indigenous Australia – Health services need to cater to the whole person as a human right, and that includes Indigenous LGBTIQ+ Australians by Todd Fernando, Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities and University of Melbourne.  In the article, Todd Fernando says: I’ve been fortunate in my life to build a strong sense of pride in my identity as a queer Wiradjuri man. Despite this, my intersectionality – the way different identities can marginalise people or expose them to discrimination – is sometimes misunderstood, particularly in health settings.

This experience rings true for many queer Indigenous people, as evidenced in my recently submitted doctoral thesis exploring health equity for queer Indigenous people. The findings of my own and previous research highlight the need for services to understand the importance of catering to the full person. Because as humans, we don’t divide easily. Without further data that truly captures the lived experience of queer Indigenous people, no effective changes to systems can be lobbied for. The belief that heterosexuality is the preferred or ‘normal’ sexual orientation is as much a direct threat to the survival and advancement of queer Indigenous people as racism is.

To view Todd Fernando’s article in full click here.

Image source: 2SER Breakfast radio.

Keep mob healthy this winter with flu vax

The Lung Foundation of Australia are conducting a campaign from mid-May to June to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be vaccinated against respiratory diseases this flu season. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged over six months are eligible for a free flue vaccination. You can access the Lung Foundation Australia website for more information here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Arthritis Australia National Grants Program

Arthritis Australia has long been a leader in funding nationally and internationally based research programs to find solutions in the management of Arthritis. In the past three years Arthritis Australia has awarded many research projects, fellowships, scholarships, project grants and grant-in-aid projects from an annual donation sum of $7m.  Arthritis Australia’s National Grants Program is currently accepting applications for 2023. This year we are welcoming applications for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship sponsored by Janssen.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship is for research to be undertaken in 2023 for a duration of 12 months, in the field of Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Fellowship will be awarded to a researcher who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or who has a team member who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. The researcher must be currently undertaking post-doctoral work or following a recently completed Rheumatology Advanced training.

Applications are open until Friday 8 July 2022.

The can access further information about the National Research program here and the Fellowship Application form here. Applications should be forwarded to Arthritis Australia using this email link. If you have any further queries, please email Arthritis Australia using the email address here or call the Arthritis Australia office on 02 9518 4441.

Image source: Merri Health.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Lack of safe housing a health concern

The image in the feature tile is of a house in the remote Aboriginal community of Mulan, WA with water leakage. Image source: NITV.

Lack of safe housing a health concern

Access to safe, secure housing is a key determinant of health and life expectancy. Across Australia, residents in remote Aboriginal communities are often left waiting for urgent repairs, while their homes deteriorate to unliveable conditions. A SBS World News report describes how 57-year-old Mulan (WA) resident Veronica Lulu has difficulty walking around her community unassisted. Making it even harder for Veronica is the pool of water surrounding her house that appears to be coming from a broken underground pipe.

Veronica reported the issue to the WA state government which is responsible for maintenance in the remote Aboriginal community of Mulun, but she says that after nearly two years and repeated requests the problem still hasn’t been fixed and the leak has become so bad that the entire house is now encircled by water. Afraid she might fall, Veronica has moved in with a relative next door where the water is slightly less of a problem.

You can view the video of this SBS News segment, which includes footage of NACCHO CEO Pat Turner reiterating that “housing for health is so important to our people” here and a related SBS NITV News article A third of remote Aboriginal houses at ‘unacceptable’ standard published today here.

Veronica Lulu sitting on her walker outside her house, Mulan WA

Veronica Lulu outside the home she cannot get into. Photo: Aaron Fernandes, SBS NITV.

ACCHO assists votes with candidate information

To assist our ocals understand who the candidates are in the upcoming federal election, and what those candidates believe in,  Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (GYHSAC) has  asked every candidate key questions of importance to Yarrabah. Visitors to the GYHSAC have been invited to read through the candidates responses and “make your decision as to who you wish to vote for after you understand what is on offer.”

GYHSAC posed the following questions to the ALP, United Australia Party, Green, Independent and Katter’s Australian Party candidates:

  • How do you plan to improve the telecommunication services in Yarrabah?
  • Overcrowding in housing is an issue in Yarrabah, how do you propose to address this issue?
  • What do you propose to do about the funds lost by Indigenous Australians after the collapse of the ACBF?
  • How do you propose to increase community services in Yarrabah – e.g.: Meals on Wheels?
  • NAPLAN scores were not strong in Yarrabah. How do you propose lifting literacy and numeracy skills in Yarrabah?
  • RHD is a disease of disadvantage and poverty. What do you propose to do about tackling RHD in Yarrabah?
  • Training and employment opportunities are lacking in Yarrabah. What are your plans to address this?

You can access the responses to the above key questions on the GYHSAC website here.

Gurriny Yealamuck Health and Wellbeing Centre & GYHSAC logo

Gurriny Yealamuck Health and Wellbeing Centre (Gurriny).

Independents with First Nations issues focus 

Long-time human rights advocates Megan Krakouer and Gerry Georgatos are fighting to put First Nations issues on the agenda at this Federal election. With more than 500 Indigenous deaths in custody since the end of the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody in 1991, and a huge gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in health, education, housing, employment and other areas, the “social justice independents” are running to represent Western Australia in the Senate.

Ms Krakouer said they have experience working with the most vulnerable and marginalised people across the nation. “We have seen too many brothers and sisters left behind because of racist policies and legislation. We come across a lot of people who are silenced, who are voiceless. We have been failed by one government after another. They make the same promises and they don’t deliver, and that’s reflected in the incarceration rate, in child removals, deaths in custody, homelessness and suicides.

Ms Krakouer said the fact First Nations people make up a small percent of the national population was one factor driving political inaction. “There is no political will to address the suffering and mistreatment of people, particularly when they are in prisons. That is something I can’t accept.” She said she and Mr Georgatos were running as independents so they would be free to “say what needs to be said”.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Meet the independents determined to put First Nations issues front and centre in full click here.

WA Independents Gerry Georgatos & Megan Krakouer.

Gerry Georgatos and Megan Krakouer. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Flu vax questions answered 

Yesterday the Australian Government Department of Health First Assistant Secretary COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Dr Lucas De Toca, who leads the vaccine rollout for COVID-19 for GPs, pharmacies and Aboriginal health services, spoke about flu, “I had my flu shot yesterday, and more and more people are getting their flu shot every day. So, it’s really important that we answer some of your questions about flu vaccination as we approach winter.”

Dr De Tocas continued, “How do we decide what virus strains we put in them, also what the ingredients are. And if you look at a list of ingredients of pretty much anything, it can sound pretty scary, but it doesn’t have to be. And we’re also going to talk about whether the vaccines are safe. So, first of all, virus, and the flu virus is no exception, mutates. And when viruses mutate, new strains, variants, versions come up. And we all know that too well with all the talk about variants with COVID.”

“But flu is a virus that generally mutates on a seasonal basis, and there’s several strains of influenza A and influenza B, the viruses that cause the flu, that cause a flu season in one hemisphere, generally during winter. And then once people who could get infected, get infected and the epidemic stops, then they cause a flu season on the other hemisphere, normally in time for their winter. And when that happens, the virus can mutate, which means that by the time it comes back for the following flu season, it could be different.”

You can view Dr De Toca’s presentation in full below and access a transcript of the presentation on the Australian Government Department of Health website here.

$600m for initiatives aimed at Closing the Gap

The WA Government has committed more than $600 million to strengthen services that deliver positive outcomes for Aboriginal people and communities. The significant State Budget investment supports the WA government’s Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy and Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, targeting initiatives that will improve economic and social opportunities for Aboriginal people.

The funding has been targeted at priority reform areas, which align with the Closing the Gap Implementation Plan; formal partnerships and shared decision making; building the community-controlled sector and transforming government organisations. Initiatives of particular relevance to the health sector include:

  • $7 million to implement an Aboriginal Midwifery Group Practice and Stronglinks to improve the uptake of antenatal care and improve maternity health outcomes for Aboriginal women
  • $3.7 million of additional funding for a pilot program to establish and commence the Aboriginal Health Practitioners (AHP) profession in WA
  • $1.6 million for tympanometers to improve Aboriginal children’s ear health

To read the WA Government’s media statement in full click here.

newborn, AHW & young Aboriginal boy getting hearing checked

Clockwise: Baby Coming You Ready? website; Wirraka Maya Health Service, Port Hedland website; Earbus Foundation of WA website.

NHMRC Indigenous intern program

Sara Lai found her first Indigenous intern experience with NHMRC in 2017–18 so rewarding that she applied again for the 2021–22 program. Sara was in her first year of university in 2017 and is now in her final year. The project that she undertook this time around involved interviewing childcare centres in rural and regional Australia as well as Indigenous communities to determine how the ‘Staying Healthy’ resource is used in remote settings.

Reflecting on her intern experience Ms Lai said, “My research and communication skills have exponentially increased, and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of a team. I am also now considering pursuing a Master of Public Health in the future as I have seen first-hand how very important primary health promotion is at the community level.” Ms Lai said “I thoroughly believe that to solve the healthcare gaps in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities we need Indigenous problem solvers and I hope to be able to contribute to this.”

To view the NHMRC article To solve the healthcare gaps in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, we need Indigenous problem solvers click here.

Sara Lai, NHMRC Indigenous intern

Sara Lai, 2022–22 NHMRC Indigenous intern. Image source: NHMRC website.

Mum’s experience of racism impacts kids

A University of Adelaide student has submitted a Master thesis: A longitudinal mediation analysis of the effect of Aboriginal Australian mothers’ experiences of racism on children’s socio-emotional well-being. Although it is known that parental experiences of racism are associated with poorer mental health in children, little is known about how racism is intergenerationally transmitted in Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons. The thesis explores the effect of Aboriginal mothers’ experiences of racism on children’s socio-emotional well-being mediated by parenting sense of competence.

The conclusion of the thesis is that mothers who experienced racism were at a 28% increased odds of their five-year-old child experiencing socio-emotional problems and this effect was not mediated by sense of parenting competence, despite an effect between parenting competence and children’s socio-emotional well-being. The findings suggest that maternal experiences of racism have a longitudinal effect on their children’s socio-emotional well-being, and this effect is not mediated through the mothers’ sense of parenting competence. These findings highlight the importance of reducing experiences of racism as these have far-reaching effects across generations on socioemotional well-being.

You can view the thesis in full here.

Sasha Houthuysen and her two children. Photo: Amnesty International. Image source: NITV website.

Regional roles led Glenice home

Glenice Smith is a Perth-based Aboriginal Practice Leader for the Department of Communities. She says her regional roles led her home to her Mother’s Country and her Father’s Country. Her trip to Kununurra and current deployment in the Midwest, working in Emergency Services for the Department, provided her with unexpected and amazing opportunities. Glenice was removed from my family on her first birthday in Port Hedland and flown to Perth where she was placed with her foster family in the late 1960s. During her time with the Tropical Cyclone Seroja recovery team in 2021, she was able to work in the Midwest and strengthen her connections with her Mother’s Country and family. Glenice said that being able to reconnect with her biological family this year, has been due to the places her work has taken her.

To view the story published today on the WA Government website in full click here.

Perth-based Aboriginal Practice Leader for the Department of Communities. Image source: WA Government website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Midwife program closing infant mortality gap

Image if the feature tile is by Aboriginal photographer Bobbi-lee Hille, Daily Mail.

Midwife program closing infant mortality gap

When Kelsey Muhl’s midwife caught her new baby in a hospital shower it was a shared moment between two women who had built a relationship over months. “Gravity helped,”  The mother of three described her latest birth as poles apart from her earlier experiences. Ms Muhl and her midwife, Storm Henry, are part of a midwifery program pairing First Nations mothers with midwives for the duration of their pregnancy, delivery and the first days of the baby’s life. About one in 10 Australian mothers opt to have a single midwife, or caseload midwife, throughout their pregnancy, but for mothers of First Nations babies that rate has historically been much lower. “We know when women have a main midwife or continuity-of-care model there’s reduced childbirth complications,” La Trobe University professor Helen McLachlan said. “Babies are less likely to get sick, mothers are less likely to need caesarean sections.”

More than 18,000 First Nations babies are born across the country each year. Those babies are at a higher risk of arriving early, being born underweight or needing special care. “Outcomes for [First Nations] mothers and babies are pretty much twice as bad as non-Aboriginal mothers and babies — double the rate of preterm birth, almost triple the rate of maternal mortality,” Professor McLachlan said. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 13% of Indigenous babies were born underweight in 2019. Reducing that number is a key target of the Closing the Gap agreement.

The culturally safe Baggarrook midwifery care program, being led by Latrobe University and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, has now matched more than 700 women giving birth to Indigenous babies with either a First Nations midwife or one who has been through cultural awareness training. “We’ve gone from 5% of Aboriginal women receiving access to this gold-standard model of care to over 90% of Aboriginal women presenting at one of the three hospitals participating,” Professor McLachlan said.

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal midwife program works to close the gap in infant mortality and birth complications in full click here.

Kelsey Muhl enlisted a midwife from a First Nations program to help deliver her daughter Emilia. Photo: Nicole Asher, ABC News.

Helping older Australians avoid ED

Improving the care of older Australians in a bid to help them avoid hospital emergency departments will be the focus of a new project that federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says has been awarded funding from the Medical Research Future Fund. Led by Flinders University in partnership with SA Health’s Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN) and the SA Ambulance Service, the research will engage patients and the medical community to find the best way forward for treating older Australians, who make up almost a quarter of all ED visits. “Emergency departments across Australia are often overwhelmed by the high demand from our growing ageing population but nearly half of the visits are potentially preventable,” says Flinders University’s Associate Professor Craig Whitehead, Director of Rehabilitation, Aged, and Palliative Care at SAHLN and the project’s Chief Investigator.

The project will also explore what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers look for in emergency care, as well as seek to understand the barriers they face, with the team including two Aboriginal researchers – Associate Professor Tamara Mackean and Shane D’Angelo – from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Public Health group in Flinders University’s College of Medicine and Public Health. They bring both public health and Indigenous health research experience and will engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through yarning circles. “This is an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worldviews and experiences to be incorporated into the conduct of the research from the beginning,” said Associate Professor Mackean.

To view the Flinders University article Helping older Australians avoid ED click here.

Image source: Flinders University News webpage.

Lower healthcare costs, but no PHC reform

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) welcomes recent announcements from both major parties that the cost of prescriptions will be eased by reducing the PBS co-payment. In addition, both parties have committed to raising the threshold for access to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC). CHF CEO, Leanne Wells, said that these two measures will help to bring down costs for people on fixed incomes in the face of rising inflation pressures. “Commitments to lower the cost of prescriptions if either side wins the election will be a much needed saving for health care consumers. When medicines become unaffordable, the costs to the nation’s healthcare system becomes more burdensome, as people are missing essential treatment,” said Ms Wells.

“However, we remind both parties that there are many others in the community such as young people, those who have had their NDIS packages cut, and people living in poverty on Jobseeker for whom access to affordable healthcare is dire.  Measures to support their capacity to access healthcare are sorely needed. CHF would like see more health care affordability measures directed to people on low incomes, who need it most,” she said. “We are acutely aware that many families in Australia will be forgoing items in the household budget to make ends meet,” said Ms Wells, “but affordability and access to healthcare goes beyond the cost of medicines.”

To view the CHF media release Parties promise to reduce costs but what about health care reform? in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Inquiry highlights rural NSW’s health crisis

The NSW government has been handed a scathing report finding the rural health system is “in crisis and is failing residents of rural, regional and remote areas”. A cross-party committee has made 44 recommendations, following hundreds of hours of evidence held across NSW, to try to overhaul the system. What was found was people living outside of the city have “significantly poorer health outcomes, greater incidents of chronic disease, and greater premature deaths”.

To address “historic failures” by both levels of government to fix workforce shortages, particularly in relation to doctors and nurses, it put forward a range of sweeping changes. They include the state government collaborating with the Commonwealth on a 10-year workforce strategy, a single employer model for GPs, and for the committee to hold another inquiry in two years’ time to see if the changes have been implemented.

You can view the ABC News article Inquiry into rural, regional and remote healthcare hands down findings to NSW government in full here.

The AMA (NSW) has welcomed the final report from the NSW parliamentary inquiry into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional, and remote New South Wales, but says achieving the report’s recommendations will not be feasible unless Governments make a meaningful funding commitment to improving health. “The report underscores the paucity of investment made into rural health to date and the absolute necessity to rethink current funding arrangements,” said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen. “The

To view the AMA’s media release Rural health inquiry highlights desperate need for more funding, AMA (NSW) says in full click here.

Image source: Careers Connections.

80% + Aboriginal people speak Kriol

Sylvia Tkac was born to be an Aboriginal interpreter but fell into the profession quite by accident. “My grandmother was an interpreter,” Ms Tkac said. “She said to me, ‘I need another interpreter, are you interested in interpreting?’ “I did it for the first time and I thought, ‘Gee I’m fluent’, because I spoke it as a child.” Kriol interpreter services are still used regularly across Australia. Interpreters hold an important role in communities for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “A Kriol interpreter is needed in the local courts,” Ms Tkac said. “Darwin use them, (as well as) Katherine and Alice Springs — they’re also used in the Supreme Court and in hospitals as well.”

Ms Tkac is an Anindilyakwa Interpreter from the Groote Eylandt archipelago and is based in Darwin with the Aboriginal Interpreter Service. She interprets for a wide range of service providers in topics such as health, education, and law at the Local, Supreme and Children’s courts. The service collaborates on recordings with other agencies and mining companies, and produces a range of aids and resources, including DVDs, animations, driving apps and video interpreting. The service is vital to the 80% of Aboriginal people in Australia who speak Aboriginal English or Kriol, which has been recognised as a language since the 1970s.

To view the ABC News article More than 80% of Aboriginal people speak Kriol — why is it still widely misunderstood? in full click here.

Research Institute to tackle health inequities

Charles Sturt University’s new Rural and Regional Health Research Institute will work with communities to address the local burden of disease in lower socio-economic communities within rural, regional, and remote areas. Professor of Medicine and Executive Director of the Institute, Professor Allen Ross is applying his extensive international experience in rural and remote health to establish an organisation that delivers regional, national, and international impact. The Institute received $18 million over five years from the Australian Government to develop a world-class rural health and medical research facility that will support the needs of rural communities in Australia and beyond.

The Institute will focus on conducting research that:

  • addresses First Nations people’s health inequities
  • improves the experience of ageing and aged care in rural communities
  • improves child development health outcomes
  • promotes consumer-driven rural health research
  • boosts clinical research capability and
  • enables research to improve health and medical service delivery in regional cities, rural towns, and remote communities.

Professor Ross said “We will work with community leaders, such as the local Aboriginal Medical Services, to identify chronic health issues of the highest priority.”

To view the Charles Sturt University article Rural and Regional Health Research Institute, a world-class facility to tackle health inequalities in full click here.

Image source: Charles Sturt University.

People urged to get vax as flu cases rise

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sonya Bennett, and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMillan, say with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s winter season will likely see both an increase in transmission of the coronavirus and, for the first time since 2019, a resurgence in influenza. Given this, it is important that people, particularly those in at-risk population groups, maximise their protection against both viruses by being vaccinated – and continue to practise all of the safe hygiene measures we have become accustomed to throughout the pandemic. Both influenza and COVID-19 are highly contagious viral infections that can lead to serious illness, hospitalisation or even death. Everyone 6 months and older is recommended to get a flu vaccine each year.

To read the Dr Bennett and Professor McMillan’s media release in full click here.

In a related media release NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said flu is circulating widely in the community for the first time in two years, coinciding with ongoing high levels of transmission of COVID-19. “It is crucial everyone gets vaccinated against flu to not only protect themselves, but their colleagues and loved ones against serious illness or worse,” Mr Hazzard said. “Whilst we know there is vaccination fatigue, I urge the more vulnerable members of our community to book in for a flu jab with their GP or pharmacist as soon as possible. The elderly, pregnant women, children aged under five years, Aboriginal people and those with serious health conditions can get a free flu shot now, so please book in.”

To read Minister Hazzard’s media release in full click here.

Image source: The Department of Health website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

World Ovarian Cancer Day

World Ovarian Cancer Day was stablished in 2013 by a group of leaders from ovarian cancer advocacy organisations around the world. May 8 – World Ovarian Cancer Day, is the one day of the year we globally raise our voices in solidarity in the fight against ovarian cancer.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.4 times as likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer as non-Indigenous Australians, are 0.9 times as likely to die and have only a 45% change of surviving for five years. You can access the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report containing these figures about ovarian cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here.

For more information about World Ovarian Cancer Day click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Simple free bowel cancer test saves lives

Simple free bowel cancer test saves lives

Most bowel cancers (sometimes called colorectal, colon or rectal cancers) start as benign, non-cancerous growths called ‘polyps’ that form on the inner lining or the wall of the bowel. These polyps may become cancerous if they are not removed. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Although these cancers are experienced at lower rates than non-Indigenous Australians, the survival rates are lower and mortality rates are higher. This may be due to the lower participation in bowel screening programs, which is a particular risk for those in remote areas, where access to health services can be limited.

Initiatives such as the National Indigenous Bowel Screening Pilot Project have helped to address low rates of participation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which is important as when found early, bowel cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can currently receive free screening for bowel cancer via the Australian Government’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP).

The Australian Government Department of Health has developed a collection of resources, specifically tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about the NBCSP and the importance of bowel cancer screening, available here.

‘I was whitewashed’ says Uncle Jack Charles

Yesterday the actor and Indigenous rights activist, Uncle Jack Charles, told the nation’s first truth and justice commission to hear the impacts of colonisation and racist government policy on First Nations people of his removal from his family as a baby. Charles said he was placed in the Box Hill Boys’ Home, where he experienced “cruel and callous punishments” in the 1950s, and spoke of the cycles of incarceration, homelessness, familial dislocation and drug addiction he experienced for decades as a result of that treatment. “I wasn’t even told I was Aboriginal. I had to discover that for myself. I knew nothing, was told nothing, and had to assimilate … I was whitewashed by the system,” Charles told the Yoorrook Justice Commission on its first day of public hearings.

Elders were invited to make submissions at the commission’s hearings, or wurrek tyerrang, that opened at the former site of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service building on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, a symbolic landmark of self-determination to First Peoples in the state since the community organisation was founded in the early 1970s. Submissions to the commission, also referred to as nuther-mooyoop (a Boon Wurrung word for truth), were designed to provide an opportunity for First Nations elders in the state to share their experiences of the impacts of colonisation, including their experiences of resilience and survival of languages and little-known histories and traditions.

To view The Age article ‘I was whitewashed’: Uncle Jack Charles first elder to share his story at Yoorrook in full click here.

Uncle Jack Charles outside the Victoria Aboriginal Health Service, Fitzroy

Uncle Jack Charles outside the Victoria Aboriginal Health Service at Fitzroy. Photo: Darrian Traynor. Image source: The Age.

Protect your mob – immunisation campaign

Vaccination rates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have decreased over recent periods, particularly at 1 and 2 years of age. It is important to establish positive immunisation behaviours early in your children’s lives. Skipping or delaying vaccinations puts children and those around them at risk of catching serious diseases. It’s important that children receive their routine vaccines in line with the Childhood Immunisation schedule on time, every time, for the best protection.

A recently launched ’Get the facts about immunisation’ campaign uses a range of materials to engage with parents and carers, childcare workers and health care professionals about the importance of childhood vaccination. Materials specifically developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people include online videos, an infographic and brochures. You can find out more about the ‘Get the facts about immunisation’ campaign here and access resources from the Australian Government Department of Health Routine childhood immunisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children webpage here.

Children need commitment in this election

National Voice for our Children is calling on all major parties in the upcoming Federal election to commit to actions that create a better start in life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. SNAICC’s election priorities have been sent to parties with the responses to inform a snapshot of where they stand on key policies impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle said substantial policy change was crucial if a future Federal Government was to make headway on new Closing the Gap targets. “Under the National Partnership all Governments have agreed to work with the Coalition of Peaks to reduce over-representation in out of home care by 45% by 2031,” Ms Liddle said. “There is also agreement to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children developmentally on track against all 5 domains of the Australian Early Development Census by 55%.”

To view the SNAICC media release Children need commitment in this election contest in full click here.

Image source: SBS TV.

Jacci – no choice but to leave Katherine

Jacci Ingham had been living in the small NT town of Katherine, around 300km south of Darwin, for two decades. And she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It was where her friends were, where her favourite memories were made and where her passion for landscape photography really flourished. But when her NDIS request to move into a local supported accommodation facility was knocked back, she was deemed legally homeless. The writing was on the wall – she had no choice but to leave.

Although she does not have a disability that is visible to the outside world, Jacci – who is in her 40s – has always relied on around-the-clock support to be able to live her life. “I used to see various counsellors and paediatricians and what not and they’d try these different things to see if that would improve me,” Jacci said. “To be honest, I was a bit out of it for a while like my speech was different, I had thought differently, I was prone to very delusional ways of thinking.”

Remote and Population Health Manager for Katherine West Health Board, Megan Green, was brought into the ACCHO as the Mental Health Coordinator in 2016, and tasked with the role of servicing the mental health needs of residents across the 160,000 sq km from the WA border to the edge of the Tanami desert. “So people have got…a number of options (in Darwin). For the mob out bush and even in Katherine itself, I think they’re quite limited,” she said. She said the only option for patients who are in the midst of a mental health crisis, because Katherine does not have the services required, is to have them flown to Darwin at a cost of “thousands of dollars.” It’s always a last resort to send someone out of community, it’s only if we can’t support them or their family, or support the family to support them,” Megan said.

The above was extracted from the Manning River Times article ‘If Katherine were to improve its mental health services, I would move back in a heartbeat’ published on 26 April 2022.

Image source: Manning River Times.

Universal access to oral healthcare needed

There’s a strong economic argument for providing free – or at least affordable – dental healthcare as poor dental health is linked to chronic conditions such as stroke, heart and lung diseases, which place a significant cost on the public health system. Vulnerable Australians are particularly at risk from oral disease and there are growing calls in the lead-up to the federal election to start the journey towards universal access to oral healthcare.

The Consumers Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells says dental care should be funded under Medicare because otherwise it is simply unaffordable for many Australians who risk long-term illness and preventable hospitalisation. Tan Nguyen and Associate Professor Amit Arora, co-convenors of the Public Health Association of Australia Oral Health Special Interest Group, have outlined how national leadership is required to address this neglected area of public health in a Croakey Health Media article Universal access to oral healthcare needs national leadership  here.

Image source: Armajun Aboriginal Health Service website.

Fierce advocacy for mob will be remembered

Prominent Kungarakan and Gurindji elder and community leader Kathy Mills died on Sunday aged 86. Ms Mills was known for her advocacy work for Aboriginal people in the NT, as well as a distinguished career as a songwriter and poet. Daughter June Mills said her mother had a powerful memory of local bloodlines and culture. “She’d take you on a journey, a beautiful journey, and I’ve witnessed that so many times … I’m going to miss that,” Ms Mills said.

Ms Mills held various leadership roles in the NT community, including helping to start Darwin’ oldest alcohol rehabilitation service, co-founding the Danila Dilba Health Service and, in the 1980s, being the first woman elected to the Northern Land Council. Critical of what she said was disappointingly slow work towards reconciliation, Ms Mills used her national profile to push for stronger action than token gestures for Aboriginal people.

“She had steely determination,” June Mills said. “Whether it was Stolen Generation or health or alcoholism, there was lots of things she championed throughout her life. “And once she set her teeth into something, she persevered until she got what she wanted to happen.” Ms Mills was named the NAIDOC person of the year in 1986, was inducted into what were then the NT Indigenous Music Awards (now National Indigenous Music Awards) Hall of Fame in 2005 and became a member of the Order of Australia in 2019. Earlier this year, Ms Mills was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the NT’s Batchelor Institute in recognition of her work.

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal elder Kathy Mills remembered as formidable leader and brilliant storyteller in full click here.

Kathy Mills

Kathy Mills. Photo: Terry McDonald, ABC News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Labor releases Indigenous health policy

Labor releases Indigenous health policy

Labor have issued a media release outlining the focus of their Indigenous health policy. An Albanese Labor Government will train 500 additional First Nations Health Workers and invest in life-saving dialysis and rheumatic heart disease treatments to help close the gap in First Nations health outcomes.

Aboriginal community-controlled health services worked tirelessly to keep First Nations communities safe during the pandemic. Their workforce has been stretched to its limits and vital programs such as chronic disease prevention and First Nations health checks have had to be scaled back.

Labor will work in partnership with community-controlled and other health services to strengthen the sector and improve health outcomes for First Nations people by:

  • Training 500 First Nations Health Workers – building the First Nations health workforce, creating jobs and revitalising community-controlled health services after the pandemic.
  • Delivering up to 30 new dialysis units – so people living in the city and the bush can access lifesaving treatment for chronic kidney disease.
  • Doubling federal funding to combat Rheumatic Heart Disease – so that fewer people miss out on lifesaving screening, treatment and prevention programs in high-risk communities.

To view the Labor media release Labor will Strengthen First Nations Health in full click here.

Bibbulmun woman Corina Abraham-Howard from Perth receives dialysis at the Purple House in Alice Springs. Photograph: Photo: Mike Bowers. Image source: The Guardian.

Calls for healthcare language boost

A NT collective responsible for aiding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika manage a serious illness say appropriate health messaging could halve medical conditions in Aboriginal communities. Mr Marika recently underwent a second operation to treat his rheumatic heart disease thanks to education provided by Why Warriors co-founder Richard Trudgen.

For years Mr Marika lived with his condition without properly understanding it as language used by doctors was difficult to comprehend. Mr Trudgen said this has been a failure of the system for some time. Why Warriors aim to provide First Nations people with radio and on-demand content presented in language for this purpose.

In cases like Mr Marika’s, messaging form Western and Aboriginal medical services are not adjusted for patients who use English as a second language, if at all. Mr Trudgen said simplifying the information does little more than restrict people from the important details. “They want evidential information that shows the cause and effect right down to a biomedical level.” Why Warriors hope to secure funding to stretch their processes to First Nations communities around the country.

To view the ABC News article Yothu Yindi legend undergoes operation amid calls for healthcare language boost in full click here.

Founding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika

Founding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika. . Image source: NT News.

Why Western therapy is not the answer

Portia Walker-Fernando was 16 when she first saw a counsellor, overwhelmed by anger and distress that her brother was being bullied at school because he was Indigenous. “The racism was fairly frequent,” says Walker-Fernando, a Bundjalung woman, from the Northern Rivers of NSW, who, at 24, still carries anxiety and depression.

“As a 16-year-old who was trying to understand why, it really, really hurt. Being Indigenous and being black is something you can’t change.”

Walker-Fernando says intergenerational trauma and racism have contributed to her mental health issues, with her anxiety spiking every year about January 26. “Looking at our history and our story, there’s so much trauma embedded in that. I have a panic attack pretty much every Survival Day – or Australia Day – because of that really strong impact that it has on me,” she says. “No one’s been given the life tools to be able to heal from these traumas, so we’re still carrying them today.”

Half the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience racial discrimination report feelings of psychological distress, according to a Victorian study by the Lowitja Institute, meaning they are vulnerable to developing anxiety and depression.

To view The Age article ‘I have a panic attack every Survival Day’: Why Western therapy wasn’t the answer for Portia in full click here.

Portia Walker-Fernando from Casino pictured with her children. Photo: Natalie Grono. Image source: The Age.

Broncos support IUIH’s Deadly Choices

The Brisbane Broncos will continue to encourage Queensland’s Indigenous youth to get active and healthy, as part of its ongoing support of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health’s (IUIH) Deadly Choices preventative health program.

By prioritising healthy eating, exercise, the avoidance of tobacco and alcohol use, and ensuring individuals continue to complete an annual health check, the Club hopes to unearth and foster future talent of the calibre of current players, Selwyn Cobbo and Kotoni Staggs.

Cobbo, a proud Wakka Wakka man from Cherbourg was today joined by the Burnett’s original Broncos flyer, current and fellow Deadly Choices Ambassador, Steve Renouf to unveil a new suite of health check shirts, used as incentives to encourage local communities to visit the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane for an annual check-up.

Broncos CEO Dave Donaghy said: “Deadly Choices is an outstanding program making a real difference and we are proud of our partnership with the IUIH that now extends beyond a decade.

To view the Broncos promote ‘Deadly’ Communities media release in full click here.

Selwyn Cobbo. Image source: Broncos website.

NT AHW Excellence Awards noms open

The NT’s best and brightest Health Workers and Practitioner’s have the chance for their efforts and work to be recognised, with nominations opening for the 2022 Northern Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards.

The awards are held annually to recognise and acknowledge the significant contribution Aboriginal health workers and practitioners make to their families, communities and the healthcare system across the Northern Territory. These awards acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by our highly valued Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners workforces within the previous 12 months.

Nominations are open from Tuesday 26 April 2022 to Sunday 19 June 2022. To submit a nomination, visit the awards webpage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards – Department of Health here, or contact Aboriginal Workforce Development
using this email link or ring (08) 89227 278.

To view the NT Government Health Minister Natasha Fyles’ media release in full click here.

Aboriginal health workers, Sherryl King and Keinan Keighran, from Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service were recognised for their work at the 2021 NT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards. Photo: Charlie Bliss. Image source: Katherine Times.

Swapping the screen for nature

Model and actor Magnolia Maymuru is careful about how she spends her time. When not in the make-up chair, she retreats into nature – a habit she wishes the rest of the world would adopt, too.

Modern science may have only recently uncovered the link between exposure to nature and increased wellbeing, but Indigenous Australians such as Magnolia Maymuru have been aware of it for thousands of years. “Up here, we have connections to everything around us, from the ground to the sky,” the model and actor said.

Born in Darwin, Maymuru belongs to the Yolngu people – a group of Aboriginal clans from north-east Arnhem Land – who believe that they don’t only come from the land, they are the land, too. “We’re born into our connection [with the outdoors],” she explains. “Every time I come back from the city and hear the waves crash, it just does something to me.”

To view the Body + Soul article Magnolia Maymuru on swapping screen time for real connections with nature in full click here.

Magnolia Maymuru. Photo: Body+Soul. Image source: BodyAndSoul.

Barriers to physical activity for mob

Physical activity has cultural significance and population health benefits. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults may experience challenges in participating in physical activity. A review that aims to synthetize existing evidence on facilitators and barriers for physical activity participation experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in Australia has been undertaken.

The review identified 63 barriers: 21 individual, 17 interpersonal, 15 community/environmental and 10 policy/program barriers. Prominent facilitators included support from family, friends, and program staff, and opportunities to connect with community or culture. Prominent barriers included a lack of transport, financial constraints, lack of time, and competing work, family or cultural commitments. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults experience multiple facilitators and barriers to physical activity participation. Strategies to increase participation should seek to enhance facilitators and address barriers, collaboratively with communities, with consideration to the local context.

To view the Facilitators and Barriers to Physical Activity and Sport Participation Experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adults: A Mixed Method Review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in full click here.

Photo: IUIH. Image source: Exercise Right website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

World Immunisation Week

World Immunisation Week, celebrated in the last week of April, aims to highlight the collective action needed and to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.

The World Health Organisation works with countries across the globe to raise awareness of the value of vaccines and immunisation and ensures that governments obtain the necessary guidance and technical support to implement high quality immunisation programmes.

The ultimate goal of World Immunization Week is for more people – and their communities – to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

In a related article parents and carers are being reminded of the importance of getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19 in a new information video from the Department of Health.

The video features GP and Senior Doctor at Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (HSAC), Dr Aleeta Fejo who answers important questions about children and the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr Fejo, a Larrakia and Warumungu traditional owner and Elder, said fake stories and misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines were unfortunately very common, especially on social media.

She said it was natural for parents to have questions about giving their kids the jab. “COVID-19 is a serious illness that can affect everyone—including children,” Dr Fejo said. “Vaccines can help stop your child becoming very sick, or even dying, if they catch the virus,” she said.

You can view a three-minute video featuring Dr Fejo below.

Also related is a advice from AMA NSW: with shorter days and cooler temperatures, NSW residents are urged to talk to their GP about getting their flu jab. “Flu season usually occurs from June to September in Australia, and we urge patients to time their vaccination to achieve the highest level of protection during the peak of the season,” said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen.

“Your GP can provide you with advice on when to get your flu shot. Patients should also know that influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone aged six months and over and is free for patients most at risk. “This includes adults over 65 years and over, children under five, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people with certain medical conditions.”

To view the AMA NSW media release Flu season around the corner – time to plan click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Eye treatment could reduce vision loss

Image in the feature tile is from the Brian Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) website.

Eye treatment could reduce vision loss

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience three times more vision loss than non-Indigenous people, creating a concerning gap for vision. Associate Professor Hessom Razavi from The University of WA explains that much of this is due to diabetic macular oedema (DMO).  Macular oedema blurs the central vision, diminishing the ability to recognise people’s faces, to drive and work, and perform other essential tasks. DMO affects around 23,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia with most of them of working age.

The good news is DMO is treatable, with medications known as anti-VEGF agents. A world-first clinical trail has been undertaken to test longer-acting DMO treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people patients find it impractical, for complex and varied reasons, to attend 10–12 appointments a year. There is, therefore, a need for an alternative. Longer-acting medications do exist. One example is a dexamethasone implant, a steroid injected into the eye which only needs to be dosed every three months.

You can view the Longer-acting eye treatment could reduce vision loss for Indigenous Australians article in full here and a short video from The Fred Hollows Foundation website explaining the prevalence of eye problems among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Help stop the flu in 2022

Annual vaccination is the most important measure to prevent influenza and its complications. Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause widespread illness and deaths every year. This year, it’s even more important to get the influenza vaccine as we are more vulnerable to influenza. This is due to lower recent exposure to the virus and lower uptake of influenza vaccines in 2021. With international borders reopening, it’s likely we will see more influenza in 2022.

Who should get an influenza vaccine – vaccination experts recommend influenza vaccination for all people aged 6 months and over. Under the National Immunisation Program, free influenza vaccines are provided to the following groups who are at higher risk of complications from influenza:

  • children aged 6 months to less than 5 years
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
  • people aged 6 months and over with certain medical conditions that increase their chance of severe influenza and its complications
  • pregnant women (at any stage during pregnancy)
  • people aged 65 years and over.

Influenza vaccines are available NOW – FREE influenza vaccines under the National Immunisation Program became available this month and can be administered by GPs, community health clinics, and eligible pharmacies. To locate a service in your area you can search the National Health Services Directory. Book your appointment to get vaccinated to ensure you have the best protection at the peak of the season (usually June to September). However, it’s never too late to get  vaccinated as influenza can spread all year round.

For further information you can access the Department of Health’s Help stop the flu in 2022 website page here.

Telehealth’s role in modern health care

In recent years teleconsultations have played a growing role in the delivery of healthcare and support services across Australia. Far from a stop-gap measure, these services are set to become one of the standout legacies from the global pandemic. The government has announced it will invest AU$100 million towards making telehealth a permanent option in the healthcare system. This comes on the back of consistent research indicating confidence in the method and a lasting appetite for its convenience. A recent white paper by Deloitte, Curtin University and the Consumers Health Forum of Australia found that seven in 10 Australians are willing and ready to use virtual health services.

The research also found that geographical disparity is one of the biggest causes of inconsistent patient outcomes across the country. With the availability of videoconferencing services, people no longer need to leave their homes to receive care, and providers can ensure those in inaccessible areas aren’t left behind. We saw an example of this in the remote aboriginal community of Tjuntjuntjara in WA, which, during March 2020 and January 2021, faced a shortage of healthcare professionals due to a state border closure with SA. Following the introduction of telehealth services, the 160 residents had reliable access to virtual care for chronic conditions and mental health issues.

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article The role of telehealth in modern health care click here.

welcome to Tjuntjuntjara hand painted sign beside outback red sand road

Image source: ExporOZ.

New COVID-19 oral treatment on PBS

From Sunday 1 May 2022 the second, prescription-only, COVID-19 oral treatment will be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for Australians at high risk of developing severe COVID-19.

Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir) is an oral anti-viral medicine which can be used by patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing severe disease. This medicine will help reduce the need for hospital admission.

Adults who have mild to moderate COVID-19 – which is confirmed by a PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test and verified by the prescribing doctor or nurse practitioner – and who can start treatment within five days of symptom onset, can be prescribed the oral anti-viral medicines if:

  • they are 65 years of age or older, with two other risk factors for severe disease (as increasing age is a risk factor, patients who are 75 years of age of older only need to have one other risk factor)
  • they are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, and are 50 years of age or older with two other risk factors for severe disease, or
  • they are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

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

Image source: ABC News.

AIHW releases mental health papers.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) have released two important publications:

Employment and Indigenous mental health

  • this paper provides an overview of policies and programs that address Indigenous employment and mental health and evaluates the evidence that labour force outcomes can improve Indigenous mental health.

Indigenous self-governance for mental health and suicide prevention

  • this article provides a synthesis of the information about Indigenous self-governance in relation to mental health and suicide prevention. It explores the ways in which Indigenous organisations embody and enable processes, structures, institutions, and control associated with self-governance and how these contribute to Indigenous wellbeing and suicide prevention.

You can view the Employment and Indigenous mental health paper in full here and the Indigenous self-governance for mental health and suicide prevention article here.

Aged and dementia care scholarships 

Aged Care Nursing and Allied Health Dementia Care Scholarships.  Applications for studies in 2022 are open until 5 May 2022 to nurses, personal care workers and allied health professionals.

The  Department of Health’s Ageing and Aged Care Sector Newsletter article Aged Care Nursing and Allied Health Dementia Care Scholarships available here includes comments from Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Adjunct Professor Alison McMillian, Chief Allied Health Officer Dr Anne-marie Boxall, and previous scholarship recipients.

Additional information about the scholarships is available on the Australian College of Nursing website here.

Kurranulla’s Aboriginal aged care and disability worker Larissa McEwen with her client, Aunty Loyla Lotaniu. Photo: John Veage. Image source: St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.

$25m to fix ‘dehumanising’ Banksia Hill conditions

The Banskia Hill juvenile detention centre will receive a $25.1 million upgrade after it was slammed by a Perth Children’s Court judge as a “dehumanising” space. The money will go towards a $7.5 million crisis care unit, improvement to the centre’s intensive supervision unit, in-cell media streaming for education and therapeutic purposes, and a new Aboriginal services unit.

While sentencing a 15-year old boy for a range of offences, in February, Perth Children’s Court President Judge Hylton Quail said “if you wanted to make a monster, this is the way to do it”.

To view the ABC News article Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre gets $25 million to address ‘dehumanising’ conditions, cut incarceration rates in full click here.

parents of children inside Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre protesting

Parents of children inside Banksia Hill have recently spoken out about conditions inside the centre and are considering a class action. Photo supplied by Megan Krakouer. Image source: ABC News.

In a related story Condobolin Health Worker Ellen Doolan says while people have got to feel safe in their own homes, sending more Indigenous kids into juvenile detention is not the solution. Elderly Aboriginal people in Condobolin are just as frightened as elderly whites, she says. Many of the kids ­involved have grown up in ­“extremely tough circumstances” and are being raised by elderly grandmothers. “We’ve already got the highest rate of incarceration of any people in this country and so a lot of the fathers are in jail and now a lot of the mothers are too,” ­Doolan says. To view Ellen Doolan speaking click here.

Condobolin AHW Ellen Doolan

Condobolin health worker Ellen Doolan. Image source: The Australian.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Primary Care COVID-19 update

The latest in a series of webinars to update primary care on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout will be held from 3:30 PM–4:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 21 April 2022.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health on the panel this week will be Australian Government Department of Health Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health.

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