Feature title - Aboriginal hand holding stethoscope painted on brick wall in Aboriginal flag colours

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Wider health system much to learn from the ACCHO sector

Wider health system much to learn from the ACCHO sector

In her recent article Indigenous health leadership and the pandemic, Lowitja Institute CEO, Dr Janine Mohamed says one of the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that the wider health system has much to learn from the successes of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) sector and Indigenous health leadership.

You can view the full article here.

6 minute Strep A test suitable for remote settings

Found in the throat and on the skin, Strep A infections are often responsible for sore throats and painful skin infections, which can lead to irreversible and potentially deadly heart and kidney damage if left untreated. Researchers from Perth’s Telethon Kids Institute have demonstrated that rapid, molecular point-of-care tests can be used in remote settings to accurately detect the presence of Strep A bacterium in just six minutes. Children at risk of potentially life-threatening Strep A infections no longer have to wait five days for treatment.

For further information on the new Strep A test click here.

2 small Aboriginal children

Source image: Hospital and Healthcare website.

Past has role to play in suicide rates

The ongoing impacts of inter generational trauma, disempowerment and disengagement cannot be overlooked if Indigenous suicide rates are to be reduced according to University of Southern Queensland Associate Professor Raelene Ward. A registered nurse, Dr Ward is a Senior Lecturer at USQ’s College for Indigenous Studies Education and Research School of Nursing, and recently completed her PhD in suicide prevention, specifically exploring Aboriginal understandings of suicides from a social and emotional wellbeing point of view. “It is well known that suicides among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are much more frequent in comparison to other Queenslanders, and I really wanted to get a more comprehensive understanding of suicides from an Aboriginal perspective,” Professor Ward said.

You can view the University of Southern Queensland’s media release here.

back view of teenage girl at dusk sitting on a swing looking out to sea

Image source: The Queensland Times.

NSW Building on Resilience suicide prevention initiative

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for Indigenous Australians living in NSW, compared to the seventeenth for non-Indigenous Australians in NSW. In response the NSW government launched the Building on Resilience in Aboriginal Communities initiative earlier this month. The initiative,designed to increase access to culturally responsive suicide prevention activities for Aboriginal communities, will be community-run by 12 NSW Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) across eight local health districts, with participation and input from Elders and local communities.

For further information on the initiative click here.

girl leaning on desk with her head in her hands

Image source: Tweed Daily News.

Regular health checks vital during COVID-19

The Healing Foundation is supporting calls from Health Ministers and health organisations for people to maintain their regular health checks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said that regular health checks are vital for the most vulnerable in the community, which includes Stolen Generations survivors. “Stolen Generations survivors endured trauma and grief as a result of their forced removal from family, community, and culture,” Ms Petersen said. 

You can view the Healing Foundation’s media release here.

Aboriginal teenager having heart check in mobile health truck

Image source: Rural Workforce Agency Victoria.

Mental health support available for rural frontline nurses

Health professionals in drought and bushfire-affected rural communities have access to extra resources to help them deal with the mental health fallout from these events. CRANAplus, the peak professional body for Australia’s remote and isolated health workforce, has received Commonwealth funding to provide a suite of webinars, podcasts, and tailor-made workshops for those working on the frontline, to keep themselves and their communities resilient. Federal Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton said nurses are the lifeblood of rural areas, responding to complex health needs away from major hospitals and needed support to carry out this vital role. “We cannot overstate the important role our remote nursing workforce has in helping their local communities get through these tough times,” Minister Coulton said.

The media release can be viewed here.

Aboriginal lady on dialysis and Aboriginal nurse

Image source: Queensland Health.

COVID-19 telehealth extended by six months

The temporary Medicare rebates for COVID-19 telehealth consultations, originally due to expire on 30 September, are to be extended for a further six months. The AMA proposed the introduction of telehealth items earlier this year as part of a comprehensive strategy to tackle COVID-19, and has worked behind the scenes for them to extended.

To read the AMA’s media release regarding the extension click here.

health professional looking computer screen engaging in teleconference

Image source: National Rural Health Alliance online magazine Partyline.

COVID-19 impact on community sector

A new survey has found the community service sector is approaching crisis point due to COVID-19 with more than a million people excluded from income support and expected cuts to income support for over two million others. The sector is also dealing with the doubling of unemployment and a rise in serious mental health issues, as well as drops in fundraising, drops in JobKeeper amounts, and future funding uncertainty.

To view the Australian Community Sector Survey 2020 report click here.

two Aboriginal hands holding

Image source: AbSec website.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific primary health care data

Information on organisations funded by the Australian Government under its Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme (IAHP) to deliver culturally appropriate primary health care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is available through two data collections—the Online Services Report (OSR); and the national Key Performance Indicators (nKPIs). The latest results from these collections can be found here.

AIHW Aboriginal access to health services map of Australia

Image source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

WA water to be tested for COVID-19

Health Minister Roger Cook, says WA’s wastewater will soon be tested for the COVID-19 virus, with an evaluation program to expand PCR testing to the state’s sewerage network. “The Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 (ColoSSoS) Project will track and monitor for traces of the COVID-19 virus in WA’s sewerage network. It will be led by the WA Health system – with testing undertaken by PathWest – to provide an opportunity for robust evaluation and review of the role of wastewater surveillance for COVID-19 in WA. The Water Corporation and Water Research Australia are also project partners.”

To read the media release click here.

Aboriginal toddler drinking from the water fountain in the summertime

Image source: Agrifood Technology website.

NT – Alice Springs

Executive Director – Central Australian Aboriginal Congress

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress has a vacancy on their Executive team for an Executive Director (ED) of Central Australian Academic Health Science Network (CA AHSN). The ED will provide direct strategic and governance support to the board of the CA AHSN and manage the day to day operations of CA AHSN.

To view the position description click here. Applications close Friday, 25 September 2020.

close up image of two Aboriginal hands holding & CAAC logo

Image source: CAAC website.

NSW – Narooma

Manager People and Culture (Identified) – Katungul

Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services has a vacancy for a Manager People and Culture. The focus of the role is to provide advice, support and expertise in providing a culturally safe workplace that is HR and WHS compliant.

To view the position description click here. Application close 5.00pm Tuesday, 6 October 2020.Katungul logo duck over silhouette of two adults two children

National Press Club of Australia – ‘Australia and the World’ annual lecture – Pat Turner AM

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

The ANU 2020  ‘Australia and the World’ annual lecture aims to promote a broader conversation about Australia’s place in the world. This year Pat Turner AM will discuss the call of Indigenous Peoples across the globe to be heard on matters that have a significant impact on them as Indigenous Peoples and what ‘being heard’ means in the Australian context. Pat will explain why the struggle of Indigenous peoples in Australia to be heard is at a defining moment for the nation.

To view details of the event, which will be live streamed click here.

portrait image of Pat Turner AM & National Press Club logo

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



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.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Daffodil Day – cancer awareness

Feature tile - Daffodil Day - Aboriginal flag with yellow daffodil as centre

Every day around five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are diagnosed with cancer. Aboriginal and Torres Islander people have a slightly higher rate of cancer diagnosis, however are approximately 40 per cent more likely to die from cancer than other Australians (Reference: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019 – Cancer series no.119. Cat. no. CAN 123).

The daffodil is recognised internationally as the symbol of hope for all people affected by cancer. Cancer Council chose it as its emblem as the bright yellow colouring heralds the return of spring, representing new life and growth. Daffodil Day is Cancer Council’s most iconic and much-loved fundraising campaign. Funds raised this Daffodil Day Appeal will help fund researchers dedicated to discovering the next cancer breakthroughs, including less harsh cancer treatments.

To visit the Cancer Council Daffodil Day Appeal website click here.

ACCHOs’ wealth of expertise much to offer

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) sector has a wealth of expertise in addressing the social and cultural determinants of health, responsive service development, and providing culturally safe care. The wider health sector needs to gain a deeper understanding of the contributions of the ACCHO sector.

Cover image from the report: Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations in practice: Sharing ways of working from the ACCHO sector

These are some of the findings in a report from the work of the Centre of Research Excellence in Aboriginal Chronic Disease Knowledge Translation and Exchange (CREATE), a collaborative enterprise between NACCHO, Wardliparingga Aboriginal Research Unit, at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, and the University of Adelaide’s School of Public Health.

To view the full article by Croakey click here.

More required so well placed to emerge from COVID-19

Yesterday the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and members of the Aboriginal Executive Council (AEC), a group made up of 11 Aboriginal CEOs from peak Aboriginal organisations across Victoria, provided evidence to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) Inquiry into the Victorian Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher said the low incidence of COVID-19 cases in Victorian Aboriginal Communities was testament to Aboriginal community control and what can be achieved when working meaningfully together. In order for Aboriginal Communities to be well placed to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, however, more needs to be done now to ensure the sector is better placed to help Aboriginal communities affected by disproportionate rates of mental health and social emotional wellbeing issues, as well as justice and correctional issues.

To read the VACCHO media release click here.

Image sources: National Geographic for Kids and Belyuen youth NT, ABC News.

Additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions

The Australian Government will provide 10 additional Medicare subsidised psychological therapy sessions for people subjected to further restrictions in areas impacted by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a media release Minister for Health Greg Hunt said the Government recognises the mental health impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on individuals and communities, particularly those in areas such as Victoria where more stringent measures have been necessary to stop the spread to the virus.

To view the full media release click here.

oil paingint of Aboriginal man with head in hand sitting on rock in outback

Image source: Camilla Perkins for Mosaic.

QLD – Cairns

FT Member Support Regional Manager – Northern Region (Identified)

QAIHC is a non-partisan peak organisation representing all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisations across Queensland at both state and national Level. QAIHC members deliver comprehensive and culturally appropriate, world class primary health care services to their communities.

QAIHC is seeking an experienced, passionate and high-level manager to support its members in the Aboriginal and Islander Community Controlled Health Sector.

To view the job description click here.

Broome – WA

Regional Sexual Health Facilitator – Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service

KAMS now has an opportunity for Regional Sexual Health Facilitator to join their friendly, multidisciplinary team in Broome WA, on a full-time fixed term contract basis till 30 June 2021.

In this role, will be responsible for providing support for the coordination, development, implementation and review of practice in the area of Sexual Health in the Kimberley. In particular, this position provides advice and facilitation for an increase by clinicians in provision of opportunistic and targeted screening and appropriate management and follow up of people with sexually transmitted infections.

To view the job description click here.

medical professional with PPE - head covering, mask & rubber gloves

NACCHO Aboriginal News Alert: Healthcare worker PPE too little too late

Healthcare worker PPE too little too late

The AMA has demanded revised guidelines on personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers, following revelations that more than 2,500 Victorian healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19. More than two-thirds of the second wave infections of healthcare workers in Victoria have been confirmed to have happened in the workplace.

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

Updated RACS Indigenous Health position paper

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ (RACS) has released an updated Indigenous Health position paper outlining its commitment to addressing health inequities of Indigenous communities in Australia and NZ.

To review the position paper click here.

two medical staff in scrubs in theatre

Image source: Newcastle Herald.

Framework to guide health professional practice

Working effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is important in maximising the effectiveness of health care interaction between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and health professionals. BioMed Central (BMC) Health Services Research has published a paper outlining a framework to guide health professional practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

To view the research article click here.

Image of ophthalmologist with Aboriginal patient lying on medical bed under eye equipment

Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Self-harm spike across Kimberley

Researchers and medical services in the Kimberley say they are “concerned but not surprised” at the findings of a new University of WA report A profile of suicide and self-harm in the Kimberley, outlining the still disproportionately high suicide and self-harm rates in the region compared to the rest of WA and Australia. The report recommends a thorough redesign of health services in the Kimberley and the need to ensure adequate resourcing to ensure better care is provided.

To view the full ABC News article click here.

image of multiple white crosses marking graves in red dusty country

Image source: ABC News.

Indigenous LGBQTI+SB suicide prevention introduction

Indigenous LGBQTI+SB people deal with additional societal challenges, ones that can regularly intersect, contributing to the heightened development of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug problems, and risk of suicide and suicidal behaviour. To coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day activities globally on Thursday 10 September 2020, Dameyon Bonson, an Indigenous gay male, recognised as an Indigenous suicide prevention subject matter expert, specifically in Indigenous LGBQTI+SB suicide, will be presenting an on-line introduction to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBQTI+SB suicide prevention.

To register for this event click here.Dameyon Bonson banner for on-line Indigenous LGBTIQ+SB suicide prevention course & photo of Dameyon Bonson

SNAICC COVID-19 resources for children

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) has developed a number of resources to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people develop a better understanding of COVID-19 and help children, carers and families get through this difficult time.

For details of the SNAICC COVID-19 resources click here.

young Aboriginal boy

Image source: Health Times.

2020 smoking in pregnancy roudtable summary

An alarming 46% of Indigenous women smoke during pregnancy, 3.6 times the non-Indigenous rate. Serious effects from smoking in pregnancy include obstetric and per-natal complications, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and behavioural and learning problems in children. Maternal tobacco smoking is the most important preventable risk factor for chronic lung disease in offspring. Babies born to smokers are twice as likely to have low birth weight compared to those born to non-smoking mothers, but if the mother quits smoking early in pregnancy the low birth weight risk decreases to non-smoking levels.

The Australian Government Department of Health convened a Smoking and Pregnancy Roundtable discussion in February 2020, chaired by Professor Tom Calma AO. The summary report of the roundtable presentations and discussions, including videos of the presentations, can be found here.

belly of pregnant Aboriginal women breaking a cigarette in half

Image source: Coffs Coast Advocate.

Canberra – ACT

ACT Ministerial Advisory Council on Women – Council Member

The ACT Ministerial Advisory Council on Women (MACW) has opened up nominations for the next MACW term, 2021–22.

Members of the Council meet bi-monthly and raise and debate issues which matter most to women and girls in Canberra, as well as advocate for the advancement of women and the opportunities available to them, with the Council then providing strategic advice to the ACT Government as an independent voice.

The ACT MACW are hoping for a diverse range of women to be on the Council and would welcome applications from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

For further information click here.

silhouette of 10 women holding hands at sunset

Image source: ANU website.

National Stroke Week – 31 August – 6 September 2020

National Stroke Week Become a F.A.S.T. Hero poster - image of man standing against a wooden fence, hand on hip, looking skywards like a hero

Image source: Stroke Foundation website.

World Suicide Prevention Day Thursday 10 September 2020World Suicide Prevention Day & orange & yellow ribbon cross over point hands

Feature Image - Aboriginal boy head in hands

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Survey to review mental health youth services

Mental health youth services survey

If you work or volunteer with an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation or other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander organisations you are invited to participate in a short headspace online survey and share your views on issues of access, engagement and cultural safety of mental health supports for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. All participants go into the draw to win a $100 voucher!

To view a survey flyer click here and to access the survey click here.

Young Aboriginal girl crying

Image source: newsinmind.com

NT outreach services improve hearing impairment

Ear and hearing health is vital for overall health and quality of life. Ear disease and associated hearing loss can have long-lasting impacts on education, wellbeing and employment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are more likely than non-Indigenous children to experience ear and hearing problems.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report has shown positive results are being achieved by hearing health outreach services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the NT. The report shows that in 2019, 2,156 audiology; 770 ear, nose and throat teleotology; and 1,119 Clinical Nurse Specialist services were provided. Among children and young people who received treatment, 61% had improved hearing loss and 71% had improved hearing impairment.

To access a more detailed summary of the report click here.

Health professional checking ear of Aboriginal boy

Image source: Menzies School of Health Research website.

National cancer screening health worker engagement project

The University of Melbourne is undertaking a project to understand how the primary healthcare workforce engages with the national cancer screening program (bowel, breast and cervical). Findings from the study will lead to the development of materials and initiatives to assist in boosting cancer screening participation.

During the first phase of the project the researchers are interested in interviewing nurses, GPs and Practice Managers to understand more about their role, their go-to-resources when they need more information about the screening programs and resources they would like to have access to.

Everyone that will be interviewed will be reimbursed with a $50 Gift Card. We intend to carry out interviews during the month of September. The interviews will be recorded with your permission.

For information about how to become involved in the project please contact Ebony Verbunt, Research Assistant, University of Melbourne email ebony.verbunt@unimelb.edu.au or phone 0429 928 039.

Aboriginal male & female cartoon figures with ages for breast, bowel, cervical cancer screening tests

Image source: Cancer Council Victoria website.

COVID-19 information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities survey

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, it has been extremely important to make sure health information about the virus reaches people in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Australian Government Department of Health has worked with Indigenous communications agencies to produce a range of communications materials to help share information about the virus and inform communities about how they can stay safe.

You can provide feedback on how effective these campaign materials have been in reaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by taking this survey.

7 Keep Our Mob Safe resource images e.g. posters

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

Residential aged care risk assessment urgently required

The AMA has warned urgent improvements in aged care and a coordinated response from all levels of government are needed to prevent the pandemic outbreak in Victorian aged care homes spreading into residential aged care nationwide. The AMA has called for every residential aged care home in Australia to be urgently and comprehensively assessed for its ability to safely care for residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

Elders hands in carer's hand

Image source: Aged Care Guide.

ACT paves way for raising incarceration age

The Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly has voted to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, paving the way for other jurisdictions to reform an outmoded law which disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

To read the related Amnesty International Australia media release click here.

Aboriginal child's hands on jail barred overlaid with Aboriginal flag.

Image source: Amnesty International Australia.

COVID-19 vaccine will not be compulsory

Health Minister, Greg Hunt has confirmed that although any potential coronavirus vaccine will be strongly encouraged, it will not be made compulsory.

To read a transcript of Minister Hunt’s interview with David Koch on the Sunrise program click here.

QLD – Cairns or ACT – Canberra

PT Cultural Lead x 1 (Identified Position)

CRANAplus, the peak professional body for health professionals working in remote and isolated areas across Australia, has a vacancy for a Cultural Lead. This identified position, available to Aboriginal, First Nations, and Torres Strait Island people, will collaborate closely with internal and external stakeholders to develop and drive priorities supporting CRANAplus’ Organisational Strategic Plan.

You can view the CRANAplus website here and find details of the Cultural Lead position here.

CRANAplus logo & image of 4-wheel drive in outback

ACT – Canberra

FT Flexible Education Classroom Teacher  x 1 (Identified Position) – 6 months with the possibility of permanency

The ACT Education Directorate is seeking a reflective practitioner who: is able to create dynamic learning environments and authentically personalised education programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; has a demonstrated understanding of trauma and neuroscience informed education practices; and is passionate about inclusion, social justice, innovation and equity. Flexible Education is a community of schools/settings for students with complex and challenging needs including Murrumbidgee Education and Training Centre, Muliyan, Boomanulla, the Hospital School, the education program at The Cottage and Distance Education.

For more details about the position click here.

Aboriginal youth and teacher against graffitied wall

Image source: School News Australia.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Health Professional Expertise Sought for RPHCM Review

Health professional expertise sought for RPHCM review

SA Flinders University’s Centre for Remote Health would like to disseminate an invitation to our health professionals to participate in the review of the Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM). The manuals are used by healthcare workers, including remote area nurses, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners, doctors, midwives, nurse practitioners, and allied health professionals.

The RPHCM suite was created in 2014 by practising remote health clinicians to support and promote good clinical practice in primary health care in central, northern and remote Australia. The suite of four manuals are: specifically designed for remote practice; current and evidence-based; in plain English and easy to access; and culturally appropriate.

The manuals provide the legislated clinical guidelines for remote primary healthcare staff in the NT, and are also widely used in clinical care, health service systems, education and orientation throughout the NT, remote SA, the Ngaanyatjarra and Kimberley regions in WA, and beyond.

For further information on the RPHCM click here.

In particular, the Centre for Remote Health are keen to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health staff who may join the editorial committee or an expert advisory group.

Click here to download the invitation to participate letter, including an expression of interest form, which introduces the review process and encourages health professionals to collaborate in the project as a reviewer or expert adviser.

Keeping our mob safe – help for mental health and financial support

Lady looking at laptop

Written and supplied by the Australian Government Department of Health, Canberra.

Coronavirus has changed the way we live and connect with people for now. Change can be hard. Many people are having problems, both financially and mentally. During times like this, it is important to know where you can get help.

Social and emotional wellbeing support services

With big changes in our lives, it is normal to feel worried, stressed, sad, tired or angry. Talking with family, friends, or someone you trust can help. You can also talk with an Aboriginal health worker or your GP. There are a range of services to help people who are feeling upset or worried. Don’t hesitate to ask for support when needed and look out for others that you think might need help.

For more information click here.

Share your views to improve the Australian COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines

What do you think about the Australian National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce website, and the guidelines and flowcharts for care of people with COVID-19?

You can see them at covid19evidence.net.au

The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce want to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement in the work of the Taskforce and their guidelines and flowcharts.

They are inviting Australian healthcare practitioners to participate in a brief (15 minute) survey. Participation is voluntary, anonymous, and very much appreciated.

To tell the Taskforce team what you think, please click here before Monday 17 August 2020.

A summary of the results of the survey, including no identifying information, will be used by the Taskforce team to improve their work.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Dr Tari Turner, Senior Research Fellow, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University on tari.turner@monash.edu 

The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce is funded by, the Australian Government Department of Health, the Victorian Government Department of Health and Human Services, the Ian Potter Foundation and the Walter Cottman Endowment Fund, managed by Equity Trustees.

NACCHO Aboriginal Male Health News Alert : Ernie Dingo from @bushtvmob and Dr Mick Adams @ECU @HealthInfoNet win national awards for contributions our men’s health.

“It’s close to my heart working with countrymen. We like to think of our program as an Aboriginal men’s movement and as we gather momentum this vision is coming to light.

Less than two years ago we were cruising around remote communities in my blue truck running voluntary camps with men getting their feedback, and the response we got was phenomenal.

We heal and and we sing and we dance.

We do this to be better men, to be the best versions of ourselves.”

Mr Dingo said while he’d won a few awards, this one felt special : See full story Part 1 below

 ” A key part of my approach was adopting a conversational, informal tone, or just “having a yarn.

If you go out there and just ask straight out questions, they sort of go back into their shell and don’t want to talk about what’s on their mind.

If you just talk to them you can find out what areas they need support in.”

Dr Mick Adams said the approach was all about trying to encourage men to speak up by letting them know others were going through the same issues. See Part 2 below

Read over 400 Aboriginal Male Health articles published by NACCHO over 8 years

Picture above  : SMSF co-ordinator Graham Leadbeatter, Camping on Country ambassador and chairman of Bush TV Enterprises Ernie Dingo, and Strong Men Strong Families participants and support workers on their way to their camp in July 2019. Credit: Elise Van Aken/The Kimberley Echo

A television series featuring East Kimberley Indigenous men has won a national award for its contribution to men’s health.

From the Kimberley Echo 

Australian film and television personality Ernie Dingo’s television series Camping on Country was announced as the winner of the national Australian Men’s Health Forum Award for best men’s health program last week during men’s health week.

Last year a group of local Indigenous men from Kununurra Waringarri Aboriginal Corporation’s Strong Men, Strong Families program participated in the national Camping on Country program.

Elders, support workers, the Bush TV film crew and Mr Dingo accompanied the men on a camp to workshop strategies to improve outcomes for themselves and their people.

The men also created video messages which were sent to the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, which Mr Dingo the Camping on Country ambassador and chairman of Bush TV Enterprises said he’d show the Federal Government where the funding was helping and identify the areas that need more support.

By the end of this year the crew will have travelled around Australia twice and completed some 15 camps with 300-plus men and 10 communities.

The camps involved hunting, cooking, yarning circles, health checks, cultural activities, counselling and walks to connect men with their country, culture and each other.

“We all know about the statistics in regards to Indigenous men’s health, we got some pretty numbers, better than some cricket scores.

We can close the gap about men’s health a lot better than a lot of the attempts that were made from Canberra.”

Ernie Dingo spoke at our NACCHO Ochre Day about their successful men’s health remote community program – Camping on Country, where culture is an integral part of health


Part 2

Mick Adams has been encouraging men to have a yarn in order to create more tightly knit communities for more than 30 years.

The 73-year-old, who is currently based in Perth, has won a National Men’s Health Award for his work to improve men’s health.

A Senior Research Fellow at Edith Cowan University, Dr Adams received the Local Men’s Health Hero Award.

Mick’s journey started in 1976 when he was told about an opportunity with the South Australian Institute of Technology’s Aboriginal Task Force.

“I didn’t have a lot of education and my spelling wasn’t so crash hot, but I went to the interview, got the opportunity and after two years, I came out with an associate diploma,” he said.

“After that I started looking at ways to improve myself. Studying became an option.”

He went on to complete a degree in social work, which eventually led to him earning his PhD at Curtin University.

Focusing on men’s health

Mick, who is known as Uncle Mick to most, began focusing on men’s health after talking to some Indigenous women in Mortadella while working in mental health.

“I found out a lot of men were committing suicide in a number of different ways,” he said.

“I wanted to give men a more positive attitude in life – not only about respecting themselves, but respecting their families as well.”

He soon extended his focus from men’s health to men’s health and wellbeing.

His work focused on issues including suicide, domestic violence, sexual and reproductive health and giving young Indigenous men a sense of self worth.

Companionship, not leadership

He said a key part of his approach was adopting a conversational, informal tone, or just “having a yarn”.

He pointed out the Northern Territory intervention as an example of the wrong approach, saying it left a lot of men feeling degraded.

“We talk about leadership, but men need more companionship,” he said.

Another obstacle was the self-esteem of young Indigenous men – considered men according to their own culture, but still considered boys by wider society.

Signs of success and funding shortfalls

Mick said the No More anti domestic violence campaign was a sign strategies of collaboration were encouraging Indigenous men to speak out about systemic problems.

“Men feel more comfortable about addressing those issues. Men want to work with women and women want to work with men.”

Mick said his focus was not solely on Indigenous men and he often spoke with men outside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

He said men’s health issues were still largely under-funded and the success of grass roots campaigns were a testament to the strength of communities.


NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #MentalHealth and #Racism #BlackLivesMatter : Australian psychologists stand united against racism in all forms.

 ” Recent international events have put a spotlight on issues of systemic racism in our society.

The resonance of the experiences of African American, Black American and Native American people in the US in their interactions with law enforcement and incarceration with those of Indigenous Australians demonstrates the global reach of this issue.

In Australia, the Black Lives Matter movement has refocused attention on black deaths in custody and the disproportionate rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by the criminal justice system, where more than 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody since the end of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody in 1991.

This movement has reminded us to reflect on the role we must play, as individuals and as a profession, in addressing racism and promoting equality and the social and emotional wellbeing of all Australians.

We recognise that racism impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in many ways. It is historical, political, social, cultural, systemic and direct.

The ongoing disparities in social and emotional wellbeing remind us of our responsibility to do more to stand against systemic racism.”

The Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association (AIPA) and the Australian Psychological Society (APS), in conjunction with the Association of Counselling Psychologists (ACP), Australian Clinical Psychology Association (ACPA), Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC), Heads of Departments and Schools of Psychology Association (HODSPA), Institute of Clinical Psychologists (ICP), and Institute of Private Practising Psychologists (IPPP), stand together to call out and combat racism in our profession, our discipline and our society.

Download the Position Statement press release with all signatures 


Read over 130 Aboriginal Health and Racism articles published by NACCHO over 8 years

In 2009, the Boatshed Racism Roundtable Declaration recognised that racism against Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples exists in various forms and in all systems in Australia today. Research evidence shows that racism is a barrier to the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with a destructive impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, employment, health, mental health and wellbeing, well beyond its immediate impact.

Racism completely undermines all efforts to close the gap in health and other outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.

We reaffirm our commitment to the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Nations peoples of Australia, and the right of Indigenous peoples to exercise authority in education, employment, health and wellbeing for their communities, with the respectful support of Australian governments.

We remain committed to ensuring that high quality research and evidence are at the heart of public policy and evidence practice, and that the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are heard in shaping policy and practice.

Our profession is not immune to racism and discrimination. In 2016, the APS Apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people acknowledged psychology’s role in contributing to their mistreatment and the erosion of culture.

The cultural assumptions that underlie psychological assessment and diagnostic practices, approaches to treatment, and our field’s complicity in research and policy provided the veneer of scientific rigor to harmful policies that further marginalised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Our profession has not always respected their skills, expertise, world views and unique wisdom developed over thousands of years.

In 2020, we are reaffirming our commitment to action, and calling on others to join us.

We acknowledge that racism is present in the psychology profession and discipline, and we remain committed to addressing it.

Many organisations and professional bodies are taking a public stand against racism. We are asking more from the psychology profession.

Our profession has a responsibility to acknowledge, address and combat racism, and support people impacted by racism and discrimination.

As psychologists, we have a professional and ethical responsibility to defend and uphold the social and emotional wellbeing of all people, providing equitable, effective, and accessible psychological services.

Psychologists must do their best to support persons impacted by racism and discrimination and raise our voices against discriminatory systems and practice that threaten the social and emotional wellbeing of individuals and communities.

And importantly, we must also reflect on ourselves and address our own racism and unconscious biases.

To start to address racism, we need to purposefully strive for social justice and look not only at how we as individuals and a profession can be part of change, but what we must do to reform our systems and practice to address systemic racism.

Successfully standing against racism will depend on our willingness and ability to engage in reflection, truth telling, (have) courageous conversations and working together towards action.

The time for action is now. We invite all psychologists to stand together against racism and discrimination of all kinds.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : #BlackLivesMatter is not just a hashtag or a movement. It is an opportunity for real change.  Says Jill Gallagher AO, CEO of VACCHO

Unless we as a Nation, are prepared to address racism head on then we will never see improved health and wellbeing outcomes. Long after COVID-19 vanishes.

This point in history is the point in which choices need to be made. We must move beyond mere words of support and into full action.

Being ‘in this together’ is a slogan made popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is more than a slogan. It is time that we understood what that would look like if we accepted that challenge.

To those who are not from our communities, being in this together means this.

  • Keep marching alongside us. We make up three percent of Australia’s population only. To the other 97 percent, this is your fight for a better future, too.
  • Keep amplifying our voice.
  • Keep demanding justice. Support treaty and truth telling commissions as outlined in the Uluru Statement of the Heart.
  • Keep calling on the governments to stamp out racism.

We cannot walk this road alone, anymore. It has been 231 years. It goes without saying that this is a defining moment in history. And one that will be reflected upon by future generations.

A legacy will be made forever in the way we choose to respond. ”

Ms Jill Gallagher AO, a Gunditjmara woman from western Victoria, is CEO of VACCHO

This article was first published in VACCHO News

We know our families and communities are hurting. This is a failure of the system.

There is a shocking and disproportionate level of suicide between Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples compared to the broader Australian population.”

Jill Gallagher, chief executive of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health ­Organisation, said answers were needed urgently : Interview with Australian see Part 2 Below

Part 1: Let’s change history together

In the same week Australia was set to celebrate its Aboriginal reconciliation achievements, the world was devastated that George Floyd was racially targeted and killed by Minnesota police.

This violent act had reverberations at home; it spoke to our own colonial injustice. A story we know too well.

As much as this has become a global story and sparked global unrest among the broader community, for those of us with lived experience of racial abuse, it’s a deeply personal story.

We saw our sons, our uncles, our brothers, our cousins in George’s eyes.

I witnessed my own mother being asked to leave a shop when I was a very little girl in rural Victoria.  My son is reluctant to display the Aboriginal flag on his car for fear of being pulled over by police.

Only two weeks ago, during a local supermarket trip the morning of the Black Lives Matter rally in Melbourne, I was wearing my Aboriginal t-shirt and carrying an Aboriginal bag.

Once I had finished my shopping, I went through the self-checkout when the person who monitors that section stopped me and asked if she could search my bags. I said no assertively and asked her why she had targeted me, and not the other people just walking through. She advised “because it’s policy”.’

Unless you have experienced this kind of blatant racism daily, it can be hard to appreciate the cumulative impact of this behaviour on an individual’s emotional, mental, and ultimately physical wellbeing.

But the BLM response is a wake-up call that we can no longer ignore – a stark reminder of the violence and racism that plagues our own society. It is time for Australians to truly understand that racism exists here on all levels, and it is killing our people.

This is much deeper than a social movement. It is our current, lived reality. For this generation, and – if we do not step forward to change – it will be the reality for our next generation.

Our reality needs to change

In June 2020, our people are more likely to go to prison, than go to University; and not for serious crimes either, for unpaid fines or petty crimes like shoplifting.

Our people are more likely to be locked up and die in custody. We are more likely to die or be seriously injured in family violence incidents. We are also more likely to die from chronic disease.

We are more likely to live in places that have poor air and food quality too. Appallingly, 95 percent of us have experienced some form of racism, which carries the same health impact equivalent to smoking.  And we are more likely to experience high levels of psychological distress rooted in intergenerational grief, loss, and trauma.

The pandemic has taught VACCHO and our member organisations many things. But in most cases it has reaffirmed the inequality around the globe when it comes to health care access.

In the US, the latest data shows African Americans have died from the disease at almost three times the rate of white people. In the UK, black men and women are four times more likely to die from coronavirus than white people.

During the pandemic, we heard abhorrent stories of remote Aboriginal communities being sent body bags, instead of adequate supplies and support. We’ve heard of Aboriginal organisations in Victoria, almost shutting down or being forced to make their own personal protective equipment, as they were not seen as an ‘essential service’.

Federally, we continue to see an abundance of investment being prioritised to non-Aboriginal health organisations that do not always deliver outcomes for our communities.

Of the $2.4 billion dollars invested in a COVID-19 health plan, only $123 million was provided to Aboriginal Communities and $57.8 million went to remote Aboriginal Communities.

In Victoria, the flow-down of that funding was minimal.

Courage and resilience

While the challenges we have faced and continue to face as First Nations peoples speak of injustice and heartache. That is not the whole story.

Ours is also a story of courage, resilience, and achievement. This history is also a powerful reality. A story that is seldom told. Starting from today and working backwards.

COVID-19 was predicted to have devastating impacts on our communities. To date, the Victorian Aboriginal community has had a total of six cases. Nationally, that total is 60. We have forged a path in working together for health and wellbeing.

This way of working has stopped the outbreak and saved lives.

That said, even with the low incidence of COVID-19 cases in our communities. This pandemic has placed us in a situation that might take years to recover from.

But alas, Aboriginal people and communities and organisations, right across the country, have shown tremendous strength, fortitude, and adaptability. In some ways, this should not be a surprise. Resilience is in our DNA.

Aboriginal people have inhabited Australia for over 80,000 years, though we believe this to be longer. In this time, we survived the end of the last Ice Age, watching as glaciers retreated, isolating us from the rest of the world. We faced massive changes to the land, to animals, to flora and food sources. And even still our populations flourished.

It is believed by the time Captain Cook crashed into the Great Barrier Reef in 1770; our population was in the middle of a three-century growth spurt.

We developed knowledge and relationships with the land and each other. These complex relationships enabled us to thrive, to adapt and excel, in some of the harshest environments known to man. Yet what was to come was one of the biggest threats; colonisation.

When that occurred, we fought to survive massacres and genocide. We fought to survive attempts at assimilation.

Being forced off our traditional lands and herded on missions like cattle. And having our families and customs ripped apart. That happened to my family, it happened to me.

We fought to survive newly introduced diseases like smallpox. We fought and survived them, nonetheless. We have not been recognised as First Nations of this Country, or for those injustices. And we certainly have not been celebrated for our resilience, and our achievements.

And in 2020, I ask Australians this. Should we be expected to keep fighting for justice and equality?

Fighting to be valued in a world that chooses not to see black or brown people is a heavy burden to bear.

And I would argue it is, in fact, not our burden at all. Isn’t it time now for our fellow Australians to finally stand up to alleviate some of this weight?

If not now, when?

Part 2 : More than half of the indigenous people who committed suicide in Victoria since 2009 had contact with police in the 12 months ­before they died and a third had contact with the court system, a groundbreaking report has found.

Advocacy groups claim the ­extensive data breakdown in the report by the Coroners Court provides proof of the extent of indigenous vulnerabilities and suicides.

Since the beginning of the year, 11 indigenous people have committed suicide in

The report shows marked differences between indigenous and non-indigenous people who committed suicide during the recording period of January 2009 to April 30 this year.

Forty per cent of indigenous females who committed suicide were aged under 25, compared with 13.4 per cent of all females who took their lives.

Indigenous people who committed suicide had greater contact in the previous year with police (52.2 per cent to 39.6 per cent) and were also more likely to have a diagnosed mental illness (62.3 per cent to 55.7 per cent).

Alcohol was detected in 40.2 per cent of post-mortem toxicology results of indigenous people compared to 29.4 of all Victorians, and the detection of ­illegal drugs was also higher (42 per cent to 15 per cent).

Coroner John Cain said the ­report was important because it provided a significant data base going forward. He said people had previously speculated on the suicide figures but the report and more detailed future studies would provide reliable background data for policy decisions.

Jacqueline McGowan-Jones, chief executive of Thirrili, an indigenous organisation working to stem suicide, said there needed to be a focus on prevention of indigenous suicides as well as “postvention” to help families and friends cope with bereavement and trauma.

“We want early notification reporting from people so we can reach out to the family,” she said.

“(Reports on) self-harm and attempted suicide, the protocols can get better at providing support to those at risk.

“I do commend Victoria on doing the report. The way we get change is to identify why it is happening.”

Ms McGowan-Jones said there needed to be a stronger focus on support services.

“It’s heartbreaking that with all the opportunity for prevention, we still can’t reach everybody who needs help and support,” she said.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Racism : Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair of @RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health “ Differences in health outcomes are ‘absolutely’ linked to systemic and institutionalised racism in Australia.”

” I can recount ‘hundreds’ of similar experiences and that ‘every Aboriginal person’ would have comparable stories – Aboriginal ethnicity is the strongest predictor of Discharge Against Medical Advice ( DAMA  )and occurs at a rate eight times that of the non-Indigenous population.

I am trying to encourage health services to take more responsibility by getting them to ‘look at it in a different way’, as i believe it is incumbent upon health professionals, including GPs, to lead the fight against racism.

[I want them] to think what is so toxic about this environment … [where] they know if they walk out that front door they could die and they’d rather do that than stay in here.

Everyone in the health system should be advocating for their patients, but GPs are perfectly placed to do that.

Our patients trust us more than any other doctor that they see and they have an intimate, ongoing relationship with us that they don’t necessarily have with any other health professional.

Creating a safe environment for our patients is exactly our responsibility … it’s just about showing an extra level of care for patients and ensuring that they’re comfortable in order to help make a wider change.’

Associate Professor O’Mara highlighted disproportionately high rates of Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) events experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as one by-product of discrimination in the health system, but said GPs are well-placed to help prevent such episodes from occurring. Speaking to GPnews

Download the NACCHO RACGP National Guide 

Read over 130 Aboriginal Health and Racism articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years

The 12th Closing the Gap report, released in February this year, laid bare the lack of progress Australia continues to make with regard to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, education and employment outcomes.

Child mortality is twice that of non-Indigenous children, the life expectancy gap remains at about eight years (and equivalent to developing countries like Palestine and Guatemala), and there is a burden of disease 2.3 times greater than that of non-Indigenous Australians.

According to the Coalition of Peaks, which this week released what it called a ground-breaking report into the development of a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, a change in approach is required to ‘truly close the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians’.

It advocates for more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement across the board, and calls for mainstream service delivery – including the health sector – to be reformed to address systemic racism, promote cultural safety, and to be held ‘much more accountable’.

Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP that differences in health outcomes are ‘absolutely’ linked to systemic and institutionalised racism in Australia, as is the subsequent trauma it inevitably produces.

View previous NACCHO TV Interview with Associate Professor Peter O’Mara


One of the greatest sources of trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, according to Associate Professor O’Mara, is their interaction with police and the criminal justice system.

‘The system is against us in so many ways,’ he said.

‘I went up to a town in the Northern Territory many years ago and when I got to the community a young fella had just been taken across to Darwin where he was spending two weeks in incarceration [due to mandatory sentencing laws].

‘What had happened is, he and his mates were playing cricket on the street … and this young fella had the bat, hit a big shot, and smashed a streetlight.

‘Someone has complained and said, “I’m calling the cops”. He waited and did the right thing, he said, “Look, I’m really sorry, it was an accident, we were playing cricket. I’m sure my parents will try and help pay for the light”, but he got locked up for two weeks.

‘Just for something silly like that – they were playing cricket on a dead-end street in Australia.’

Associate Professor O’Mara says instances like that only tell part of the story.

‘[For example], there’s the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to suffer hearing disorders – often as a result of things like chronic suppurative otitis media – and the evidence is there to say that when you have a hearing disorder, you’re more likely to be incarcerated,’ he said.

‘Some of the things that we do as GPs, like working on that trying to improve ear health for children, and particularly for Aboriginal children, can have a direct impact.’

Dr Penny Abbott, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Custodial Health network, said GPs are at the frontline for people who are in contact with the criminal justice system.

‘The reasons people end up in prison usually include health issues, such as mental health or substance-related problems, and social problems like homelessness and lack of community-based support networks,’ she told newsGP.

‘Addressing these issues before people get to the point of being sent to prison can happen at a primary care level where we are good at treating the whole person in their context.’

Dr Abbott also said once a person is released from prison it is a ‘perfect time’ to consider if an Aboriginal health check, mental health plan, or chronic disease management plan is urgently needed.

‘[GPs] can make a real difference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait patients by being aware of the kinds of health, social and system issues that their patient comes up against when leaving prison – a precarious time where people are at high risk of relapse to drug use, death, hospitalisation, and returning to prison,’ she said.

‘For example, GPs can ensure continuity of healthcare started in prison, manage health issues that weren’t addressed in prison, and look afresh at issues that may be cropping up post-release. Substance-use disorders are of course a big issue to be on top of.’

Aside from the incarcerated person, Associate Professor O’Mara said it is also important to be aware of the vicarious trauma that families can suffer, especially if the family member is assaulted while imprisoned, or worse, dies in custody.

Since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, imprisoned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died at a lower rate than non-Indigenous prisoners – although there are no reliable statistics that can be used to calculate death rates in police custody.

A key finding of the royal commission was that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ‘do not die at a greater rate than non-Aboriginal people in custody’, but rather ‘what is overwhelmingly different is the rate at which Aboriginal people come into custody, compared with the rate of the general community’.

Yet, in the subsequent years, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian prisons has nearly doubled from 14% to 27%. As a result, 437 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody in the past 29 years, as opposed to 99 in the 10-year period investigated by the royal commission.

The high incarceration rate means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 15 times more likely to end up in prison than non-Indigenous Australians, and thus more likely to die there as well.

Dr Abbott said deaths in custody are a great burden on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

‘We need to remain vigilant and committed to avoiding people being sent to prison in the first place, as well as providing quality care in prison and after release,’ she said.

‘We also need to continually reflect on the root causes of deaths in custody and over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the social determinants of poor health and inequities, and the systemic racism that our patients continue to experience.

‘There are many things which will help, such as more programs to divert young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from prison, and a larger workforce of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and prison health.’

But, as pointed out in the Coalition of Peaks report, institutionalised racism is not restricted to the justice system, and remains a common experience among health professionals and within the health system as well.

Associate Professor O’Mara highlighted disproportionately high rates of Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) events experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as one by-product of discrimination in the health system, but said GPs are well-placed to help prevent such episodes from occurring.

‘This is a great example, unfortunately, of what happens to our people,’ he said.

‘I’ve seen a gentleman in the clinic in the Aboriginal Medical Service who had chest pain, and I thought that he was having a heart attack – a myocardial infarction. So I started treating him for that and called the ambulance, which took him to a local hospital that … within the health services is known to be blatantly racist.

‘This gentleman goes into the emergency department. He’s quite happy to be there and he’s thankful that he’s receiving the treatment, but some things are said in that environment that are so toxic to him that he decides to pull the ECG leads off, take the IV lines out and walk out the front door.

‘That happens all too commonly in this setting and then at that point, the doctors and nurses, the health professionals will wash their hands of it because we say, “We told them not to go, they chose to go, they signed this [DAMA form]”.’