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: AFL.com.au. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Abolition of cashless debit card

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

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

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

Photo: Natalie Whitling, ABC News.

WA study to address low vax rate

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy Skin Guidelines online survey

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

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

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

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

Increasing maternal health service uptake

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

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

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

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

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

Medicare must be accessible to prisoners

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

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

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

Image source: The West Australian.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 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.

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

The image in the feature tile is from the Hepatitis Australia website.

World Hepatitis Day 2022

World Hepatitis Day, held on 28 July, is an international annual day observed by the United Nations and one of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) nine officially mandated global public health days. In Australia, World Hepatitis Day is coordinated by the national peak body Hepatitis Australia to raise awareness and promote action on viral hepatitis. Hepatitis Australia’s vision is to see an end to viral hepatitis in Australia.

In November last year The Kirby Institute released a report, available here, Progress towards hepatitis C elimination among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. This was the first report to provide an account of progress of hepatitis C elimination among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as framed by global and national strategies. The key findings of the report were:

  • At end 2020, an estimated 117,810 Australians were living with chronic hepatitis C of whom 18% (21,548) were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Unrestricted access to government subsidised direct-acting antiviral therapy for hepatitis C has seen large numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people treated and some declines in hepatitis C related liver failure and mortality.
  • Although hepatitis C testing and diagnosis proportions are high, findings highlight gaps in treatment uptake and harm reduction coverage, including new hepatitis C infections, of particular concern among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

You can access Hepatitis Australia’s website here and download a factsheet with the latest statistics on hepatitis B and C in Australia here.

More work needed to CTG

The Closing the Gap Annual Data Compilation Report, released today, provides new information for nine socio-economic targets within the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The assessment of these targets paints a mixed picture, and emphasises the need for more resources to finally Close the Gap in life outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

While targets relating to the healthy birthweight of babies, enrolment of children in preschool, youth detention rates, and land mass subject to rights and interests are on track, many are not. Children commencing school being developmentally on track, out-of-home care, adult imprisonment, deaths from suicide, and sea country subject to rights and interests all need work.

“We only have 8 years left of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. That’s 8 years to meet every target, not just some of them. This report should instil a sense of urgency in everyone working on Closing the Gap activities”, said Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, Patricia Turner AM.

To view the Coalition of Peaks media release More work needed to Close the Gap click here and the Australian Government Productivity Commission’s Closing the Gap Annual Data Compilation Report July 2022 here. A related ABC News article Latest round of Closing the Gap data shows ‘disappointing’ progress for Indigenous Australians with only four of 17 targets on track published today, and available   here, the Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said “It’s incredibly disturbing to see that a number of Closing the Gap targets are not on track.”

Heal Our Way campaign launched

Heal Our Way is a NSW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Campaign funded by the NSW Ministry of Health under Towards Zero Suicides (TZA) initiatives. The campaign, led by Cox Inall Ridgeway in partnership with Aboriginal communities in NSW, aims to encourage help seeking from community by equipping them with the skills to have safe conversations around suicide.

Heal Our Way recognises that cultural identity, belonging and connectedness are central to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ wellbeing and are protective factors that help in managing life stressors. Dr Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman and lecturer at the University of Wollongong, attended a launch of the campaign in Dubbo this week, where she co-facilitated a panel discussion, together with Andy Saunders, while also tweeting the news.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Connect, reach out, and Heal Our Way – suicide prevention campaign launches in full click here.

From the launch at Dubbo. Photo: Shayne Connell. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Children sought for sore throat study

More than 1,000 children are being sought for a study to learn more about sore throats and how best to prevent them. Murdoch Children’s project lead Professor Andrew Steer said the study would investigate how many children got sore throats, what was the most common cause of a sore throat and how sore throats could change during different seasons of the year. The information collected will help inform how a vaccine could be used to prevent a wide range of illnesses caused by Strep A.

“Strep A is often responsible for mild infections like a sore throat, also called ‘strep throat’, and impetigo, which causes skin sores,” Professor Steer said. But when left untreated it can become life-threatening if the bacteria invades the body’s bloodstream, muscles or lungs, which can cause severe illnesses such as septicaemia, rheumatic heart disease and kidney disease.”

Strep A infections disproportionately affect young children, the elderly, pregnant women and Indigenous Australians. Rates of rheumatic heart disease among Indigenous populations in northern Australia are some of the highest in the world. There is currently no vaccine available to prevent Strep A and infection can only be treated with antibiotics. “This study is an important step towards helping inform how a vaccine could be used to prevent a wide range of illnesses caused by Strep A,” Professor Steer said.

To view the SCIMEX article Children sought for study into how to prevent sore throats in full click here.

Image source: Australian Journal of General Practice.

Celebrating motherhood and culture

Yorta Yorta and Wiradjuri woman Mahlia McDonald nearly didn’t take part in The Mubal and Bali Photography Program, but she is glad she changed her mind. Now her work is part of a Wodonga exhibition featuring photographs of Aboriginal women and their children taken by Aboriginal women, celebrating motherhood and tradition.

A co-partnership between Wodonga TAFE and the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service, the Mubal and Bali (Mums and Bubs) Photography Program aimed to bring Aboriginal women together to learn photography skills. It also provided a stepping stone back into the education system.  TAFE photography teacher Tania Martini said the 15-week program, in Victoria’s north-east, taught photography and editing skills while capturing images of mothers and children on country. “It was based on the concept of Aboriginal women around birthing, childhood, and motherhood,” she said.

To view the ABC News article Wodonga’s Mubal and Bali photography exhibition celebrates motherhood and culture in full click here.

This photo by Demelsa Wakefield was taken as part of the program that celebrates motherhood and culture.(Supplied: Mubal and Bali Photography Program). Image source: ABC News.

Medicare needed for prisoners

A NSW coroner has supported the idea of Medicare becoming available to Aboriginal inmates on a trial basis after a 44-year-old man died in custody from a preventable ear infection. Douglas “Mootijah” Shillingsworth, a Budjiti and Murrawarri man, died at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital in February 2018 after an otitis media middle ear infection spread to his brain, causing sepsis and neurological injury.

In findings last week, Deputy State Coroner Joan Baptie said Mootijah’s “Mootijah’s death was the result of the systemic failures prevalent in the public health system, the custodial health system in NSW and the lack of identification and appreciation of this silent killer, otitis media. Whilst his manner of death was from natural causes, this was clearly precipitated by the failure to identify and treat his ear disease whilst in custody.”

Inmates in NSW cannot receive Medicare benefits because the Health Insurance Act prevents a health service from receiving Commonwealth funding if it also receives state funding. This means inmates are blocked from receiving a yearly Aboriginal health assessment, a screening that is intended to pick up chronic issues before they progress. No similar screening operates outside the Medicare system. Jeremy Styles from the Aboriginal Legal Service, who represented the family during the inquest, said any one of these Aboriginal health assessments would have documented, recorded and discovered Mootijah’s ear disease.

To read The Sydney Morning Herald article Coroner calls for Medicare for prisoners after Indigenous man dies of ear infection in full click here.

Ruby Dykes (left) and Fleur Magic Dennis, family members of Douglas “Mootijah” Shillingsworth, hug outside court on Friday. Photo: Dean Sewell. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Wounds conference speakers announced

After a temporary move online in 2020 due to COVID-related restrictions, Wounds Australia’s biannual wounds conference is returning to Sydney this September. To be held at the ICC Sydney from 14–17 September, the conference will bring together leading experts and clinicians to share their insights and experience in working with wounds.

Presentations in the program will explore this year’s theme: ‘Time to unite, time to heal, time to innovate’, with a special focus on Indigenous health care, in recognition of the need to close the gap between the quality of wound care provision in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. Keynote addresses by James Charles and Lesley Salem will discuss Indigenous healthcare initiatives.

Wounds Australia Chair Hayley Ryan said, “As the peak body for wound prevention, diagnosis, treatment and healing in Australia, we are committed to ensuring that Australians receive the best possible wound care.

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article Wounds Australia Conference — keynote speakers announced click here.

Image of leg being dressed from National Seniors Australia website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NT COVID-19 cases on the rise

Image in the feature tile is from the ABC News website.

NT COVID-19 cases on the rise

NT health experts say they are “alarmed” about a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, saying the territory’s infection rate is growing at a higher rate per capita than the national average. Their warning comes as coronavirus cases rise across the country, marking the start of what Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has described as the start of a new Omicron wave. Professor Kelly said the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of the COVID-19 Omicron strain were highly infectious, and that cases were expected to surge in coming weeks.

Data shows that surge may have already started in the NT, which recorded 671 cases on Tuesday — the highest daily caseload since February and a dramatic jump from 469 cases on Monday. That’s higher percentage per capita than the national average, according to John Paterson, CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliances of the Northern Territory (AMSANT). “[The figures] make us 22 per cent above the national per capita average on a seven-day rolling average, which is alarming and concerning for our members,” he said. “So, we’ve got to seriously consider perhaps some mandatory public health measures, especially for our most at-risk population and our community members. This is alarming for us.”

To view the view the ABC News article COVID-19 cases are rising in the Northern Territory as Australia approaches a new Omicron wave in full click here.

Territorians are being encouraged to wear face masks to combat the virus’s spread. Photo: Che Chorley, ABC News.

Telehealth cuts leave remote patients behind

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has once again urged the federal government to make Medicare rebates for longer telehealth phone consultations a permanent fixture of the nation’s telehealth scheme so that patients living outside of major cities can get the care they need when they need it. It comes following reports of a study, which found that 40% of people living in rural and remote areas had internet speeds that were less than 28 kilobits per second. This makes conducting telehealth video consultations challenging, if not impossible, given that the minimum recommended speed for video calls is 600 kilobits per second. In addition, other people are not confident using the technology or find the cost of purchasing a smartphone or laptop prohibitive.

RACGP Vice President Dr Bruce Willett  said “Removing Medicare rebates for longer consults is not only particularly detrimental for patients in the bush but also older patients across Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and those with disability or limited mobility. This is troubling as these patient cohorts already have poorer health outcomes than the general population. We are effectively denying healthcare access to those who need it most.”

To view the view the RACGP media release Rural and remote patients left behind by telehealth cuts in full click here. The AMA has also raised concerns in a media release, available here, that the dropping of a number of telephone Medicare items by the Government on 1 July has left vulnerable people at risk.

Image source: Hospital + Healthcare.

Grants to improve cancer outcomes

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Senator Malarndirri McCarthy today announced that nine grants totalling over $1 million have been awarded to improve cancer outcomes, including three aimed at reducing the impacts of cancer on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Senator McCarthy said that Cancer Australia’s Supporting people with cancer grants will fund locally-based programs to make a much needed difference in regional and remote Indigenous Australian communities. “These grants are a step in the right direction to improve wellbeing, provide support and increase equitable cancer outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

To view Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Senator Malarndirri McCarthy’s media release New opportunities to improve Indigenous cancer outcomes click here.

Cancer Council SA’s Yarning Circles provide a way to comfortably connect with the community and break down any barriers or fears that may exist with regards to cancer. Image source: Cancer Council SA website.

Remote areas lack quality drinking water

Australians in more than 400 remote or regional communities lack access to good-quality drinking water, while about 8% of Australia’s population is not included in reporting on access to clean water, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU). The researchers reviewed public reporting by 177 water utilities to measure gaps in drinking water quality in regional and remote Australia.

They assessed water quality performance against the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG), which provide guidance to water regulators and suppliers on monitoring and managing drinking water quality. The researchers found at least 25,245 people across 99 locations with populations of fewer than 1,000 people had accessed water services that did not comply with the health-based guideline values at least once in 2018–19.

They also identified 408 regional and remote locations with a combined population of 627,736 people that failed to measure up to either health-based guidelines or the ADWG’s aesthetic determinants of good water quality across taste, colour and odour. Furthermore, 40% of all locations with reported health-based non-compliances were remote Indigenous communities. Lead author of a peer-reviewed paper published in Nature Partner Journal Clean Water, Dr Paul Wyrwoll said their research also shows Australia’s national reporting of drinking water quality is not fit-for-purpose.

To view the ANU media release Aussies living remotely lack access to quality drinking water in full click here. You can also access a related Nature article Measuring the gaps in drinking water quality and policy across regional and remote Australia here.

Beswick’s water is very high in calcium. Photo: Isaac Nowroozi, ABC News.

Cervical cancer self-screening resources

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care have produced a range of National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) resources, including videos (such as the one below), posters, brochures and fact sheets. The resources, available here include ones specifically tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women:

  • a visual guide to help understand Cervical Screening Test results
  • an A3 poster to promote the National Cervical Screening Program
  • visual guide to help understand how to take a vaginal sample for a Cervical Screening Test
  • a video (below) explaining how to take a Cervical Screening Test sample if self-collection is chosen as a screening option for their Cervical Screening Test.

PrioritEYES survey participants thanked

This year in JulEye, NACCHO wants to give a shout out to all ACCHOs that completed the PrioritEYES Survey open from 8 April to 20 May 2022. The information gathered will help us tackle gaps in eye care for our ACCHOs and their communities.

80% of all ACCHOs provided a response to the PrioritEYES survey – a huge achievement and information that will help us progress ACCHO eye care needs.

We learnt, 81% ACCHOs that responded are interested in greater ACCHO ownership and leadership in eye care. We are excited to work towards this as ACCHOs are best placed to support eye and vision care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

ACCHOs will hear from us soon about the findings from the survey and what’s next.

JulEye is also a good reminder to get your eyes tested, wear eye protection, and eat well to maintain healthy eyesight.

Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) is designed to encourage and assist undergraduate students in health-related disciplines to complete their studies and join the health workforce. The scheme provides scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people studying an entry level health course.

The Australian Government established the Scheme as a tribute to the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter’s outstanding contribution to First Nations Australians’ health and his role and Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO). A NACCHO News special tribute edition available here provides an insight to Puggy and his tireless efforts to improve Aboriginal health.

PHMSS will open for applications on Monday 29 August 2022 for studies undertaken in 2023, closing Monday 10 October 2022. Online applications will be available from this website once the scheme opens.

If you would like to be sent the link to the application once the scheme opens, please register for application updates, click here.

PHMSS Deadly Health Professions recipient Shaydeen Stocker (pictured above with her husband and three children) has started her RN Grad program at SJOG in Midland. Image source: Australian College of Nursing First Nations health scholarships webpage.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO CEO at Disability Royal Commission

Image in feature tile is of Rex Munungurr’s wheelchair, which isn’t suitable for uneven ground. Photo: Tamara Howie. Image source: The Guardian, 5 November 2019 article The land the NDIS forgot: the remote Indigenous communities losing the postcode lottery.

NACCHO CEO at Disability Royal Commission

Yesterday NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks organisations Pat Turner gave evidence on Day 4 of the Disability Royal Commission Public hearing 25 – The Operation of the NDIS for First Nations people with disability in remote and very remote communities. Ms Turner gave a brief overview of NACCHO’s work, the types of services provided by ACCHOs and how many ACCHOs are expanding into disability and aged care service delivery. Ms Turner noted that a third of ACCHOs are in remote or very remote locations and those ACCHOs deliver over one million episodes of care each year.

You can access the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability website here for more detail about hearing 25 and you can access a transcript of Day 4 of the hearing here.

Remote First Nations parents fear losing kids

Indigenous parents caring for children with a disability in remote communities aren’t seeking assistance from services due to fears their kids will be taken away, an inquiry has been told. This week the Disability Royal Commission has been examining the experiences of thousands of First Nations people with disabilities in isolated communities.

Deputy CEO of the First Persons Disability Network, June Riemer, said she was aware of nine families in Utopia, about three hours’ drive from Alice Springs, with children with severe disabilities who never left the house. “For our vulnerable families who may have children with severe disabilities, they’re afraid they’ll be taken rather than supported,” she told the inquiry yesterday. “They were hidden from the community because there was a fear that the children would be be taken. There is that fear across Australia.”

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner, said data showed there were significant underspends in NDIS plans for Indigenous people. (This) demonstrates that even though our people are becoming NDIS participants, they can’t access the services they need,” she said. “This is compounded in remote and very remote areas. Many services are not available, or those that are may not be culturally safe.”

To view The Canberra Times article Remote Indigenous parents fear losing children click here.

NDIS participant Rex Munungurr (middle) with brothers Djayak (left) and Mithili (right) and cousin Ted Wanambi (second from left) out the front of their homes in the East Arnhem Land community of Garrthalala. Photo: Tamara Howie. Image source: The Guardian.

Climate change is white colonisation

‘Climate change is racist’. So reads the title of a recent book by British journalist Jeremy Williams. While this title might seem provocative, it’s long been recognised that people of colour suffer disproportionate harms under climate change – and this is likely to worsen in the coming decades. However, most rich white countries, including Australia, are doing precious little to properly address this inequity. For the most part, they refuse to accept the climate debt they owe to poorer countries and communities.

The Lowitja Institute, Australia’s national body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, says climate change: disrupts cultural and spiritual connections to Country that are central to health and wellbeing. Health services are struggling to operate in extreme weather with increasing demands and a reduced workforce. All these forces combine to exacerbate already unacceptable levels of ill-health within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

To read the Daily Bulletin article Climate change is white colonisation of the atmosphere. It’s time to tackle this entrenched racism in full click here.

Members of Seed, Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network. Image source: Seed website.

Managing diabetes needs comprehensive approach

The RACGP, along with the NACCHO, is also calling for a more integrated, comprehensive approach to managing diabetes in primary care. RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price said the college wanted to see the introduction of a rebate for GP consults that last 60 minutes. “Greater support for longer consultations and GP-led team care will make a huge difference for people with chronic conditions,” she said. Additional investment in the Workforce Incentive Program, Professor Price said, could also help boost multidisciplinary care for people with diabetes.

NACCHO called for continued funding for the Integrating Pharmacists within ACCHOs to Improve Chronic Disease Management, better known as the IPAC project. It has recently been described by the Medical Services Advisory Committee as an “excellent example of an integrated, collaborative, patient-centred approach to primary care”.

People with diabetes were one of the cohorts which had benefitted from the project so far, according to NACCHO medicines policy and programs director Mike Stephens. “Given the project’s demonstrable acceptability and effectiveness, it is time for government to provide a sustained investment in integrating pharmacists into team-based primary care settings, including ACCHOs,” he said.

You can view The Medical Republic article Why can’t GPs approve glucose monitors? in full here.

Image source: Medical Journal of Australia.

Healthy diets can drain half of regional incomes

Research by Deakin University has found that healthy diets can cost as much as 50% of the disposable income of Australians living in rural and remote areas (including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups) because of rampant inflation. The study by Deakin’s Institute for Health Transformation found that before the COVID-19 pandemic, healthy diets cost a low-income family of four about one-quarter to one-third of their income (after tax).

One in four Australians indicated that grocery shopping had a big financial impact on their household budgets. The increased costs were due to global economic factors, supply chain and global shipping issues, the war in Ukraine, labour shortages, and severe weather events. The researchers found the prices of vegetables, particularly lettuce, broccoli and tomato have soared over the past few years.

To view The Canberra Times article Deakin researchers find healthy diets can drain as much as half of rural and remote community incomes in full click here.

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

What VTP will mean for First Nations health

Dean Parkin will join the AMA National Conference live from the Garma festival in remote Arnhem Land. The From the Heart Director will speak to doctors about what a voice to parliament (VTP) will mean for Indigenous health and take questions from attendees. Mr Parkin is from the Quandamooka peoples of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in Queensland and was closely involved in the process that resulted in the historic Uluru Statement From The Heart. The Voice to Parliament was proposed in the From the Heart statement and endorsed by the AMA in 2018.

The Federal Government has committed to a referendum to establish an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in its first term. In his role Mr Parkin continues to advocate for constitutional and structural reform to enable that establishment. He will join the AMA National Conference via video link from the annual celebration of Yolngu culture to discuss what a Voice to Parliament requires and the contribution it can make to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

To read the Mirage article From Heart director to address national conference in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

VIC regional child and family program launch

Victoria’s peak child and family services body launched a travelling regional program this week, aiming to link like minded organisations within the sector, and share knowledge. The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare’s Connecting Communities Regional Tour is designed to strengthen their members’ and partners’ grasp on the unique challenges country Victorian families, children and young people experience. It’s also a chance for the Centre to hear from those working in the child and family services sector, to share ideas, start conversations, and strive to problem-solve.

Ballarat was the first stop, with local expert panellists including Child and Family Services Ballarat CEO Wendy Sturgess, Grampians Public Health Unit medical director Rosemary Aldrich, and Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative CEO Karen Heap. “This forum demonstrates a genuine commitment by the Victorian Government to listen to the community about the issues that affect our sector,” Ms Sturgess said. “We would be encouraging anyone who has an interest or works in the child and family services sector to take this opportunity to amplify the voice of regional Victoria directly to the key decision makers at a State level.”

To read the Ballarat Times article Children and families focus for tour in full click here.

Image source: Law Society of NSW Journal Online.

New process for job advertising

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

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

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

NT mob 80%+ less Medicare funding

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

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

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

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

Photo: Shutterstock. Image source: The Conversation.

Comprehensive truth-telling project

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

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

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

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

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

AMA election health report card

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

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

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

Lifting of alcohol bans “disgraceful”

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

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

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

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

Image source: news.com.au.

Optimising health checks research

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: Shutterstock, UNSW Sydney website.

Protecting mob this winter

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

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

Concerns over lack of gender-affirming care

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

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

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

To view the AMSA media release in full click here.

Image source: University of Florida website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NHLF’s vision: health system free of racism

feature tile text 'national health leadership forum wants range of issues elevated in national debate' Sunrise health worker with stethoscope checking patient's heart

Image is feature tile is of Sunrise Health Service healthcare worker Desleigh Shields. Photo: Alexia Attwood, ABC News.

NHLF’s vision: health system free of racism

The National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF), a collective partnership of 13 national organisations, including NACCHO, who represent a united voice on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing with expertise across service delivery, workforce, research, healing and mental health and social and emotional wellbeing, is calling for a range of issues to be elevated in the national debate.

NHLF Chairperson Donna Murray wants the Australian health system to be free of racism and inequality, and for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have access to health services that are effective, high quality, appropriate and affordable. The NHLF is advocating for system-wide investment in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, including on monitoring and reporting on the Plan’s implementation, as well as system-wide investment approach for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan.

The NHLF wants genuine needs-based funding investment in social determinants of health that have greatest impact on health outcomes – primary health care, housing, education, justice and law reform, climate change, aged care and disability service, Indigenous rights, and social justice. The NHLF also asserts the importance of the cultural determinants of health, and calls for investment and support that recognises their importance to improved health and wellbeing as determined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their knowledges and perspectives.

To view the Croakey Health Media article in full click here.

Workplace discrimination ‘utterly unacceptable’

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is calling for urgent systemic and cultural reform within the health sector, following the 2021 Medical Training Survey results that found Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainee doctors had experienced higher levels of bullying, discrimination and harassment – including racism – compared to their non-Indigenous colleagues. While the latest Survey results from 2021 found that trainees in general continued to experience bullying, harassment and discrimination, it also found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees had been disproportionately impacted.

The Survey results showed that “52% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees reported experiencing and/or witnessing bullying, harassment and/or discrimination (compared with 35% of trainees nationally), and 49% reported a moderate or major impact on their training (compared with 38% nationally). “While these numbers are deeply disturbing, to us, they are also not surprising,” said Monica Barolits-McCabe, CEO of AIDA. “We have known that harassment and discrimination, especially racism, has been adversely impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors and medical students throughout their medical journey. This is utterly unacceptable,” she said.

To view AIDA’s media release in full click here.

Victoria to build 400 Aboriginal homes

The Victorian government have announced it will set aside $150 million to build the homes through various Aboriginal grants programs, helping to combat homelessness among First Nations people. One in six Aboriginal Victorians require homelessness assistance and are ten times more likely to contact these services than other residents, according to the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service’s 2021 annual report. “Having a home means security, stability and staying safe,” Housing Minister Richard Wynne said in a statement. Aboriginal households on the Victorian Housing Register will be eligible for the new grants, which open for applications in early May.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams said the extra money would go a long way to fostering self-determination and culturally safe housing options for Aboriginal Victorians. “When First Nations Victorians manage their own affairs, such as housing, we know outcomes are better for everyone,” she said. The new grants are on top of $35 million to upgrade existing Aboriginal housing as part of the state’s $5.3 billion Big Housing Build scheme. Under the plan, 12,000 new social and affordable homes were expected to be built over a four-year span in a bid to boost the state’s housing supply by 10%.

The projects, located across 38 local government areas, ranged from a 152-home development in Melbourne to several two-home developments in regional areas including Ballarat, Bendigo Shepparton, Wodonga and Warrnambool. The state government is chipping in $740 million to the scheme, with the rest of the bill footed by 22 community housing agencies.

To view Minister Wynne’s media release click here.

homeless man lying on bench

Victoria has launched a plan to help overcome the high rate of homelessness among aboriginal people. Photo: AAP. Image source: 7 News.

My Health Record booster reminders

My Health Record was upgraded in January 2022 with the following COVID-19 information.

COVID-19 booster reminders for consumers
This release includes booster alerts and notifications for eligible consumers and nominated representatives (currently those 18 and over who have completed their primary course of vaccines). A new booster tile on the COVID-19 dashboard shows the recommended booster date.

One month before the recommended booster date, consumers will:

  • see an on-screen alert on their Record Home page and Immunisation page
  • get an SMS or email notification about their recommended booster date (for those who have set up notifications).

The recommended booster date is calculated by My Health Record based on Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s (ATAGI) recommended time until a booster (currently 3 months after completion of primary course, based on this ATAGI statement).

This release also removes on-screen due/overdue COVID-19 vaccination alerts that were showing for consumers with a recorded medical contraindication to COVID-19 vaccines.

If consumers need assistance at any time, they can contact the Help line on 1800 723 471 and select option 1. Call charges may apply for mobile phones.tile text 'check your booster due date in My Health Record - My Health Record' & form with title 'COVID-19 vax dashboard'

Impacts of short-term ACCHO staffing

Access to high-quality primary healthcare is limited for remote residents in Australia. Increasingly, remote health services are reliant on short-term or ‘fly-in, fly-out/drive-in, drive-out’ health workforce to deliver primary healthcare. A key strategy to achieving health service access equity, particularly evident in remote Australia, has been the development of ACCHOs

A recently published journal article, Understanding and responding to the cost and health impact of short-term health staffing in remote and rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health services: a mixed methods study protocol describes how, a new study aims to generate new knowledge about (1) the impact of short-term staffing in remote and rural ACCHOs on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; (2) the potential mitigating effect of community control; and (3) effective, context-specific evidence-based retention strategies.

The study will compare the effects of two distinct PHC governance models and thereby contribute to the development of evidence-based workforce strategies to stabilise the remote and rural health workforce and improve access to essential PHC services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in rural and remote areas.

To view the article in full click here.

Utju (Areyonga), one of the remote clinics in Central Australia

Utju (Areyonga), one of the remote clinics in Central Australia. Image source: Flinders University.

Dementia in cities as high as in rural areas

Studies have shown that Aboriginal Australians living in remote areas of the country are disproportionately affected by dementia, with rates approximately double those of non-Indigenous people. A new study shows that Aboriginal Australians living in urban areas also have similar high rates of dementia.

“Given that the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples now live in urban areas, these results are critically important,” said study author Louise M. Lavrencic, Ph.D., of Neuroscience Research Australia in Sydney. “Aboriginal Australians have among the highest rates of dementia in the world, so we looked at some of the potential risk factors that may be facing this population.”

To view the Medical Xpress article in full click here.

elderly Aboriginal lady's hands folded in lap

Image source: myDr Tonic Media Network.

Aboriginal Employment Strategy turns 25

Starting the year off strong, the Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES) are celebrating their 25 years in operation, kicking off as major sponsors of the NRL Indigenous All Stars game in Sydney 12 February. Proud Murri and South Sea Islander woman and CEO of Aboriginal Employment Strategy, Kristy Masella said it was about celebrating the success of working together.

“We are so proud. It is not only an achievement for us as an organisation, but a reflection of the partnership approach that has gotten us to this point. Working in collaboration with community and employers to create career opportunities. That’s at the heart of what we do at AES, and as a result we are deadly, together,” Kristy said.

The AES works with more than 550 employers across Australia each year to create career opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. 16 regionally based offices across four states and territories, work locally to support more than 1,150 career opportunities each year. Part of the approach is working with the employer to support cultural competency and understanding, and helping individuals develop skills and capabilities they need for career success.

To view the A media release in full click here.

test 'aes 25 years we deadly together' within white circle, background radiating black lines with red, yellow, blue, orange, green fill between

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.

International CHD Awareness Month

February is International Child Heart Disease Awareness Month….. childhood heart disease (CHD) is a global issue!

CHD covers a wide range of conditions, including acquired heart conditions such as Rheumatic Fever and Kawasaki’s Disease, not just congenital heart disease.

For further information you can access the HeartKids website here.

baby with nasal tube, long scar down chest, bead string with name Leon

Leon aged 6 months. Image source: Heart Kids website.