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

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

World Heart Day 2022

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

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

For more information about World Heart Day click here.

Community-led approach to tackling RHD

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate change victory for Torres Strait Islanders

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

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

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

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

Keeping FV victim-survivors in own homes

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

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

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

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

Image source: Pursuit, University of Melbourne.

Lessons in overcoming racism

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prevention key to fairer, healthier future

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

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

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

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

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

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

Government policies fail to ensure adequate housing

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: The Conversation.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Cashless debit card program ends

The image in the feature tile is from an ABC News article Cashless debit card to be abolished, but a new income-management system will take its place for some, Wednesday 28 September 2022. Photo: Michael Franchi, ABC News.

Cashless debit card program ends

The Albanese Labor Government has delivered on a key election commitment and secured the passage of legislation to abolish the failed cashless debit card program. The Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022 will see 17,300 participants start to transition off the cashless debit card program. This aims to deliver certainty and choice for Australians and reduce stigmatisation for the most disadvantaged in our community who have had to endure failed promises relating to the cashless debit card program. Labor is making good on its election commitment to restore dignity and pride to Australians – regardless of where they live or whether they receive a government payment.

To view the government’s joint media release Cashless debit card program to end following passage of legislation here.

The St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia welcomes the passing of legislation overnight to abolish the Cashless Debit Card and to make income management voluntary. The Society has been a leading voice calling for the abolition of the Cashless Debit Card, which has had significant unintended consequences across communities, including social exclusion and stigmatisation, increased financial hardship, and the erosion of autonomy and human dignity. We believe the best form of assistance is the type that helps people to feel, and recover, their own human dignity, as this empowers them and enables them to forge ahead and change their own destinies and those of their local communities.

To view the St Vincent de Paul Society of Australia media release Abolition of Cashless Debit Card Welcome click here.

In October 2020 NACCHO outlined concerns about the cashless debit card with its submission Continuation of Cashless Welfare Bill 2020 Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, available here.

Image source: Australian National Audit Office.

Finding solutions to inequity

In this country, our First Nations women are being incarcerated at the highest rates, often being victims of violence themselves and often misidentified as perpetrators (it is estimated 95% of Indigenous women in prison are victims of violence, including sexual violence). We can’t talk about justice without talking about equity in housing, the education system, access to health services, land, and the impacts of colonisation. Aboriginal leaders from the Atlantic Fellows from Social Equity and the University of Melbourne recently took up the opportunity to meet with a delegation from NZ Ministry of Justice led by the Hon. Kiritapu (Kiri) Allan.

Connected by many commonalities, the Aboriginal leaders shared with Minister Allan our lived experiences, challenges, and innovative examples of how change could be achieved across the justice sector. Including the importance of embedding culture into the ways of doing, empowering local decision making and self-determined solutions which must be front and centre, as well as amplifying the voices of those with disability to address the intersectional disadvantage and discrimination experienced by people with disability both within and exiting the justice system.

While there remains many challenges ahead, connecting with others who share the same lived experiences of colonisation and systemic disadvantage is one way in which First Nations peoples can share knowledge and self-determined solutions achieved.

To view the Pro Bono Australia article NZ justice minister consults with Aboriginal leaders on solutions to inequity in full click here.

Image source: RUSSH website.

Improving dental outcomes for mob

A new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural safety curriculum, led by University of Melbourne Professor Julie Satur from the Melbourne Dental School, has been launched. Unveiled at the International Association of Dental Research ANZ meeting held earlier this week, the new curriculum for dental students will contribute to the development of graduate dental practitioners who have the appropriate knowledge, skills and practice to provide culturally safe oral health care.

Commissioned by the Australasian Council of Dental Schools, the new curriculum is based on key areas of culturally safe practice underpinned by the expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The curriculum has the flexibility to meet the different structures and needs of dental programs across Australia, with the deliberate aim of being able to meet the specific needs of local communities.

Professor Satur believes the new curriculum is long overdue. “We know dental care is expensive and oral health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are significant. We also know that poor oral health has multiple effects on other aspects of health,” she said. “It is time we changed our approaches to managing oral health with Indigenous peoples and we believe the new curriculum is a step towards achieving better outcomes.”

To view the Australian Dental Association article Connecting the dots: improving dental outcomes for First Nations people in full click here.

Image source: Australian Dental Association website.

Making health and medical research impactful

One of Australia’s largest gatherings of Indigenous health and medical researchers will take place at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre this week  from Wednesday 28 to Friday 30 September. Organised by the Indigenous Researcher Capacity Building Network (IRNet) of the Australian Health Research Alliance, the IRNet National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research Showcase will celebrate the growing number of First Nations people making an impact in health and medical research in Australia.

Professor Alex Brown, IRNet Chair and Professor of Indigenous Genomics at the Australian National University (ANU) and Telethon Kids Institute, said the showcase would focus on the benefits of health and medical research being conducted by First Nations Australians. “The IRNet Showcase will highlight and foster an area of health and medical research on the precipice of change. We’re moving from research being about First Nations Australians to being conducted for, with and by us,” he said.

The University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Strategy and Services, Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver said “The conference will celebrate the pioneering efforts of many of those who came before us. The advocacy of many of the presenters and attendees are the reason we have a growing voice in how research is done in Australia today. One clear example of the activism and advocacy that allows us to be here today is from the earliest days of the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector – specifically the Aboriginal Medical Services Redfern, which is currently celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Without the Redfern service, and the subsequent community-controlled movement across the country, there would have been fewer opportunities to grow Aboriginal health and medical researchers today.”

To view The University Sydney news article Indigenous health research conference celebrates innovation in full click here.

AMS Redfern, 1980. Image source: National Archives of Australia.

New national network to boost health outcomes

A new national network will be established to advance the benefits from genomic medicine for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, after winning support under the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). WEHI’s Associate Professor Misty Jenkins, Dr Vanessa Bryant and Dr Charlotte Slade, in collaboration with Professor Clara Gaff from the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance, are co-leading the Victorian node of the project, funded under the 2021 Genomics Health Futures Mission.

The five-year project, worth almost $5 million, will see researchers, genetic health services, Indigenous community-controlled health organisations and industry partners unite to empower Indigenous leadership in genomic medicine for the future.

To view the The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) media release National network to boost Indigenous health outcomes in full click here.

L-R: Dr Vanessa Bryant, Associate Professor Misty Jenkins and Dr Charlotte Slade. Image source: WEHI website.

Puggy Hunter scholarship opportunities

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) will close Monday 10 October 2022.

The Aged Care Nursing and Allied Health Scholarships and the Mental Health Nursing, Allied Health and Psychology Scholarships have designated places for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Aged Care Nursing and Allied Health Scholarships

The Aged Care Scholarships will allow for up to 400 additional scholarships per year for three years, for personal care workers and nurses to complete qualifications. There will be up to 100 allied health scholarships per year for up to three years, which will be for allied health professionals to focus on dementia related qualifications. Applications are open for:

Mental Health Nursing, Allied Health and Psychology Scholarships

The Mental Health Nursing, Allied Health and Psychology Scholarships Program will provide up to 126 postgraduate nursing scholarships for courses related to both mental health and suicide prevention. The program will also support up to 152 allied health practitioners including psychologists working in mental health and suicide prevention, to undertake related tertiary, vocational, continuing professional development courses and clinical placements. 5% of scholarships will be prioritised to Aboriginal and  Torres Strait Islander applicants. Applications are open for:

You can find more information on the PHMSS webpage here and/or if you have any questions contact by email Lorna Girvan here or Emma O’Keefe here.

Building community research capacity

An experienced researcher and social scientist from The University of WA with a commitment to Indigenous health has been awarded an Early Career Research Fellowship from Healthway to build research capacity in Aboriginal communities. Healthway has awarded the $376,711 Fellowship to Dr Emma Haynes, from UWA’s Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health and the School of Population and Global Health, to support her work with regional Aboriginal communities to develop health promotion activities over a three-year period.

Through the Fellowship Dr Haynes will collaborate with Aboriginal medical services in the South West and Goldfields regions of WA to co-design and implement locally relevant health promoting research projects. BothWay learning will support co-design of data collection, analysis and the dissemination of results to determine actions based on the findings. This will give health services a strong evidence base to leverage sustainable health promotion service funding appropriate to the needs of their communities.

At the end of the Fellowship, Dr Haynes will assist in determining the impact of building research capacity and delivering effective Aboriginal-led health promotion projects that support implementing Priority Reform Four (data sovereignty) of the Closing the Gap. The national strategy aims to reduce Indigenous disadvantage with respect to life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, educational achievement and employment outcomes.

To view the University of WA article New Fellowship to build health research capacity in Aboriginal Communities in full click here.

Minitja Marawili and Dr Emma Haynes. Image source: The Indigenous Knowledge Collaborative (TIKC) blog.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Management of COVID-19 in community

The image in the feature tile is from ABC News article Indigenous communities won’t be safe from COVID until we act on the lessons learnt in Wilcannia, 28 November 2021. Photo: Micahel Franchi.

Management of COVID-19 in community

A research article published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) says we need to learn from Australia’s response to the pandemic and break down siloes, so we can build a more integrated and resilient health system. While the Australian health care system is well regarded on the global stage in terms of the balance between investment in health care and outcomes delivered, there is considerable fragmentation and poor coordination of care and communication between hospitals and primary care, which limits further improvement. Geographical barriers, workforce shortages and issues relating to acceptability of services limit health care access for residents of rural, regional and remote communities, Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, and together with an inadequate focus on prevention, limit progress towards health equity.

The article says strong advocacy from NACCHO and GPs in outbreak areas (including the Primary and Chronic Care Panel of the National COVID‐19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce) did consider the issues inherent in managing COVID‐19 in remote communities with overcrowded housing, but resource constraints limited execution of solutions. Early central planning and discussion also rarely involved primary care providers — from private, public or Aboriginal community controlled health sectors — and highlighted a lack of regional health care planning structures. The authors claim there is a particular need for purposeful rebuilding of remote PHC, emphasising the primacy of the Aboriginal clinical workforce, demonstrated as essential for overcoming vaccine hesitancy and enabling timely vaccine rollout.

To view The Medical Journal of Australia article Management of COVID‐19 in the community and the role of primary care: how the pandemic has shone light on a fragmented health system in full click here.

NACCHO developed COVID-19 resource. Image source: Croakey Health Media .

Racism is a public health issue

The Yokayi Footy panel has weighted in on the “horrifying chapter” of racism accusations embroiling Hawthorn football club and AFL coaches Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan Program host Megan Waters made a heartfelt plea and said as mob the news makes her feel “sick to the gut” before emotions got the best of former players Andrew Krakouer, Gillbert McAdam and Darryl White.

Hawthorn football staff, including Clarkson and Fagan, are alleged to have targeted three unnamed First Nations players during their time at the club, pressuring them into severing relationships with partners and families to better focus on their careers. “The story of racism is still very much alive in this country,” Ms Waters said.

Krakouer said similar stories of racism seem to come up every week, highlighting the need for stronger processes to better address the issue, cut suicide rates and social determinate factors felt by Indigenous people as a result of its ongoing impacts. “Racism is a public health issue,” he said. “It affects our health, life and our safety so we need to get serious about racism because what has been done previously, it’s not good enough.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article ‘Racism is a public health issue’: Indigenous footy personalities speak out on Hawthorn probe in full click here.

Andrew Krakouver. Photo: AFL.com.au. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Abolition of cashless debit card

The Albanese Labor Government is delivering a long-term plan to ensure certainty, choice and support to communities moving off the cashless debit card program. Following extensive consultation in sites across the nation, the Government has today announced a suite of measures that empowers local communities and will assist in abolishing the cashless debit card program and ensure communities are better off.

This will deliver on our election commitment to end a failed program. The Government will abolish the cashless debit card program and make income management voluntary in Ceduna, East Kimberley, Goldfields and Bundaberg-Hervey Bay. Under the plan, the Cape York region will retain all of its powers of self-determination and referral for community members to go onto income management under the Family Responsibilities Commission.

To view the joint media release Empowering communities with the abolition of the cashless debit card program in full click here.

Photo: Natalie Whitling, ABC News.

WA study to address low vax rate

Pregnant, expectant and breastfeeding First Nations mums will be the focus of new research that seeks to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among Aboriginal women across WA. The project will be led by Dr Anne-Marie Eades from the Curtin School of Allied Health. Dr Eades, a Noongar woman from the Wagyl Kaip region of WA, said First Nations women, particularly of a childbearing age, urgently needed greater access to vaccinations because they were most vulnerable to infection.

“There is currently a lack of research addressing the barriers to the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination among Aboriginal families,” Dr Eades said. “What we do know is that Aboriginal people are less likely to have been vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to the general population, with the differences most bleak in WA. Our study will evaluate the successes, barriers and opportunities of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program to reach Aboriginal women and their unborn children – and potentially target children under five in the event of an early childhood COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”

Partnering with the South-West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) and Babbingur Mia-Aboriginal Women’s Health Service, Dr Eades will be supported by a team of leading experts in Aboriginal health, COVID-19 vaccinations, immunisation, and midwifery. “We need to determine what factors could have encouraged a greater uptake of vaccination for First Nations mothers who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive,” Dr Eades said.

To view the Curtin University media release Study to address low COVID-19 vaccinations among Aboriginal women in full click here.

Michell Farrell gets her first COVID-19 vaccine at the Ngukurr Clinic. Photo: Kate Ashton, ABC News.

Healthy Skin Guidelines online survey

Telethon Kids Institute is inviting you to participate in an online survey to help with the evaluation of the 1st edition of the National Healthy Skin Guidelines (NHSG). The 1st edition of the NHSG was published in 2018 by the Australian Healthy Skin Consortium. It focuses on the prevention, treatment, and public health control of skin infections (such as impetigo, scabies, crusted scabies and tinea) for Aboriginal populations. Available online, the NHSG has been viewed >10,000 times, downloaded > 3,500 times, and the quiz for knowledge assessment completed >300 times.

Telethon Kids Institute want to know your experience of the guideline to help inform the updates to the next edition, or if you haven’t used it, we’d like to know about where you might go to access this kind of information and resources. The survey is intended for any healthcare worker who cares for people with skin infections. There are two separate surveys for those who have, and those who have not, used the 1st edition of the NHSG. You do not have to have used the 1st edition to take part in this survey, and you will only complete one survey.

It is estimated that the survey will take a maximum of 20 minutes. All responses are anonymous.

Click on this link to begin the survey. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Asha Bowen using this email link.

Increasing maternal health service uptake

University of Huddersfield researcher Devendra Raj Singh hopes that improvements in public health in disadvantaged communities will be the result of his international collaborations under the UK’s Turing Scheme. Devendra recently spent two months at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where he found that his research drew parallels between health issues faced by Australia’s Aboriginal community and people in his native Nepal.

The PhD research aims to co-design an initiative to improve the delivery and uptake of free maternal and new-born health services in Nepal, where Devendra hails from Madhesh Province in the south of the country. While in Canberra, Devendra worked closely with academics at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at ANU, one of Australia’s highest-ranked universities, and he gained invaluable insights into the issues facing Australia’s First Nations peoples.

“My visit to ANU has provided me with an excellent practical introduction to implementation research methodologies such as co-design, realist review, and policy analysis. But it was my absolute privilege to learn about the historical past, culture, and challenges of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia,” he adds.

To view the University of Huddersfield article Health researcher Devendra aims to build on Turing Scheme experience in full click here.

Natalia Moore-Deagan says the Indigenous health workers are one reason she goes to Danila Dilba. Photo: Lucy Marks, ABC News.

Medicare must be accessible to prisoners

Gerry Georgatos, a suicide prevention and poverty researcher with an experiential focus on social justice has written an article for Independent Australia arguing that Medicare must be accessible for prisoners. “It is my experience, in general, people come out of prisons in worse conditions than when they commenced the situational trauma of incarceration” Georgatos said. Health inequalities and discrimination in this nation’s 132 prisons are rife. Nearly 45,000 prisoners are denied Medicare.  Medicare is denied to prisoners, old and young, and to children as young as ten.

In addition, the incarcerated in effect are denied access to the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme  and denied access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, with disastrous impacts. It is established and self-evident, nearly all of Australia’s prisoners are comprised of people living in the lowest quintile of income. Additionally, they also comprise the quintile of the weakest primary and secondary health.”

To view the Independent Australia article Medicare must be accessible for prisoners in full click here.

Image source: The West Australian.

Sector Jobs

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

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

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

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

How poor housing affects health

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

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

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

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

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

Far North research to treat tuberculosis

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

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

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

Cairns Hospital. Image source: Tropic Now.

Strong Women for Healthy Country meet

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

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

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

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

Group A Streptococcus molecular POC testing

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

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

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

To view the article in full click here.

Group A Streptococcus. Image source: Microbiologics Blog webpage.

Mental health, substance use, reincarceration

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

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

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

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

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

Aboriginal SEWB Scholarships Program

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

Dementia Action Week 19–25 Sep 2022

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

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

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

For more information about Dementia Action Week 2022 click here.

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

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

QLD health service delivery needs overhaul

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

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

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

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

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

NACCHO leads environmental health workshop

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

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

For more information about the NATSIEH Conference 2022 click here.

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

ACCHOs consulted over RHD program

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

Organisations that attended included:

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

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

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

Homelessness linked to vulnerability clustering

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

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

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

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

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

Better drug treatment needed in Far West NSW

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

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

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

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

Image source: Australian Journal of General Practice.

Dementia cases could be prevented

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

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

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

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

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

 

Youth held in police watch houses to sue

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

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Environmental experts share advice

The image in the feature tile is from the Animal Management in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities (AMRRIC) website.

Environmental health experts share advice

The impact of climate change upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities was in the spotlight recently at the 13th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference. Attended by over 170 delegates from most Australian states and territories, the conference, held on Larrakia Country in Darwin, also heard calls for the establishment of a National Environmental Health First Nations Expert Group.

The conference provided a platform for hearing from a variety of environmental health practitioners from across Australia, highlighting the programs and activities being undertaken and the challenges faced. Among the presenters was CEO of One Disease Team Michelle Dowden, whose  presentation A “Mitey” Task Made Easier By Working Together looked at the social determinants of health and the need for a strength based approach to underpin the its aim to achieve scabies free communities and households. Other presenters included Chicky Clements, an environmental health worker for Nirrumbuk Aboriginal Corporation, who asked why after 13 national conferences over 26 years, action to consolidate a national environmental health workforce had not progressed and first time presenters from Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation who spoke about their important work in remote communities.

A wide range of topics were covered at the conference, including: the links to environmental health and the prevention of rheumatic heart disease and trachoma; WHO statistics showing 25% of the health burden is due to environmental health conditions; all wetlands in the NT being at risk of Japanese Encephalitis; the post border, active surveillance early detection biosecurity community dog and cat health project which results in an animal census for local decision making; the environmental health response to 2022 floods which included ensuring potable water, reopening flooded food businesses and managing waste; the need to incorporate traditional knowledge into water guidelines; the COVID-19 response; an overcrowding study; the cost of hospitalisation attributable to environmental health conditions; animal management; the impacts of climate change; and mosquito borne diseases.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Putting the spotlight on environmental health expertise and challenges in full click here.

Lived experience of addiction voices essential

Hundreds of people gathered in Canberra this week for a conference that flipped the usual proceedings and power dynamics. Too often people experiencing or affected by health issues are on the sidelines, in the background or completely missing in major health gatherings. But people with lived experience of addictions took centre-stage at this week’s inaugural Rethink Addiction convention, titled ‘It’s time to change the conversation’.

They were not just token voices on panels stacked with ‘experts’ as seen at many conferences, but the main voices in session after session of the two-day event, their expertise, knowledge and experiences privileged and valued. In heart-breaking detail, they told raw and powerful stories about addictions to alcohol, other drugs, and gambling which took many to the brink, facing suicide, prison, financial ruin, the removal of children or – in the case of Australian of the Year Local Hero Shanna Whan – waking up in Emergency after falling down a concrete flight of stairs.

As well as showcasing their courage, strength and commitment to others, they took strong aim at the structural barriers they have faced in their recovery, including government, industry and media, and a fragmented and flawed health system. Among the audience were health and service professionals, academics, policy makers and researchers – there to listen and put up their hands to ask the questions.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Privileging the voices of people with lived experiences of addiction in full click here.

Building our mental health workforce

The Andrews Labor Government is building a mental health workforce that provides culturally safe and inclusive care by supporting traineeships and scholarships for Aboriginal people who want to work in the sector. The Government has invested $5.6 million over five years to support the Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Scholarships Program – providing training courses and professional development opportunities for Aboriginal people who wish to work in the mental health sector.

The program provided more than a dozen scholarships for students attending RMIT and Deakin Universities in semester one this year. Providing the best quality education and training for Victoria’s mental health workforce ensures the best quality care for all Victorians with mental illness. Building on the transition from study to work, the Government has also provided more than $7 million since 2017 for the Aboriginal Mental Health Traineeship Program – a specialist course that provides workplace training, while trainees complete placements and mental health qualifications.

The program also allows our mental health services to learn from trainees about Aboriginal culture and gain knowledge and perspective, so they can develop more holistic and well-informed supports and care programs for all Victorians. The first graduates are now working in an ongoing role with the health service where they undertook their traineeship or as an Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing worker in a local Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation.

To view the medianet article Building Our Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce in full click here.

Suicide prevention consultation in Balgo community. (L to R)Brian Darkie Junior (Community Liaison Officer Balgo), Vicki McKenna (Suicide Prevention Coordinator), Desmond Stretch, Daniel Rockman, Darren Brown, Justin Mosquito, Nathaniel Stretch, Larissa Mudgedell. Photo supplied by KAMS. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Calls for urgent action on detention protocol

The death this week of another Indigenous man in custody in Victoria, the third such life lost in the state’s prisons in the last 12 months, has renewed focus on Australia’s disproportionate incarceration rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. With over 500 deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) will use an upcoming submission to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) to call out Australia’s slow implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), to establish a system of unannounced visits to places of detention.

VALS condemns the lack of action on implementing the recommendations of 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) and calls for OPCAT to be implemented in Victoria. “The urgent need to implement OPCAT in Victoria has been identified by the Victorian Ombudsman, which carried out two OPCAT style investigations in custodial facilities in 2017 and 2019,” the submission reads. The submission described the Victorian Government’s response as woefully inadequate and expressed concern that this once in a generation opportunity to prevent torture and inhumane treatment in detention is being squandered.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Clock is ticking for Australian governments to address human rights concerns around places of detention in full click here.

Image source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

In a related ABC News broadcast Why are Aboriginal deaths in custody still happening in Victoria? Jill Gallagher, CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, spoke with Amber Irving-Guthrie. You can listen to the interview in full using this link.

Heal Our Way suicide prevention

Heal Our Way is a NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Campaign funded by the NSW Ministry of Health under Towards Zero Suicides (TZS) initiatives. Led by Cox Inall Ridgeway in partnership with Aboriginal communities in NSW, health leaders and people who have lived experience of suicide, the campaign aims to provide practical resources to community members to equip them with the skills to have safe conversations around suicide.

Uncle George Ellis has been shared as part of the Heal Our Way campaign. Uncle George Ellis is a descendant of Kinchela Boys Home. He is a Gomeroi and Likaparta man who now lives in the Northern Rivers of NSW. He said “What we’ve done with Heal Our Way, which is what we need to keep doing, is to put these kinds of stories at the centre of our conversations about suicide. They are stories of strength, sadness, resilience, hurt and hope – but they important because they are real. They also bring us together because they are shared experiences in our communities and that way, we can address them as a community.

To access the Croakey Health Media article Heal Our Way: supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have safe conversations around suicide prevention in full click here.

Uncle George Ellis. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Supporting mob with Musculoskeletal conditions

Despite national, state and local campaigns to Close the Gap in Australia, considerable health gaps still exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Musculoskeletal conditions are an area of health where there is a significant difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Although Indigenous people experience musculoskeletal conditions more. their access to high-quality and culturally informed support remains low.

Musculoskeletal conditions can have a considerable effect on people’s lives. Such conditions can affect a person’s ability to walk, complete simple tasks at home without help, and participate in sports or work. Government health organisations need to provide better support for Indigenous people suffering from these conditions by encouraging culturally safe community-based care.

Internationally, low back pain is the leading cause of disability, and osteoarthritis is the leading cause of physical activity limitiation. Both of these ailments are more common in Indigenous people, who are 20–50% more likely to have osteoarthritis and 10% more likely to report current back pain than the non-Indigenous population in Australia. Musculoskeletal conditions have also been shown to contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. With 46% of Australia’s Indigenous population having at least one chronic condition, this may lead to even higher rates of chronic diseases.

To view The Conversation How do we support Indigenous people in Australia living with musculoskeletal conditions? in full click here.

Photo: Shutterstock. Image source: The Conversation.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Ask your mob, in your way, R U OK?

The image in the feature tile is of Steven Oliver, An R U OK? Ambassador, Aboriginal poet, comedian and performer whose life has been affected by suicide. Image source: R U OK? Day Facebook page, 29 June 2016.

Ask your mob, in your way, R U OK?

If someone you know – a family member, someone from your community, a friend, neighbour, team mate or workmate –  is doing it tough, they won’t always tell you. Sometimes it’s up to us to trust our gut instinct and ask someone who may be struggling with life “are you OK?”, in our own way. By taking the time to ask and listen, we can help those we care about feel more supported and connected, which can help stop little things becoming bigger things.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples share a special connection to this country and to each other, through our cultures, communities and shared experiences. Regardless of where we live, or who our mob is, we all go through tough times, times when we don’t feel great about our lives or ourselves. That’s why it’s important to always be looking out for each other. Because we’re Stronger Together.

Earlier this year 13YARN (13 92 76), a Lifeline supported service was launched. It is the first national crisis phone support line for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Designed, led and delivered by mob, 13YARN provides a confidential 24/7 one-on-one yarning opportunity with a Lifeline-trained Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter.

You could also connect with a trusted health professional, like your doctor or your local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Medical Service.

For more information about R U OK? Day and to access resources specifically for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander communities click here.

Working Group on Voice to Parliament

The government is primed to announce a working group on the referendum to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. The group will be tasked with answering some of the big questions on the process in the lead-up to the referendum. The referendum’s timing, question and information on the Voice to Parliament will all fall under the remit of the group, made up of more than 20 Indigenous leaders from across the country.

Notable names include Pat Anderson, Marcia Langton, Tom Calma, Pat Turner, Ken Wyatt and June Oscar. It will be co-chaired by Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney and Special Envoy for Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement Patrick Dodson. Ms Burney will officially announce the working group as part of her address today at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia’s State of the Nation forum. “These are the next steps, the plan on the road to the referendum,” Ms Burney said. “There is much to work to do, many more steps to be taken on the road to the referendum. Let’s be clear, government cannot lead this referendum. This will come from the grassroots.”

To view the ABC News story Working group to answer big questions leading up to Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum in full click here.

The government’s Voice working group will help shape the looming referendum. Photo: Tim Leslie, ABC News.

JobKeeper rate a health hazard

Touted as a “much-needed boost” by the Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth, the JobSeeker payment is set to rise $1.80 per day on 20 September. The daily rate will go from $46 to $47.80 – $17,378 per year – still well below the Melbourne Institute’s poverty line of approximately $28,000 per year. “It does not deliver a real increase – an increase above inflation – and that is what people on JobSeeker and other payments need to keep a roof over their head and put food on the table,” Australian Council of Social Service CEO Edwina MacDonald said in a statement.

Karl Briscoe, the CEO of the National Association for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners (NAATSIHWP), said the low JobSeeker rates affect food security and housing among Indigenous communities. “Access to adequate nutrition, fresh fruit and veg, is probably one of the biggest issues that people are faced with,” he said.  ” When people cannot access vitamins and minerals due to poverty, they can be more susceptible to a range of diseases, including skin infections and diabetes, according to Briscoe.”

Overcrowding is another major issue, he said. In Aboriginal communities, it can contribute to the spread of scabies, a skin infection which is linked to chronic kidney disease. Too many people living in the same house can also increase the spread of Strep A infections, which can cause rheumatic fever and RHD, an autoimmune condition where the heart valve tissue becomes swollen and scarred.

While increasing the JobSeeker rate is a clear necessity, what is really needed to improve conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is capital investment, such as infrastructure projects that bring jobs, according to Briscoe. “Poverty is an outcome of colonisation for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We don’t have a long line of inheritance that’s been passed down generation to generation,” Briscoe said.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Stories from the frontlines: why the low JobSeeker rate is a health hazard in full click here.

Verdict on government’s first 100 days

The Albanese government has now passed its first 100 days in office and major announcements are coming in thick and fast. Key ministers and central figures within the for-purpose sector have reflected on the federal government’s progress so far and what should be the next steps from here.

The federal government came to power promising a referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney said the government had “hit the ground running. A constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament is about improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country.  It’s about making sure First Nations people have a say on the issues and policies that affect them,” she said. “It’s about drawing a line on the poor outcomes from the long legacy of failed programs and broken policies and about recognising the glaring omission of First Peoples in Australia’s birth certificate.”

CEO of SNAICC Catherine Liddle said many of the government’s broad commitments, including more affordable childcare, would benefit First Nations people. However, she said such mainstream reforms “must take into account the particular needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. SNAICC has already met with senior government ministers and we look forward to strengthening those relationships and working with the new government to progress much needed policy reform to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have their needs and voices heard,” she said.

“Federal Labor has committed to the implementation of the National Agreement with the Coalition of Peaks. There’s no doubt that we lost some ground in the run up to and during the federal election. But I think that implementation of the National Agreement is being brought back to where it needs to be” Liddle said. “SNAICC looks forward to working with the government on reforms to early education, family services, and out of home care, with access to childcare identified as being particularly important as a lack of access can create barriers that prevent First Nations people from engaging in work and study.”

To view the Pro Bono Australia article Sector delivers verdict on government’s first 100 days in full click here.

Image source: ABC News website.

System rigged against people with additions

Amid concerns that Australian health systems are failing people with addictions to alcohol, other drugs and gambling, experts will call next week for a national roadmap to ensure better and more equitable treatment pathways. A two-day national conference in Canberra will put the spotlight on a lack of national policy leadership in addressing the fragmented, inadequate services available for people living with addictions, which one expert says means it’s a “complete lottery” as to what care people and families might find. The Rethink Addiction Convention titled ‘It’s time to change the conversation’, will bring together people with lived and living experience, clinicians, services providers, law and justice practitioners and policymakers and seek to address the stigma that affects access to treatment and care.

Jasmin Wilson, a Wellbeing Officer from from Aboriginal Drug & Alcohol Council SA will be speaking at the inaugural Rethink Addiction Convention. She says “Addiction doesn’t discriminate, so why do we? To Close the Gap we need to address addiction in First Nations Communities.”

Ending that harmful stigmatisation is the work at the heart of the Rethink Addiction campaign, headed by psychiatrist Professor Dan Lubman, who is Executive Clinical Director of the Turning Point and Professor of Addiction Studies and Services at Monash University  and Director of the Monash Addiction Research Centre. He cites the damning statistics: around one in four Australians will develop an alcohol, drug or gambling disorder during their lifetime, and around one in 20 will develop addiction, the most severe form of the disorder. One Australian dies almost every hour from alcohol, other drug or gambling harm.

To view the Croakey Health Media article How the system is rigged against people with addictions in full click here.

Jasmin Wilson, a former ice addict will speak at the convention. Image source: The Advertiser.

Calls for youth justice system reforms

Amnesty International Australia issued a statement yesterday calling on all State and Territory governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility and close detention centres. “State and Territory governments have it in their power now to do more than make empty statements about the importance of child safety,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Campaigner Maggie Munn, said. “Until they take the most obvious and proven step to truly care for some of the most vulnerable children in our country, then these words ring very hollow indeed.”

Calls for reform of the youth justice system have been echoed by many including, Change the Record, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) and the Public Health Association of Australia. The deep-rooted culture of abuse of children in youth detention was again in the spotlight last week during an Inquiry into Government Responses into Child Sexual Abuse in Institutional Settings in Tasmania. The Inquiry and others before have highlighted the abuse of children in detention centres as a “black mark against this country as a whole”, according to barrister Greg Barns, the National Criminal Justice Spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

Barns said “If there was ever a time for major reform and a cultural shift on the part of legislators and society generally when it comes to dealing with children and young people who come into contact with the police, then now is it. Doing nothing is not an option.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article Calls for reform, not platitudes, on youth justice system in full click here.

Image source: Amnesty International Australia.

QAS drives cultural safety in the community

The Queensland Ambulance Service has appointed a team of leaders to build on the organisation’s cultural capability and advance health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The organisation’s recently established Cultural Safety Unit has appointed three new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety Support Officers (CSSOs) and two new Senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety Advisors.

Health and Ambulance Services Minister Yvette D’Ath said it was vital for the Queensland Ambulance Service to embrace diversity in its ranks. “The QAS is really leading the way when it comes to Indigenous relations within the service and community,” she said. “We’ve seen first-hand, with initiatives like the QAS Indigenous Paramedic Program, what a difference it makes to health outcomes when First Nations people are on the front line in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities”.

QAS Deputy Commissioner Operations North, Rural and Remote Kari Arbouin said three officers have been appointed to the inaugural CSSO positions and will be operating within their own areas, including North Queensland, Central Queensland and South Queensland. “Our CSSOs will also be out and about playing their part in improving health equity and foster better engagement across all Queensland communities.” “As QAS continues to develop a more culturally responsive and inclusive workplace, our new team will be working to support our workforce to become more culturally aware and safe.”

To view the Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, the Hon. Yvette D’Ath’s media release QAS drives greater cultural safety in the community in full click here.

Image source: Australian Paramedical College website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Housing to meet minimum standards by 2031

The image in the feature tile is of the remote NT community, Yarralin, west of Katherine. Photo: Hamish Harty. Image source: ABC News article FOI documents show NT government previously forecast it would not meet target to build 650 remote houses in five years, 5 April 2022.

Housing to meet minimum standards by 2031

State and territory governments will be required to ensure all First Nations houses in homeland communities and town camps meet or exceed minimum standards for essential services within the next decade, under new targets agreed by the Joint Council on Closing the Gap. The Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, the Assistant Minister, Malarndirri McCarthy, and their state and territory counterparts met Aboriginal peak bodies in Adelaide last Friday to discuss progress on social, health, economic and educational indicators.

Burney said all jurisdictions must come together to address the inequities that too many First Nations people experience across the country. “The importance of closing the gap cannot be underestimated,” she said. Access to essential services and poor housing conditions are a problem for many Indigenous families, particularly those in remote and regional areas. States and territories have agreed in principle that essential services – including to households within town camps or town-based reserve – should meet or exceed “jurisdictional standards.”

To view The Guardian article Closing the Gap: states and territories pledge to lift First Nations housing standards in full click here.

Photo: Dr Simon Quilty. Image source: ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health webpage.

Former NRL player now R U OK? ambassador

In his early 20s Kevin Heath fell into a depression he didn’t see coming. The proud K’Gari Indigenous man and former Rugby League player said it was a single conversation which helped him start tackling his mental health and eventually build the life he once might have dismissed as a fantasy. Rocking his eight-month-old daughter, Mr Heath said it was an experience he wouldn’t wish on anyone. “It was through that experience that those close to me told me I needed to speak to somebody,” Mr Heath said.

The former Rugby League player is now a community ambassador for R U OK?, an Indigenous Health Outreach Worker in south east Sydney, and founder of sport-specific training and mentoring company Dream Time Academy. He said his personal experience with mental health proves the message of the R U OK 2022 campaign – that you don’t need a fancy degree to be qualified to ask a mate “are you OK?”.

The article RUOK Day 2022: Kevin Heath, mental health advocate, Dream Time Academy founder referred to above appeared in the Daily Telegraph here.

Kevin Heath. Image source: Daily Telegraph.

GPs fill mental health system gaps

Dr Tim Senior, a long-standing GP at Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Service, an ACCHO in South West Sydney, and a Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Indigenous Health at Western Sydney School of Medicine has co-authored a article for InSight+ with Louise Stone, a GP with clinical, research, teaching and policy expertise in mental health and Associate Professor in the Social Foundations of Medicine group, ANU Medical School and works in youth health.

In the article they say “GPs are used to filling gaps in the health system. Over our careers, we have lived through times where we are seen as underqualified and then essential to a range of services, including maternity care, dermatology, sexual health and more recently, urgent care, infectious disease and psychiatry. An ability to flex with community need is one of the core capacities of generalists, and enables the health system to rapidly adapt to changing community need.”

“If we are to understand and respond to the breadth and depth of mental health issues in the community, we need to think beyond simplistic views of episodic “disorders”. General practice mental health care ranges from disorder management, to prevention, to individual trauma (domestic violence, sexual abuse, medical trauma), to crisis (natural disasters, major medical illness) to life stressors (eg grief, suicide postvention) to social harms (discrimination, harassment) to existential crises (infertility, death and dying).”

To read the InSight+ article General practice: the liquid in the mental health system in full click here.

Dr Tim Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

More NT nurses transition to Country

Ten Territory nurses will spend the next 12 months building their skills and providing services to remote communities under the Transition to Remote Practice Program. This year is the first time the program recruited a second cohort of participants. They will join the 12 nurses who commenced the program at the beginning of 2022. The program is designed to bolster the Territory’s remote nurse workforce and help nurses develop a broad range of skills to cover emergency care and general primary health care issues with a focus on culturally safe practice and Indigenous health needs.

Over the next 12 months the second intake of nurses will work at health clinics including: seven nurses will be stationed in the Top End region including Jabiru, two in Wadeye, Palumpa, Peppimenarti, Gunbalanya and Wurrumiyanga. Two nurses will be based in the East Arnhem region, including Alyangula, and Angurugu.One nurse will work at the health clinic in Numbulwar in the Big Rivers region.

Nurses receive a Transition to Primary Health Care Certificate following completion of the program, enabling them to apply for remote area nurse positions. To view the Chief Minister of the NT, Natasha Fyles media release Another Cohort of Territory Nurses Transition to Country click here.

Below is a short video of the Mpwelarre Health Service Clinic Manager, talking about her work in Santa Teresa, a remote NT town of 600 people. Mpwelarre Health Service is a community controlled health service led by the Mpwelarre Health Aboriginal Corporation. is one of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress’ five remote health services.

Prisons an opportunity to address complex health needs

Police watch-houses present a unique opportunity for medical interventions in high-risk populations, according to the authors of an article recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The authors examine the opportunities to “intercept a vulnerable, complex and otherwise hard-to-reach population, and identify unmet health needs” in Queensland police watch-houses.

The report said 43 of the 505 deaths (9%) in police custody between 1991 and 2016 occurred in a police station, police vehicle, police cell, or watch-house. Almost half of those were deaths due to a medical cause (49%). Lead author Julia Crilly, Professor of Emergency Care at Griffith University, studied the key challenges for people and systems responsible for the health and safety of detainees in short-term custody alongside her colleagues.

“As a group, [police watch-house detainees] are largely disconnected from health services, so beyond their immediate, untreated health problems, comparatively little is known about underlying and unaddressed social determinants,” the paper stated. Issues such as substance dependence, mental illness, and chronic health conditions like hypertension and asthma are all significantly more prevalent than in the general population for vulnerable groups. “This is especially evident for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who represent 30% of the custodial population despite comprising only 3.3% of the Australian population.”

To view The Mandarin article Police watch-houses offer opportunity to address complex health needs in full click here.

Melbourne Remand Centre. Photo: Joe Castro, AAP. Image source: The Mandarin.

New forum to give young leaders a voice

Aboriginal youth need to stand up to reverse the declining state of social justice in Australia’s North West, according to the organiser of a young leaders group. The first Empowered Young Leaders Kimberley Youth Gathering was held this week on Gooniyandi Country at a remote Kimberley community. More than 50 Aboriginal youth aged 18–35 were encouraged to raise their concerns at the meeting hosted as part of a series of AGM’s held at Kupartiya Community for the Kimberley Land Council.

West Kimberley Empowered Young Leaders Coordinator Toni Wajayi Skeen said the youth forum was a long time coming. “When you’re constantly being talked to and being told about your community issues you feel as thought you don’t have a say in decisions that affect yourself and community, we intended this space to be solution based,” she said. “We are asking for young people to have a seat at the table, to make their own decisions and create their own voice. In terms of the social justice issues here, it has gotten worse. We hear this term that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, but what are we doing today to make sure they are the leaders of tomorrow.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article New forum launched to give young Kimberley Indigenous leaders a voice in full click here.

Attendees of the first Empowered Young Leaders Kimberley Youth Gathering. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

myGov is changing soon

myGov has given people a simple and secure way to access My Health Record for many years. But the way people use government services is changing, so myGov is getting an upgrade to meet these growing needs. If you access My Health Record through myGov, you’ll start noticing some changes soon.

When myGov changes, you won’t need to do anything different. You’ll still find myGov at the same web address, use the same sign in details and all your linked services will stay the same. The upgraded myGov will be modern, offer personalised information about government services and have a new look.

When your My Health Record is linked in your myGov account, the important health information that you and your healthcare provider organisations have added can be viewed securely whenever it’s needed, including in an emergency.

You won’t need to do anything different to access My Health Record through myGov.

Explore the changes and learn more here. You can do everything you currently do in myGov using myGov Beta – it’s just as safe and secure.

The myGov eKit will help you inform people in your community. You can download the myGov community resources here so you can let people know about the changes.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Women’s Health Week 2022

In 2013, realising that there was no event dedicated to women’s health in Australia, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health ran the very first national Women’s Health Week. Thousands of women across Australia subscribed to take part in a week of events and online activities, learning more their health.

Now in its 10th year, Women’s Health Week is a celebration of women in Australia, women from all walks of life. In 2021 (despite a second year impacted by lockdowns and restrictions), more than 128,000 women participated in 2.277 events, over 54,000 women subscribed to the online campaign and we reached over 3.6 million people via social media. Women’s Health Week is recognised as the biggest week for women’s health and wellbeing in Australia and takes place annually in the first week of September.

For more information about Women’s Health Week visit the Jean Hailes for Women’s Health website here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Joint Council on CTG Co-Chair interviewed

The image in the feature tile is of Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy, NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner and Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Linda Burney MP in Adelaide today for the Joint Council on Closing the Gap. Image source: The Coalition of Peaks Facebook page, 26 August 2022.

Joint Council on CTG Co-Chair interviewed

The ALP has made a commitment to Close the Gap, a strategy aimed at closing the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people within a generation. The policy was refreshed under the Coalition government with a Joint Council set up to oversee it. The group is meeting with the responsible minister today, Linda Burney. The Council Co-Chair, Pat Turner, who is also the Lead Convener of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (the Coalition of Peak) and NACCHO CEO spoke with Sabra Lane on ABC Radio AM earlier this morning.

Ms Turner spoke about what needs to be prioritised to meet the CTG targets. Ms Turner said the priorities have to be:

  • shared decision-making partnerships between Aboriginal leadership and Torres Strait Islander leadership with government where they are negotiating for new arrangements, so we have to be at the table and have equal decision-making arrangements in place.
  • build and strengthen the community-controlled service sector to deliver services, because we do it much better than mainstream or anywhere else and we get better outcomes.
  • mainstream organisations like youth detention police services, hospitals etc. they have to become places that are more culturally respectful in their dealings and culturally safe places for Aboriginal and Torres State Islander people

You can listen to Pat Turner’s interview from 7:15 minutes of the recording here.

Earlier today the Coalition of Peaks issued a media release Joint Council on Closing the Gap meets in Adelaide, available here, outlining the ‘hefty agenda’ aimed to progress actions under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Members of Joint Council on Closing the Gap, Adelaide 26 August 2022. Image source: Coalition of Peaks Facebook page.

Voice won’t usurp CTG

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney has dismissed concerns enacting a voice to parliament would come at the expense of closing the gap outcomes. The Joint Council on Closing the Gap is meeting today for the first time since 2021. Ms Burney said closing gaps in key health and education areas between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remained a top priority for the government. As debate continues on a referendum to enshrine an Indigenous voice to parliament in the constitution, she said both were just as important.

“It is wrong to suggest that that agenda (of the voice) will be usurping the agenda of closing the gap. They are part and parcel of the same thing,” she said. “Unless First Nations people are living lives of choice and chance, just like other Australians, then we cannot ever hold our heads high in the space of Indigenous affairs.”

To view The Canberra Times article Voice won’t usurp closing gap: Burney in full click here.

Minister Linda Burney. Photo: Tanja Bruckner. Image source: Women’s Agenda.

Detention of kids in adult prisons must stop

The peak body of psychiatrists in Australia has called on the Federal and state and territory governments to stop the detention of children in adult prisons. In light of the recent events at Banksia Hill Youth Detention Centre (WA), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has staunchly opposed the detention of children in adult facilities and urged governments to prioritise the mental health of children detained in the juvenile system.

RANZCP President Vinay Lakra highlighted that research shows over 75% of young persons in detention have one or more psychiatric disorders that need treatment. “Youth detention is associated with increased risks of suicidality and psychiatric disorders including depression, substance use, and behavioural disorders. Detaining young children and putting their future at risk should be the absolute last resort.”

To view the RANZCP media release Psychiatrists say the detention of children in adult prisons must stop in full click here.

Photo: Matt Davidson. Image source: WAtoday.

500 new First Nations health workers

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, said the Australian Government is progressing on a commitment to train 500 new First Nations health workers to fill gaps across the health system, ahead of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap in Adelaide today. National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is working hand-in-hand with the Australian Government to design the program to ensure it meets the needs of First Nations people, and the health services which care for them. The program will support up to 500 First Nations trainees to undertake Certificate III or IV accredited training to enable them to work in various health settings and deliver culturally appropriate care to First Nations peoples.

To view the joint media release from Minister Burney and Senator McCarthy Closing the Gap in Health click here.

Image source: Aboriginal Workforce Development webpage of CommunitySkills WA website.

Australia fails to meet trachoma targets

NT artist Lena Campbell watched her late grandmother go blind from the impacts of trachoma — now she is trying to stop the next generation from going down the same path. She lives in Titjikala, a town more than 100 kms south of Alice Springs that sits among the red sands of the Simpson Desert, and the dust is a normal part of daily life. But dusty conditions are a common contributor to the preventable eye-disease trachoma.

Trachoma is caused by infection with the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium, which is spread easily through personal contact, sharing bedding and even from flies that have picked it up. Most days, kids living in Titjikala aged from two to 14 years run around the basketball court — sharing hula hoops and kicking the footy around. Ms Campbell calls the kids to a big watering trough, where they lather up with soap and splash their faces with water. “If the parents are not here, I look after them to stay clean,” she explains. “Especially after school, the kids come out here and play and we usually ask them to wash their hands and faces in case of trachoma, in case of sore eyes.”

Australia is the highest-income country to still have endemic trachoma, according to the World Health Organization. Environmental factors such as housing conditions play a major part in countering this blinding disease. Ms Campbell is considered one of the “stronger ladies” in her community for speaking up for residents. She’s upset that trachoma still exists in Indigenous communities like hers even though cities were able to eradicate the disease 100 years ago.

To read the ABC News article Trachoma still exists in remote Indigenous communities as Australia fails to meet eradication targets in full click here.

Titjikala kids are learning how to keep their eyes – and faces – clean. Photo: Stephanie Boltje, ABC News.

Thrive by Five backs calls for funding guarantee

Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five initiative supports calls made by the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), for the Federal Government to reinstate funding for Indigenous-led child and family centres across Australia. The Childcare Deserts and Oasis Report, recently completed by the Mitchell Institute, highlights that families located in areas defined as inner regional (42.6%), outer regional (62.6 %), remote (87.5%), and outer remote (79.9%) are more likely to be living in a childcare desert compared to families living in major cities. This lack of early learning and care is exacerbated in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities which is contributing to poorer outcomes for children.

To view the Minderoo Foundation media release Thrive by Five backs call to guarantee funding for Indigenous-led early learning and childcare click here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Wear it Purple Day

Wear It Purple strives to foster supportive, safe, empowering and inclusive environments for rainbow young people, with a focus on four key areas:

Awareness – We provide support and resources for Schools, Universities, Gender & Sexuality Alliances (GSA’s) and Youth Organisations to assist them in creating inclusive experiences for rainbow young people. We act as a source of resources to support the effective delivery of Wear It Purple Day in Schools, Universities, Workplaces and the broader community.

Opportunity – We provide meaningful opportunities for rainbow young people to develop their skills, expand their network and contribute to the inclusivity of their communities.

Environment – We provide supportive and safe spaces (digital and physical) and contribute to a world where young rainbow people feel proud of who they are.

Collaboration – We collaborate and unite with other organisations to further the inclusion of rainbow young people. Through partnerships, we support the effective delivery of Wear It Purple Day in Schools, Universities, Workplaces and the broader community.

An Australian Human Rights Commission article Brotherboys, Sistergirls and LGBT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, available here, describes how Brotherboys, Sistergirls and other LGBT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience a number of significant and intersecting points of discrimination and marginalisation in Australia.

For more information about Wear it Purple Day click here.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Inquest hears tragic victim statements

The image in the feature tile is of the sign outside the Doomadgee Hospital in the remote north-west Queensland. Photo: Louie Eroglu ACS. Image source: ABC Far North article Queensland coroner to travel to remote Doomadgee for rheumatic heart disease inquest published on 20 May 2022.

Inquest hears tragic victim statements

Family members of three women who died from complications associated with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in the remote Gulf community of Doomadgee have given emotional victim impact statements to the inquest into their deaths. The three young women, whose families requested they be referred to as Kaya, Ms Sandy and Betty, died in 2019 and 2020.

Outside court, Alec Doomadgee, the brother of Ms Sandy and cultural father of Kaya, said the world needed to know the women were human beings and a crucial part of their families. He hopes the inquest would help bring these women’s lives — and the injustice they faced — to the public’s attention. He said that, if Kaya had been white, her treatment at various hospitals would have been very different. “It is an issue of race. It is an issue of systemic racism, institutionalised racism, and it is an issue of stereotyping Aboriginal people,” he said.

“We’re sick of being helped. We know what’s best for us, and we know how to help ourselves. We just need you to start listening to us.” He called on the state government to take real action and responsibility. “[Ms Sandy] didn’t die due to neglect, didn’t die due to negligence. She died because the system and the people [who are] supposed to help didn’t care.”

To view the ABC News article Inquest into deaths of three Indigenous women in Doomadgee hears tragic victim impact statements from family in full click here.

Alec Doomadgee, Ms Sandy’s husband, Edgar Sandy, and her daughters — Tinisha, Ellisha and Simona — outside the court. Photo: Holly Richardson, ABC News.

Traumatic brain injury data project

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the largest contributor to death and disability in people who have experienced physical trauma. There are no national data on outcomes for people with moderate to severe TBI in Australia. Details of a study to o determine the incidence and key determinants of outcomes for patients with moderate to severe TBI, both for Australia and for selected population subgroups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, was published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) earlier today. The findings will be disseminated by project partners, including NACCHO, with the aim of informing improvements in equitable system‐level care for all people in Australia with moderate to severe TBI.

To read the MJA article The Australian Traumatic Brain Injury National Data (ATBIND) project: a mixed methods study protocol in full click here.

The news of this study comes at the end of this year’s Brain Injury Awareness Week which ran from15–21 August with the theme Life is bigger than a brain injury. For further information about Brain Injury Awareness Week, including access to stories of those living with brain injury, you can access Synapse Australia’s Brain Injury Organisation website here. Below is a video relating to a previous study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traumatic brain injury.

Kowanyama dog control a big job

As the sun begins to take the chill out of the morning air, a litter of puppies emerges from its den of building materials on a vacant block of land. Soon the puppies disperse onto the streets, disappearing among dozens of other dogs that roam without boundary across Kowanyama, a remote Indigenous township in Queensland’s far north. The western Cape York community has a problem with loose dogs. They fight, they breed uncontrollably, they attack other animals and sometimes, they turn their attention on humans.

Samuel ‘Sinker’ Hudson, Kowanyama’s animal control officer is part of a small team of people trying to change the way locals care for their animals in Kowanyama. And he has a big job on his hands. There are 455 dogs registered with Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council, about one for every 2.5 people in the community. It’s not known how many unregistered dogs there are, and unchecked breeding is an issue.

To view the ABC News article Kowanyama dog control reduces disease and keeps community safe, but more is needed in full click here.

Takeaway grog ban hotly debated

As communities in northern WA search for solutions to alcohol-fuelled violence and harm, a proposal to severely restrict takeaway grog is subject of a hotly contested debate. The state’s director of liquor licensing, Lanie Chopping, has been investigating whether all takeaway alcohol except light beer should be banned in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions since mid-2020. Crime rates, domestic violence and antisocial behaviour have led to the regions being compared to war zones.

The inquiry was launched after an application in 2019 by former police commissioner Chris Dawson in an effort to reduce alcohol abuse; his successor, Col Blanch, has given in-principle support. While it’s been met with widespread backlash from the tourism and hospitality sectors, which believe it would damage the area’s reputation, leaders in health care and social services have different views.

To view the ABC News article As officials consider a ban on most takeaway alcohol in northern WA, what do people on the ground say? in full click here.

The proposal has drawn a mixed response from the Pilbara community. Photo: Xavier Martin, ABC News.

Successful early childhood program

The school-based program, Getting on Track in Time has received a substantial financial boost to continue its fantastic work. A highly successful Aboriginal early childhood program has received a $2.7 million funding boost to ensure even more young children, their families and educators are skilled in discussing and managing, challenging emotions and feelings. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the Getting On Track In Time program – or GOT IT! – was culturally adapted for Aboriginal communities in partnership with local Aboriginal health services and piloted over four years with positive results.

“This program has united parents, teachers, mental health workers and Aboriginal people to achieve an important goal – to support young Aboriginal children to recognise, regulate and talk about any troubling thoughts and feelings they have,” Mrs Taylor said. “I am delighted more families will benefit from this excellent program, which was developed by South Western Sydney Local Health District in collaboration with local Aboriginal people.” Designed for children aged three to nine years, Aboriginal GOT IT! is a school-based program led by a team of mental health workers (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal). Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said the program aims to support children, families and educators to address emotional or behavioural concerns in children and reduce the emergence of mental health concerns later in life.

To view the NSW Government media release $2.7M for successful Aboriginal early childhood program in full click here.

Female prisoners need protection

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, is calling on the ACT government to guarantee that female inmates at Canberra’s jail are safe from predatory prison officers. It follows disturbing allegations of inappropriate relationships between prison officers and female detainees and ex-detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

On May 12, Tim Rust – a former senior director of operations at Canberra’s prison – blew the lid on a long-standing culture of drug taking and inappropriate behaviour among some corrections officers. Rust’s allegations – which have been referred to the ACT Integrity Commission –  include cocaine-fuelled staff parties, hot-tub photos with senior and junior prison staff, an affair with an ex-inmate and attempts by prison authorities not to fully investigate the substance of the matters.

Ms Tongs said she was deeply “concerned” by the allegations and has written to three key ACT ministers seeking an assurance that female detainees are safe. The ministers are ACT Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman, Minister for Women Yvette Berry and Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne. “I’m calling on the ACT Government to guarantee the safety of the women detained in the AMC,” Tongs said.

To view the Canberra City News article Protect women from prison predators, says Tongs in full click here.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO Julie Tongs. Photo: Greg Nelson, ABC News.

Innovative pathway to study medical career

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with aspirations of pursuing a career in medicine are encouraged to consider a University of Newcastle pathway program, which could set them on the journey to realising their dream.

The Miroma Bunbilla Program is an alternate entry pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates applying for the University of Newcastle’s Joint Medical Program (JMP). Each year, up to 17 places are set aside for applicants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent for admission into the JMP. There are currently 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in the JMP, and to date, 110 Indigenous doctors have graduated from the medicine program.

The five-day intensive assessment Miroma Bunbilla program, will be delivered from December 5 to 9, pairing students with mentors to successfully start medical school. In 2020, the program was extended beyond Newcastle to reach those outside the Hunter region and now also runs in Armidale, Moree, Tamworth, Taree and Orange.

Applications for the Miroma Bunbilla Program are now open and close on 31 October 2022. For further information about the program and how to apply click here.

Medical student Kieran Shipp. Photo: University of Newcastle. Image source: National Indigenous 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.