NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Huge prizes up for grabs in the HIV Awareness Week Trivia ON THIS WEEK!

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

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

Huge prizes up for grabs in the HIV Awareness Week Trivia ON THIS WEEK!

A friendly reminder the fourth annual HIV Awareness Week Virtual Trivia is on this week, Thursday 7 December with some great prizes up for grabs!

Promised loads of laughs, participants will also be in the running for a significant amount of funding towards sexual health resources for ACCHOs.

Prizes:

  • First place: $3,000 towards sexual health resources for your ACCHO.
  • Second place: $2,000 towards sexual health resources for your ACCHO.
  • Third Place: $3,000 towards sexual health resources for your ACCHO.

Sexual Health costumes are highly encouraged, with additional prizes for Best Dressed, Best Props and People’s Choice.

HIV Awareness Week provides an opportunity to engage our communities, as well as HIV researchers, doctors, health workers and policy-makers.

There are two types of registrations available:

  • Individual registration and
  • Group registration: only one member will need to register per team. During the quiz your group members will need to be in front of the one screen so we can see you all.

Once you have registered, the NACCHO team will confirm your participation and will send you out a Zoom link with instructions. For all questions and queries please contact the communicable diseases team at NACCHO: bbvsti@naccho.org.au

Times:

  • 12 pm – WA
  • 1.30 pm – NT
  • 2 pm – QLD
  • 2.30 pm – SA
  • 3 pm – NSW, ACT, TAS, VIC

 To register go here.

NACCHO would like to acknowledge Prof. James Ward, University of Queensland’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and SAHMRI, creators of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week. HIV Awareness Week will continue to build on the successes of the previous programs for years to come. For more information on the original program and the history, please visit: https://www.atsihiv.org.au/

COVID-19 is spreading in the NT: ACCHOs say the Top End is unprepared

The Top End’s peak Aboriginal health body has warned that the region is dangerously under-prepared for the wave of COVID-19 infections currently sweeping the continent. The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) says low vaccination rates, little public messaging, and a lapse in communication between hospitals and health organisations leave the population vulnerable to the latest outbreak.

Dr John Paterson, AMSANT chief executive says a new communication drive spruiking vaccinations for the latest variants is critical.

“There isn’t as much of that public messaging … that had previously been done in the recent pandemic that we experienced,” he told NITV.

“Our vaccination numbers are well down … There are new vaccines that are out now that will [reduce] hospitalisation and severe infections for those most at risk.”

“We need to ensure that [messaging] is consistent, and it’s done with appropriate language.

“English might be a third or fourth part of their language, so we need to ensure that that messaging is done in language.”

Read the full National Indigenous Times article here.

Image source: NITV.

Lowitja Institute at COP28

Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, Lowitja Institute CEO spoke at COP28 about how the deficit discourse impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and how tackling climate change requires eliminating the deficit discourse. According to the Lowitja Institute, deficit discourse refers to disempowering patterns of thought, language and practice that represents people in terms of deficiencies and failures.

The Lowitja Institute shared on Facebook: Since colonisation, this disempowering discourse has placed responsibility for problems onto Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, instead of the larger socio-economic structures in which they are embedded. When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ strengths are recognised and communities are empowered to lead their own action, this is proven to be effective. Ultimately, empowering communities means knowing one’s power and sharing it. This is vital for an effective response to climate change.

At COP28, Lowitja Institute leaders advocated for urgent actions in response to the health issues caused by the changing and changed climate through the establishment of a Coalition on Climate and Health and for the full implementation of the UNDRIP.

Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, Lowitja Institute CEO speaking at COP28.

New Medicare Urgent Care Clinic opens in Alice Springs

The Alice Springs new Medicare Urgent Care Clinic, operated by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), started seeing patients with urgent needs as of Monday 4 December. The clinic will be open seven days a week and offers bulk billed, walk-in care. A government statement said almost half of presentations to the emergency department in Alice Springs during 2021-22 were for non-urgent or semi-urgent care. The centre aims to ease pressure on local emergency departments and provide convenient medical care for the community.

“I’ve heard from people across Alice Springs how difficult it can be to access medical care when they have a pressing health concern, but they can’t get in to see a GP,” Marion Scrymgour, member for Lingiari said.

“Most people in this situation end up in the emergency department, or, worse, they simply go without care.”

Malarndirri McCarthy, NT Senator and proud Yanyuwa woman said the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Medicare UCC will make health care in the Red Centre more accessible and affordable.

“Congress has a proud history of providing exceptional medical care and it’s exciting to see this new bulk-billed service open to the people of Alice Springs,” Ms McCarthy said.

“Patients can walk in without an appointment, see a doctor or nurse and access imaging and pathology services.

“The clinic will ease pressure on the Alice Springs Hospital, so that their hard-working doctors and nurses can focus on higher priority emergencies.”

Read the National Indigenous Times article here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

WA doctors call for urgent climate change action, stressing health risk

Doctors in WA’s north say the state government needs to strengthen its climate policies or risk a health disaster in the Kimberley. The calls come after the WA government introduced its Climate Change Bill into parliament last week, the proposed legislation receiving criticism regarding a non-existent 2030 target and a failure to address resource sector emissions. Dr Penny Wilson, Broome GP obstetrician was one of 15 Kimberly health professionals and experts who gathered in Broome to protest for strong action on Friday.

“More than just being about weather and weather events, it is about the health of our communities,” Dr Wilson said.

“The Kimberley is where we see these impacts in our patients as we live and work here.”

The total number of days with maximum temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius in Broome was projected to increase from 56 to 87 by 2030. Dr Wilson said the key challenges facing the Kimberley’s health system – namely access to healthcare and a higher burden of chronic disease – would be worsened by a changing climate.

“People have chronic kidney disease, worsening heart disease, worsening respiratory disease,” she said.

“We also see people presenting with direct heat injuries like heat stroke and heat stress.”

The WA government acknowledged urgent action was needed to reduce emissions, but defended its current approach.

Read the full ABC News article here.

The once-in-a-century Kimberley floods earlier this year cut off communities and displaced hundreds of people. (ABC News: Andrew Seabourne).

“I hope other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel comfortable seeking help when they see people like me”

Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) is hosting a first of its kind forum in Townsville, aiming to bridge health gaps in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Held between Monday 4 December and Wednesday 6 December, the focus of the forum is to champion cultural and organisational leadership for positive change in communities. Caleb, a proud Gangalidda man, shared his journey from growing up in Mount Isa to becoming a participant in the QAS Indigenous Paramedic Program. Now also a member of QAS’ leadership committee, Caleb emphasised the important role it had in fostering representation and engagement within the health system.

“Being able to relate to patients on a cultural level, and them being able to relate to me, has made a real difference in my ability to best care for the people in my community if they get sick,” he said.

“I’m proud to be giving back and representing my people, and I hope other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel comfortable seeking help when they see people like me.”

Read the full article here.

Image source: Queensland Ambulance Service.

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: ACCHO-led outreach services as VIC decriminalises public drunkenness

The image in the feature tile is from Wathaurong Aboriginal cooperative.

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

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

ACCHO-led outreach services as VIC decriminalises public drunkenness

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians will have access to dedicated services throughout the state as Victoria decriminalises public drunkenness. There will be eight dedicated regional services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians which will provide help and support for intoxicated people, along with one First Nations sobering centre in St Kilda.

The eight regional areas are:

  • Geelong – Wathaurong Aboriginal cooperative
  • Ballarat – Ballarat and District Aboriginal cooperative
  • Bendigo – Bendigo and District Aboriginal cooperative
  • Shepparton – Rumbalara Aboriginal cooperative
  • Mildura – Ngwala Willumbong Aboriginal corporation, supported by Mildura Base hospital
  • Swan Hill – Ngwala Willumbong Aboriginal corporation
  • Latrobe – Ngwala Willumbong Aboriginal corporation
  • East Gippsland – Ngwala Willumbong Aboriginal corporation

Ngwala Willumbong Aboriginal Corporation will run four of the regional services along with their pre-existing facility in St Kilda, which will become a six-bed sobering centre from today, Tuesday 7 November.

Ngwala CEO De-Joel Upkett said the programs they’ve previously operated would benefit now that clinical responses are included in services they can deliver.

“We always have met with community, but to be able to deliver a clinical response with a holistic approach; you know it’s an opportunity to bring community back into our services,” he said.

Read the full National Indigenous Times article here.

Cohealth’s outreach van. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

ADHD inquiry calls for national prescribing rules

An inquiry into attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has called for a national consistency in diagnosis and treatment to improve the lives of those with the condition. The Senate inquiry found cost, location, cultural and gendered barriers to access along with different prescribing rules in every state and territory are seeing some wait years for help. Senators heard these barriers to access have significant flow on effects seeing those with ADHD facing shorter life expectancy and higher rates of incarceration, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and suicide.

Director of policy at NACCHO, Nadine Blair told senators the issue particularly affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“One of the things that we know is that there are a lot of barriers for people, particularly for those living in border communities,” she said.

“If you are receiving your script from a doctor in one jurisdiction but you’re trying to fill it in another jurisdiction, that is problematic, you can’t always fill a script from another jurisdiction.”

Read the full ABC News article here.

If you are feeling stressed, not sleeping well or have increased anxiety and depression you can seek immediate help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from:

Image source: ABC News.

“It’s got to be Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands, every day” – Danila Dilba on Prison Health care.

Danila Dilba Health Service provides a program to support young people detained at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. A team of Aboriginal youth workers provides therapeutic group work and one-on-one support, as well as a weekly program that includes after-hours and some weekend activities such as sport and recreation.

At the 2023 NACCHO Members’ Conference session Prison Health Care, Tiana McCoy, Executive Manager, Clinical Services at Danila Dilba Health Service spoke about the successes and opportunities for improvements in providing wrap around support for youth detainees, following the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

Speaking about the Prison Health Care program, Ms McCoy stated, “Nobody else in the country had done this, so we were the first to step up and say, ‘we will be the leaders for making this the norm’ – because we are the only ones, it’s got to be Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands, every day.”

Having doctors and nurses providing these services in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre makes it accessible to young people who may not ordinarily seek out health and medical support. The question Ms McCoy is asking is, ‘How do we give them the tools to be able to walk into any of our clinics and know that they can see a staff member?” and get support.

She explained that many young people at the youth detention centre come from remote communities, and the health service loses sight of them once they return to Community.

Since the Royal Commission in 2017, there have been improvements in the youth detention space including, increased engagement with the health system, medication compliance, and vaccination rates. Ms McCoy said that this all indicates ‘that we’ve actually made a change and it’s been a positive change, and does that measure success? Yes. Definitely.”

Other opportunities for improvement outlined in the session include:

  • Medicare billing.
  • The current Don Dale facility is not fit for purpose.
  • Raising the age of criminal responsibility.
  • Increased funding for therapeutic care/diversional therapy.
  • Staffing levels.

Learn more here.

Elder Care Support Training in Whyalla

NACCHO attended the South Australian West Coast ACCHO Network’s (SAWCAN) Elder Care Support Training in Whyalla. The Elder Care Support program is designed to deliver Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care support, connection, and coordination. SAWCAN staff, Shellander and Rianna attended NACCHO’s ‘train the trainer’ Elder Care Support session earlier this year and rolled the training out to their members last week.

Stakeholders in the Aged Care space attended the three-day training which allowed for ACCHOs to speak directly with key stakeholders on issues affecting our Elders. It was a great opportunity to bring the SAWCAN Elder Care Support staff together to discuss the future of the program and how to best support our Elders.

Learn more about Elder Care Support here.

Elder Care Support Training in Whyalla.

SWAMS Djin Djin Mart providing social and support services.

South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) has opened the doors to a new home for those wanting a yarn or needing support. Djin Djin Mart, or good group support in Noongar, was officially opened last month as the new home of the organisation’s social men’s and women’s groups, and a disability peer support group.

SWAMS chief executive Lesley Nelson said it was exciting to see the building come to fruition,” I believe the staff that are involved in this space out here, they’re certainly going to ensure it is a safe space, it is a cultural space and it’s a space that will welcome everyone that wants to come in.”

Djin Djin Mart will also offer expanded mental health, alcohol and other drug support through the Mental Health Commission-sponsored Moorditj Mia program, which will include weekly relaxion, arts and crafts and music sessions.

Mental health, alcohol and other drug manager Justin Brown said it was fantastic to see the facility opened,” it is about bringing people and community together so we can come and enjoy each other’s company.”

Read more here.

Justin Brown, Tessa Grimshaw, Lesley Nelson and Ernie Hill. 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: Racism taking a toll during Voice campaign

photo of Aboriginal child's face with white dot body paint & ATSI woman in background with Aboriginal flag t-shirt

The image in the feature tile is from an article Voice campaigns urged to keep mental health top of mind published in the National Indigenous Times on 6 September 2023. Photo: Mick Tsikas, AAP.

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

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

Racism taking a toll during VTP campaign

Audrina Pinney is only 12 years old but that’s old enough for the young Gamilaroi child to have experienced racism. Audrina believes that if the referendum gets up she and her friend, who she says both get bullied a lot, will have a lot more confidence. Too young to vote, but too old to ignore what’s happening around her, Audrina has taken an active role in campaigning for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Audrina’s mother Melita Berthaly said. “This is our future here. If we’re not backing this, what are we backing?” she said. “We want to stop the pain, and the hardship of fighting just to be us. For me, this is all about our younger generations, and supporting them for a brighter better future, sitting at the table with the big guys and having our voices heard.”

For many Aboriginal people in the NSW Riverina, the vote for a Voice to Parliament feels like the most important event of their lives. Aboriginal crisis support service 13YARN say the referendum campaign has been a challenging experience for Indigenous Australians. National program manager Marjorie Anderson said people should reach out for support if they were struggling. 13YARN is seeing a rise of in calls related to abuse, trauma and racism,” she said. The increased focus in the media on Aboriginal issues due to the referendum and the rise in racism on social media is having an impact on the Aboriginal community.”

Eddie Whyman is a proud Wiradjuri man living in Wagga who has recently taken a more public role in activism. He said he’d seen more racism in the last few months than he did growing up. “On social media, we’ve seen the true colours of Australia shine through,” he said. “It’s impacted me mentally, and personally … it’s impacted me significantly.” Mr Whyman said misinformation was leading directly to these impacts. “I’ve always heard, and it’s been more in your face, is that Aboriginal people get everything as it is – free house, free car,” he said. “I’ve had to work for what I’ve got … our local Aboriginal medical and dental provides, but we still have to pay a fee when we get referrals. I’m still waiting for my free house.”

To view the Narromine News and Trangie Advocate article Aboriginal Australians are suffering from racism and misinformation in full click here.

Audrina Pinney & her mum Melita Berthaly speaking on the VTP

Audrina Pinney and her mother Melita Berthaly. Image source: Narromine News and Trangir Advocate.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for kids

Content warning: This article contains reference to suicide. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.

A Kimberley community leader says young people and their families are still struggling to access basic mental health support despite suicide being the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed suicide accounted for 27% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children last year. The causes of death report revealed that more than a third of those children were aged between 15 and 17. The high rates of child suicide in the Kimberley have been the subject of numerous coronial inquests, as well as other inquiries and reviews, and the WA government has faced criticism for failing to make good on its highly-publicised promises. Coroners have also expressed frustration that their recommendations have received little to no follow-up at state and national levels.

Nyamba Buru Yawuru CEO Taliah Payne said people in the Kimberley had been in desperate need of help for too long. “When you’re sitting across the dinner table and you’ve got a nephew in a neck brace because he survived his attempt and you’re trying to eat your roast dinner, it’s in your face,” she said. “They’re doing it so violently, which means to me that they’re so desperate, and no-one’s listening and no-one’s seeing the person behind that pain.”

The Broome-based Yawuru, Nimanburru and Djugun woman said youth suicide and mental health issues had been present in her life since her nine-year-old cousin died by suicide when she was 11 years old. “We’ve lost lots of family members to that … it’s in your face, really,” Ms Payne said. “We know that we shouldn’t be seeing this … it’s an ongoing support system that needs to happen. If we have traumatised children, we’re going to have traumatised adults — that is plain and simple.” Ms Payne said young people in the Kimberley continued to struggle to access mental health support and that many were forced to travel as far as Perth for help.

To view the ABC News article Calls for support as suicide revealed as leading cause of death for Indigenous children in full click here.

simple white cross on fresh grave

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Indigenous children and advocates in WA say the situation has been desperate for years. Photo: Joshua Spong, ABC Kimberley.

If this article brought up anything for you or someone you love, please reach out to, call or visit the online resources listed below for support:

13YARN – 13 92 76, 13yarn.org.au

Lifeline – 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, beyondblue.org.au/forums

MensLine – 1300 789 978

Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

Mental health app for NT mob launched

The Menzies School of Health Research on Tuesday this week (9 October 2023) launched an online resource which blends evidence-based treatment with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander world views. The Digital Stay Strong Plan, which can be accessed via an app or through its website, is an interactive document that prompts the user to fill out a four-step mental health care plan.

Stay Strong lead cultural advisor Patj Patj Janama Robert Mills said while it was designed for Aboriginal people, all Territorians could use the free resource. Mr Mills said about two decades of research and consultation had gone into the plan, which had previously been used across the country for years in more formal settings. “The beauty of this digital program is once you download it, you don’t need Wi-Fi (to use it),” he said. “You can actually go through the four-step care plan on your phone … then you’ve literally got a helping hand on your phone at any time.”

Mr Mills said it marked a huge change for access to mental health support and offered something his generation never had. “I was born in the 60s … there was no discussion on mental health at all,” he said. “We want to break down all the stigmas, mental health is not a dirty word.”

To view the NT News article Menzies launch Digital Stay Strong Plan mental health app in full click here.

mobile phone screen with AIMhi Stay Strong app

The Digital Stay Strong Plan can be accessed on the AIMhi app. Photo: Annabel Bowles. Image source: NT News.

25 years of optometry services within VAHS

This month, the Australian College of Optometry (ACO) is celebrating 25 years of optometry services within the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) in Melbourne. This unique clinic aims to remove barriers to eye care experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in mainstream services which continues to systematically fail Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and drive health disparities. As an ACCHO, VAHS supports the social, emotional, physical, and cultural wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is coincidentally celebrating 50 years of operation this year. Eye health is among the many healthcare services available to community members through VAHS, including GP care, dental, physiotherapy and family counselling.

The ACO’s optometry clinic delivers culturally safe care with sessions running every Tuesday and Friday. Nilmini John, ACO Manager of Aboriginal Services, leads the team of four optometrists who service the embedded clinic. In this role, Nilmini works closely with the VAHS team to continually ensure community eye health needs are met.  Collaboration between health care providers and ACCHOs has proven instrumental for meaningful impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes, and the ACO is appreciative of the opportunity to work within community-controlled spaces, such as VAHS, to deliver effective care.

Gavin Brown, VAHS CEO is passionate about the growth in eye care services at available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “VAHS is a recognised leader in the eye health space, and we also acknowledge the incredible work that ACCHOs are doing across Australia. There is a strong synergy by all those involved in improving the eye health in our communities as we continue to be committed to enabling the gift of sight.”

To view the Optometry Australia article ACO celebrates 25 years of optometry service at VAHS in full click here.

Nilmini John, optometrist and ACO Manager of Aboriginal Services, examines patient at VAHS

Nilmini John, optometrist and ACO Manager of Aboriginal Services, examines patient at VAHS. Image source: Optometry Australia.

Lived experience sparks midwife to help others

Being a mother to six boys, with one of her children born prematurely at 29 weeks, prompted Noongar woman Valerie Ah Chee to become a midwife at the age of 45. Inspired to improve perinatal and infant mortality outcomes within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, Ms Ah Chee is now using her midwifery experience as a Mater Researcher within the Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence.

“According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia’s Mothers and Babies report in 2020, Indigenous stillbirth is at 11.9% while non-Indigenous stillbirth sits at 7.4%,” she said. “To recognise why that is and to try to develop and adjust programs to improve prevention strategies and outcomes is vital.”

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (October 2023) is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of maternal health education and support among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Focusing on Aboriginal maternal and infant health, Ms Ah Chee is working with her team to embed cultural safety in the pregnancy and birth space, to improve the health of Aboriginal women and their babies from a cultural perspective.

The Indigenous team at the Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence worked with the Indigenous community to adapt core elements of the successful national initiative Safer Baby Bundle (SBB), embedding Indigenous people’s own way of knowing, being and doing. Expanding on this initiative, Ms Ah Chee is now developing resources to educate and support non-Indigenous healthcare professionals who work with Indigenous women in this space.

You can find more information about the Safer Baby program here.

To view the Mater News article Lived experience sparks Indigenous Mater Research midwife to help others in full click here.

midwife Valerie Ah Chee on verandah of old red brick hospital

Midwife Valerie Ah Chee. Image source: Mater News.

Taking care of mental health during the referendum

The Voice referendum is having a negative impact on the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The federal government set aside an extra $10m to boost support services, and research the consequences of the vote. The research side is being managed by the National Centre for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Research (NCATSIWR) at Australian National University (ANU).

Yesterday, Wednesday 10 October 2023, ABC Listen Life Matters host Hilary Harper spoke with:

  • Ms Cornforth of the Wuthathi peoples of the far north-east cape of Qld with family roots also in Zenadth Kes (the Torres Strait Islands), who is Head of the NCATSIWR, and
  • Tanja Hirvonen, a proud Jaru and Bunaba woman (Kimberley, WA), who is a clinical psychologist and Board director of the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association

about what’s been learned so far, and how can we support those having a difficult time during the referendum, and afterwards.

You can listen to yesterday’s ABC Listen Life Matters episode Taking care of mental health during the Voice referendum in full here.

NCATSIWR fact sheets about the Voice can be accessed here.

If you are an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in crisis you can call 13YARN on 13 96 76.

ATSI person's hand casting vote in VTP referendum in remote WA community

An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person casting their vote on the Voice to Parliament Referendum in a remote WA community. Photo: Rosanne Maloney, ABC News.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Purple House shows what ‘yes’ could achieve

Feature tile: Aboriginal art on side of tin shed & sign Yes for Hope; text 'Purple House provides model of what 'YES' could achieve'

The image in the feature tile is from the article Purple House provides model of what ‘yes’ could achieve published in the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader on 7 October 2023.

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

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

Purple House shows what ‘yes’ could achieve

Within two decades, central Australia has gone from having the worst survival rates on dialysis to the best. In large part the turnaround is due to Purple House, an AACCHO based in Alice Springs. CEO Sarah Brown says Purple House is an example of how Aboriginal people and communities can come up with creative and innovative solutions to issues. Ms Brown believes it shows how an Indigenous voice to parliament could work if voters support the referendum on October 14.

In the late 1990s, Pintupi people from the Western Desert of central Australia were forced to leave their country and families to seek treatment for end-stage renal failure in hospital in Alice Springs or Darwin. 1,000 kms from home and family, they suffered great loneliness and hardship, and weren’t around to pass on cultural knowledge in their communities. In 2000, Papunya Tula artists from Walungurru and Kiwirrkurra collaborated on four stunning paintings which were auctioned along with other works at the Art Gallery of NSW, raising over $1m, which was used to start the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation. Now called Purple House, it practises a model of care based around family, country and compassion.

Indigenous people have higher rates of diabetes as well as a higher rate of hospitalisation and death from diabetes than non-Indigenous Australians. Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases were the fifth-leading cause of death for Indigenous Australians in 2015–2019. In that period, 7.3% of Indigenous Australian deaths were due to diabetes, with the rates in remote Australia more than three times higher than non-remote areas. “It’s a little bit complex but the simple answer is that it’s about dispossession, powerlessness, and poverty,” Ms Brown said. “It’s about access to healthy food and clean water. “It’s about access to education, with housing. “It’s about being able to access culturally appropriate services in the place that keeps you strong, with your family around you, so a lot of things that other Australians absolutely take for granted but that Aboriginal people in remote communities still don’t have access to.”

To view the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader article Purple House provides model of what ‘yes’ could achieve in full click here.

The Purple Truck, a self-contained dialysis unit on wheels, in Central Australia

The Purple Truck is a self-contained dialysis unit on wheels which gives patients with end-stage renal failure the chance to return to home for family, cultural or sorry business. Image source: Purple House website.

Why mob have a lower life expectancy

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a significantly lower life expectancy than non-Indigenous Australians. The gap in life expectancy is on average 7.8 years for females and 8.6 years for males, though it wasn’t so long ago that it was 20+ years. ‘Why’ is a big question. Dr Zac Turner, who presents a weekly column Ask Doctor Zac says the answer to this question lies within conversations about health, science, economics and government.

Dr Turner believes to work out what can be done requires us to ask the right questions. Having grown up in literally out ‘the Back-o-Bourke’ and several other small rural towns, Dr Turner say it was shocking to him that his Indigenous Australian friends would live on average 20 years less at that time. He said the life expectancy gap is a staggeringly high disparity between populations in one country, especially a developed and prosperous nation. Dr Turner explained that while resources have been given to Indigenous Australians, the non-Indigenous understanding of what needs to happen to create change has been left without proper consultation. In addition, many of the funding routes and opportunities that have been allocated by one government have then been swiftly changed by the next.

Life expectancy is measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and covers not only health, but also social factors such as education, employment, housing and income. These social factors (the social determinants of health) are responsible for at least a third of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. From the outset, Indigenous Australians have higher rates of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory illnesses. Indigenous Australians also often experience socio-economic disadvantage, which is closely linked to health outcomes as it limits access to healthcare, nutritious food, and safe housing. Dr Turner believes the continuous feedback from a body such as the Voice may just be the assistance needed to closing this gap.

To view the news.com.au article ‘Why do Indigenous people have a shorter life expectancy?’ in full click here.

road sign with 179kms to Pindar, 512 Murchison Settlement etc beside dirt road Australian outback

Photo: Tamati Smith, Getty Images. Image source: news.com.au

On-line Self-Care Yarning Circles

Two senior Aboriginal psychologists from the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association will be hosting a Self-Care Yarning Circle tomorrow Tuesday 10 October 2023.

It is an opportunity for ACCHO and NACCHO Managers to discuss their challenges and get insights into ways to look after their own personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of their team.

Spaces are capped at 25 so sign up now!

  • TOMORROW Tuesday 10 October – to register click here
  • Wednesday 18 October – to register click here

There will also be two Self-Care Yarning Circles available for anyone working at an ACCHO or NACCHO on:

  • Thursday 12 October 2023 – details available here
  • Monday 23 October 2023 – details available here

NACCHO tile 'on-line self-care Yarning Circles for Managers'

Limb loss through amputation a ‘hidden’ disability

The oldest known example of a successful surgical amputation dates back to 31,000 years ago. But in day-to-day life, amputation is not an experience that receives a lot of attention. National Amputee Awareness Week (4–11 October) aims to spotlight the experiences of people who’ve lost a limb. Darrel Sparke is President of Amputees NSW,says the reality for many people who undergo an amputation is a confronting experience, “it’s a hidden community, because amputation makes you want to retreat from society, because now you’re a spectacle. Nobody really gets prepared, there’s nothing else you do in life that gets you prepared for losing a part of your body, in such a visible and highly impacted way.”

There are number of reasons people undergo an amputation, including trauma like a car accident or workplace injury, or cancer and other diseases.  One of the leading causes is diabetes – and it’s a condition that’s on the rise. Australia has the second highest rate of diabetes-related amputations in the OECD. In any given year, about 5,100 Australians with diabetes will undergo an amputation as a result of complications from the condition. However it’s an issue that continues to disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. According to Diabetes Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost three times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes.

The serious consequences of this disparity were recently spotlighted by Tanya Hosch, Executive General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy at the Australian Football League. In August Ms Hosch, who is of Torres Strait Islander descent, stood to speak at the launch of the campaign for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, where she shared a deeply personal and real story, “a little over two weeks ago, I had my lower right leg amputated. I have type 2 diabetes and I contracted a related disease, that I have battled for 3 years and across six surgeries, trying to avoid the loss of my limb. I’m not without privilege, and access to services, but still the service design let me down.” In her speech, Ms Hosch advocated for Indigenous-controlled healthcare to improve outcomes.

You can listen to, or read a transcript of, the SBS News Headlines on Health podcast episode Australia’s ‘hidden’ disability – and one of the world’s oldest medical practices in full here.
banner of SBS News podcast 'hidden' disability & ATSI amputee Tanya Hosch

SBS News podcast banner. Australian for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition Tanya Hosch, who lost a leg to diabetes. Image source: The Australian.

Never too late for a career change

These days Jennie Waters, 66, runs the only Indigenous disability service provider in SW Queensland – but the tale started long before that. A proud Kamilaroi woman, Ms Waters grew up in St George, one of six children born into a bicultural family, “smack bang in the middle of the assimilation period.” She says, that nevertheless, she had a wonderful childhood, loving parents and a wonderful education. She married young and had two children in quick succession. Ms Waters knew she wanted to continue to study, but suddenly that was not an option.

As the kids were growing up Ms Waters was finally in a position in her life to contemplate further study. She enrolled in a Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology) at the University of Southern Queensland as a mature age student she was 35 and graduated in 1996. While studying, Ms Waters worked at the local TAFE college as an Indigenous support officer. After graduating, I was offered a role as the southwest Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander co-ordinator for Queensland Health.

It was Ms Waters’ daughter who recognised the need for a specialised disability service in our region and eventually Ms Waters decided to start her own business. Indigicare Connect has been running for eight years now and it’s the only Indigenous disability service provider in SW Queensland. Indigicare Connect is 100% Indigenous owned and 70% of staff are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The above is an extract from the article Never too late to follow your dreams’: Jennie Waters on her late career change published in the Cairns Post on 7 October 2023.

66 year old Jennie Water St George Managing Director Indigicare Connect, in work uniform standing by river

Jennie Waters. Image source: Cairns Post.

Rural placements offer full scope of practice

Rural health care placements offer a range of students a broader scope of practice in their first years after graduation, according to a recent narrative review published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The review, undertaken by members of seven Australian universities with departments of rural health, explored the efficacy of their programs, as well as the overall benefits of rural placements for students and communities. Ms Sandra Walsh, a Research Assistant with the University of SA Department of Rural Health, was the lead author, “The biggest challenge for rural health right now, and into the future, is growing and sustaining a rural health workforce. Rural placements are one part of that puzzle. We know we can change the way people perceive rural health through rural placement.”

The review found that successful rural placements changed perceptions about rural practice, leading to more students deciding to work rurally. The main reason for the success of rural placements was the ability for students to work at the top of their scope of practice, Ms Walsh said. “The feedback from students is that they get to do and see so much more on a rural placement,” she said. The review found several other factors leading to students who completed rural placements staying in rural work, including a more collaborative working environment. “In country areas where you don’t have a huge team of specialists, people often work in a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary way,” Ms Walsh said.

Rural placements also offer students a unique opportunity to work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care. “Students valued the opportunity to learn about First Nations culture and gained a better understanding of their health needs,” she said. “Working in partnership with local Aboriginal health organisations to provide a placement was good for the organisations, good for the people and good for the students.” The review also identified that one of the consistent elements of a successful student placement was quality supervision. “If a supervisor loves rural practice, they give the student the passion for rural health,” Ms Walsh said.

To view the AMPCo. InSight+ article Full scope of practice offered through rural placements in full click here.

Dr Marian Dover, stethoscope around neck, Australian bush in background

Dr Marian Dover is a rural GP in training who ‘feels passionately’ about supporting the health of regional communities. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

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: Many ongoing negative impacts of colonialism

feature tile: statue of Queen Victoria with Aboriginal flag; text: ' Intergenerational impact of Stolen Generations, a consequence of colonialism'

The image in the feature tile appeared in Steve Larkin’s article Saying colonisation had no negative effects on First Nations people is dangerous denialism published in The Guardian on 22 September 2023.

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

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

Many ongoing negative impacts from colonisation

Fiona Stanley, Colleen Hayward and Steve Zubrick have recently written about the intergenerational impact of stolen generations, saying “We would like to contest very strongly the comments by Jacynta Nampijinpa Price that there are no longer any negative impacts from Australia being colonised. One of the most powerful and damaging interventions which was part of colonisation, was the forced removal of children and families from their parents and country. It has been generally accepted for many years that forced separation and forced removals had devastating consequences in terms of social and culturation dislocation, which have impacted on the health and wellbeing of subsequent generations. This was clearly shown in the Bringing them Home Report, (published by the Human Rights Commission in 1997) with story after story of people then recalling the trauma of separation. It is thought that since colonisation, the official and government sanctioned removals, since late 1800s to 1970, affected over 100,000 children. Separation took three forms: putting children into government institutions, fostering children with white families, and white families adopting them. The stories in the Bringing them Home Report were full of the trauma, abuse and cultural genocide of these children and their children.”

“We also were involved in the only large quantitative study of the Stolen Generations, the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS) done out of the now Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) which was published in several reports and papers in 2005/6. The study was a state-wide survey of one in six Aboriginal families to ascertain their social, emotional, health, educational and wellbeing status to enable the best preventive strategies to be implemented to address the high rates of poor outcomes in these families. Using many Aboriginal interviewers and researchers, the team contacted over 2,000 families with over 6,000 children aged between 0-18 years, across all areas of WA (metropolitan, rural and remote). A very high response rate reflected the trust that these families had in our team to listen to their stories of their lives. Carers and schoolteachers were also interviewed as well as the children who were old enough.”

“We would like to present two major aspects of the findings which address Price’s assertions. One relates to the extent of removals and the second to the inter-generational impact. Between 40-60% of families reported being forcibly removed from family or homeland across all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) regions. It varied from nearly 60% in Broome to 32% in Geraldton, with rates higher than Geraldton for all other regions. We felt this truly could be described as “Stolen Generations” although many outspoken government leaders of the day disputed this description.”

“We were expecting and found clear evidence of the negative impact of a history of being stolen on subsequent generations. Those with a history of removals were nearly twice as likely to be arrested or charged with an offence, 1.6 times more likely to abuse alcohol and have house-hold problems from that, more than twice as likely to indulge in harmful gambling and reported far fewer social supports, as those who did not report that history. Children whose parents had been forcibly removed also were two and a half times more likely to be at high risk of clinically significant social and emotional behavioural difficulties, than those who did not have that history. The impact was higher in those families whose mothers/grandmothers had been removed than in those whose mothers/grandmothers were not removed.

“Whilst there are numerous studies in most colonised Indigenous populations globally, this is the most comprehensive quantitative and trustworthy study to prove these intergenerational impacts. The study concluded that “the nature of the recent debate about the actual number of Aboriginal families experiencing forced separations has displaced the reality that these experiences occurred at all and the extent to which these past experiences continue to impact on the lives of the current generations of Aboriginal families. A more open-hearted acknowledgement of the extent of the suffering and disadvantage which past policies of separation inflicted on Aboriginal Australians, would in our view, significantly further the process through which these concerns are eventually resolved”.

It is mischievous and hurtful to deny the impacts of colonisation on today’s population.  If non-Indigenous people had endured the genocide and marginalisation which has been forced on our First Nations, we would also be showing similar effects of historical colonisation.

You can view a transcript of the above statement here and a short Healing Foundation animation below explaining intergenerational trauma.

Suicide prevention recommendations ignored

A new report has found that coroners around Australia are frustrated their potentially life-saving recommendations to prevent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide are being routinely ignored by the government. The research by the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) examined state and territory coroner’s courts’ responsiveness to First Nations families who had lost a loved one to suicide.

It involved interviews with coroners, their staff and Indigenous people with lived experience, who called for greater accountability on the implementation of recommendations from inquests and other inquiries. The report also found the current coronial system was alienating for many First Nations people and coroners wanted more cultural training to improve the experience for Indigenous people going through it.

Vicki McKenna, manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre with the Black Dog Institute, described the coronial process as “another later of grief” for most Indigenous families. There’s a lot of hurt that comes with that, because families feel like feel like they’re dismissed,” the Yawuru and Bunuba Jarndu woman said. Many lived experience interviewees pointed to systemic issues such as lack of cultural understanding, communication, and financial support. “Because of the language that is used and in the way that these reports are written, it leaves our families still struggling to understand,” Ms McKenna said.

To read the ABC News article Coroners frustrated recommendations on Indigenous suicide ignored by government, report shows in full click here.

Vicki McKenna, manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre holding the Black Dog Institute, co-authored the report

Vicki McKenna, manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre with the Black Dog Institute, co-authored the report. Photo: Daryna Zadvirna, ABC News.

MBS support needed to address foot health disadvantage

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially those living in remote areas, are missing out on crucial care and suffering painful delays in seeing specialist surgeons, according to the Australasian College of Podiatric (ACPS) Surgeons. To address the disadvantage ACPS is calling for better access to the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) to enable them to assist patients suffering acute pain and reduced quality of life.

Podiatric Surgeons are specialist doctors who are trained only to operate on feet and ankles, yet there is currently no Medicare Benefits Scheme item number for podiatric surgery or associated services, including anaesthetics and pathology. The ACPS says there is a large bank of evidence suggesting up to 70% of affected patients have untreated foot pain, which has a debilitating effect on their quality of life.

ACPS President Dr Rob Hermann said untreated foot pain has a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, especially those living outside of capital cities. “Most of us take for granted, the ability to go about our daily lives free of pain and unrestricted,” he said. “But due to the lack of funding and access, that’s just not the case for thousands of patients. Issues concerning foot health can have drastic impacts on quality of life. Along with increased pain for patients and higher risk of complications, delayed care could lead to more costly future treatment and long-term debilitation.” The ACPS said the high cost of healthcare faced by podiatric patients can be prohibitive to low-income and at-risks groups, and the consequences life-altering.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Podiatric surgeons urge Medicare Benefits Scheme support to address Indigenous foot health disadvantage in full click here.

ACPS President Dr Rob Herman

ACPS President Dr Rob Herman. Photo: Adelaide Foot & Ankle. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Older people at forefront of framework

The Indigo 4Ms project was designed to support the development of a new model of healthcare that is sensitive to the needs of older people and stimulates discussion on long-term policy responses to support age-friendly environments. Led by Beechworth Health Service, the initiative was funded by the Federal Government and developed by experts and healthcare professionals who work with older people, as well as community members with experience using health and aged care services.

The scarcity of health prevention activities that specifically target the common age-related difficulties of hearing, seeing, moving and remembering, which have the greatest impact on an older person’s physical and mental capabilities, were the catalyst for developing two tools: one for the older generation to use as a conversational guide with healthcare providers, and a second for healthcare professionals to guide conversations with older people. “These tools will lead to more informed discussions between health services and the communities they serve,” Dr Winterton said. “It will also ensure both sides are speaking the same language. We’re hopeful this will lead to more timely care for older people and support them to access the whole spectrum of healthcare they may need.”

Beechworth Health Service CEO, Dr Mark Ashcroft, said agencies are looking forward to putting the tools into action. “We’re incredibly enthusiastic about the partnership nature of work to come as implementation of the Indigo 4Ms tools are rolled out,” Dr Ashcroft said. Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service is one of 8 partner agencies involved in the project.

To read the La Trobe University article Older People at Forefront of Framework in full click here.

ATSI female Elder in dressing gown with female care support worker

Image source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council (NATSIAACC) website.

Smileyscopes to help reduce injection fear

Letting a child receive an injection can sometimes be difficult and distressing for everyone. And it can be even tougher for staff at the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service who have to make children with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) receive painful injections once a month for five to sometimes 10 years. If the children don’t receive the injections they risk heart failure.

Now visiting GP Dr Ryan Holmes and his colleague Dr Sonia Henry have teamed up to try and make the big needles less painful for the children. They have created a GoFundMe page to raise money for virtual reality headsets called Smileyscopes to help reduce the fear and stress during the monthly injections.

“The injections are big and painful,” Dr Holmes said. “It’s hard to get kids to have a small flu needle at the best of times, let alone tell them you’ve got to come have a humongous injection to your bottom once a month for the next five years. That’s where the Smileyscope can be very helpful. It’s a virtual reality headset and they can be programmed for all sorts of things, so the children could be in space or under the sea. So they have a really good time with it and it makes the whole process a lot easier because the kids are distracted, they’re having fun.”

To view the Harvey-Waroona Report article Visiting doctors raise money for VR headsets for child patients at Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service in full click here.

Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service's outreach clinic van

Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service’s (OVAHS) outreach clinic. Image source: OVAHS website.

Racism and the 2023 Voice referendum

A recent article written by Ian Anderson, Yin Paradies, Marcia Langton, Ray Lovett, and Tom Calma suggest that  the higher levels of racism being experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples during the referendum process itself is partly because the referendum process taps into a deep well of historical racism that originated on the Australian frontier when Indigenous peoples “were violently dispossessed from their lands by the British”.

This history has shaped the 2023 referendum and an increasingly divisive campaign between those advocating a Yes and a No position. Since the referendum was announced, there has been a substantial rise in threats, abuse, vilification, and hate speech against Indigenous peoples, both in person and online. The Australian e-Safety Commission reported in late May, 2023, that there had been more than a 10% rise in the proportion of complaints made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about online cyber abuse, threats, and harassment. Furthermore, the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria has gone from blocking two people a day for racist abuse on social media to blocking about 50 people, citing the national debate on an Indigenous Voice as the reason for this escalation. The Voice referendum process creates a substantial cultural load for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Indigenous peoples are being asked, and expected, to engage in conversations around this topic and, often, are then challenged to defend their position. To address these stressors, the Australian Government has allocated AU$10m to NACCHO to support the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during the campaign.

To mitigate risk to mental health and wellbeing, there needs to be respectful discourse that counters the misinformation that is emerging about the Voice and Indigenous aspirations. This discourse requires all forms of media to commit to controls that prevent racial abuse. Public information campaigns, such as that of the Australian Election Commission, are also needed. It will also require services and supports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during the referendum process and after the outcome is announced.

To view The Lancet article Racism and the 2023 Australian constitutional referendum in full click here.

Voice to Parliament rally with one of crowd holding sign 'Voice to Parliament' written on sign of Aboriginal flag

Photo: William West, AAP via Getty Images. Image source: The Lancet.

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: Lung cancer screening chance to have impact

feature tile: vector image of pink lungs, magnifying glass & black dot on one lung; text 'Lung cancer screening: a significant opportunity to address intractable health problem for mob'

The image in the feature tile is from the Lung Cancer Screening Program Saves Lives webpage of the the Lexington Medical Center Blog published on 30 June 2021.

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

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

Lung Cancer screening: chance to have an impact

The recently announced National Lung Cancer Screening Program (NLCSP) has the potential to deliver significant health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but only if the program is codesigned by the communities who need it most, according to an article published today in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA). The NLCSP, announced by the Australian Government in May 2023 and due to begin in July 2025, will refer individuals aged 50–70 years with a significant history of cigarette smoking for a low dose computed tomography (LDCT) to help identify lung cancer at an early stage where survival rates are improved.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a disproportionate burden of lung cancer in Australia, experiencing double the rates of lung cancer compared with non-Indigenous populations. Lung cancer mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are increasing, in contrast to falling rates in non‐Indigenous Australians. These diverging trends are expected to increase disparities for many years to come and clearly demonstrate the health system is failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The disproportionate lung cancer burden means that an NLCSP could deliver greater benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and reduce the disparity with non‐Indigenous Australians.

Senior article author, Associate Professor Lisa Whop, believes the new program could deliver improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, but a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. “We know existing cancer screening programs have struggled to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and this is reflected in low participation rates, and ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders and organisations and those with lived experience are key architects in designing this program will help address some of these participation barriers” A/Prof Whop said.

You can read the MJA article Lung cancer screening for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: an opportunity to address health inequities in full here and the Insight Plus article Lung Cancer Screening Program must be codesigned with Indigenous Australians in full here. You can also find more information about the NLCSP on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website here.

x-ray of lungs on computer screen & rack of medical files

Image source: Oncology News.

The Deadly Physios: taking action as an ally

Actions speak louder than words in allyship and it’s better to make mistakes than not to try at all. But how do you know when to speak up, when to step up and when to shut up? These questions are explored in Episode 5 of The Deadly Physios podcast where Dr Rachel Toovey and Associate Professor Shawana Andrews talk about listening and learning, the keys to building allyship skills and reciprocal relationships.

Associate Professor Shawana Andrews is a Palawa Trawlwoolway woman with a background in social work and public health. She worked in Aboriginal paediatric health and mental health for 13 years prior to moving into higher education. Shawana has been a Senior Lecturer and Academic Specialist in Indigenous Health for many years and is currently the Director of the Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include Indigenous doctoral pathways, Aboriginal women’s experiences of family violence and cultural revitalisation.

Dr Rachel Toovey is a non-Indigenous woman living and working on Bunurong and Wurundjeri land in Naarm (Melbourne). Rachel is a lecturer in Physiotherapy at the University of Melbourne, and the co-lead of the First Nations, Health Promotion and Equity Teaching Team in the Department of Physiotherapy. She was a member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee from 2012–2020 and is current Vice-President of the Victorian Branch of the APA.

You can listen to Episode 5 of The Deadly Physios podcast – Taking action as an ally – Dr. Shawana Andrews and Rachel Toovey in full click here.

tile for The Deadly Physios podcast; logo Australian Physiotherapy Association; L-R Associate Professor Shawana Andrews & Dr Rachel Toovey.

L-R Associate Professor Shawana Andrews & Dr Rachel Toovey. Image source: Australian Physiotherapy Association.

Moves to control APY Lands TB outbreak

The SA government has bolstered efforts to counter a rising tuberculosis outbreak on the state’s Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. More than 700 people have been screened for the potentially life-threatening disease, which was first declared as an outbreak within the Aṉangu community in March this year. Ongoing community-wide screening has focused on those most at-risk including close contacts and school children.

SA Minister for Health Chris Picton said he has been visiting the APY Lands this week to see the first-hand impact of SA Health’s response. “Tuberculosis is preventable and curable and we are committed to doing all we can to stop this cluster from growing. We are promoting awareness and facilitating quick testing and treatment,” Mr Picton said.

The Aboriginal Public Health team from the Department for Health and Wellbeing, SA TB Services within the Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA Pathology and South Australia Medical Imaging (SAMI) have been working closely with the Nganampa Health Council (NHC) and local Anangu community leaders to coordinate testing, screening, contact tracing and treatment for those who require it.

To read the National Indigenous Times article SA government moves to control tuberculosis outbreak on APY Lands in full click here.

boxes of Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccines given to infants in TB endemic regions of the world

Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccines are given to infants in TB endemic regions of the world. Photo: Mick Tsikas, AAP. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Kununurra: new Elders residential complex

In a significant boost for Aboriginal Elders and seniors in Kununurra, the WA Government this week announced the completion of a 16-unit Aboriginal Elders Residential Complex. The project aims to cultivate cultural connection, reduce isolation, and furnish culturally appropriate housing for First Nations people in the East Kimberley region.

In addition to residential units, the complex includes an indoor community room and an outdoor meeting space. Joining with Kimberley MP Divina D’Anna and community members in officially opening the new facility Housing Minister John Carey spoke to the importance of co-designing and having a genuine partnership with the Aboriginal community. “Co-design and genuine partnership are essential to ensuring that this new housing development is a successful and vibrant place for community members.”

State Member for Kimberley, Divina D’Anna, celebrated the project as a “great outcome for the Kununurra community.” D’Anna highlighted the multi-pronged impact of the project, “These homes will provide new, culturally appropriate accommodation for our Aboriginal elders.” She also remarked that the facility will address health and well-being issues, including overcrowding, among Aboriginal people over 50 in Kununurra.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Carey & D’Anna open new Aboriginal Elders residential complex in Kununurra in full click here.

L-R Kununurra community member Teddy, Housing Minister John Carey & Kemberley MLA Divina D'Anna cutting ribbon at opening of Aboriginal Elders Residential Complex, Kununurra

L-R Kununurra community member Teddy, Housing Minister John Carey and Kimbeley MLA Divina D’Anna at opening of 16-bed unit Aboriginal Elders Residential Complex. Image credit: John Carey. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

TAMS: supporting women’s health decisions

Women’s health, and supporting women to make informed decisions about their health, was the focus of an informative morning tea and lunch hosted by Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service (TAMS) and the Bumbira Arts and Culture Program, last Thursday during Women’s Health Week 2023 (4–8 September).

About 50 to 60 women took part in the TAMS event, held at Tamworth Botanic Gardens, which started with a smoking ceremony performed by Bumbira Arts and Culture’s Kaliela Thornton. Ms Thornton then kicked off the guest speaker program with a discussion about bush medicine, which was followed by sessions from TAMS women’s health nurse, Alicia Bonomo and diabetes educator Sally Endacott.

Tamworth Family Support Service and HealthWISE also took part in the day, which included a meditation session with Charlie Abra, from Tathra Collective and Bumbira. The day was organised by TAMS Aboriginal health practitioner Kathie Williamson.

The above is an extract from the article Women’s Health week supports women to make informed decisions published in The Northern Daily Leader on 8 September 2023.

TAMs Women's Health Week event, 7.9.23 at Tamworth Botanic Gardens, 3 TAMS staff & guest speaker on bush medicine

The TAMS Women’s Health Week event, held on 7 September 2023 at the Tamworth Botanic Gardens, featured guest speakers who discussed bush medicine, women’s health and diabetes. Photo: Peter Hardin. Image source: The Northern Daily Leader.

Medical community has a role to play in Yes vote

Professor Kelvin Kong, a prominent otolaryngology, head and neck surgeon and a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, believes the majority of Australians would vote Yes to the Voice to Parliament if given the right information, and that the medical community has a role to play. Professor Kong is a Worimi man, working on Awabakal and Worimi Country at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital and John Hunter Children’s Hospital.

Earlier this year, Professor Kong was named NAIDOC Person of the Year for his work with Indigenous children at risk of hearing loss due to otitis media. “Unfortunately, Australia still has the worst ear disease rates in the world,” Professor Kong said. “Chronic suppurative otitis media affects from 40% to 85% of children in Indigenous communities. It is disheartening discussing my mob on an international scale because of the dichotomy that exists with ear disease here.

“Every kid endures otitis media at some point in their life. Most get it at around two years of age. In our population, we’ve seen it occur in under-12-months. The big difference is whether you identify the issue early and whether you get access to the help required.”

To view the InSight+ article Medical community has role to play in achieving a Yes vote: Kelvin Kong in full click here.

Professor Kelvin Kong at reception of medical centre

Professor Kelvin Kong. Image source: InSight+.

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: 60-day prescribing gets started

many different bright coloured tablets; text 'Today’s START of 60-day prescribing hailed as a big win for patients'

The image in the feature tile is from an article Medicines Australia Still Seeking Certainty published by AJP.com.au on 18 May 2015.

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

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

60-day prescribing gets started

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has welcomed the start of 60-day prescribing from today as a big win for patients. AMA President Professor Steve Robson said patients are now able to access cheaper medicines and will save money with fewer tips to the pharmacy. “This initiative, which we have supported since it was first recommended by the independent expert Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee five years ago, will provide much-needed financial relief amid a cost-of-living crisis,” Professor Robson said.

Professor Robson said while there had been a concerted scare campaign against the change, common sense had prevailed, and patients would benefit from the decision by most Senators to support it. “This initiative is supported by many doctor, health and consumer groups, including the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Consumers Health Forum, NACCHO, Asthma Australia and Breast Cancer Australia.” Prof Robson also warned that any attempt to reverse the initiative will cause chaos and confusion.

Under the policy change, more than 300 medicines will eventually become available for 60-day prescriptions. A list of medicines now available for 60-day dispensing is available here.

You can view the AMA’s media release 60-day prescribing gets started in full here, NACCHO’s media release here as well as a related article New 60-Day Prescriptions: Impacts on You and Your Wallet by University of Sydney’s Andrew Barlett, Associate Lecturer Pharmacy Practice and Nial Wheate, Associate Professor of the Sydney Pharmacy School here.

hand putting a tablet in a 7-day tablet dispenser

Photo: Laurynas Mereckas – Unsplash; Image source: Mirage News.

QLD’s Human Rights Act breach condemned

More than 180 human rights, Indigenous and legal groups have written an open letter to the QLD government, condemning their decision to allow children to be housed in adult watch houses. The letter argues the state government continues to “impose punitive and carceral solutions onto vulnerable and marginalised children.” The letter says “These changes in law undeniably violate children’s rights and exacerbate the human rights emergency in QLD’s already broken youth justice system that disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Although making up less than 5% of the child population in QLD, First Nations children comprise 62.6% of the youth prison population.”

The outcry has led to QLD Council of Social Service CEO Aimee McVeigh exclaiming dismay that the QLD government is seemingly unable “design and implement policies that treat children humanely, keep all communities safe, and act in accordance with established democratic processes.” Chief executive of Sisters Inside, Debbie Killroy OAM, led a protest at QLD Parliament last Thursday, calling for an immediate repealing of the laws. “Children lives must never be used as political pawns,” she said. The watch house amendments, which were rushed through QLD parliament last Thursday and resulted in a provision to override the state’s Human Rights Act, had no oversight from any independent parliamentary committee. QLD is the only state without an upper house in parliament and therefore does not see the same parliamentary scrutiny over legislation.

The open letter notes that the Palaszczuk government has a history of defiance and contempt of UN protocols. “In 2022, it blocked the UN torture prevention body from visiting places where people are detained. It now wishes to exclude indefinite detention of children by police from human rights oversight. These are the places where human rights safeguards are needed most.” It goes on to say: “The QLD government’s actions are of such dire concern that our colleagues at the First Peoples Disability Network have taken the step of notifying the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT).” “This situation has resulted in the systematic denial and breach of the human rights of children in custody, and failure to hold Australia accountable to our UN commitments. Overwhelmingly it is First Nations children and children with disabilities who are experiencing this shocking abusive treatment.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Over 180 organisations condemn Queensland government’s latest breach of Human Rights Act in full click here.

front gates of Qld Government Brisbane Youth Detention Centre

Photo: Darren England. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Griffith University wins FASD grant

A project designed to help screen children and adolescents at risk of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has been awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Grant worth $1.49m. Professor Dianne Shanley from Griffith University’s School of Applied Psychology and Menzies Health Institute QLD is one of the Chief Investigators on the Tracking Cube which her team co-designed. “The Tracking Cube originated when community members from remote QLD voiced their concern around long waitlists for children,” Professor Shanley said.

“They wanted to ensure their children were supported close to home and placed on local treatment pathways as quickly as possible. The Tracking Cube is a culturally responsive, tiered neurodevelopmental screening approach that can be integrated with child well-health checks. Ultimately, it’s about screening at risk children and young people in primary healthcare so we can start them on early pathways of support and catch those who might otherwise fall through service gaps.”

A pilot implementation was conducted at an Indigenous remote primary health service which found neurodevelopmental concerns were four times more likely to be identified using the Tracking Cube compared to usual care. The pilot was also able to place the 11% of children identified as at-risk of FASD on local pathways of support. Professor Shanley said the project will follow a Type 1 hybrid design using a stepped wedge cluster randomised trial to measure the effectiveness of the Tracking Cube at eight diverse Indigenous primary healthcare partner sites. “The Tracking Cube will increase identification of neurodevelopmental concerns which will enable early support for children at-risk of FASD in primary healthcare,” she said. “It will also increase the appropriateness of specialist referrals without further overburdening waitlists.”

To view the Griffith University article Griffith research into Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder wins $1.49m grant in full click here.

FASD screening tool - Tracking Cube - cube with ATSI art on each side

Tracking Cube. Image source: Griffith News, Griffith University website.

Youth in detention dying prematurely

Young people in contact with the criminal justice system – be it under community-based orders or in youth detention – are among the most marginalised in our society. And the health and health-care disadvantage faced by these young people may be evident for years. Dr Lucas Calais Ferreira, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne says the research he’d been involved in found high levels of largely-preventable diseases and avoidable premature deaths for these young people in Australia, indicating inadequate health care both in youth detention and in the community.

Almost 50% of young people under youth justice supervision are Indigenous, and they are 24 times more likely than non-Indigenous young people to go into youth detention. Young people in detention commonly have very poor health. This includes high rates of one or more physical and mental health problems, cognitive and neurodevelopmental disabilities, and substance dependence. Dr Calais Ferreira said that in the nearly 25 years of data covered by the research it was found that young people with a history of contact with the youth justice system died at a rate more than four times higher than those of the same age and sex in the general Australian population. Those most at risk of dying prematurely are Indigenous children, males, and those whose first contact with the youth justice system was before they were 14 years old.

The research findings highlight the need for young people involved with the justice system to access high-quality and holistic health care that’s age- and culturally appropriate. This is essential to identify and manage their complex health conditions, both during periods of supervision and – critically – after return to the community. Dr Calais Ferreira said ACCHOs are well placed to provide this and to support continuity of care as these children transition in and out of detention. But the NT is the only jurisdiction where they are funded to provide health care in youth detention. ACCHOs are unable to access Commonwealth funding to support health care in detention elsewhere. Discriminatory exclusion from access to Medicare, which typically prevents access to ACCHOs in detention, is an example of the “inverse care law”. This is when those most in need of high-quality health care are least likely to receive it.

You can read The Conversation article Too many young people who’ve been in detention die prematurely. They deserve better in full here and also listen to a related story, the first episode of an ABC Listen three-part ABC podcast series The outland or the cage about the ineffectiveness of youth detention for children with disabilities such as FASD here.

5 unidentified ATSI inmates at a youth detention centre

Unidentified inmates at a youth detention centre. Photo: Eleni Roussos, ABC News.

Rural maternity services need to be on agenda

When a rural town’s maternity unit shuts down, it has a domino effect and other healthcare services quickly follow. Almost 100 maternity experts met recently in Canberra, calling for the federal government to step in and end the steady decline of services for regional mothers. Their list of demands included a national minimum standard for access to rural maternity care and funding for a maternity workforce plan. Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) president Megan Belot said none of the solutions were new or radical, but they needed political willpower and funding. “We know the solutions, we just want them to be implemented… it’s not something that we can wait another five or 10 years for,” Dr Belot said. “We need the PM to understand our issues and look at our solutions that we came up with.”

The issue had become so desperate, states have begun poaching health professionals from each other by offering incentives to those who relocated to their regional area. “This is why it needs to be on the National Cabinet agenda, we need the states working together,” Dr Belot said. Maternity services are often the lynch pin that holds together other medical services in rural areas. “When you lose a maternity service, there’s no need to keep a theatre running anymore,” Dr Belot said.

Australian College of Midwives chief midwife Alison Weatherstone said of the 300,000 women giving birth in Australia each year, 30 per cent (roughly 90,000) live in rural areas. “Women in rural and regional areas deserve access to models of maternity care equivalent to those women in families in the cities… our targets at the moment are well below what’s acceptable for women,” Dr Weatherstone said. National Rural Health Commissioner Ruth Stewart said the government had give Indigenous women the option to give birth on country. “First Nations’ women have to have access to culturally-safe care – we know that if care is not culturally-safe, they are reluctant to seek it,” she said.

To read the Farmonline National article Rural maternity services urged to be National Cabinet issue in full here.

ATSI baby Judy on lap of mum Leah Ngalirrwuy, Galiwin'ku East Arnhem Land, NT

Judy Mununggrruitj’s mother Leah Ngalirrwuy had to leave her home in Galiwin’ku to have her baby in Darwin 500kms away. Photo: Emma Vincent, ABC News.

Ungooroo August 2023 Newsletter

Yesterday Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation released the August 2023 edition of their newsletter.

Topics included in the August newsletter edition include:

  • Ungooroo Health and Wellbeing Expo a Huge Success
  • Book your 715 Health Check
  • GP Management Plan
  • Welcome to GP Dr Nicole Payne
  • Welcome to new Practice Manager, Stephen McBride
  • Multiplex training and employment program graduation ceremony
  • New look Websites
  • Speaking in Colour
  • Wattaka Cafe Click & Collect
  • Catering with Flavour

The newsletter is available on Ungooroo’s website here and their social media platforms.

part of the front page of the Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation August 2023 newsletter

 

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.

Key Date

(text)

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: VAHS marks 50 years of saving lives

feature tile image VAHS premises on Nicholson Street, Fitzroy; text 'Victorian Aboriginal Health Service celebrates 50 YEARS making a difference and saving lives'

The image in the feature tile is of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) premises on Nicholson Street, Fitzroy. The image appeared in an article by Bertrand Tungandame – VAHS celebrates 50 years making a difference and saving lives, published by NTIV Radio on 25 Auguste 2023.

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

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

VAHS marks 50 years of saving lives

The Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) was set up in 1973 by Aunty Alma Thorpe, Uncle Bruce McGuiness and other Aboriginal community advocates as a place where Aboriginal people could access medical and social care in a time when racism and other barriers prevented Aboriginal people accessing care. Marking the 50th anniversary on August 18, 2023, VAHS Chairperson Tony McCartney reflected on the importance of the date in the history of not only Aboriginal health, but in the Aboriginal rights movement of Melbourne, Victoria, and Australia at the time.

“…VAHS is the oldest Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in Victoria, and second oldest in the country. Since its inception VAHS has been instrumental in self-determined Aboriginal health and wellbeing in Australia. Since starting from humble beginnings and with volunteers at the small shop front in Fitzroy to a place community members called a home away from home – we have grown into a service with sites across Fitzroy, Preston, Epping and expanding to St Albans in our 50th year,” Tony McCartney said.

Over the years VAHS has achieved many supports and firsts in Australia – including establishing the first Aboriginal dental clinic that travelled around Victoria and to border towns, the first Aboriginal women and children’s program and the country’s leading Aboriginal health worker education program Koori Kollij.

To read the VAHS media release VAHS celebrates five decades of making a difference and saving lives in full click here. You can also listen NITV Radio podcast of VAHS Chairperson Tony McCartner talking about the history of VAHS here.

tile VAHS 50 years 1973-2023 Respect our past. Honour our present. To build our future.

UQ student dental clinic making a difference

Gavin Saltner, Wulli Wulli man is among more than 800 rural patients who attend a student-run dental clinic in SW Queensland each year. The UQ Dental Clinic — run by supervised fifth-year dental students — opened at Dalby 10 years ago, with another practice opening more recently at St George. Mr Saltner said having access to the clinic was important, with cost and travel time making dental treatment prohibitive for some Western Downs residents.

A report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) earlier this year found that regional and remote populations had poorer oral health standards than those in the city. It also found that access to fewer dentists, longer travel times and limited transport options impacted the oral health care rural residents received. But the model of the dental clinics in SW Queensland has been deemed so successful it could be used elsewhere. The clinics are a partnership between the university and Indigenous organisation Goondir Health Services.

Goondir Health Services executive Shubham Weling said the unique co-location model and a student-led workforce had the potential to be replicated across a range of allied health fields. “We’re opening a clinic in Chinchilla as well and we want to advocate for this model out there,” Mr Weling said. He said placing the clinics’ treatment rooms within the Indigenous organisation’s building allowed for easy referrals to other services. “So you’ve got cross influence between GPs, dentists, as well as disability support workers for the one client,” Mr Weling said. “It improves the uptake of services and just overall health outcomes and family gain because it’s all interrelated.”

To view the ABC News article UQ free dental health clinic in Dalby improves Indigenous oral health outcomes in full click here.

ATSI man Gavin Saltner in in dental chair at UQ Dalby Dentral Clinic, Goodnir Aboriginal Health Services & Dental Clinic

Gavin Saltner is a regular patient at the UQ Dalby Dental Clinic. The clinic is embedded within the Goondir Health Services facility and treats about 800 Indigenous patients a year. Photo: Laura Cocks, ABC Southern Qld.

Kidney Health 4 Life effectiveness study

Newly diagnosed with kidney disease and want more support? Then Kidney Health 4 Life might be for you!!

This September, Kidney Health Australia is launching a research study to assess the effectiveness of Kidney Health 4 Life , a pilot program designed to help people with kidney disease to self-manage their condition. By participating in the study, you will have access to the program before it goes to the wider public, as well as helping to shape the future of kidney disease support.

You may be eligible for the study if you meet the following criteria:

  • Adults (18+ years) diagnosed with early to mid-stage CKD (Stages 1-4) within the past 12 months (from time of enrolment)
  • Adults (18+ years) who have commenced dialysis (both PD and HD) in the past 12 months (from time of enrolment)

Eligible participants will be assigned to either the program group or standard support group. This will help determine how effective the program is compared to Kidney Health Australia’s standard support. People assigned to the program group will have access to online modules covering topics such as diet and nutrition, disease management, exercise, and managing stress and sleep. Health coaching will also be offered.

People assigned to the standard support group will have access to Kidney Health Australia’s current services including Helpline and Kidney Buddy peer support program and extensive resources. The good news for those assigned to the standard support group is that they will have access to the full KH4L program once the study is complete

If you think you fit the eligibility criteria, you can submit an EOI form on the Kidney Health Australia website hereHURRY. Places are limited.

Kidney Health Australia tile text 'are you new to kidney disease or dialysis & need more support? Apply for the KH4L research study today.

Just 3 in 10 kids had a health check in 2021–22

Just three in 10 First Nations children aged 0–14 years received a health check within the past year, according to new data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The AIHW report — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific primary health care: results from the OSR and nKPI collections, available here, contained data collected from more than 200 organisations.

A total of 586,000 First Nations patients were treated between 2021 and 2022, but only 30% of children had a formal health check in the previous 12 months, making target 4 of the Closing the Gap agreement’s socioeconomic outcome areas — which reads “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children thrive in their early years” — seemingly further away than ever.

With regards to other preventive health measures, 45% of patients received an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health assessment and 47% received a risk assessment for heart disease in the last two years. 70% of patients aged 11 and over had their smoking status recorded in the past year, of which 53% reported quitting smoking or never smoking. Among First Nations patients assessed for CVD risk, 58% aged 35-74 with no known history of CVD reported a low absolute risk within the last two years, 35% were high risk and 7% had a moderate risk. 65% of First Nations patients with type two diabetes reported blood pressure results within recommended guidelines in the past six months, while more than half had a chronic disease management plan completed within the past two years.

To view the Health Services Daily article Just three in 10 First Nations kids had health check in past year in full click here.

young ATSI child having ear check

Image source: QLD Government Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service webpage.

Mental Health for Mob fills service gap

Walgalu-Ngambri and Dharawal woman and Mental Health for Mob founder Kristen Franks has seen and heard a lot over the past decade working in the mental health sector. She has worked across towns in central west NSW and in Canberra and its surrounding regions and helped an array of people – from children, the young, schools and families to pregnant women, the suicidal or self-harming, those with behavioural disorders and in the criminal justice system.

“Throughout all this, I noticed that I was often the first Aboriginal mental health clinician an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person would see,” Kristen says. “It was incredibly difficult to hear this was the first time they’d felt culturally safe [and that] they’ve never felt heard or connected because there was no lived experience understanding.” A decade of hearing this message reached fever pitch in late 2021 when Kristen’s community and Elders supported her to meet this cultural need.

While Kristen never intended to make a profit from offering free mental health care, she soon found herself staring down the hard realities of starting a non-profit organisation. Insurance, registrations and finding a space for clients, to name a few. All while Kristen held down a full-time job and tried to begin to address an “overwhelming” community need. Over the following six months, crowdfunding and some modest grants transformed Mental Health for Mob from an Instagram page that shared mental health resources to a fully fledged mental health service.

You can read the Riotact article How Kristen turned an Instagram page into a culturally safe mental health service in less than six months in full here.

Kristen Franks' face with white body paint & Mental Health for Mob logo

Kristen Franks established Mental Health for Mob. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Emergency aeromedical evacuation training

About 7 million of Australians (about 30%) live in rural and remote areas. People living in these areas have poorer health outcomes overall according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), and also have access to fewer primary, secondary and tertiary health services. Potentially preventable hospitalisations are twice as high as for those in metropolitan and regional areas. A 2023 Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) report found that Australians in rural and remote settings are at substantially higher risk of heart, stroke and vascular disease (accounting for a quarter of all RFDS missions), and the health services are not always there to support them.

A new agreement between CareFlight and Charles Darwin University (CDU) will give health students the opportunity to work in the Top End with emergency aeromedical retrieval teams on flights. The agreement creates clinical placements for future medical students at the CDU Menzies School of Medicine. The university will apply for 40 of 80 places in the Australian Government’s $114.2m Increasing Rural Medical Training Grant Opportunity to support the placements.

Ms Quinn is excited about the CDU partnership. “It is something we have wanted to do for years,” Ms Quinn said. “It is really important for building our workforce for the future. Our patients are some of the most disadvantaged in Australia; they have complex medical problems and disease processes. Students will see what it’s like to be an independent practitioner. It’s not just the medicine – it’s about logistics and making quick decisions,” Ms Quinn said, who added it was a privilege to work in those remote locations.

To view the InSight+ article Tyranny of distance: emergency aeromedical retrieval in outback Australia in full click here.

CareFlight van, plane, patient on gurney, 3 medical professionals

CareFlight treats and transports patients needing specialist care. Photo: CareFlight NT. Image source: InSight+.

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: VACCHO CEO recognised with university’s highest honour

The image in the feature tile is of VACCHO CEO, Jill Gallagher AO.

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

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

VACCHO CEO recognised with university’s highest honour

Gunditjmara woman and VACCHO CEO, Jill Gallagher AO has been conferred an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Melbourne. Ms Gallagher has been VACCHO’s CEO since 2003 and has been influential in raising awareness of health issues and improving access to dedicated services, including the establishment of the Koori Maternity Service and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council.

As well as being an advocate for self-determination outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Ms Gallagher has led consultations with community for the development of the first piece of Treaty Legislation in Australia, now an Act of the Victorian Parliament. She was honoured alongside disability advocate, Keran Howe OAM and marine science and conservation expert, Professor Emma Johnston AM.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell congratulated the three recipients of the University’s highest honour.

“Honorary doctorates recognise the outstanding contributions and distinguished community service of people like Ms Gallagher, Ms Howe and Professor Johnston.

“In different ways, they have made major and lasting impressions on society, and it is very fitting that the University recognises them in this way,” Professor Maskell said.

Read more here.

Jill Gallagher AO, Keran Howe OAM, Professor Emma Johnston AM. Image source: The University of Melbourne.

Health Minister visits AHCSA

On Tuesday 15 August, Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler visited the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia (AHCSA). The minister spoke about the influence the Voice to Parliament would have on closing the health gap; He said health is a key policy area where the Voice would deliver better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“…for years and years now, the community, the Parliament, health ministers of both political persuasions, have been confronted time and time again, the appalling statistics of the yawning hap in health outcomes and life expectancy between First Nations Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.

“The truth is, we need a new approach, and the Voice allows us to turn a new page as a government and as a parliament in listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about solutions that will actually shift the dial,” said Minister Butler.

AHCSA and the health minister also discussed the challenge of vaping for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The health minister said it is a challenge right across the country, however, community-controlled health organisations are in discussions with government on how to best address adolescent vaping.

“There’s a program delivered out of this building by AHCSA as well, but it is now having to come to grips with the very new recent challenges of vaping. We’ve been talking about how best to do that,” said Minister Butler.  

Read the full doorstop transcript here.

AHCSA staff member. Image source: AHCSA Facebook.

CAHS celebrates 15 years

Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service (CAHS) celebrated 15 years of operation on Friday 11 August. More than 200 community members, as well as special guest speakers including Stan Grant came together at the Coonamble Bowling Club to mark the milestone. In a “strong” and “emotional” speech, Stan Grant paid tribute to the Elders and the founding members of the ACCHO for their dedication to improving health outcomes for Coonamble and the wider community.

CAHS CEO, Phil Naden said a highlight of the celebration was sitting down and yarning with mob and hearing about the legacy of such a wonderful organisation.

“I’m privileged to be the CEO of this wonderful organisation and I’m also privileged to know so many beautiful people,” he said.

Read more here.

Image source: Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service Facebook.

Combining curriculum with culture

A new way of learning which combines curriculum with culture is seeing high-school students once at risk of dropping out now excelling. The Wiradjuri-made school program Ngurang-gu Yalbilinya (NgY) is helping schoolboys connect to their identity and increasing school engagement by intertwining curriculum with cultural lessons. In the classroom they are taught the usual school subjects like maths and English, while also learning Wiradjuri language, traditional wood carving, ceremonial song and dance, and painting.

14-year-old student, Steven said before the program he struggled in school, “I was getting in a lot of fights and sometimes I would get a suspension warning or two. I’d be wagging.

“The teachers here really helped me… through the tough times,” he said.

Since the program began more than two years ago, attendance rates have almost doubled from 44% to 94%. Teacher Tim Bennett, said a key to its success is the wrap-around support students can access, which goes beyond the classroom. Teachers work closely with local ACCOs to ensure the students and their families receive the support they need, that includes the Orange Aboriginal Medical Centre providing regular health checks and encouraging healthy eating.

“It’s not just an academic need, if the child or the family suffered trauma that could also affect the student engaging in mainstream classes. So, we have to address that as well,” said Mr Bennett.

Read the full NITV article here.

Students of the Ngurang-gu Yalbilinya education program. Image source: NITV.

Input on National Housing and Homelessness Plan

The Federal Government has begun consultations for the new National Housing and Homelessness Plan. Community organisations are among those Housing and Homelessness Minister, Julie Collins wants to hear from for input on the national plan’s issue paper. Croakey Health Media said given the critical connection between housing and health, health organisations should be encouraged to submit their feedback.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association recently said, “having access to safe and affordable housing is a key social determinant of health, with many Australians currently facing poorer health outcomes as a consequence of the standard of their living conditions.”

Homelessness Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies are calling for a separate and self-determined First Nations National Housing and Homelessness Plan, to address the unique issues relating to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in homelessness.

Public consultations on the plan will be conducted via face-to-face community events in each State and Territory from Monday 28 August and submissions close Friday 22 September.

Read the full Croakey Health Media article Federal Government seeks input on long-awaited National Housing and Homelessness Plan here.

“It’s important to count the milestones”

Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation CEO, Richard Weston says we are seeing improvements in areas of the health of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Broken Hill region. In the interview with 2WEB – Outback Radio Mr Weston said while the region is a long way behind the rest of the state and the country and there’s “a lot more work to be done,” it’s important to count the milestones.

Mr Weston said they have seen some improvements in early childhood health and development, “which is really important for those future generations.”

“We [also] have very good programs for supporting people with chronic diseases… and also for preventing and intervening early in chronic diseases,” Mr Weston said.

Listen to the full radio interview here.

Image source: Intereach.

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: Have your say on diabetes in Australia

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

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

Have your say on diabetes in Australia

NACCHO is making a submission to the parliamentary committee inquiry into diabetes in Australia and wants to hear from member services. Across three webinars (Monday 7 August, Tuesday 8 August, and Friday 11 August) NACCHO members are invited to have their say on how they work with local community around diabetes diagnosis, support, and management; Including what works for their communities, and what resources are needed to better support Community.

The inquiry follows a referral on May 24 from the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler and is investigating the cause of diabetes in Australia, risk factors, prevention, diagnosis, management, and the effectiveness of current Australian Government policies and programs surrounding the disease.

Written submissions closing on Thursday 31 August.

There are three opportunities to contribute. Registration links are below:

Pat Turner to speak on Closing the Gap at University of Canberra

NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner will speak at the University of Canberra (UC) Thursday August 10 on Closing the Gap, in a series of public lectures on the Voice to Parliament. It comes as UC launches a Virtual Freedom Ride paying tribute to 1965 student activism in the lead up to the 1967 referendum. Ahead of the 2023 referendum the university has created its own Freedom Ride in digital form. Pro Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Leadership, Professor Maree Meredith said it’s a platform for students and staff to access important information about the Voice to Parliament.

The Virtual Freedom Ride honours the work that was done back in the ‘60s and it was those students that were really critical to build that awareness. This is why we are making sure that the students have a role,” said Professor Meredith.

Professor Meredith said the lectures and the Virtual Freedom Ride would help counter misinformation surrounding the Voice.

“As a civic institution, that’s our role. It’s to promote the debate but with facts and with evidence. That’s the role of universities,” she said.

Find the Virtual Freedom Ride here and the full Canberra Times article here.

The freedom ride bus outside Hotel Boggabilla in 1965. Image source: The Canberra Times.

Calls to ignore scare campaign over 60-day prescribing reforms

NACCHO, CHF, RACGP and the AMA have joined together to call on the Opposition and the Greens to support 60-day scripts to save patients money and time, and free up GPs for other patients. The 60 Day Dispensing reform is due to commence on 1 September, however, a “scare campaign” over the past several months to stop the changes has triggered concerns that the Opposition and The Greens will try to block the reform in the Senate with a disallowance motion.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins said, “I’m calling on Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and The Greens to put Australians first and rule out a disallowance. 60-day dispensing is in patients’ best interests – it will save around 6 million people money and time, and free up GP consults for other patients.”

Health Minister, Mark Butler also urged the Coalition to reconsider its opposition to the introduction of 60-day scripts. The Minister said 30-day scripts makes “no sense for people who are on the same medicine, year in year out, decade in decade out, sometime for the rest of their lives.”

Read NACCHO’s June media release here and the RACGP media release here.

You can also read the Croakey Health Media article in full here.

Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara youth speak up for each other

Friday 4 August marks National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day. Ahead of the day to celebrate and stand up for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, a group of young people from Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPYLands met with the National Children’s Commissioner last week to discuss the needs of young people “to keep them out of trouble.”

NPY Women’s Council said the group spoke with the Commissioner about the underlying factors causing young people to “muck up”, which included social media fueling negative stereotypes, racism, negative relationships with law enforcement, and difficult home lives.

Making suggestions on what’s needed to better support the young Community, they discussed the importance of meaningful and purposeful engagement. One young person said, “getting to keep language and culture and learn at school – having both – makes people happy,”

Another talked about the importance of family and culture, “Family can help show us the right way… Nana’s, older cousins, Elders…family is comforting.”

The Children’s Commissioner will be travelling around Australia to talk to young people and will create a report to government.

Read more here.

Image source: NPY Women’s Council.

Making decisions about a child in care

WA’s Department of Communities has created a decision-making guide to support foster and family carers. Who can say OK in WA was developed in consultation with ACCHOs and community service organisations to support decision-making about children in care. It will be a resource for foster and family carers who are frequently presented with everyday decisions that all families make about children and young people. It is designed to make carers feel confident about which decisions they can make, so that childhood experiences for children in care are as normalised as possible.

It includes guidance on identity and culture, helping carers honour, respect, and maintain the child’s birth family’s culture. As well as advice on decisions for household rules and discipline, education, physical and mental health, sexuality and gender diversity.

Learn more here.

Who can say OK in WA resource

Deadly start to providing culturally safe care

A new school-based traineeship program is helping build Townsville University Hospital’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce. The Deadly Start program provides year 11 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with 12-months workplace experience within the hospital and a Certificate III in Health Service Assistance or Allied Health Assistance. Pimlico High School student Bevan Kepa said the course helped him find a path to a career in healthcare.

“It’s been really helpful because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do after school…”

“It’s important for me to go down this path so we can have more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in the health industry,” he said.

The program comes alongside the University Hospital’s Reconciliation Action Plan, to have greater Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workplace representation, which reflects the region’s population. Workforce programs co-ordinator, Alisha Kyle said programs like Deadly Start help to improve cultural safety, “by having a workforce that represents our First Nations consumers, we are improving access to healthcare for our mob, and ultimately improving their health outcomes.”

Read more here.

Pimlico High School student Bevan Kepa. Image source: Townsville Bulletin.

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.