NACCHO Aboriginal Health News – Being Medicinewise during COVID-19

Being medicinewise during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic it is especially important to be medicinewise.

NPS MedicineWise is regularly updating its Coronavirus hub with important information. We encourage you to share and use these resources with your patients and communities.

Visit the Being medicinewisehub.

More mental health support for NSW Regional students

A fly-in fly-out psychology and telepsychology service of sixteen permanent senior psychologists will be introduced to support students in regional and remote parts of NSW with mental health.

This is part of the NSW Government’s $88.4 million mental health spend that also includes a commitment to provide every public high school with one full-time counsellor or psychologist and one student support officer. Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the NSW Government had run a successful trial of fly-in fly-out psychologists and the service will be permanent from 2021. “Students across NSW have shown incredible courage and resilience having been impacted by COVID-19, bushfires and drought,” Ms Berejiklian said.

To read the full media release click here.

Methamphetamine use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre has released the Summary of methamphetamine use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The summary provides key information about methamphetamine use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a style that is easy to engage with. It is particularly useful for health workers and those studying in the alcohol and other drugs field.

To read the summary click here.

 

August Newsletter | AOD Knowledge Centre

The August edition of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre newsletter has a round-up of content recently added to the Knowledge Centre website. There is information on events, programs, news and jobs from around Australia. .

To view the newsletter click here.

APO NT welcomes ACT’s decision to raise criminal responsibility age from 10 to 14 years


Aboriginal Peak Organisations (APO NT) has welcomed the Australian Capital Territory’s recent decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14 years. This decision is consistent with the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory in 2017 and acknowledges concerns raised by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child that the minimum age for criminal responsibility in Australia is too young. Australia has failed to uphold this standard across all states and territories, including the Northern Territory. “We are concerned about the discriminatory application of the current age of criminal responsibility and the disproportionate impact that this has on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people, their families and our broader community,” said APO NT spokesperson John Paterson.

Read the full press release here.

GP COVID-19 update Professor Michael Kidd AM

  • The Australian Government will increase aged care support programs across Australia with an additional $171.5 million to boost a new COVID-19 response plan.
  • Australians will be among the first in the world to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, if it proves successful, through an agreement between the Australian Government and UK-based drug company AstraZeneca.
  • Enhancing the coronavirus response in disability residential care through a strengthened Disability Response Centre to coordinate and manage outbreaks and keep residents safe.
  • The National Mental Health Commission launched their #GettingThroughThisTogether campaign that provides practical tips to stay connected and mentally well during this challenging time.

Addressing Inequities in Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing

A discussion paper from the UWA Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing grant titled – “Addressing Inequities in Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing through Transformative and Decolonising Research and Practice.” from Prof Pat Dudgeon and colleagues.

To read the paper click here.

Prof Pat Dudgeon CBPATSISP

Prof Pat Dudgeon CBPATSISP

 

ACT/NSW

Marymead Executive Manager – Client Services

This is a newly created position that has been developed in response to the considerable growth and development of Marymead’s services, and the need to further drive diversity of funding streams and geographic expansion into the future. The newly developed role will report to the Director of Client Services and will be responsible for the overall leadership and management of 3 service delivery units within the division.

Read job description click here.

Marymead Community and Business Development Officer South Coast

This newly developed role will report to the Executive Manager, Client Services and will be responsible for driving the South Coast development project. The project will involve consulting with the community to identify areas of need, developing partnerships and relationships with local service providers and funders, being an ambassador for Marymead within the community, and initiating and driving service development to meet identified needs.

Read job description click here.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 86 : #KeepOurMobSafe @VACCHO_org @ahmrc @TheAHCWA #OurJobProtectOurMob Dr @KelvinKongENT says ” If you’re unwell – get tested to help keep our community safe “

1.Dr Kelvin Kong introduction ” Protecting the community from coronavirus (COVID-19) “

2.Testing for coronavirus

3.Where can I get tested?

4.Update Victoria / VACCHO

5.Update NSW/ AHMRC

6.Help stop the spread

7.Download the COVIDSafe app

8. Download COVID-19 mental health poster / graphics from AHCWA

9. If you’re unwell – get tested to help keep our community safe says Dr Kong

“It’s important we detect any cases in our community early by getting tested if you have even minor symptoms. Don’t be afraid of the people who are taking the tests, because they’re going to be in protective gear. It’s to help keep us all safe from the spread.

Testing is available to all members of the community, for free. Aboriginal communities can contact their local Aboriginal Medical Service or Local Area Health District for information on where to access the test in their area.

The type of test you get might vary depending on where you live and where you go to get tested. You might be tested at the hospital, you might be at a GP practice, or it might be in a drive through testing location.

Some members of the community might be worried about getting the test, not knowing what is involved.

The test is relatively straightforward and simple. It’s not painful at all but can be uncomfortable. The common test involves a nasal swab, which is like a big cotton bud. A swab is taken from inside your nose. It might make you want to sneeze, but it’s over before you even realise that they’ve actually started. It’s really very quick,” 

Like many Aboriginal health professionals, Worimi man Dr Kelvin Kong has been exceptionally busy the last few months, helping to keep communities safe from COVID-19.

Dr Kong is a surgeon at the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, and has leant his voice to support Aboriginal communities across NSW, sharing videos and tips for communities to protect themselves during this time. Section 9 below for full release

Protecting the community from coronavirus (COVID-19)

2.Testing for coronavirus

Testing lets health workers know if people have coronavirus. This helps control and stop the spread of the virus.

Early diagnosis means you can stop spreading the virus to your friends, family, or community. If you have a fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or any other symptoms of respiratory illness, it is important you get tested. Even if you only have one of these symptoms, get tested.

Testing is even more important if you are unwell and:

  • You have recently come back to Australia from overseas. All travellers will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival into Australia;
  • You have been outside of your community and want to go back;
  • You have been close to someone who tested positive for coronavirus in the past 14 days;
  • You are a health care, aged care or residential care worker or staff member with direct patient contact.

3.Where can I get tested?

You can call your doctor or medical service to make an appointment for a test. If you visit your doctor, it is important to call the clinic first and tell them about your symptoms. This will help them prepare for your arrival and protect other people at the clinic.

You can also go to a free COVID-19 clinic without making an appointment. For Melbourne

COVID-19 GP respiratory clinics are health centres that focus on testing people with acute respiratory illness symptoms.

You can find a respiratory clinic near you here, or visit:  www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19#how-to-get-tested

If you get tested for coronavirus, you need to stay at home and avoid contact with other people at least until your symptoms have gone away. It may take a day or two for your test results to come back.

The COVID-19 Point of Care Testing (POCT) Program helps people in regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia get tested more easily. The goal of this program is to make sure that health care services are no more than a two to three hour drive from a testing location. This allows people to get their test results much more quickly than they would if the test had to be sent to a laboratory in a bigger town.

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, you should call 000 for urgent medical attention.

4.Update Victoria / VACCHO

You can find more information on keeping safe, restrictions etc. at                        http://www.vaccho.org.au/about-us/coronavirus/

As of Wednesday 22 July 11.59pm everyone 12 years old and over, living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will HAVE to wear a face covering (can be a hospital or home made mask or a scarf) when outside their home to protect them from COVID-19.

There will be a $200 fine for those not wearing one.

There is information on making and wearing masks at https://bit.ly/2CafiiI

Info: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/face-masks-covid-19

There are some reasons not to wear one:

  • those who have a medical reason
  • kids under 12 years of age
  • those who have a professional reason
  • it’s just not practical, like when running

Teachers don’t have to wear a face covering while teaching – but students attending for VCE, VCAL or for onsite supervision will, while everyone will be expected to wear one to and from school.

However you will still be expected to carry your face covering at all times to wear when you can.

Otherwise, if you’re leaving your home for one of the four reasons, you need to cover your face.

Face coverings in regional Victoria are recommended in situations where 1.5 metres distance is not possible – however regional Victorians will have to wear a mask when visiting metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire for one of the permitted reasons.

Wearing a face mask does not apply to:

  • children under 2 years of age
  • people with breathing difficulties
  • people who have physical conditions that make it difficult to wear one.

Remember, if you’re sick you should stay at home unless you need medical care.

You can find more information on keeping safe, restrictions etc. at http://www.vaccho.org.au/about-us/coronavirus/

5.Update NSW/ AHMRC

More info HERE

Batemans Bay Soldiers Club cluster: Six more have COVID-19 | Were you there on July 13, 15, 16 or 17?

6.Help stop the spread

To protect our communities, everyone should continue to practise physical distancing and good hygiene. Make sure you stay two big steps away from other people, keep your hands clean, and stay at home and away from other people if you are unwell.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol based rub and cough or sneeze into your elbow. We are all part of keeping our mob safe and stopping the spread of coronavirus.

7.Download the COVIDSafe app

You should download the COVIDSafe app to help protect your family, friends and the community. The app helps health officials to quickly let people know if they have been close to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The information can’t be shared, even with you. The more people who use the app, the more effective it will be and the faster we can get back to the things we love.

Together, we can keep our mob COVIDSafe. Visit: health.gov.au for more details.

8. Download 4 COVID-19 mental health poster / graphics from AHCWA

Feeling angry 😡 or frustrated during the #COVID_19 lockdown ? Here are a few tips to help you cope.
If you need someone to yarn to, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or find your local Headspace.

Alternatively, you can contact your local ACCHO / Aboriginal Medical Service or GP.

Deadly artwork by Will Bessen provided Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia

4 Downloads

9. If you’re unwell – get tested to help keep our community safe says Dr Kong

Like many Aboriginal health professionals, Worimi man Dr Kelvin Kong has been exceptionally busy the last few months, helping to keep communities safe from COVID-19.

Dr Kong is a surgeon at the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, and has leant his voice to support Aboriginal communities across NSW, sharing videos and tips for communities to protect themselves during this time.

Over his career, Dr Kong has gained extensive experience working in rural, urban and remote communities and knows first-hand the challenges some communities face in overcoming barriers to health care.

Dr Kong says it’s now more important than ever to keep up with regular appointments, encouraging members of the community to get tested if they have any concerns about COVID19 symptoms.

“It’s important we detect any cases in our community early by getting tested if you have even minor symptoms. Don’t be afraid of the people who are taking the tests, because they’re going to be in protective gear. It’s to help keep us all safe from the spread,” explains Dr Kong.

Testing is available to all members of the community, for free. Aboriginal communities can contact their local Aboriginal Medical Service or Local Area Health District for information on where to access the test in their area.

“The type of test you get might vary depending on where you live and where you go to get tested. You might be tested at the hospital, you might be at a GP practice, or it might be in a drive through testing location,” says Dr Kong.

Dr Kong acknowledges that some members of the community might be worried about getting the test, not knowing what is involved.

“The test is relatively straightforward and simple. It’s not painful at all but can be uncomfortable. The common test involves a nasal swab, which is like a big cotton bud. A swab is taken from inside your nose. It might make you want to sneeze, but it’s over before you even realise that they’ve actually started. It’s really very quick,” Dr Kong explains.

While we are seeing reduced community spread of COVID-19 cases, it’s important to continue testing patients that are unwell, to quickly detect any positive cases and stop the spread in the community, through self isolating.

If you test positive for COVID-19 you will need to self-isolate, and this can be a really difficult thing for many families. For our mob there can be extra barriers,” says Dr Kong.

“Sometimes, it’s really hard because we don’t have the space to actually self-isolate, but when you can, and if you can, it’s important to be in your own room. If you do have to be in the same room as someone, wear a mask.

“If you’re going to be getting food, make sure that you’re getting it alone. Wipe down surfaces, don’t interact with other people. It’s better if people can place food at your door,” says Dr Kong

While the whole community plays a part in maintaining good hygiene and regular hand washing, health workers also play a key role in helping to stop the spread between patients.

It’s really important for health workers to stay safe while they’re treating patients. The most important thing is to make sure you wear the protective equipment provided. Face shields or goggles and masks are a must,” said Dr Kong.

“Regular hand washing and wearing gloves and a gown whenever you’re in patient contact is important. These are all simple things to do, and if you’re just seeing one or two patients, it’s very easy. But when you start seeing lots of patients, you get very tired, very quickly.”

Dr Kong is urging health workers and the community to look after their own health and wellbeing too.

“It’s important to have a break. It’s a stressful time and we all need to look out for each other.”

“If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, or concerned about someone close to you, call the Coronavirus mental health line 1800 512 348.”

For the latest information, including resources for Aboriginal communities and health care workers visit nsw.gov.au.

 

NACCHO Events Alert #NAIDOCWeek Always Was, Always Will Be: Two Star-studded virtual concerts to celebrate our mobs culture I. #VicNAIDOC2020Concert Archie Roach plus friends 2. @CAAMA Music Paul Ah Chee

“There’s no doubt this has been a tough year, with bushfires and coronavirus taking their toll on Aboriginal communities.”

“NAIDOC Week may be postponed, but we’re still taking the opportunity to maintain community connections and celebrate Aboriginal culture.”

“The event will be more than just good fun – it’s a chance to highlight the talented performers right across the country and provide a lifeline to the struggling arts industry.”

Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams announced a variety performance event will be live streamed on Saturday – what would have been the penultimate day of the landmark week-long celebration.

“This year’s NAIDOC theme – ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’, is particularly apt and relevant in this unprecedented time and the rescheduling is aimed at protecting our Elders and those in our communities with chronic health issues from the disastrous impacts of COVID-19.

We would like to recognise and acknowledge the work of our affiliates and our 143 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) have put in during this pandemic to protect our communities and ensure our culture will live on.”

(NACCHO) Chair Donnella Mills says postponing NAIDOC Week 2020 from July to November this year was a small price to pay for protecting our people and safeguarding our culture.

Read full press release

Join CAAMA Music July 10 for a very special set from Paul Ah Chee – Live from the CAAMA Studio. See Part 2 Below

Part 1

The Victorian Government is putting together a star-studded virtual concert to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture following the postponement of NAIDOC Week.

The Vic NAIDOC 2020 Concert: Always Was, Always Will Be

Will be held at Hamer Hall and while closed to the public, Victorians can live stream all the action from 6.30pm AEST on the Victoria Together website and other social platforms

Streaming on Saturday 11 July, 6.30pm
Running time: Approximately 2 hours

The concert will be hosted by comedians Shiralee Hood and Dion Williams and feature artists including Uncle Archie Roach, Troy Cassar-Daley, Allara, Lady Lash and Mau Power.

NAIDOC Week was scheduled to be held from 5 to 12 July this year, but for the first time in its 64-year history, has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is traditionally marked each July to honour and pay tribute to Aboriginal culture, history and achievement, with celebrations held across the country.

It is now expected to be scheduled in November.

The Government is investing $150,000 to hold the virtual concert, with support from the Victorian Aboriginal community and the arts sector, including Arts Centre Melbourne.

Part 2

Join CAAMA Music July 10 for a very special set from Paul Ah Chee – Live from the CAAMA Studio. From this gig you can expect to hear some of his new material from his upcoming solo proejct as well as some stripped back Amunda classics.

Tune in here on FB or listen in at

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Research Alerts : Download @AIHW Report Indigenous primary health care results : Our ACCHO’s play a critical role in helping to improve the health of our mob

 ” Comprehensive and culturally appropriate primary health care services play a key role in improving the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians through prevention, early intervention, health education, and the timely identification and management of physical and psychological issues. “

Download the 77 Page AIHW Report HERE

Indigenous-primary-health-care-results-from-the-OSR-and-nKPI-collections

Primary health care organisations play a critical role in helping to improve the health of Indigenous Australians.

In 2018–19:

To this end, the Australian Government provides funding through the IAHP to organisations delivering Indigenous-specific primary health care services (referred to hereafter as organisations).

These organisations, designed to be accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, are administered and run by:

  • Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations (ACCHOs)
  • state/territory/local health services
  • non-government organisations (NGOs), such as women’s health services (a small proportion of services).

They vary in size, location, governance structure, length of time in operation, workforce composition, sources of funding, the services they offer, the ways in which they operate (for example, stand-alone or part of a consortium), and the needs of their clients.

What they all share in common is a holistic approach to meeting the needs of their Indigenous clients, which often involves addressing a complex mix of health conditions.

Each organisation provides contextual information about their organisation to the OSR once each financial year (covering the period July–June). The OSR includes all activities of the funded organisations, regardless of the percentage of those activities funded by IAHP.

This chapter presents a profile of organisations delivering Indigenous-specific primary health care services, including staffing levels, client numbers, client contacts, episodes of care and services provided. It excludes data from organisations that received funding only for maternal and child health services.

Trends over time are presented where possible, noting that the organisations providing data can vary over time which may limit comparability for some purposes (see Technical notes and Glossary for more information). Also, in 2018–19, the OSR collection underwent significant change and was scaled back to include only ‘core’ items. Plans are underway to reintroduce key items in a staged approach over the next few years.

The following boxes show key results for organisations providing Indigenous-specific primary health care in 2018–19.

Clicking HERE will go to more information on the selected topic.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 84 : June 26 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : Dr Mark Wenitong and Summer May Findlay : ” Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are taking a leading role in COVID‐19 health communication”

ACCHOs, as comprehensive healthcare services whose core business is population‐level health, have the skills, expertise and knowledge to create and execute appropriate COVID‐19 prevention messages.

Part of their success has been the trust that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people place in them primarily because they deliver culturally appropriate service. In a time of crisis, they are best placed to deliver health promotion and crisis communication to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

ACCHOs and their peak bodies, therefore, need to be resourced appropriately to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the best possible information to reduce the risk to themselves, their families and their communities. ” 

Dr Mark Wenitong and Summer May Findlay : Originally published HERE

For research references or Download

ACCHO COVID19 communications

Noting all images and videos below added by NACCHO

Health communication during a health crisis, such as the COVID‐19 pandemic, is vital to reduce the impact on populations. To ensure the communication is effective, audience segmentation is required with specific resources that have been developed for each segment.

In addition, the messages need to be clear, mutual trust between the communicator and the audience needs to be developed and maintained, and resources should focus on cultural values.

The evidence around effective crisis communication indicates that it needs to be timely, clear, concise and appropriate to the target audience. Communication is particularly important for those at higher risk during the crisis, such as people who are immunocompromised, the elderly, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk from COVID‐19 due to a range of factors associated with higher rates of non‐communicable diseases and a lack of access to health services in remote communities.

Additionally, there are socio‐cultural factors that put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at risk, such as high mobility for family or cultural reasons.

Despite the increased risk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from COVID‐19, there has been little specific communication tailored for them from governments since the pandemic commenced.

This is despite the overwhelming evidence that health promotion messages need to be tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To fill the gap, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) have demonstrated their capacity to deliver scientifically valid, evidence‐based and culturally translated COVID‐19 prevention messages.

The ACCHO sectors’ understanding of population health has led to a strong history of culturally centred health promotion and social marketing materials.

Even before the World Health Assembly declared COVID‐19 a global pandemic (11 March ACCHOs and their peak bodies had developed messages for their communities.

The ACCHO sectors’ communications on COVID‐19 have been produced in addition to their usual service delivery and using existing funding.

NACCHO first communique January 28 : Since then 84 COVID-19 Alerts 

Read over 84 NACCHO COVID-19 News Alert January to June 2020

Effective social marketing campaigns segment a target audience and develop resources that are culturally appropriate. Culturally appropriate resources include target specific language choices, imagery and an understanding of culturally specific behaviour change motivations.

Four examples of ACCHOs that have delivered tailored resources include the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC), Apunipima Cape York Health Council (Apunipima), Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

See NACCHO COVID-19 updates and infomation

Each of the examples provided resources that were tailored specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by including Aboriginal vernacular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and some included Indigenous languages.

Additionally, the material reflected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s kinship structures by promoting self‐isolation and good hygiene as a way of taking care of family and community.

AHMRC Website 

The AH&MRC, the NSW ACCHO peak body, has disseminated existing and new resources promoting COVID‐19 prevention online via their website, Facebook Twitter YouTube and Instagram

Additionally, they created the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service Pandemic Response Tool Kit. The materials were either resources developed by their member services (ACCHOs) or mainstream materials that have been repurposed and contextualised for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Apunipima ACCHO Website

Apunipima, a Cape York ACCHO in Queensland has also been communicating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about how to protect themselves from COVID‐19 via Facebook and TikTok, and by distributing printed resources.

The first Facebook post (6 March 2020) used simple, evidenced‐based prevention messages about handwashing. Subsequently, they produced infographics and short localised video updates.

 

AHCWA Website

AHCWA, the Western Australian ACCHO peak body, has also developed infographics promoting prevention measures such as hand washing and COVID‐19 symptoms.

AHCWA resources and updates have been published on their website.

 

NACCHO, the national ACCHO peak body has been amplifying communications from ACCHOs and the jurisdictional affiliates, such as the AH&MRC and AHCWA.

They have shared these resources via their website, the NACCHO communique, their Facebook page and Twitter.

NACCHO #MensHealthWeek Media Release : @NACCHOChair and Dr Mark Wenitong  “ Closing the Gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male health : Plus case study Ingkintja Male Health Service at Congress ACCHO in Alice Springs

The commitment of our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) is to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males to live longer, healthier lives by providing a wide range of preventative men’s programs that address critical social and emotional issues that our men face.

The overall aim is reduce the rate of hospitalisations, which is almost three times higher than for other Australian men and to reduce the number of Aboriginal men in prison who are imprisoned at 11 times the rate of the general male population.”

I would urge our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to focus on their overall health after these two-three months of isolation and get a comprehensive annual 715 health check at their nearest ACCHO.  Annual health checks are crucial in picking up little things before they become worse, give peace of mind, and they are free.”

On the occasion of National Men’s Health Week, NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills

Download the NACCHO press release HERE

NACCHO Media Statement – Men’s Health Week v2.1 15 June

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has long recognised the importance of addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male health as part of the Close the Gap initiatives.

Read over 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Health articles published by NACCHO over 8 Years

Read this article above 

The history of NACCHO OCHRE Day events 2013- 2019

Ingkintja: Wurra apa artwuka pmara Male Health Service at Congress ACCHO has for many years been a national leader in Aboriginal health, not only through its male-only comprehensive primary health care service providing a full suite of medical care complemented by social support services, but through the emphasis that the service places on preventative health with annual 715 health check and weekly engagements, servicing over 1,000 men every year.

See case study part 1 below : Photo above : Left right Terry Braun , John Liddle Manager , David Galvin , Wayne Campbell , Ken Lichleitner

 

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO), Apunipima Cape York Health Council’s Public Health Medical Officer, Dr Mark Wenitong, has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to improve their overall health and mental health.

His expertise and experience have led to his involvement in health reform with the Cape York Aboriginal communities with a dedicated team of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander male workers, who are getting great traction with their community men.

“The strength-based men’s programs delivered by Apunipima continue to see rise in participation rates and better outcomes for Cape York men. Though we still have a long way to go, more of the men are taking control and utilising our programs to support improving their mental health and overall wellbeing,” said Dr Wenitong.

Dr Mark Wenitong on what works in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men’s health

Part 1 Case Study Ingkintja Male Health Service at Congress ACCHO in Alice Springs 

Ingkintja: Wurra apa artwuka pmara is an Aboriginal Male Health Service at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress that takes the lead in providing cultural activities and social and emotional wellbeing services for male health for many years.

The ACCHO delivers a full suite of medical care complemented by social support services with emphasis on preventative health with annual 715 health check, servicing over 1,000 men every year.

Ingkintja takes the lead in supporting men in cultural activities across central Australia by providing equipment and medical support when requested by community leaders.

Incorporated into the male-only service are washing facilities (showers and laundry facilities), a gym and ‘Men’s Shed’.

Congress’ decentralisation of social and emotional well-being services meant that a psychologist and Aboriginal care management worker are available through Ingkintja, allowing therapeutic care (counselling, violence interventions), brief interventions, cultural and social support to men.

Ingkintja has a history of hosting national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male Heath events

male_health_summit_jun09

Ingkintja also delivers the Jaila Wanti prison to work program, which provides support to Aboriginal prisoners 90 days prior to release and also post release to reintegrate back into community through the coordination of health, wellbeing and social support services.

Male prison transitional care coordinators work with clients on health and wellbeing, and facilitate linkages with employment and training provider. Through the program, Ingkintja deliver regular visits to Aboriginal prisoners in the Alice Springs Correctional facility; conducting sessions with Aboriginal prisoners on their holistic health and wellbeing including health promotions with a focus on staying off the smokes and grog.

Sessions also focus on cultural roots and family connections to rebuild cultural identify and self-worth, and to reinforce positive behaviours while also reflecting on the consequences of impulsivity and violent behaviours.

The team establish trust and respect and assist in reconnecting the men with family and culture and to reintegrate into community.  Corrections staff have provided encouraging feedback on the positive impact that these visits have on the Aboriginal prisoners, noting changed attitudes and behaviours as the men reflect on the impact of their actions and ask for the next Ingkintja session.

The Inkintja men’s wash facilities were recently upgraded and continue to be a vital and highly accessed service, especially for men living rough. The facility gives men the obvious benefit of being able to wash and gain self-worth, and provides a critical engagement opportunity for the team to perform health checks, medical follow-up and other necessary referrals to services to improve their health and wellbeing.

The Ingkintja men’s shed and gym has regular sessions that enable males, both young and old, to come together and access valuable skills, such fitness, comradery and practical life skills.

Ingkintja have also been equipped with a men’s health truck, currently being fitted out with three consult rooms, which will increase the reach of the service’s holistic approach further to remote communities in a culturally responsive – and mobile – way.

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 53 : May 4 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob John Paterson CEO AMSANT and Olga Havnen CEO Danila Dilba ACCHO call on the NT Government and the Commonwealth to continue to work closely with Aboriginal organisations and leaders post COVID-19 pandemic.

Governments need to provide the appropriate financial investment into housing, food security, environmental health issues, water, power and primary health — there is gaping holes in our workforce .

This needs to be given priority. We can’t wait for another virus to come along, we’re running on a bloody oily rag.

Aboriginal people have a high risk of chronic disease and make up a high proportion of patients in the health system in the Northern Territory.

It is not unreasonable to assume these patients are significantly represented in statistical evidence in most disease outbreaks.

We are calling on the NT Government and the Commonwealth to continue to work closely with Aboriginal organisations and leaders post-pandemic.

Keep listening, we’ve got a wealth of experience and knowledge ”

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT chief executive officer John Paterson 

Originally Published HERE

In the Northern Territory, Aboriginal people are often over-represented in the health system — but it’s a different story for COVID-19, with official data indicating there have been no Aboriginal coronavirus patients in the NT to date.

Key points:

  • There have been just 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the NT and no community transmission
  • AMSANT’s John Paterson was “surprised” no Aboriginal people in the NT had tested positive
  • He said the pandemic showed how well governments could collaborate with the health sector

And as the Territory slowly starts to ease coronavirus restrictions, Aboriginal health leaders say now is the time to address some of the fundamental gaps in Aboriginal health care exposed during the pandemic.

Health groups have warned those rates of disease make COVID-19 a higher risk for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who make up 30 per cent of the NT’s population.

Last week, the NT Health Department said of the 28 cases then recorded in the NT, there had been no Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander patients.

Since then, two Australian Defence Force personnel who returned to Darwin from the Middle East tested positive to COVID-19 but, for privacy reasons, Defence has provided little information about these cases.

Mr Paterson was “surprised” there had been no Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 patients in the NT, but said early measures — such as closing the NT’s borders — helped keep vulnerable Territorians safe from harm.

Dr Heggie explained strict border controls, restriction of non-essential movement into remote communities, mandatory quarantine and physical-distancing requirements had been “highly effective” so far in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the Northern Territory.

But, “most significantly”, Dr Heggie said there had been no cases of community transmission of COVID-19 in the NT.

Lessons from COVID-19

Mr Paterson was heartened by how quickly and collaboratively the health sector and different tiers of government had worked together during the pandemic.

“One of the other positives I see coming out of this national pandemic, is it shows how quickly things can happen,” he said.

Mr Paterson is calling on the NT Government and the Commonwealth to continue to work closely with Aboriginal organisations and leaders post-pandemic.

“Keep listening, we’ve got a wealth of experience and knowledge,” he said.

Danila Dilba Health Service chief executive officer Olga Havnen agreed.

Ms Havnen said while “decisive action” by the NT Government — such as closing borders and restricting travel — helped protect Territorians, the Aboriginal health sector had been communicating information about COVID-19 and how to stay safe to Indigenous communities and their client groups well ahead of the Australian and NT governments, their agencies and other sectors.

Mr Paterson said one of the reasons COVID-19 health messages had been adopted so well in remote communities was because the posters and advertisements targeting Aboriginal people had been written by Aboriginal people, health groups and organisations.

“This deadly messaging, when our mob see it, they take notice of it,” Mr Paterson said.

We can’t wait for another virus’

The pandemic exposed some of the poor living conditions of people in remote Aboriginal communities, Mr Paterson said, including unreliable power, food insecurity, environmental health issues and shortages in primary health workers.

Ms Havnen said there was a need to address the fundamental problem of poor housing and overcrowded living conditions, which exacerbated the risk and likely potential spread of a pandemic in urban and remote Aboriginal communities.

More broadly, she said COVID-19 exposed major gaps, especially at the national level, in preparing for pandemics.

The Aboriginal primary healthcare sector relies heavily on Medicare billing to fund clinics, equipment and medications and employ staff.

“In the circumstance of a pandemic — where client and staff exposure must be limited, income immediately drops dramatically, just when it is most needed,” she said.

Large communities with about 2,500 or 3,000 people relied on clinics which were poorly staffed, Ms Havnen said, and smaller communities were reliant on fly in-fly out doctors who had been unable to visit due to pandemic conditions.

Although she welcomed the Commonwealth’s investment in telehealth, Ms Havnen pointed out that it wasn’t easy to move services online due to technological challenges, poor connectivity, cost and a lack of equipment.

What about borders and permits?

As restrictions start to ease in the NT, Mr Paterson wants people living in remote communities to to be able to leave without going into isolation upon their return.

“I would like to see free travel throughout the Northern Territory,” he said.

All non-essential travel to the Northern Territory’s 76 remote communities is currently banned and a 14-day isolation period applies for community residents wanting to return home from regional centres.

Ms Havnen said while the staged easing of internal restrictions would be a welcome relief to many, it would need to be done slowly and carefully, balancing the benefits against the risks to very vulnerable populations, especially those in remote communities.

“Widespread testing for COVID-19 is needed if internal border restrictions are to be loosened,” she said.

Mr Paterson said one of the “unanticipated consequences” of the Biosecurity Act was people living in remote areas had struggled to access food and other essential services.

He said the process of getting permits was “causing angst” in remote areas, because people needed to get one permit from the Land Council and one for the Government.

If the permit system couldn’t be removed altogether it should at least be streamlined, Mr Paterson added.

Both Mr Paterson and Ms Havnen agreed the NT’s strict border controls — barring interstate and overseas travellers — should stay in place for the foreseeable future.

“While there are signs of improvement in other states and territories, the NT will need to ensure that strict border controls are maintained until spread of COVID-19 is fully contained nationally,” Ms Haven said.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has said on multiple occasions the last thing the Government will do is ease border restrictions.

“Opening the borders will happen dead last, I do not want the second wave to come,” he said.

Mr Gunner said these restrictions around remote communities would stay in place until at least June 18, and then it would be up to the Commonwealth, land councils, and communities to lift the restrictions.

“It looks like coronavirus is no match for the oldest living culture in the world,” he said.

What’s next for the NT?

Dr Heggie said NT Health had extensive pandemic plans in place for each region of the NT, including remote health plans, but warned the risk was not over.

“It is still likely there will be new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the Territory,” he said.

Ms Haven said the Territory’s challenge now was to avoid becoming complacent and to remain ready for any future COVID-19 cases.

“We consider that the Northern Territory and our community are extremely lucky to have avoided widespread community transmission and are enormously relieved and grateful,” she said.

“The great concern at this point is whether there is a likelihood of a second wave of infection and whether this is a matter of ‘when, not if’. That is a major fear.”

 

Aboriginal #CoronaVirus News Alert No 42 : April 20 #KeepOurMobSafe : #OurJobProtectOurMob : No more time to waste”: 13 Aboriginal organisations including @AMSANTaus @CAACongress demand a guarantee of affordable goods for remote communities now

We urge the national cabinet to take action, before it is too late, because time is all remote Aboriginal communities have on their side in their fight against the virus. We are all affected by this crisis, some more than others when it comes to accessing affordable food.

We want preventative action. This is all about making sure remote Aboriginal people can depend 100% on their one community store as they are not in a position to shop around. We have no more time to waste.”

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress CEO Donna Ah Chee 

Photo above Outback Stores

A coalition of 13 Aboriginal organisations of the Northern Territory* want the national cabinet to immediately guarantee the supply of affordable food and other basics in locked-down remote communities.

Two weeks ago, the commonwealth and NT governments met with major supermarkets, suppliers and three major remote retailers, yet remote community owned stores are still waiting to hear about any government interventions that might flow from that meeting that will take the pressure off.

“We are getting daily reports of remote stores struggling to supply basic goods,” said John Paterson, the CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT.

“Some stores are running out of fresh food three days after their weekly delivery. Under COVID-19 travel restrictions small, community owned stores must suddenly meet 100% of people’s needs across a much greater range of products. Some stores have had to triple their usual orders.

“In recent weeks, the big supermarkets have responded to panic buying down south by sweeping up the bulk of goods from manufacturers and producers. Independent suppliers are struggling to get what they need for remote stores,” said John Paterson.

“We want an agreed proportion of these essential goods set aside for the independent suppliers. This can’t be solved through donated goods. It needs a systemic response from government. “

“Prices in remote community owned stores are also a big issue. This is borne out in every market basket survey. High freight costs and limited purchasing power mean prices can average 60% higher than at major supermarkets.

The coalition of health services, land councils and other Aboriginal organisations is calling for a 20 per cent point-of-sale subsidy of essential food, cleaning and hygiene products, as well as winter bedding and clothing in remote community stores.

“A direct consumer subsidy of selected items is the best way to guarantee that residents who are no longer able to shop around can afford the basics,” said Mr Paterson.

Community stores say invoicing the federal government for 20 per cent of their sales once a fortnight would place the least administrative burden on them.

“Already, remote community residents are taking backroads into regional centres to access essential and affordable supplies they can’t get at home. Towns are where they are most likely to contract coronavirus.”

“We understand fresh fruit, vegetables and meat are not in short supply in the southern states and distributers are actively planning to address current shortages in remote stores in central Australia. It is critically important that we understand how this will work, the CEO of the Central Land Council, Joe Martin-Jard, said.

“However, we believe subsidies on essential goods at point of sale coupled with a supply guarantee will make a huge difference.”

*The coalition includes the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT, Central Land Council, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, NPY Women’s Council, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Programmes, Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation, Waltja Aboriginal Corporation, Yeperenye Pty Ltd, Gap Youth Centre, Yipirinya School Council, Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Unit and Tangentyere Council.

Aboriginal #CoronaVirus News Alert No 40 : April 17 #KeepOurMobSafe : #OurJobProtectOurMob : Contributions from @NACCHOChair and ACCHO’s @DeadlyChoices @IUIH_ @Apunipima #SouthWest #Yerin #KatherineWest #Nhulundu #Illawarra #Mulungu and @LowitjaInstitut

COVID-19 and ACCHO Intro video : NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills. 

1.Deadly Choices : Australia’s First Urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Testing Clinic opens in Brisbane .

2.Apunipima ACCHO Cape York welcomes Minister Ken Wyatt’s assurances for securing food and other essentials for remote communities.

3.South West Aboriginal Medical Services ACCHO WA keeping our mob safe.

4.Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Centre ACCHO rapid response to COVID-19.

5.Katherine West Health Board ACCHO NT creates innovative COVID-19 resources.

6. Nhulundu Health Services Gladstone QLD. opens new Drive-Thru Flu Clinic.

7. Illawarra Aboriginal health worker creates rap video to spread COVID-19 message .

8. Check out this deadly COVID-19 rap from Mulungu ACCHO.

9. Lowitja Chair Pat Anderson and CEO Janine Mohamed introduce ” Survivor  COVID19 the musical “.

10.Gallery of COVID-19 on social media images to share. 

See how NACCHO protects our mob Corona Virus Home Page

Read all 40 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

COVID-19 and ACCHO Intro video : NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills 

 

1.Deadly Choices : Australia’s First Urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Testing Clinic

Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Hon Steven Miles was joined by Member for Longman Terry Young and Deadly Choices Ambassador Steve Renouf at the opening of Australia’s first Commonwealth funded COVID-19 respiratory testing clinic

Pictured above Adrian Carson CEO IUIH ( See TV coverage below ) 

The clinic, funded by the Commonwealth Government, will provide COIVD-19 testing for up to 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members per day, supporting Moreton Bay region’s Indigenous population.

 The Caboolture site was chosen to support the large Indigenous population in the Moreton Bay region, where an estimated 24,000 Indigenous live.

This forms part of IUIH’s wider South East Queensland catchment which is the fastest growing and largest Indigenous region in Australia. South East Queensland is estimated to have close to 100,000 Indigenous people – representing 38% of the entire Queensland and 11% of Australia’s Indigenous population. 

The Respiratory clinic will be run by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) adjacent to its existing Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service in Caboolture.  IUIH’s existing Caboolture clinic is one of five clinics operated by IUIH in the Moreton Bay region and one of 20 clinics throughout its South East Queensland IUIH Network.

 This COVID-19 testing clinic is the first of four clinics that will be established across South East Queensland by the IUIH Network, with a second Clinic to commence operations in Woodridge later this week, and Clinics to be established at Booval (West Moreton) and Nerang (Gold Coast).  

 The Caboolture Respiratory clinic will be dedicated to supporting Indigenous clients and marks a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19 –  being the first Commonwealth funded Indigenous Respiratory clinic of its kind in Australia to support one of the most vulnerable population groups at risk of this pandemic. 

 With Indigenous people significantly overrepresented in the high risk categories for COVID-19 – including through a much higher burden of respiratory and other chronic diseases – it is critical that services such as this Respiratory Clinic are easily accessible to ensure safe and culturally supportive screening and holistic wrap-around support and follow-up care management.

This is particularly important as many Indigenous people are also at elevated risk of social isolation and basic supports at this time, including if requiring quarantine measures.

The Caboolture Respiratory Clinic has been set up to directly support the government’s priority focus on testing all people with a fever or acute respiratory symptoms in this region. This will not only provide an important early intervention response to affected clients, but help to build a much more comprehensive understanding of COVID-19 prevalence in the community.

IUIH has been working closely with Queensland Health and supported by training from Aspen Medical to ensure that everything about the clinic design and practice adheres to the most stringent medical guidelines and protocols, with staff and client safety of paramount concern.

WATCH TV COVERAGE OF OPENING HERE

2.Apunipima ACCHO Cape York welcomes Minister Ken Wyatt’s assurances for securing food and other essentials for remote communities.

Apunipima Cape York Health Council welcomes Hon. Ken Wyatt’s assurances last week that ensuring a reliable supply of essential goods, groceries, pharmaceuticals and other critical supplies to remote communities during the current COVID-19 pandemic is a high priority for the Australian government.

Across Australia, we’ve been asked not to stockpile so that everyone is looked after and that those who are most disadvantaged such as people on low incomes, elderly people, and people with disabilities don’t miss out.

Equally, we need to ensure that stores in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and other remote areas will still have fair access to wholesale supplies so that people living in these locations don’t miss out.

Read More Here

3.South West Aboriginal Medical Services ACCHO WA keeping our mob safe .

 

4.Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Centre ACCHO rapid response to COVID-19

For mob in NSW, the role of local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) has been crucial.

From the centre of Sydney to remote corners of the state, Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) have been working tirelessly to ensure the safety, protection and education of their local communities.

In the Central Coast region of northern NSW, sitting in the town of Wyong is the Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Centre (Yerin).

Being the only ACCHO in the region, the centre runs over 30 programs in community.

Serving around 5,000 people, Yerin AMS has 3,000 active patients.

CEO of Yerin, Belinda Field, said the organisation had to streamline non-essential services into telehealth very quickly to service their large client base.

“We have been able to encourage many of our Elders or anyone over 50 that have a pre-existing health condition to stay home wherever possible. Even if they do have access to private transport, we still ask them to stay home,” Field said.

“A huge part of our culture is socialising together, and we have lots of support groups we run across youth, Elders, women and men, our cancer support groups, and we are [still] doing it now … all by way of phone.”

Read More Here

5.Katherine West Health Board ACCHO NT creates innovative COVID-19 resources.

 

6. Nhulundu Health Services Gladstone QLD. opens new Drive-Thru Flu Clinic.

The Drive-Thru Flu Clinic is located here in Goondoon Street car park and runs daily from 9.30am through to 3.00pm
Clients with an appointment booking can simply drive into the car park, reverse into a designated car space where our friendly registered nurses will give you a consent form to complete and ask you a few medical related questions.
The nurses will administer the flu vaccination in the comfort of your vehicle to you and/or other passengers.
We would then ask that you hang around for just 15 minutes before you’re on your way. It’s that easy!
Feel free to call reception staff on 4979 0992 to check your eligibility, make your booking and discuss some additional drive-thu info

 

7. Illawarra Aboriginal health worker creates rap video to spread COVID-19 message .

It’s a fun format for a serious message – with the threat of COVID-19 high in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, who have a lower life expectancy and a higher burden of disease than non-indigenous Australians.

And the idea for the video came about after Mr Wright had a conversation with his uncle in northern NSW.

“My uncle in Walgett has a lot of co-morbidities – diabetes, heart disease,” he said.

“And he was saying that there was plenty of youth still partying, not taking the COVID pandemic seriously.

“So I thought, what can I do to get the message out there in a way that’s fun, but still strong – and that’s when I came up with the idea of a rap video.

Read full report HERE

8. Check out this deadly COVID-19 rap from Mulungu ACCHO

 

9. Lowitja Chair Pat Anderson and CEO Janine Mohamed introduce ” Survivor  COVID19 the musical “

10.Gallery of COVID-19 on social media images to share. 

NACCHO has developed some COVID-19 specific graphics to help promote healthy messaging to help STOP the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease in our communities.

If you would like to use any NACCHO graphics relating to COVID-19, please ensure NACCHO is tagged/mentioned and images are not cropped or altered from its original.

NACCHO will work to ensure that there are accurate links to relevant graphics created by our members and affiliates for public use. If you would like to add your graphics to this page, please contact our team.

10.Gallery of COVID-19 on social media images to share. 

10.Gallery of COVID-19 on social media images to share. 

NACCHO Aboriginal #CoronaVirus News Alert No 39 : April 16 #KeepOurMobSafe : #OurJobProtectOurMob : Anyinginyi ACCHO partners in new report “Fix housing and you’ll reduce risks of coronavirus and other disease in remote Indigenous communities “

” Remote Indigenous communities have taken swift and effective action to quarantine residents against the risks of COVID-19.

Under a plan developed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group, entry to communities is restricted to essential visitors only.

This is important, because crowded and malfunctioning housing in remote Indigenous communities heightens the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

High rates of chronic disease mean COVID-19 outbreaks in Indigenous communities may cause high death rates. ” 

Originally published in the Conversation

 ” Rapid-testing machines that detect COVID-19 in 45 minutes are being sent to 83 indigenous communities where remote health clinics are currently waiting up to 10 days to find out whether an Aboriginal resident has coronavirus.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced the Australian government was investing $3.3m to establish the rapid coronavirus testing program for remote and rural ­Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The commonwealth is choosing the sites in most need and most at risk with help from state and territory governments and health services, and aims to have 83 ­machines in place by mid-May.”

See full story Part 2 below :  Coronavirus: Rapid tests on way to remote Indigenous communities.

Read full release Here

The “old story” of housing, crowding and health continues to be overlooked. A partnership between the University of Queensland and Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, in the Northern Territory’s (NT) Tennant Creek and Barkly region, re-opens this story. A new report from our work together is titled in Warumungu language as Piliyi Papulu Purrukaj-ji – “Good Housing to Prevent Sickness”. It reveals the simplicity of the solution: new housing and budgets for repairs and maintenance can improve human health.

Infection risks rise in crowded housing

Rates of crowded households are much higher in remote communities (34%) than in urban areas (8%). Our research in the Barkly region, 500km north of Alice Springs, found up to 22 residents in some three-bedroom houses. In one crowded house, a kidney dialysis patient and seven family members had slept in the yard for over a year in order to access clinical care.

Many Indigenous Australians lease social housing because of barriers to individual land ownership in remote Australia. Repairs and maintenance are more expensive in remote areas and our research found waiting periods are long. One resident told us:

Houses [are] inspected two times a year by Department of Housing, but no repairs or maintenance. They inspect and write down faults but don’t fix. They say people will return, but it doesn’t happen.

Better ‘health hardware’ can prevent infections

The growing populations in communities are not matched by increased housing. Crowding is the inevitable result.

Crowded households place extra pressure on “health hardware”, the infrastructure that enables washing of bodies and clothing and other hygiene practices.


Read more: Homelessness and overcrowding expose us all to coronavirus. Here’s what we can do to stop the spread


We interviewed residents who told us they lacked functioning bathrooms and washing machines and that toilets were blocked. One resident said:

Scabies has come up a lot this year because of lack of water. We’ve been running out of water in the tanks. There’s no electric pump … [so] we are bathing less …

[Also] sewerage is a problem at this house. It’s blocked … The toilet bubbles up and the water goes black and leaks out. We try to keep the kids away.

A lack of health hardware increases the transmission risk of preventable, hygiene-related infectious diseases like COVID-19. Anyinginyi clinicians report skin infections are more common than in urban areas, respiratory infections affect whole families in crowded houses, and they see daily cases of eye infections.

Data that we accessed from the clinic confirmed this situation. The highest infection diagnoses were skin infections (including boils, scabies and school sores), respiratory infections, and ear, nose and throat infections (especially middle ear infection).

These infections can have long-term consequences. Repeated skin sores and throat infections from Group A streptococcal bacteria can contribute to chronic life-threatening conditions such as kidney disease and rheumatic heart disease (RHD). Indigenous NT residents have among the highest rates of RHD in the world, and Indigenous children in Central Australia have the highest rates of post-infection kidney disease (APSGN).


Read more: The answer to Indigenous vulnerability to coronavirus: a more equitable public health agenda


Reviving a vision of healthy housing and people

Crowded and unrepaired housing persists, despite the National Indigenous Reform Agreement stating over ten years ago: “Children need to live in accommodation with adequate infrastructure conducive to good hygiene … and free of overcrowding.”

Indigenous housing programs, such as the National Partnership Agreement for Remote Indigenous Housing, have had varied success and sustainability in overcoming crowding and poor housing quality.

It is calculated about 5,500 new houses are required by 2028 to reduce the health impacts of crowding in remote communities. Earlier models still provide guidance for today’s efforts. For example, Whitlam-era efforts supported culturally appropriate housing design, while the ATSIC period of the 1990s introduced Indigenous-led housing management and culturally-specific adaptation of tenancy agreements.

Our report reasserts the call to action for both new housing and regular repairs and maintenance (with adequate budgets) of existing housing in remote communities. The lack of effective treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19 make hygiene and social distancing critical. Yet crowding and faulty home infrastructure make these measures difficult if not impossible.

Indigenous Australians living on remote country urgently need additional and functional housing. This may begin to provide the long-term gains described to us by an experienced Aboriginal health worker:

When … [decades ago] houses were built, I noticed immediately a drop in the scabies … You could see the mental change, could see the difference in families. Kids are healthier and happier. I’ve seen this repeated in other communities once housing was given – the change.


Trisha Narurla Frank contributed to the writing of this article, and other staff from Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation provided their input and consent for the sharing of these findings.

Part 2 :  Coronavirus: Rapid tests on way to remote Indigenous communities

Rapid-testing machines that detect COVID-19 in 45 minutes are being sent to 83 indigenous communities where remote health clinics are currently waiting up to 10 days to find out whether an Aboriginal resident has coronavirus.

There are no known cases of COVID-19 in indigenous communities but health authorities are on high alert for a breakout, particularly in Western Australia, where 11 health workers in the far north Kimberley region tested positive. After a doctor in the Kimberley town of Halls Creek saw Aboriginal patients while he was potentially infectious, those ­patients have been deemed not to be close contacts.

Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced the Australian government was investing $3.3m to establish the rapid coronavirus testing program for remote and rural ­Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The commonwealth is choosing the sites in most need and most at risk with help from state and territory governments and health services, and aims to have 83 ­machines in place by mid-May.

The test, called the Xpert SARS-CoV-2 test, uses rapid ­technology to detect COVID-19 infections by using a nasal swab polymerase chain reaction test in the early phases of the illness.

“It’s vital we do all we can to protect our rural and remote ­Aboriginal and Torres Strait ­Islander communities,” Mr Hunt said.

“This world-first testing response means that we can continue to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to fighting this virus.

“If an outbreak is detected, local health services can move quickly to protect the community and activate established evacuation procedures.”

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said indigenous people were more vulnerable if they contracted coronavirus.

“There are higher rates of chronic conditions and other health issues in these communities and it can be hard to access healthcare,” Mr Wyatt said

“This means that an outbreak of COVID-19 in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community has the potential to be very serious.

“This testing program will help protect indigenous Australians against the virus.”

The program is an initiative of the Kirby Institute, in partnership with Flinders University.