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

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

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

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

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

AI helps detect heart disease in remote Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing health gap needs more than booze, crime control

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

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

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

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

Dr Simon Quilty checking female ATSI women with stethoscope

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

Community Hubs based on ACCHO model

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia website.

New oral health education resources for mob

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

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

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

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

Medicare cards coming soon to the myGov app

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scanning QR codes

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

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

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

hand holding mobile phone with Australian Government myGovID

Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

‘Harmony Day’ obscures need for systemic change

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

Dietitians Week 20–26 March 2023

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

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

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

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

Image source: IAHA website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Closing the gap in preterm birth rates

feature tile ATSI mum looking down on premature twin babies on her chest; text: preterm birth prevention program hopes to provide a roadmap for improved outcomes

The image in the feature tile is from an article GLU test expands to benefit Aboriginal mothers published on the Women & Infants Research Foundation website.

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

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

Closing the gap in preterm birth rates

Rates of early birth continue to disproportionately impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island women and their newborns. Recent Closing the Gap data showed that the official target for healthy birthweights for babies has gone from being “on track” to “not on track”. Now, an innovative preterm birth prevention program led out of the NT is taking aim at this unacceptable disparity and the hope is that it will provide “a roadmap for improved outcomes” for all First Nations women and their children. Dr Kiarna Brown, Jess Murray and Marisa Smiler-Cairns are a team based in Garramilla (Darwin), on Larrakia Country, that make up the Top End chapter of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance.

They note that preterm birth remains the leading cause of death in children up to five years of age. “The national average rate of preterm birth in Australia has remained relatively constant over the last 10 years (between 8.1 and 8.7%). Many of these babies lose their fight for life,” the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance noted in a statement. “In 2018, there were twice as many preterm live born babies born to First Nations mothers (17%) than to non-Aboriginal mothers (8%).” The biggest discrepancy is in the extremely preterm gestational age. First Nations women in the NT are four times more likely to lose a baby between 20 and 23 weeks gestational age: before the baby even gets a chance to survive.

Pregnancy can be a particularly vulnerable time for First Nations women, especially for those with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes and cardiac conditions like Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD). Dr Kiarna Brown said there have been some key improvements in outcomes for First Nations women over the past decade. There has been a notable increase in the proportion of First Nations mothers attending an antenatal visit in the first trimester (from 49% in 2012 to 70% in 2020).”

To view the National Indigenous News article The First Nations health experts working to give Indigenous babies the best possible start in life in full click here.

Top End Alliance: Jessica Murray, Marisa Smiler-Cairns, and Dr Kiarna Brown

Top End Alliance: Jessica Murray, Marisa Smiler-Cairns, and Dr Kiarna Brown. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Karlie one of growing number of Aboriginal doctors

For most of Karlie James’s life, studying medicine was a “pipedream”. Then she grew up, started working full time and had kids of her own, and she felt that dream slipping away. “Part of the reason why I wanted to become a doctor when I was little was that my passion was science and learning and wanting to help people,” she said. Then, around the time the Gunaikurnai, Yorta Yorta and Kuku Djungan woman turned 30 and had her third son, she reached a turning point. Growing up between Darwin and Katherine in the NT, she realised becoming a doctor was something she had to do.

“It became more apparent as I got older in the workforce, how much of an impact it would [have] to create more Indigenous doctors, especially in the community,” she said. “And that was one of my driving motivators to pursue medicine.” Having graduated from the Flinders University NT medicine program late last year, Dr James is now among the 0.5% of doctors in Australia who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. But that figure, which is recorded each year by the Australian Health Practitioners Agency (AHPRA), is slowly shifting and is up from 0.3% in 2016.

Also shifting is the understanding that in order to close the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, Australia needs more First Nations doctors.

To view the ABC News article Karlie James is among the growing number of First Nations doctors working to tackle the health care gap in full click here.

Dr Karlie James walking with her 4 sons

Dr James completed her degree while caring for her four sons, as well as her nephews and nieces. Photo: Dane Hirst, ABC News.

Healing walk to honour those lost to suicide

This week, for the very first time, a group of First Nations and non-Indigenous people will take a walk along the Murrumbidgee River in memory of loved ones they have lost to suicide. The walk has been called Murra Yarra, which means ‘Speak Out, Speak Loud’ in Wiradjuri language. Organiser Jasmine Williams hopes it gives families with the chance to think of the good memories with those who have passed away.

“It’s the first time anything like this has ever been done in this community,” the Wiradjuri and Wolgalu woman said. “It’s an opportunity to have a positive spin on our grief and be able to really focus on the goodness, and the good memories of their lives instead of focusing on the way they passed.” Ms Williams is hosting Murra Yarra through the youth suicide prevention community action group Yamandhu Marang (‘Are You Well’), after Wiradjuri Elder Uncle Hewitt Whyman came to her with the idea. He said he had a vision of people coming together in their grief, and encouraged everyone experiencing similar losses to share with others in their sorrow.

When they heard about the walk Riverina Medical and Dental Aboriginal Corporation got involved and decided to sponsor the event. Practice manage Jane Kearnes said they’ve helped organise a barbecue at the end of the walk at the Wiradjuri Reserve, as well as bucket hats and water stations along the track. “I applaud Jasmine and the other committees for getting this up and running,” she said. “Something like this might encourage others to speak out more and not be silent.” According to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Indigenous suicide were more than double that of non-Indigenous suicides in 2021.

For more information on the walk you can access the Yamandhu Marang Facebook page here.

Jasmine Williams, sitting on rock under tree on bank of river

Murra Yarra organiser Jasmine Williams says the healing walk is a chance for those grieving to remember their loved ones. Photo: Madeline Begley. Image source: The Daily Advertiser.

Healthy food in remote NT a priority

The NT government has a long way to go in their efforts to address obesity and create healthier food environments, according to the latest scorecard of government performance on food policy. The Food Policy Index, first developed and implemented in 2017, benchmarks Australian governments on their implementation of globally recommended policies to improve population diets. Professor Gary Sacks from Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation who compiled the most recent report said greater policy action was required by the NT government.

“Supporting efforts to establish a licensing and accreditation scheme for healthy food retail in remote Indigenous communities needs to be one of the top priorities for the NT government.” Professor Sacks said a key recommendation from the 2020 Parliamentary Inquiry into Food Pricing and Food Security in Remote Indigenous Communities was the need for a licensing and inspection scheme for all remote stores. “The Healthy Stores 2020 study showed that restrictions on price promotion and product placement of unhealthy foods and drinks resulted in 1.8 tonnes less sugar being sold from 10 stores over 12 weeks while not impacting store profits,” Professor Sacks said.

“If this was extrapolated out across all remote stores over a year, the reduction could be as much as 90 tonnes a year, which equates to the weight of 60 medium sized family cars. Modelling suggests that this reduction in sugar could result in a 10% risk reduction in mortality from cardiovascular disease.”

To view the Deakin University media release Healthy food retail in remote NT communities identified as top priority click here and the Joint Policy Statement of The Coalition for Healthy Remote Stores on the NT Government’s Community Stores Licensing program here.

inside Peppimenarti grocery store, NT

Peppimenarti store, NT. Image source: C&I Media.

AMA urges action to save patients on PBS medicines

The AMA has urged all members of the Federal Parliament to support the AMA’s campaign to bring down out-of-pocket costs of medicines for patients and relieve cost of living pressures. It says implementation of a five-year-old recommendation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) would save patients up to $180 a year on selected PBS medicines.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson has written to all MPs and Senators, calling on their support for the Federal Government to immediately implement a recommendation from the independent PBAC to increase the maximum dispensed quantities of selected PBS items from one month’s supply to two months’ supply per dispensing. This would also allow up to 12 months’ supply in total from a single script, saving patients an extra trip to their doctor.

Professor Robson said increasing out-of-pocket costs of medicines was a key reason many Australians delayed or failed to fill prescriptions. He said although the Government’s recent policy to lower co-payments for patients to $30 was a good move, many patients still faced significant costs and more needed to be done to lower PBS medicine costs for patients. “Pensioners and concession card holders would be among those to benefit, recognising the recent reduction in the PBS co-payment to $30 did not apply to them. It would free-up GP consultations with the possibility for GPs to write what is effectively a 12-month prescription for these particular medications. This is time GPs could spend with other patients who, we know, can benefit from the preventative health care GPs provide.”

To view the AMA’s media release AMA urges immediate action to save patients on PBS medicines in full click here.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson

AMA President Professor Steve Robson. Image source: The Age.

Breakthrough partnership to benefit remote communities

A breakthrough partnership between Hoops 4 Health and the Center for Healing and Justice through Sport will see some of the NT’s most remote communities benefit from access to trauma-informed and culturally-informed and healing-centred training. Founder of Hoops4Health, Timmy Duggan OAM, is the man behind the vision to re-empower young people and communities to improved their quality of life.

Mr Duggan has maternal ties with Tennant Creek mob from Warramungu and paternal ties to the Nykinya people of the Kimberley, and has been working with communities across the NT for two decades. He said the move to combine First Nations-led healing with trauma-informed care emerged through Hoops 4 Health staff receiving training under Dr Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Network model.

“We have partnered with The Center for Healing and Justice Through Sport (CHJS) who offers training to help folks understand the impact of overwhelming stress, or trauma, on young people and equips them with skills to take action to support these young people,” Mr Duggan said. “This partnership just really solidifies that sometimes you’ve got to bring in an expert you know, we’ve got the First Nations knowledge. Blend that with the science around the neuroscience to address trauma in our communities and the places we work and we think we’ve got something pretty unique.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Hoops 4 Health and The Center for Healing and Justice through Sport form partnership in full click here.

basketball star Nate Jawai with a young rising star shooting for goal

Basketball star Nate Jawai with a young rising star. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Remote health centres move to ACCHO control

aerial view of Imanpa Community NT

The image in the feature tile is an aerial view of Imanpa Community. Image source: ResearchGate website.

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

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

Remote health centres move to ACCHO control

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress) has this month assumed operations of the primary health care clinics in Imanpa and Yulara. Congress already provides care at nearby Mutitjulu, an Aboriginal community adjacent to Uluru, as well as other communities. One of the most experienced services in the country in Aboriginal health, Congress is the largest Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) in the NT, a national leader in primary health care, and a strong advocate for the health of Aboriginal people.

Yulara will become a service hub for the region and, in Imanpa, NT Health will continue providing BreastScreen appointments along with other specialist outreach services. The Kaltukatjara (Docker River) Health Centre will also transition to Congress on 1 July, 2023. Evidence shows that increasing community involvement in the planning and delivery of local health services brings additional health benefits to local residents. This supports local communities with greater opportunities to influence the health care services offered, in particular, their cultural responsiveness.

Congress CEO, Donna Ah Chee said “Congress is proud to welcome Imanpa and Yulara communities to the Aboriginal community controlled health service model. ACCHS delivery is recognised as best practice for Aboriginal health, and the further development of the ACCHS sector is a key part of the Closing the Gap commitments that all governments have signed. This is because, for every dollar spent there is a greater return in health improvement for our people with this model of health care.”

To view the Chief Minister of the NT, Natasha Fyles and Chansey Paech, Member for Bwoja’s joint media release More Central Australian remote health centres set to transition to Aboriginal community control in full click here.

external view of Imanpa Health Centre

Imanpa Health Centre. Photo: Nick Hose. Image source: ABC News.

Maningrida PHC graduates make history

Last week the first-ever cohort to obtain formal health qualifications on-country in Maningrida made history, graduating with a Certificate II in Aboriginal Primary Health Care. The ceremony started with a beautiful welcome to Kunibidji Country from Traditional Owner, David Jones, followed by a welcome speech from Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation chairperson and Senior Aboriginal Health Practitioner, Charlie Gunabarra. David and Charlie are dedicated to bettering community health outcomes and have been proactive in guiding the Aboriginal community-control model of health service delivery.

Guest speaker, NT Chief Aboriginal Health Practitioner, Iris Raye welcomed the new graduates, Eileen Gunabarra, Fabian Smith, Jermaine Namanurki, Kurt Brown, Natasha Bond and Shannon Brown, to the health profession and imparted her passion for Aboriginal health care with the students.  On-country adult learning provided an accessible format that also ensured students could continue their family, cultural, work and community responsibilities whilst undertaking studies.

Support and funding for the place-based model of adult-learning course was received from NT PHN, the NT Department of Employment and Workplace Relations’ Foundation Skills for Your Future program and Industry NT and Ninti Training delivered engaging, fun and relatable learning.

To view the Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation Facebook post The End of a Journey. The Beginning of a Legacy. click here.
6 Maningrida (NT) graduates of Aboriginal PHC Certificate II

Certificate II in Aboriginal PHC graduates. Image source: Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation Facebook page.

Medicare changes could reduce deaths in custody

The federal government has been urged to make an immediate improvement to the lives of prisoners by providing Medicare in custodial settings, in a change that coroners have argued could reduce Indigenous deaths in custody. Advocates have argued for decades that Medicare should be available in custody. However, the change has not yet been made. Medicare is not available for prisoners because of a section of the Health Insurance Act that prohibits Medicare benefits from being paid when state funding has been provided.

Nadine Miles, principal legal officer of the NSW and ACT Aboriginal Legal Service, said her organisation had appeared at inquests where Indigenous men in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s died in custody from ailments including an asthma attack, organ failure, an ear infection, a clot in the lung, and coronary artery disease.

“Inadequate healthcare was an issue brought up for each of them,” Miles said. “We have seen far too many preventable deaths and far too many failures to provide a basic standard of healthcare for people behind bars. The result is that lives are lost too soon and whole families and communities are changed forever.”

To view The Sydney Morning Herald article The change to Medicare that could reduce deaths in custody in full click here.

Smoking Ceremony held at the NSW Coroners Court in July 2022 during the inquest for Mootijah Shillingsworth, who died from an ear infection

A smoking ceremonyat the NSW Coroners Court in July 2022 during the inquest for Mootijah Shillingsworth, who died from an ear infection. Photo: Dean Sewell. Image source: SMH.

Resources for health workers supporting mob with cancer

Ngununggula is a new package of resources, including a manual and quality improvement resources developed for ACCHOs in NSW to support best practice cancer care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The training materials are based on the work of the Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service Cancer Care Team and feature work of other cancer care workers around the state.

The training resources are a result of a collaboration with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Centre of NSW (AH&MRC), the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong, the Menzies School of Health Research and Coordinare and have been funded through Cancer Australia’s Supporting People with Cancer Grant Initiative.

The Ngununggula package of resources includes a series of webinars providing guidance on:

  • cancer prevention
  • investigations and treatment
  • cancer survivorship
  • end of life.
You can access the links to the webinars, including the one below, on the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin website here.

How to save PHC in remote Australia

What happens when an area loses its GPs? Dr Sam Heard is witnessing the fallout, and has set out a treatment plan to combat the issue before it is too late. Dr Heard says there is a health workforce crisis in Central Australia and much of remote NT. The current social disruption and negative experiences of residents in Alice Springs mirrors the turmoil sometimes faced by remote health staff. But this is our country and remote Australians require healthcare to a level that many in the city do not.

Patients are having dialysis locally, there are emergencies that frequently require patients to be evacuated, along with housing, educational and environmental issues that desperately need advocacy. It was not always like this.

During more than 30 years as a GP and educator in the NT, Dr Heard says he has attempted to strengthen primary care and has been ably supported by motivated colleagues along the way: young doctors, nurses and Aboriginal Health Practitioners in training, and by older doctors who have moved to the area to contribute to the health of remote Australians. Over the past decade, however, Dr Heard says he has witnessed a worrying decline in primary care services and an unwillingness to tackle the issue until it is too late.

To read the RACGP newsGP article How to save primary care in remote Australia: RACGP NT Chair in full click here.

RACGP NT Chair Dr Sam Heard

RACGP NT Chair Dr Sam Heard. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Language to be no barrier to HIV support

Hundreds of people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities living with HIV will be better able to understand vital education material as part of a national push to improve their quality of life. The non-profit organisation Living Positive Victoria is one of four HIV-focused community organisations nationally to have been awarded $200,000 in grants to help the nearly 30,000 Australians living with the disease access better healthcare.

Living Positive Victoria along with Positive Life NSW, the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation and the National Association of People Living with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) have established five projects that will receive funding. NAPWHA will unite Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with HIV from across Australia for a three-day residential workshop to promote healing.

To view the PerthNow article Language to be no barrier for accessing HIV support in full click here. Below is a Young Deadly Free animation explaining the basics of HIV.

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: ARF and RHD resources available on NACCHO website


feature tile NACCHO ARF RHD logo and text 'ARF and RHD resources now available on the NACCHO website'

The image in the feature tile is the NACCHO designed ARF and RHD logo.

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

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

ARF and RHD resources available on NACCHO website

NACCHO now has an Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) webpage. The webpage includes general information about ARF and RHD including:

  • Why are ARF and RHD an important priority for NACCHO?
  • What is ARF?
  • What is RHD?
  • Would you like to learn more about ARF and RHD?

In addition, the webpage includes links to a range of resources tailored for community and professionals including: guidelines and report; visual resources; eLearning modules, apps and videos (such as the one below).

To access the NACCHO webpage Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease click here.

Small amounts of drinking may change baby’s face

It is well known that heavy drinking while pregnant has a range of negative effects on an unborn child, and can disrupt development of the brain and other organs. What is less well known is the effects, if any, of drinking a glass of wine here or there throughout pregnancy. As facial features are determined by brain development during the first trimester, the way a child looks can also be affected along with motor skills, behaviour and learning.

A new study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, sought to understand whether low doses of alcohol during pregnancy changed children’s faces as they can be a reflection of overall health and development. They found that drinking the equivalent of one glass of wine a week during pregnancy may make a difference to the way a child looks.

For the study, researchers from Erasmus University in Rotterdam asked women about their drinking habits in the three months before becoming pregnant, whether they drank alcohol during the pregnancy and, if so, the quantity and for how much of the pregnancy they drank.

To read The Age article Can drinking small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy change a baby’s face? in full click here.

torso of pregnant Aboriginal woman with hands resting above and below pregnant belly

Image source: Gomeroi Gaaynggal Study website.

PIP-IHI updated and improved

Medical clinics have been encouraged to provide better, ongoing care to Indigenous Australians following the revamp of an incentive program designed to achieve better, long-term health outcomes. The Practice Incentives Program – Indigenous Health Initiative (PIP-IHI) has been updated and improved and will boost quality of care and outcomes for Indigenous people living with chronic health and mental health conditions.

The PIP-IHI pays medical practices to sign up to the program when a patient is registered and when certain patient outcomes are reached. A 2019 review of the initiative found that while many practices signed on and registered patients, there were low numbers of payments based on outcomes. This showed the program wasn’t doing what it was designed for – achieving continuity of care for patients with high needs.

To remedy these shortcomings and ensure efficiency, changes to the PIP-IHI include:

  • making some GP Mental Health Care Plan Medicare items eligible for outcome payments
  • shifting payment amounts to incentivise follow up care for patients, rather than registration
  • making patients under the age of 15 eligible for outcome payments
  • giving GP practices a 12-month rolling window to provide the required number of services.

Initial changes began earlier this year, with the updated payment structure transitioning in 2023 and 2024 to give practices time to adjust to the changes.

To view Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s media release Strengthening GP care for Indigenous Australians in full click here.

orange Aboriginal body paint art on dark blue background and words in white font 'Practice Incentives Program Indigneous Health Incentive'

Image source: Department of Health and Aged Care’s Changes to the Practice Incentives Program Indigenous Health Incentive webpage.

VACCHO “deeply disturbed” by latest suicide report

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Balit Durn Durn Centre have expressed deep sadness at the findings of new report, Suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, by the Coroners Court of Victoria which reveals an “alarmingly high” suicide rate among Indigenous people, three times higher than that of the non-Indigenous population

In a statement VACCHO said “Of particular concern in the Coroners Court Of Victoria report are the stressors that were identified among the suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria. Breakdowns in interpersonal relationships, experiences of family violence, experiences of abuse, and substance abuse left untreated were all noted as stressors and factors that significantly contributed to losses of life. Alarmingly, over one third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who passed by suicide reported childhood exposure to family violence, and nearly 50% had experienced separation from parents.”

VACCHO noted the report revealed more than 80% of people who passed by suicide had been diagnosed with a mental health issue, such as depression, anxiety and/or mood disorders, “suggesting if services were responsive and able to meet the needs of Aboriginal people, these deaths could have been prevented. These stressors highlight the failings of fragmented mental health and child protection systems that do not provide people with culturally safe, holistic health and wellbeing services that they need.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Victoria’s peak Aboriginal health body “deeply disturbed” by latest report on suicide in full click here.

external view of VACCHO building with mural, VACCHO logo & name VACCHO

Image source: VACCHO website.

New Lowitja Journal invites submissions

Lowitja Institute and Elsevier are pleased to announce the launch of a new international journal in 2023. This community-controlled journal aims to uphold Indigenous rights to sovereignty and self-determination within research practice. The first issue, entitled First Nations Health and Wellbeing – The Lowitja Journal, is scheduled to be published in line with Lowitja Institute’s 3rd International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2023 from 14–16 June 2023.

The First Nations Health and Wellbeing – The Lowitja Journal invites submissions in a range of formats, including original research, reviews, case studies perspectives and commentaries. You can submit your next research article to this important new journal via  the First Nations Health and Wellbeing – The Lowitja Journal online portal here.

Papers should reflect the values and principles of Lowitja Institute and adhere to the policies outlined in the journal guide for authors, available here. There is also a requirement that the first, second or senior author are First Nations peoples. All articles in the first issue will be published open access with no article processing fee.

Submissions for this inaugural issue are due on or before Friday 10 March 2023 for peer review.

Submit your paper via the online submission system here or email any questions to Editor using this email link.

cover of First National Health and Wellbeing: The Lowitja Journal

Image source: First National Health and Wellbeing – The Lowitja Journal portal.

Mental health support for Northern Rivers mob

Northern Rivers residents are being reminded that free mental health support is only a phone call or web chat away, with in-person counseling also available. Healthy North Coast Chief Executive, Monika Wheeler, said that these next few weeks could be particularly challenging for Northern Rivers residents and urged locals to prioritise their mental health.

Ms Wheeler said “Looking out for each other is what has got our community through the past 12 months. There are many things about our current situation that we cannot change, but we can all take steps to look after our heads and hearts. If you or someone you know is struggling or could simply benefit from a friendly and supportive chat, I urge you to reach out. Healthy North Coast offers a range of free and after-hours services to support mental health and wellbeing for all ages, with a number of them made available through Australian Government and NSW Government flood recovery. There’s no shame in saying you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want to talk things through. I encourage all community members, including our hardworking primary care professionals, to prioritise their mental health care over the coming weeks.”

One of the services offered is the The Strong Community Program which provides free specialist mental health support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Rivers, age 12 years and over. Mental health and wellbeing supports include in-person counselling, mental health promotion in schools and outreach to communities in Cabbage Tree Island, Wardell, Ballina, Box Ridge, Woodburn, Lismore and neighbouring areas.

To view the Echo article Free mental health support for Northern Rivers communities in full click here.

backs of 4 young ATSI adults, sunset in the background

Image source: The Strong Community Program webpage of the Lives Lived Well 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: National Indigenous Legal and Health Justice Conference

The image in the feature tile is of NACCO CEO Pat Turner speaking at the National Indigenous Legal and Health Justice Conference 2022 held in Hobart from 4–6 December 2022.

National Indigenous Legal and Health Justice Conference

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) hosted the National Indigenous Legal & Health Justice Conference from 4-6 December 2022 with Pat Turner and Donnella Mills among other expert speakers from across the nation inspiring, encouraging and motivating delegates on some of the big challenges facing us today.

Discussions ranged from conversations around Voice, Treaty and Truth, to how we keep our children out of care and connected to community, culture and country, cultural competency pathways, native title versus land rights, and the future of Aboriginal Legal Aid.

You can find out more about the conference on the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre website here and photos here.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner with other participants of the National Indigenous Legal and Health Justice Conference.

Encouraging deadly choices for community

Proud Gooreng Gooreng woman Kimberley Appo is using her passion for her culture and heritage to help close the gap by promoting kindy as a deadly choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Coming from a large, close-knit family, Kimberley’s passion for educating and caring for children started from a young age. “My father is one of five children, my mother is one of eight, I’m the youngest of nine and I have 21 nieces and nephews — not to mention countless cousins,” Kimberley said.

But, like many students Kimberley didn’t always excel in the traditional schooling system, and despite her obvious passion for the industry she was initially reluctant about returning to study. “I guess schools have such an unrealistic curriculum that’s just one-size-fits-all, rather than having a curriculum that’s for individual children. And when you finish school, if you didn’t do as well as you should have, there seems like there’s nothing else for you,” she said.

But after dipping her toe in by enrolling in the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care , Kimberley quickly discovered that studying at TAFE Queensland was very different to being at school. “You’re not going in just to get a piece of paper, you’re going in and you’re learning and you’re finding your passions through TAFE,” she said.

To view the TAFE Queensland article Encouraging deadly choices for her community in full click here.

Kimberley Appo. Image source: TAFE Queensland website.

Why we must keep fighting for Medicare

Dr Tim Senior has written an article for The Medical Republic called Why we mustn’t stop fighting for Medicare. Dr Senior says many practices can walk away from bulk billing, but there are communities where people simply can’t afford to pay, “When patient rebates alone are inadequate to fund the staff resources and infrastructure to provide high-quality care, and there’s the added regulatory and compliance burden and the threat of the PSR, who can blame us for opting out?”

Dr Senior continued “Most services in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, in which I work, are ACCHOs, meaning that they are owned and run by the local Aboriginal community along co-operative lines. Just about all services are bulk billed. The reason for this is that they are there to provide medical services for a community where the vast majority of people can’t afford to pay. Median household income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults is $553, while for non-Indigenous Australians it’s $915.”

“Closing the Gap” has been a government policy imperative for over a decade, aiming to improve a range of health and social indicators. Health, of course, depends on good primary care, including general practice, to provide cradle-to-grave care. Even though Medicare is available to all Australians, on the latest figures available, Medicare spending on general practice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was $180 per person, compared to $243 per person for non-Indigenous people. This is 0.74 times as much, despite there being twice the need.”

“Where people have more complex needs – for example, due to the mix of multi-morbidity, mental health needs and social circumstances common in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector – then longer consultations are needed. The longer the consultation, the more suppressed is the funding we get through Medicare. Clearly, as we all know, Medicare rebates alone are not enough to fund the primary care required. While there is top-up funding to ACCHOs, to try to compensate for the longer consultations and more health professionals seen at each visit, this is capped and comes with significant reporting requirements. There is a lot of encouragement made to Aboriginal Medical Services to increase Medicare billing to fund services.”

To view The Medical Republic article Why we mustn’t stop fighting for Medicare in full click here.

Graduate’s chance pathway to medicine

A University of Queensland graduate can partly thank school holiday boredom for setting her on a career path in medicine. The newly conferred Dr Ella Ceolin was encouraged by a high school teacher to attend UQ’s Indigenous outreach program, InspireU when she was in Year 11. “It was in the school holidays which I wasn’t too keen on, but I had nothing much else to do and went on a bit of a whim,” Dr Ceolin said. “It was a huge eye-opener and I actually came away from that deciding that I wanted to be a doctor.” The proud Djabuguy/Wulgurukaba woman, who also has Italian and Malaysian heritage, this week graduated from UQ as a Doctor of Medicine.

“I’d always thought I’d follow my mum, auntie and sister into teaching because that’s what I saw, and what I knew,” Dr Ceolin said. “Before I started medicine I didn’t know any Indigenous doctors, that visibility just wasn’t there for me. But it can make a huge difference. When my nephew was younger, he said ‘If you’re going to be a doctor, does that mean that I could be too?’”

Dr Ceolin has since served on the board of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, which supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors and medical students. “It’s about advocating for more of a presence in the health workforce and contributing to equitable health outcomes,” she said.

To view the First Nations Telegraph article Indigenous graduate’s chance pathway to medicine in full click here.

Dr Ella Ceolin. Image source: First Nations Telegraph.

Is it ever ok to ask that?

Is it ever OK to ask Racsomeone how Aboriginal they are? University of Sydney students and staff have participated in a video to answer anonymously submitted questions and confront myths and stereotypes about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You can find out more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community on the Sydney University campus here and enrol in the Cultural Competence MOOC: Aboriginal Sydney here.

Tanika supported by Yapug pathway program

Never underestimate what’s possible. That’s what the past three years have taught Tanika Ridgeway, a Proud Worimi woman from Port Stephens, who is graduating as part of the University of Newcastle’s Yapug program. Yapug is a pathway program designed to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gain skills for entry into undergraduate degrees at the University of Newcastle. When students embark on a Yapug pathway program, they also benefit from a range of support services offered by the Wollotuka Institute.

After nine years working in pathology at the John Hunter Hospital, Tanika was interested in becoming a primary school teacher. She was encouraged by her mentors to try medicine, something she didn’t think was a possibility for her. “Hannah Pipe, the Indigenous Advancement Officer at Wollotuka told me that I should consider medicine. I grew up in a housing commission in Raymond Terrace. I didn’t do science in my senior years of high school, and my ATAR was 32. So, I am not your typical medical student – but here I am.”

“I didn’t go to university straight from school and didn’t realise how much my life experiences would help me in my current studies. I’m currently working as a Research Assistant with Dr Michelle Kennedy in Indigenous Health Research, and I’m just so happy that I took the step to find out what was possible for me. Having people like Michelle and Hannah believe in me and support me throughout my university journey has meant that I have had the confidence to pursue new opportunities I would never have considered if not for them.”

To view the University of Newcastle article Ready to make a difference: University of Newcastle 2022 graduates in full click here.

Tanika Ridgeway. Image source: University of Newcastle 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: Get hair this Movember!

The image in the feature tile is a a Twitter post from Kambu Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Health promoting their Movember event held at their Ipswich clinic, Queensland on 27 November 2020.

Get hairy this Movember!

Movember is the leading global charity changing the face of men’s health, focusing on mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer. Since 2003, Movember has funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects around the world. Movember has set the goal of reducing the number of men dying prematurely by 25 and halve the number of deaths from prostate and testicular cancer by 2030.

For more information visit the Movember website here. This website includes examples of projects funded by Movember such as (1) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s research, a 12 month research grant to conduct research into common mental disorders among Koori Men, and to identify, test and investigate whether treatment for common mental disorders results in an improvement in general health and wellbeing of Koori Men; and (2) Mibbinbah, otherwise known as ‘Men’s Spaces’, an organisation, program and concept that centres on the idea that men require safe spaces within their communities to discuss issues and share experiences. This conceptual basis is similar to that of the Men’s Sheds program.

NACCHO staff participants of the 2022 Movember challenge.

Calls for data after NT alcohol bans lifted

A lobby group has called on the NT to release more data illustrating the extent of the harm caused, since long-term alcohol bans were lifted across dozens of Indigenous communities in July this year. There is particular concern around the level of alcohol-related harm occurring in the Central Australian town of Alice Springs, which serves as a services hub for dozens of surrounding communities.

While the NT government said there had been “no substantial increases” in harm to the community since the Stronger Futures legislation ended, police and other frontline organisations have told a different story about the impact alcohol is having. In the the latest NT Police statistics, there was a 159% jump in assaults involving alcohol in Alice Springs in August 2022, compared to the same period last year.

But the extent of the harm cannot be fully captured without additional data being from the NT government, according to leading alcohol reform lobby group People’s Alcohol Action Coalition (PAAC). PAAC spokesperson John Boffa said the number of assaults causing serious harm — broken down by region — was a key data set held by the government.

To view the ABC News article Alcohol data dashboard still in the works after bans lifted, as assaults surge in Alice Springs in full click here.

Dr Boffa wants real-time data on alcohol harm to be made public. Photo: Tobias Hunt, ABC News.

Lowitja Institute Major Grant Round webinar

Lowitja Institute’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Major Grant Round 2022-23 is now open for applications.

The purpose of the Major Grants is to support innovative and responsive community research led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The aim is for research to influence policy and practice through the rapid translation of community priorities for improved outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. It will also support the capability and capacity building of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to do their own research, their way.

Applications are now open and close on Monday 21 November 2022. More information can be found on the Lowitja Institute website here.

Following success of the first Q&A webinar held on Friday 28 October 2022, and with the closing date for applications fast approaching, the Lowitja Institue Research and Knowledge Translation team will be hosting a second webinar to answer any questions community organisations may have with the application process.

The webinar will be hosted on Friday 4 November 2022 at 12.30pm AEDT. You can sign up for the webinar here.

Background image from Bond University website.

Campaign to bust end-of-life services myths

A new campaign placing the spotlight on palliative care services for Indigenous people has been launched by Australia’s health sector. Palliative Care Australia’s (PCA) Federal Government-funded More Than You Think campaign launched in September to prompt conversations and connect people to end-of-life care and support.

Palliative Care Australia chief executive Camilla Rowland said the campaign was challenging misconceptions about the service. “The campaign helps communities tap into the support that is currently available and builds awareness of some to the questions this stage of life can prompt, but our friends in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector tell us that much more needs to be done,” she said. “PCA has engaged with a group of Aboriginal health leaders to create the Palliative Care Yarning Circle to offer advice on existing programs and consider next steps. “It’s important to us that this work is led and shaped by the people it seeks to serve.”

Ms Rowland said cultural sensitivities needed to be understood for culturally appropriate care to be delivered. Complementing the More Than You Think campaign and PCA’s ongoing advocacy is the grassroots work of the Indigenous Program Experience in Palliative Approach (IPEPA), Caring@Home, and the Gwandalan Palliative Care Project.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Palliative Care Australia launches campaign to bust myths about end-of-life services in full click here. The video below is part of the animation series: Demystifying palliative care and dying for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples available on the Palliative Care NSW website here.

Making all equal at front door of health system

Following the outcome of this year’s Federal Election, Health Minister Mark Butler convened the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce (SMT). At its first meeting, the SMT established five focus areas to guide its recommendations to the Australian Minister of Health and Aged Care. The fifth focus area is to provide “universal health care and access for all through health care that is inclusive and reduces disadvantage.”

Providing universal healthcare means every person needs to be equal at the front door of the health system. It is well established that “where you live, how much you earn, whether you have a disability, your access to services and many other factors can affect your health”. These issues are compounded by issues related to funding models, workforce capacity and workforce distribution.

Planning true universal health care requires recognition of the health issues facing our most marginalised members of society. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) states that: Overall, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people from areas of socioeconomic disadvantage, people in rural and remote locations, and people with disability experience more health disadvantages than other Australians. These disadvantages can include higher rates of illness and shorter life expectancy. Further, the AIHW reports that While many aspects of Indigenous health have improved, challenges still exist. Indigenous Australians have a shorter life expectancy than non-Indigenous Australians and are at least twice as likely to rate their health as fair or poor.

To view the article The Strengthening Medicare Taskforce: Making everyone equal at the front door of the health system in full click here.

Image source: STAT+.

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.

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung Cancer Awareness Month is observed annually in November and highlights the need for more research to be conducted while cultivating a better understanding of the disease. This is an important time of the year, that brings the community together to help provide awareness, and to inform and educate people on the signs and symptoms of the disease. It is the fifth most common cancer in Australia, with around 12,000 Australians diagnosed each year. In 2015, 11,788 new cases of lung cancer were diagnosed in Australia, this equates to nearly 9% of all cancers that were diagnosed that year. In 2016, 8410 deaths were caused by lung cancer in Australia.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report Cancer in Australia 2021 lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the leading cause of cancer-related mortality. If lung cancer is found at an earlier stage, there is more chance of a better outcome. It’s important to know the symptoms of lung cancer as although lung cancer occurs mostly in people aged 60 and over, it can affect people of any age. New and constantly evolving treatments such as immunotherapy are likely to continue to improve outcomes for people affected by lung cancer.

You can find more information about lung cancer on the Lung Foundation Australia website here.

Image source: MNA Group Limited website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Claims Budget will improve First Nations health

The image in the feature tile is of two health workers from the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS), Newman, WA. Image source: PAMS website.

Claims Budget will improve First Nations health

Yesterday the Hon Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, issued a media release announcing health measures in the Australian Government’s 2022–23 Budget. Minister Butler said the Albanese Government would take immediate action to support their commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, by making real improvements in health outcomes ($314.5m).

The government will also deliver improved infrastructure, including new and expanded First Nations health clinics in locations with high and growing First Nations populations ($164.3m). The First Nations Health Workers Traineeship Program ($54.3m), led by NACCHO, will train up to 500 First Nations health workers.

The Budget also provides funding to target chronic diseases disproportionally affecting First Nations people, with a increase in funding to combat rheumatic heart disease in high-risk communities ($14.2m). Renal services will be improved with funding ($45 million) for up to 30 four-chair dialysis units in up to 30 sites.

In addition, the government will build a dedicated Birthing on Country Centre of Excellence in NSW to provide culturally safe care and wrap-around support services for First Nations families ($22.5m). We know this is essential to improve long term health and development outcomes for First Nations peoples.

To view Minister Butler’s media release Budget October 2022–23: Strengthening Medicare in full click here.

Photo: Mick Tsikas, AAP photos. Image source: The Canberra Times.

Noonga-Yamatji woman works to close ear health gap

Young Noongar-Yamatji woman who suffered poor ear health as a child is working hard to help Indigenous children in the same situation today. Kassy Hayden, 24, works with medical group Earbus Foundation, coordinating programs for Pilbara east and south central, as well as visits to the Goldfields and Esperance by the Earbus team. “It is important for the kids and for everybody out there,” Ms Hayden said. Earbus works with local Aboriginal Medical Services to deliver comprehensive ear healthcare.

“Yesterday two of my colleagues noticed that one of the children didn’t have a Medicare number, which means they would never have seen a GP and this child is eight years old. But we were able to see them and continue seeing them, which is one example. It is making a difference in remote communities, and there is relationship building as well. For a child who has never seen a GP it would be pretty scary having people looking in your ears for the first time.”

Indigenous children have some of the highest rates of middle ear disease in the world. On average, Aboriginal children suffer from middle ear disease for 32 months on their first five years of life compared to just three months for non-Indigenous children. Indigenous people suffer ear disease and hearing loss at up to ten times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. Ear conditions like Otitis Media (middle ear infection) affect development, social skills and education for children, making the crucial formative years of life far more difficult and putting children at a long term disadvantage.

To view the National Indigenous Times article The young Indigenous woman working to close the gap in children’s ear health in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Funding for early childhood partnership

Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers has handed down the 2002–23 Federal Budget in which the Government delivered on its core Plan for Cheaper Child Care promise to improve early education and care (ECEC). “Early childhood education and care will be more affordable for more than 1.2 million eligible Australian families who will benefit from higher subsidies,” Mr Chalmers said. “Cheaper childcare is a game-changing investment in families, our workforce, and our economy. It will increase the paid hours worked by women with young children by up to 1.4 million hours a week in the first year alone. That’s the equivalent of 37,000 extra full-time workers.”

Accessibility focused measures include:

  • $33.7 million over four years from 2022–23 to introduce a base entitlement to 36 hours per fortnight of subsidised Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) for families with First Nations children, regardless of activity hours or income level
  • $10.2 million over three years from 2022–23 to establish the Early Childhood Care and Development Policy Partnership with Coalition of Peaks partners and First Nations representatives to develop policies on First Nations early childhood education and care

To view The Sector article Federal Budget 2022/23 delivers on Plan for Cheaper Child Care but reference to workforce shortages absent in full click here.

Children attending ECEC Indi Kindi in Tennant Creek, NT. Image source: The Sector.

Budget fails to recognise GP crisis

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has warned that although Budget October 2022-23 delivers on key election promises, significant funding for general practice care is urgently needed to address the GP crisis. The Budget includes a re-commitment to $250m per year in GP funding over three years following the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce Report which is due later this year, as well as $143.3m for rural and remote healthcare, and $229.7m in general practice support grants to build better infrastructure. However, it does not address the immediate challenges facing general practice care, including a lack of funding following years of Medicare freezes and inadequate indexation of patient rebates.

The RACGP holds grave concerns that without major investment into general practice care by the federal Government the current shortage of GPs being felt by communities throughout Australia will intensify, waiting times to see a doctor will increase, and the health and wellbeing of Australians will suffer.

In the college’s October 2022-23 Pre-Budget submission the RACGP called for a series of timely reforms including an increase Medicare rebates for longer consultations, the creation of a new Medicare item for GP consultations longer than 60 minutes, as well as support for longer telehealth phone consultations lasting more than 20 minutes, and increased investment in rural healthcare. RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that although the Budget delivered on many key promises, major reform was sorely needed to secure the future of high-quality general practice patient care.

To read the RACGP media release RACGP: First Budget delivers on election promises but fails to recognise GP crisis in full click here.

Image source: Head Topics Ireland.

Addressing health risks of flooding

As flood-affected towns across Victoria begin relief and recovery efforts, the Victorian Government is working to minimise the risks floodwaters can cause to human health and investing to support communities to rebuild and recover together. Communities across the state are still experiencing major flooding, with more rain set to risk higher water levels and flash flooding — both of which pose threats to people’s health.

An investment of $6.5 million will deliver important health protection initiatives, with a dedicated monitoring and control system to prevent and control mosquitoes that are drawn to flooded areas, as well as making the vaccination for Japanese Encephalitis Virus — a serious mosquito-borne disease — free in flood-affected areas. This funding will also deploy an Environmental Health and Field workforce to flooded regions to provide communities with advice on waste disposal, septic tank repair and the safest way to clean up homes and businesses, as well as boost resourcing in the worst-affected Local Public Health Units to keep communities safe and healthy.

The floods have affected healthcare staffing levels in the affected areas — with some staff unable to get to work. Pharmacies in flooded areas, many of which have just a single pharmacist, are processing extremely high levels of scripts with many people displaced. Flooded sewers or septic tanks often contaminate floodwater before it inundates properties and clean drinking water sources, while flooded areas are subject to mosquito invasions. As flood clean-up and recovery begins, mould growth can also pose a serious risk to the human respiratory system.

An investment of $2 million will support the health of Aboriginal Victorian communities affected by the floods, many of which have been inundated. The funding will make sure Aboriginal Health Services in Shepparton, Swan Hill, Kerang and Echuca have appropriate GP, nurse and health outreach worker coverage while they are isolated.

To view The Courier Cobram article State government addresses health risks of recent and future flooding in full click here.

Echuca residents sandbagged their properties in anticipation of rising floodwaters. Photo: Sarah Lawrence. Image source: ABC News.

Community-engaged research improving health

A University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa faculty member has explored ways that community-engaged research and service can improve Indigenous health while honoring the culture and norms of Indigenous communities in a new book.

Kathryn L. Braun, a public health professor in the Thompson School of Social Work and Public Health, along with Linda Burhansstipanov (Cherokee Nation) from Native American Cancer Research, are co-editors of Indigenous Public Health: Improvement through Community-Engaged Interventions, released in August 2022.

“Many reports on Indigenous health focus on the negative. In contrast, this book features 30 stories of success, including initiatives to address racism, reduce diabetes, and increase cancer screening and treatment. Chapters on community-based participatory research and the building of strong public health infrastructures also include examples of success,” said Braun.

To view the University of Hawaii News article Indigenous public health success stories focus of new book in full click here.

Image source: University Press of Kentucky.

National award for student with rural health passion

University of Melbourne final year medical student Jasraaj Singh has received the Rural Doctors Association of Australia’s (RDAA) Medical Student of the Year Award for 2022. The award is given annually to a medical student displaying a passion and strong commitment to Rural Medicine. As a student on the Extended Rural Cohort at the University’s Medical School, Ms Singh has undertaken all her medical training in rural areas since the second year of her medical degree, including placements in Shepparton, Wangaratta, Ballarat and currently Bendigo. Along the way, she has also undertaken additional placements in East Arnhem Land and Cairns. Ms Singh said she loves the variety of work offered in rural medicine, as well as the sense of community.

“I have had the opportunity to meet incredible and inspiring people, undertake hands-on and practical clinical placements, become part of rural and remote communities across Australia, and develop my clinical and life experiences along the way. It has been such a rewarding, eye-opening and exciting adventure – I strongly believe all healthcare students should be undertaking rural placements in some way, shape or form.”

Ms Singh said a placement she undertook in Nhulunbuy, East Arnhem Land, in 2020 gave her a deep appreciation for the “incredible skill set” of generalist doctors working in remote communities. “My placement in East Arnhem Land really changed the trajectory of my life,” she said. “I became hooked on rural and remote medicine and realised that in these settings I got a much deeper understanding of medicine. I aim to challenge the common misconception that all the excitement and ‘real medicine’ happens in the city – because the country is definitely where it’s at.”

To view The University of Melbourne Newsroom article Medical student who found her passion in rural health receives national award in full click here.

RDAA Medical Student of the Year 2022, Jasraaj Singh (left), pictured with fellow student and 2021 awardee, Indira Barrow, at Tennant Creek Hospital, NT. Image source: University of Melbourne Newsroom.

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: 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: NT PHC workforce crisis – biggest ever

Image in the feature tile is from a video NT chief minister attacks ‘international trolls’ for spreading Covid misinformation published in The Guardian on 25 November 2021.

NT PHC workforce crisis – biggest ever

As critical primary healthcare clinics are forced to close for some weeks in Central Australia due to the pandemic’s impact upon staffing, health leaders are calling for ‘vaccines-plus’ strategies to check COVID transmission, as well as better support for and investment in the Aboriginal health workforce. A leading public health expert has urged governments to do more to tackle the COVID pandemic in the wake of a related workforce crisis forcing the closure of important primary healthcare (PHC) clinics in Central Australia, with worrying implications for the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress) made the decision to close each of their five town clinics for one day each week from the beginning of August until the end of the month to help manage a shortage of healthcare staff. Congress delivers services to more than 16,000 Aboriginal people living in Mparntwe/Alice Springs and remote communities across Central Australia, including Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa), Ntaria (Hermannsburg), Wallace Rockhole, Utju (Areyonga), Mutitjulu and Amoonguna as well as many visitors.

Dr John Boffa, Chief Medical Officer Public Health at Congress is concerned recent major gains made in life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the NT will be reversed without urgent efforts to fix the Territory’s current PHC crisis. “Basically, we’ve got the biggest workforce crisis we’ve ever had now,” Boffa said.

To view the Croakey Health Media article As COVID reduces Aboriginal health services in Central Australia, health leaders call for action in full click here.

Drone photo of Mparntwe/Alice Springs. Phot: Mike Bowers. Image source: The Guardian.

Meaningful health reform suggestions

In a recent Croakey Health Media article health professionals have explored some of the key health reform challenges facing the Federal Government and offered some ways forward, based on appreciation of the importance of addressing health inequities, the needs of patients, and strengthening critical relationships. They say a number of factors combine to deliver an Australian health system that is “universal” in name only, where those with resources can buy access to the care they need but where too many of those who need it most miss out.

Many of these “design faults” have a compounding impact on population groups who already experience the most disadvantage such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people with disabilities, living in rural and remote areas and with low incomes. The resulting situation is a clear example of the “inverse care law”: the principle that the availability of good medical or social care tends to vary inversely with the need of the population served. Reversing this situation will only be possible if at least some of these structural problems are addressed, in addition to increasing overall resourcing for primary healthcare and addressing workforce shortages.

Lessons, the article authors say, can be learnt from existing examples of community-based approaches to chronic disease in Australia and internationally. These include the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector, community health centres like co-health and rural health services, which often provide a more integrated and multidisciplinary approach than urban areas.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Amid competing agendas and priorities, some suggestions for ways forward for meaningful health reform in full click here.

Darren Braun is an Aboriginal Health Worker trainee at Danila Dilba in Palmerston, Darwin. Photo: Emilia Terzon. ABC News.

Caring for our mob, in health and wellbeing

Across Australia, the consumption of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) continues to cause a greater burden of disease within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities than in the non-Aboriginal population. In the Eastern Metropolitan Region of Melbourne, two EACH programs located in Ferntree Gully – the Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Team (AHWT) and Project HOPE/THRIVE – have been successfully working together to provide wrap-around services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD) concerns. Anecdotal evidence suggests that such collaborative care keeps clients with complex issues engaged, supported and hopeful along their recovery journey.

The Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup “Caring for our Mob, in health and wellbeing” report uses a case study approach to explore and develop a rich understanding of the key elements underpinning the collaborative model of care between EACH’s Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup AHWT and its HOPE/THRIVE program of federally-funded AOD support. This includes relationships and trust; good communication and frequent contacts; colocation of multiple services; supported transport; flexibility and responsiveness; a team-oriented, family-centric and holistic approach to AOD misuse, health and wellbeing; and operationalizing a philosophy emphasizing welcome attitude, empathy and hope. Three real-life client stories are presented in the report, in order to reveal what this collaborative model looks and feels like, from the perspective of those benefiting from it.

To access the Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup “Caring for our Mob, in health and wellbeing” report click here.

NE Arnhem Land health lab on wheels

Chronic diseases – such as diabetes and heart disease – cause suffering for thousands of Australians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. The Menzies School of Health Research is letting people experience the effects of long-term diseases before they get sick. HealthLAB – a clinic on wheels – lets people see heart and kidney ultrasounds, hear their heart beating, and try on ‘alcohol goggles’ that mimic raised blood alcohol levels. An award-winning interactive Time Machine app completes the picture – literally – by showing how those choices affect appearance.

HealthLAB travels to locations around Darwin and Northeast Arnhem Land, giving locals the opportunity to talk to a range of scientists and health professionals about the science behind the inner workings of the human body, the technology behind the equipment they use, and exciting future careers in science.

To view the medianet. News for Business article An AI ‘Time Machine’ and a health lab on wheels – Northeast Arnhem Land, NT in full click here.

Image source: Menzies HealthLAB Facebook page.

Increasing odds GPs will work rurally

New research which links the amount of training time spent in rural areas with the odds of GPs working in rural and remote areas has been published in the American Journal of Graduate Medical Education. The study addresses an urgent need to understand how to increase the likelihood of junior doctors choosing to practice as GPs in rural or remote areas. The paper titled: Family Medicine Residencies: How Rural Training Exposure in GME Is Associated With Subsequent Rural Practice, shows that when junior doctors do their GP training in rural and remote areas they are more likely to subsequently decide to work in rural areas.

While other research has previously identified associations between rural training – particularly as a medical student – and subsequent rural practice, this study showed that as the amount of rural GP training of junior doctors increased, so did their likelihood of rural practice. Lead author, Menzies Senior Research Fellow Dr Deborah Russell, said that in the US, where this study was undertaken, almost all (91%) junior doctors training to be GPs have no rural training, leaving enormous scope for government policy to increase rural training opportunities for junior doctors. The findings of this US study are relevant for ensuring that enough Australian GPs choose to work in rural and remote areas of Australia.

To view the Menzies School of Health Research media release Increasing the amount of training time in rural areas increased the odds that GPs work rurally in full click here.

Image source: RACGP newsGP.

ACT Rising Woman of Spirit award winner

The Lifeline Canberra Women of Spirit Awards, announced yesterday, recognise women who have overcome adversity and gone on to make a positive contribution to our community, while inspiring others to do the same. A young Indigenous woman, Rachel Fishlock, who was a child carer for her mother who had mental health complexities, was honoured with the Rising Woman of Spirit award.

From the age of 12, Rachel became a full-time career for her single mum, who had severe mental health complications, and experienced systemic neglect during her mother’s frequent and prolonged hospitalisations. Through sheer determination, Rachel completed high school, and went on to found a successful international business, Lunar the Label. She closed this to pursue university education, graduating with a degree in social sciences in 2018 and has since earned a Master of Business Management.

A Yuin woman from Nowra NSW, Rachel now works in Canberra at Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit), the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention. Today, Rachel continues to push for policy reforms to ensure other child carers do not experience the neglect that she did.

To view the Riotact article ‘Leaving the world in better shape than they found it’ – meet the winners of Lifeline’s Women of Spirit Awards in full click here.

Indigenous HealthInfoNet calls for papers

The Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (formerly the HealthBulletin Journal) has been published online since 2020. In that time, it has received over 6,500 downloads, in 62 countries and 230 institutions around the world. You are being invited to submit an article to this rapidly growing publication.

Papers are being sought from researchers and practitioners that address key issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Our goal is to provide high quality information that is timely, accessible and relevant to support the everyday practice of those in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector workforce.

As of 27 June this year one of the most popular papers published by the Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet was Culturally Safe and Integrated Primary Health Care: A Case Study of Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Services’ Holistic Model, available here.

You find more information here and visit the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet journal here to submit your work. All submissions are subject to double blind peer review.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: CTG efforts must be redoubled

Image in the feature tile is of Clarence Paul, who died age 48, and his grandson. Photo: Closing the gap campaign. Image source: The Guardian, 12 February 2014.

CTG efforts must be redoubled

The Healing Foundation warns momentum must be gained urgently on the Closing the Gap Priority Reforms, or targets will remain out of reach. The warning follows the release earlier today of Productivity Commission data showing only four of the 17 Closing the Gap targets are on track for being met within the coming decade.

The Healing Foundation Board Chair Professor Steve Larkin said the news should come as shot in the arm to the incoming government, who now has the power to make the necessary changes to ensure Priority Reforms are just that – the priority of all governments. “We must use the knowledge from these updates as a catalyst for redoubling our efforts to right the wrongs of the past so that there is finally justice and healing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Professor Larkin said.

To view the Healing Foundation’s media release Closing the Gap Progress Report a Warning to Redouble Efforts click here.

Image source: Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s What is ‘Closing the Gap’ webpage.

Root cause of First Nations incarceration

The head of the Territory’s only Indigenous-owned and community-controlled health service has accused the ACT Government of just putting words on paper over its recent Budget funding announcements aimed at reducing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system. Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services CEO Julie Tongs has again renewed calls for a Royal Commission-style inquiry into Indigenous disadvantage in the ACT – something the government hasn’t yet committed to.

Ms Tongs was concerned about how many initiatives the government said it would fund with that $11.5 million over four years. She said these commitments look good on paper but may not address the root cause of Indigenous incarceration rates. “The biggest problem in this community is the racism and the poverty. From there stems the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, family violence and other issues,” she noted. “We can’t just keep throwing bits of funding at things when things get a little bit political. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. We are still going to have the problem until we work with the families who suffer racism every day.”

To view the Riotact article ‘Just words on paper’: Winnunga CEO calls for root cause of First Nations incarceration to be addressed in full click here.

Julie Tongs says nothing will change without a royal commission-style inquiry into Indigenous disadvantage in the Territory. Photo: Region Media. Image source: Riotact.

Breaking First Nations wealth ‘curses’

Young Indigenous women are breaking intergenerational patterns of economic disadvantage and using storytelling to cultivate “rich” mindsets, says a banker turned podcaster. Larisha Jerome, host of the Rich Black Women podcast, has worked across debt collection, financial hardship, financial capability and financial abuse prevention including at the Commonwealth Bank, Indigenous Business Australia and the Women’s Legal Service Queensland. She now plans to use the power of stories to empower Indigenous women to break “generational curses” and take control of their finances.

“We do that through sharing stories, connecting and breaking down that money shame, and by empowering our community,” Ms Jerome said. “We talk about generational curses, generational trauma, but what about our generational strength? I believe that healing ourselves is generational wealth.” The main message she wants to impart is that despite experiencing genocide, dispossession and colonisation, Indigenous women are capable and deserving of prosperous lives.

To view the Financial Review article The former banker who wants to break First Nations wealth ‘curses’ click here.

Larisha Jerome is photographed in her home in Mango Hill, north of Brisbane. Photo: Dan Peled. Image source: Financial Review.

Team to resuscitate MBS short a player?

Yesterday Health Minister Mark Butler unveiled the panel Labor hopes will drive its efforts to reinvigorate primary care. Dr Dawn Casey, deputy CEO, NACCHO is one of the 16-person panel making up the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce. Francis Wilkins who wrote the article Labor names team to resuscitate MBS, available here, that appeared in the Medical Republic yesterday argues that while most areas are represented on the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, medical technology companies are conspicuous by their absence.

“They are the companies that provide the infrastructure that enables Medicare and our models of care to operate,” digital health and interoperability expert Michelle O’Brien said. “The fact that our current technology is outdated and siloed, and there is no funding for multi-disciplinary care across the health eco-system is contributing to the crisis we are experiencing. Technology infrastructure shouldn’t just be an afterthought, and the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) does not represent our health technology companies.”

You can access the Minister for Health and Aged Care the Hon Mark Butler’s media release Strengthening Medicare Taskforce appointed in full here. You can also read the AMA’s media release welcoming the federal government’s establishment of a Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, to decide priority areas for primary care funding here.

Image source: The Medical Republic.

Recognising First Nations medicine

For tens of thousands of years, Indigenous people in Australia have prepared and used plants to treat ailments. But what happens if a community wants to take their medicine to the world? In an episode on ABC Radio tells the story of a thirty year quest to get a native plant listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) – and the challenge isn’t over yet.

The discussion includes thoughts from Dr Virginia Marshall, Inaugural Indigenous Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian National University School of Regulation and Global Governance and Dr Emma Kowal, Professor of Anthropology at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University.

You can listen to the ABC Radio National episode Recognising Indigenous medicine here.

Juvenile detention food choices study

A study of food served in a youth detention centre in SA gives insights into the place diet and menu choices make in improving or reducing their incarceration experience. A Flinders University study found general disappointment in the quality of food and the need for the child or young person to make more healthy choices, practice their culture or make positive personal choices while in custody and after their release.  

“This is the first time we have considered the extent the lived food-related experiences of incarcerated children matched the principles proclaimed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People Detained in Training Centres,” says Flinders University researcher Dr Simone Deegan. “The interviews at the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre revealed many of the young people found their food service a punitive aspect of their incarceration, particularly in so far as it fails to reflect cultural expectations or preferences.”  

More institutional engagement with residents to change or improve their food service would improve their experience, commencing with a review of the food offerings by a qualified nutritionist-dietitian. As well as getting youth involved in improving the quality, quantity and variety of meals and snacks in the tuckshop, the engagement of young people could then branch into learning to plan, budget, shop, cook and share a healthy meal provided independent living skills and maintain connections to culture where appropriate. 

To view the Flinders University media release Appetite for reform could be borne in juvenile detention food choices – study in full click here.

Flinders University researcher Dr Simone Deegan. Image source: Flinders University.

Final chance to nominate mental health hero

There is still a small window for Australians to nominate a deserving mental health hero for the Australian Mental Health Prize, with nominations closing on MONDAY 1 AUGUST 2022. The Prize aims to recognise the important and ground-breaking work that many Australians are doing for mental health.

This year, the Prize has expanded to accept nominations in four categories:

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander: To recognise and celebrate outstanding Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander mental health leadership at a national or community level.
  • Lived experience: To recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership by someone with lived experience of mental health, either personally or as a supporter, at a national level.
  • Professional: To recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership in the clinical, academic or professional sectors at a national level.
  • Community hero: To recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership at a State or community level.

To view the Southern Downs article Final chance to recognise a deserving mental health hero in full click here.

New process for job advertising

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

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