NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Congress concerned about end of APAs

Image in feature tile from ABC News website.

Congress concerned about end of APAs

In a media release today Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress) added its voice to a growing chorus of concerns about the forthcoming end to Alcohol Protected Areas (APAs). As it stands, the sunset clause in s118 of the Australian Government’s Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012 will take effect on 16 July 2022. At a stroke, many NT communities, town camps and Community Living Areas will lose their legal protection from alcohol abuse.

The ‘rivers of grog’ will once again flow through our communities. The effects on the broader community through increased crime, antisocial behaviour and violence will be of great concern. “Since the NT Government’s alcohol reforms of 2018, we have made really good progress on reducing alcohol-related harm in Alice Springs, and the introduction of the full-time Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors (PALIs) at bottle shops has been a big part of this,” said Donna Ah Chee, Chief Executive Officer of Congress.

To view the Congress media release What everyone knows about Alice – the Alcohol Protected Areas and PALIs really work! in full click here.

Image source: ABC News website.

Mala’la Community Wellness Program awarded

The Mala’la Community Wellbeing Program are the winners of the Excellence in Indigenous AOD Programs Award at the recent 2022 Association of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies Northern Territory (AADANT) NT AOD awards night in Darwin. This Australian Indigenous Health InfoNet sponsored award is presented to a non-government organisation in the NT with an alcohol and other drug (AOD) program specifically for Indigenous Australians.

Mala’la successfully combines culturally safe and secure AOD interventions with individual psychotherapy, family therapy, wellness education and advocacy. It encourages reconnection with family and community, re-engagement with education and employment and participation in traditional ceremonies and other forms of culturally appropriate meaningful activity as part of the recovery journey.

Maddy Mackey accepted the award on behalf of the Mala’la Community Wellbeing Program. You can read more about Mala’la Community Wellness Program here and access the Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation website click here.

Felicity Douglas, Manager of Mala’la Community Wellness Support Service and participants of the Youth Dance Program. Images from Mala’la Health Service website.

Rapid antigen tests (RAT) information kit

Rapid antigen tests (RATs) are a quick way to check if you have COVID-19 without needing to go to a clinic. There are 3 different types of RATs. These include RATs you can do from your nose, RATs you can do with your spit and RATs that you suck like a lollipop. The Australian Department of Health has developed a RAT information kit of communication materials for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The information pack contains resources which explain what RATs are, where to get them and how to use each type of RAT. Within the information pack are:

Fact sheets:

A social tile:

Videos:

You can access a summary of the RAT information kit here.

Mob encouraged to get protected for winter

As the country heads into winter, a new campaign is encouraging First Nations people to check in with their doctors to discuss COVID-19 boosters, vaccines for kids and the flu shot. SE NSW primary health network COORDINARE has partnered with local CCHOs for the digital campaign titled #fabvac. “This campaign highlights how vaccines make a difference, even for people who’ve had COVID,” COORDINARE’s Aboriginal Health Service development and performance manager Nathan Deaves said. “The videos are made by local young Aboriginal people who recently yarned with local Aboriginal community members and health workers about their experiences of COVID and attitudes to vaccines.”

One of the videos features Uncle Ken, a community member from Bermagui, who said 13 family members ended up catching the virus. “It is just as well we had the double jab in the first place, only the two out of the 13 went to hospital, but just overnight and they came back home,” he said. “It was scary at the time, we didn’t know if they were going to come back or not. We all said to ourselves we’ve got to get the jab whether we like it or not. “We’re all going to get COVID, but we won’t get it as bad so that’s what happened – no one got it as bad.”

Mr Deaves said the key message with the #fabvac campaign was that community members needed to keep up to date with their COVID vaccines because their immunity to current and future variants of the virus does reduce over time. Respiratory illnesses spread more in winter because we all spend more time indoors, so getting the flu shot is also important, he said.

You can watch a a short video about getting the COVID-19 vaccine below.

Top 3 questions – Flu season

In the video below Dr Lucas De Toca, COVID-19 Primary Care Response First Assistant Secretary, Australian Government Department of Health answers the Top Three questions across their channels about the flu:

  1. Why are we especially vulnerable to flu this year?
  2. What can we do to protect ourselves against a bad flu season?
  3. I’ve heard of plenty of people who have been immunised with the flu shot and still get the flu! What’s the point?

You can access the Australian Government Department of Health Top 3 questions – Flu season webpage here.

First youth contact with health system critical

The first contact a young person has with a health professional about a problem with their mental health can be critical in helping them to engage with treatment and recovery. the NPS MedicineWise webpage How can GPs help young people engage with treatment for mental health issues? lists the following key points:

  • Mental health problems in young people are extremely common. More than 50% of young people will experience some form of mental ill health by the age of 25.
  • Early intervention with effective support and treatment is essential to reduce potential chronicity of mental illnesses. 75% of adult mental health disorders have their onset before the age of 25.
  • Personal connections between the young person, their supports and the health professional, a focus on the person’s needs rather than their diagnosis, and shared goals are essential for good engagement.
  • Regular, scheduled follow-up sessions can be very helpful as they demonstrate to the young person that you are invested in their wellbeing.
  • Evidence-based treatments are available, but not equally readily accessible for young people. Work with the young person to determine most suitable treatments based on their needs and preferences and to optimise meaningful engagement.

To access the relevant NPS MedicineWise webpage click here.

Image source: Amnesty International Australia.

Kidney Health Australia professional webinar

Kidney Health Australia are hosting a health professional webinar Chronic Kidney Disease, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease: The clinical importance to make the link from 7.30PM–8.30PM AEST Thursday 19 May 2022.

The guest Nephrologist speaker on this webinar, Dr Veena Roberts, will explore the evidence in making the link between chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and the clinical importance of these three conditions.

This is a RACGP accredited activity for 2 CPD points. Activity # 332307.

To register for this webinar click here. Upon successful registration you will receive a confirmation email from Zoom.

New funds for Hep C awareness campaigns

The Eliminate hepatitis C Australia Partnership (EC Australia), created in 2018 to bring together researchers, implementation scientists, government, health services and community organisations to ensure the whole of Australia sustains high numbers of people accessing hepatitis C treatment, has welcomed the provision of $1.25 million in funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.

The funding will support three different awareness campaigns as part of a broader partnership, the National Hepatitis C 50,000 Project, which aims to scale up testing and treatment. The funds will boost paid advertising for the It’s Your Right campaign and will also support the codesign of Aboriginal specific artwork for the rollout. EC Australia will also work in partnership with NACCHO to design and implement a hepatitis treatment campaign for ACCHOs.

The 50,000 Project is an innovative national partnership project to scale up testing and treatment to find 50,000 people living with hepatitis C by the end of 2022. In doing so, the 50,000 Project will be central in Australia achieving the 2022 national hepatitis C targets for testing and treatment.

To view The National Tribune article New funding for hepatitis campaigns click here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

FASD Forum 2022

The inaugural FASD Forum ’22 Conference aims to provide an opportunity for everyone interested in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) to hear from research-leading and lived-experience experts. The conference theme is FASD@50 reflecting that it is 50 years since FASD was first identified in medical literature in the English-speaking world.

Presentations over the two-day conference will cover themes related to:

  • behaviour support
  • behaviours of concern
  • transitions in education and employment
  • parent/carer support and self-care (including an expert parent panel)
  • mental health
  • sexualised behaviour
  • justice.

Presentations will combine lived experience perspectives with professional knowledge and current research topics. They will also enable opportunities for information sharing to deepen understanding. Practical strategies and interventions to assist those living with FASD and their families will be a key focus.

The opening keynote address will be presented by world-renowned paediatrician and researcher, Professor Kenneth Lyons Jones MD (University of California, San Diego), who, together with Dr David Smith, was the first to identify FASD in their research fifty years ago.

To register your interest in the conference, contact NOFASD here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Simple free bowel cancer test saves lives

Simple free bowel cancer test saves lives

Most bowel cancers (sometimes called colorectal, colon or rectal cancers) start as benign, non-cancerous growths called ‘polyps’ that form on the inner lining or the wall of the bowel. These polyps may become cancerous if they are not removed. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Although these cancers are experienced at lower rates than non-Indigenous Australians, the survival rates are lower and mortality rates are higher. This may be due to the lower participation in bowel screening programs, which is a particular risk for those in remote areas, where access to health services can be limited.

Initiatives such as the National Indigenous Bowel Screening Pilot Project have helped to address low rates of participation among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which is important as when found early, bowel cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can currently receive free screening for bowel cancer via the Australian Government’s National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP).

The Australian Government Department of Health has developed a collection of resources, specifically tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about the NBCSP and the importance of bowel cancer screening, available here.

‘I was whitewashed’ says Uncle Jack Charles

Yesterday the actor and Indigenous rights activist, Uncle Jack Charles, told the nation’s first truth and justice commission to hear the impacts of colonisation and racist government policy on First Nations people of his removal from his family as a baby. Charles said he was placed in the Box Hill Boys’ Home, where he experienced “cruel and callous punishments” in the 1950s, and spoke of the cycles of incarceration, homelessness, familial dislocation and drug addiction he experienced for decades as a result of that treatment. “I wasn’t even told I was Aboriginal. I had to discover that for myself. I knew nothing, was told nothing, and had to assimilate … I was whitewashed by the system,” Charles told the Yoorrook Justice Commission on its first day of public hearings.

Elders were invited to make submissions at the commission’s hearings, or wurrek tyerrang, that opened at the former site of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service building on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, a symbolic landmark of self-determination to First Peoples in the state since the community organisation was founded in the early 1970s. Submissions to the commission, also referred to as nuther-mooyoop (a Boon Wurrung word for truth), were designed to provide an opportunity for First Nations elders in the state to share their experiences of the impacts of colonisation, including their experiences of resilience and survival of languages and little-known histories and traditions.

To view The Age article ‘I was whitewashed’: Uncle Jack Charles first elder to share his story at Yoorrook in full click here.

Uncle Jack Charles outside the Victoria Aboriginal Health Service, Fitzroy

Uncle Jack Charles outside the Victoria Aboriginal Health Service at Fitzroy. Photo: Darrian Traynor. Image source: The Age.

Protect your mob – immunisation campaign

Vaccination rates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have decreased over recent periods, particularly at 1 and 2 years of age. It is important to establish positive immunisation behaviours early in your children’s lives. Skipping or delaying vaccinations puts children and those around them at risk of catching serious diseases. It’s important that children receive their routine vaccines in line with the Childhood Immunisation schedule on time, every time, for the best protection.

A recently launched ’Get the facts about immunisation’ campaign uses a range of materials to engage with parents and carers, childcare workers and health care professionals about the importance of childhood vaccination. Materials specifically developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people include online videos, an infographic and brochures. You can find out more about the ‘Get the facts about immunisation’ campaign here and access resources from the Australian Government Department of Health Routine childhood immunisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children webpage here.

Children need commitment in this election

National Voice for our Children is calling on all major parties in the upcoming Federal election to commit to actions that create a better start in life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. SNAICC’s election priorities have been sent to parties with the responses to inform a snapshot of where they stand on key policies impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle said substantial policy change was crucial if a future Federal Government was to make headway on new Closing the Gap targets. “Under the National Partnership all Governments have agreed to work with the Coalition of Peaks to reduce over-representation in out of home care by 45% by 2031,” Ms Liddle said. “There is also agreement to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children developmentally on track against all 5 domains of the Australian Early Development Census by 55%.”

To view the SNAICC media release Children need commitment in this election contest in full click here.

Image source: SBS TV.

Jacci – no choice but to leave Katherine

Jacci Ingham had been living in the small NT town of Katherine, around 300km south of Darwin, for two decades. And she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. It was where her friends were, where her favourite memories were made and where her passion for landscape photography really flourished. But when her NDIS request to move into a local supported accommodation facility was knocked back, she was deemed legally homeless. The writing was on the wall – she had no choice but to leave.

Although she does not have a disability that is visible to the outside world, Jacci – who is in her 40s – has always relied on around-the-clock support to be able to live her life. “I used to see various counsellors and paediatricians and what not and they’d try these different things to see if that would improve me,” Jacci said. “To be honest, I was a bit out of it for a while like my speech was different, I had thought differently, I was prone to very delusional ways of thinking.”

Remote and Population Health Manager for Katherine West Health Board, Megan Green, was brought into the ACCHO as the Mental Health Coordinator in 2016, and tasked with the role of servicing the mental health needs of residents across the 160,000 sq km from the WA border to the edge of the Tanami desert. “So people have got…a number of options (in Darwin). For the mob out bush and even in Katherine itself, I think they’re quite limited,” she said. She said the only option for patients who are in the midst of a mental health crisis, because Katherine does not have the services required, is to have them flown to Darwin at a cost of “thousands of dollars.” It’s always a last resort to send someone out of community, it’s only if we can’t support them or their family, or support the family to support them,” Megan said.

The above was extracted from the Manning River Times article ‘If Katherine were to improve its mental health services, I would move back in a heartbeat’ published on 26 April 2022.

Image source: Manning River Times.

Universal access to oral healthcare needed

There’s a strong economic argument for providing free – or at least affordable – dental healthcare as poor dental health is linked to chronic conditions such as stroke, heart and lung diseases, which place a significant cost on the public health system. Vulnerable Australians are particularly at risk from oral disease and there are growing calls in the lead-up to the federal election to start the journey towards universal access to oral healthcare.

The Consumers Health Forum CEO Leanne Wells says dental care should be funded under Medicare because otherwise it is simply unaffordable for many Australians who risk long-term illness and preventable hospitalisation. Tan Nguyen and Associate Professor Amit Arora, co-convenors of the Public Health Association of Australia Oral Health Special Interest Group, have outlined how national leadership is required to address this neglected area of public health in a Croakey Health Media article Universal access to oral healthcare needs national leadership  here.

Image source: Armajun Aboriginal Health Service website.

Fierce advocacy for mob will be remembered

Prominent Kungarakan and Gurindji elder and community leader Kathy Mills died on Sunday aged 86. Ms Mills was known for her advocacy work for Aboriginal people in the NT, as well as a distinguished career as a songwriter and poet. Daughter June Mills said her mother had a powerful memory of local bloodlines and culture. “She’d take you on a journey, a beautiful journey, and I’ve witnessed that so many times … I’m going to miss that,” Ms Mills said.

Ms Mills held various leadership roles in the NT community, including helping to start Darwin’ oldest alcohol rehabilitation service, co-founding the Danila Dilba Health Service and, in the 1980s, being the first woman elected to the Northern Land Council. Critical of what she said was disappointingly slow work towards reconciliation, Ms Mills used her national profile to push for stronger action than token gestures for Aboriginal people.

“She had steely determination,” June Mills said. “Whether it was Stolen Generation or health or alcoholism, there was lots of things she championed throughout her life. “And once she set her teeth into something, she persevered until she got what she wanted to happen.” Ms Mills was named the NAIDOC person of the year in 1986, was inducted into what were then the NT Indigenous Music Awards (now National Indigenous Music Awards) Hall of Fame in 2005 and became a member of the Order of Australia in 2019. Earlier this year, Ms Mills was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the NT’s Batchelor Institute in recognition of her work.

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal elder Kathy Mills remembered as formidable leader and brilliant storyteller in full click here.

Kathy Mills

Kathy Mills. Photo: Terry McDonald, ABC News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Eye treatment could reduce vision loss

Image in the feature tile is from the Brian Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) website.

Eye treatment could reduce vision loss

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience three times more vision loss than non-Indigenous people, creating a concerning gap for vision. Associate Professor Hessom Razavi from The University of WA explains that much of this is due to diabetic macular oedema (DMO).  Macular oedema blurs the central vision, diminishing the ability to recognise people’s faces, to drive and work, and perform other essential tasks. DMO affects around 23,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia with most of them of working age.

The good news is DMO is treatable, with medications known as anti-VEGF agents. A world-first clinical trail has been undertaken to test longer-acting DMO treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people patients find it impractical, for complex and varied reasons, to attend 10–12 appointments a year. There is, therefore, a need for an alternative. Longer-acting medications do exist. One example is a dexamethasone implant, a steroid injected into the eye which only needs to be dosed every three months.

You can view the Longer-acting eye treatment could reduce vision loss for Indigenous Australians article in full here and a short video from The Fred Hollows Foundation website explaining the prevalence of eye problems among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Help stop the flu in 2022

Annual vaccination is the most important measure to prevent influenza and its complications. Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause widespread illness and deaths every year. This year, it’s even more important to get the influenza vaccine as we are more vulnerable to influenza. This is due to lower recent exposure to the virus and lower uptake of influenza vaccines in 2021. With international borders reopening, it’s likely we will see more influenza in 2022.

Who should get an influenza vaccine – vaccination experts recommend influenza vaccination for all people aged 6 months and over. Under the National Immunisation Program, free influenza vaccines are provided to the following groups who are at higher risk of complications from influenza:

  • children aged 6 months to less than 5 years
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
  • people aged 6 months and over with certain medical conditions that increase their chance of severe influenza and its complications
  • pregnant women (at any stage during pregnancy)
  • people aged 65 years and over.

Influenza vaccines are available NOW – FREE influenza vaccines under the National Immunisation Program became available this month and can be administered by GPs, community health clinics, and eligible pharmacies. To locate a service in your area you can search the National Health Services Directory. Book your appointment to get vaccinated to ensure you have the best protection at the peak of the season (usually June to September). However, it’s never too late to get  vaccinated as influenza can spread all year round.

For further information you can access the Department of Health’s Help stop the flu in 2022 website page here.

Telehealth’s role in modern health care

In recent years teleconsultations have played a growing role in the delivery of healthcare and support services across Australia. Far from a stop-gap measure, these services are set to become one of the standout legacies from the global pandemic. The government has announced it will invest AU$100 million towards making telehealth a permanent option in the healthcare system. This comes on the back of consistent research indicating confidence in the method and a lasting appetite for its convenience. A recent white paper by Deloitte, Curtin University and the Consumers Health Forum of Australia found that seven in 10 Australians are willing and ready to use virtual health services.

The research also found that geographical disparity is one of the biggest causes of inconsistent patient outcomes across the country. With the availability of videoconferencing services, people no longer need to leave their homes to receive care, and providers can ensure those in inaccessible areas aren’t left behind. We saw an example of this in the remote aboriginal community of Tjuntjuntjara in WA, which, during March 2020 and January 2021, faced a shortage of healthcare professionals due to a state border closure with SA. Following the introduction of telehealth services, the 160 residents had reliable access to virtual care for chronic conditions and mental health issues.

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article The role of telehealth in modern health care click here.

welcome to Tjuntjuntjara hand painted sign beside outback red sand road

Image source: ExporOZ.

New COVID-19 oral treatment on PBS

From Sunday 1 May 2022 the second, prescription-only, COVID-19 oral treatment will be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for Australians at high risk of developing severe COVID-19.

Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir) is an oral anti-viral medicine which can be used by patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing severe disease. This medicine will help reduce the need for hospital admission.

Adults who have mild to moderate COVID-19 – which is confirmed by a PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test and verified by the prescribing doctor or nurse practitioner – and who can start treatment within five days of symptom onset, can be prescribed the oral anti-viral medicines if:

  • they are 65 years of age or older, with two other risk factors for severe disease (as increasing age is a risk factor, patients who are 75 years of age of older only need to have one other risk factor)
  • they are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, and are 50 years of age or older with two other risk factors for severe disease, or
  • they are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

To view Minister Greg Hunt’s media release in full click here.

Image source: ABC News.

AIHW releases mental health papers.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) have released two important publications:

Employment and Indigenous mental health

  • this paper provides an overview of policies and programs that address Indigenous employment and mental health and evaluates the evidence that labour force outcomes can improve Indigenous mental health.

Indigenous self-governance for mental health and suicide prevention

  • this article provides a synthesis of the information about Indigenous self-governance in relation to mental health and suicide prevention. It explores the ways in which Indigenous organisations embody and enable processes, structures, institutions, and control associated with self-governance and how these contribute to Indigenous wellbeing and suicide prevention.

You can view the Employment and Indigenous mental health paper in full here and the Indigenous self-governance for mental health and suicide prevention article here.

Aged and dementia care scholarships 

Aged Care Nursing and Allied Health Dementia Care Scholarships.  Applications for studies in 2022 are open until 5 May 2022 to nurses, personal care workers and allied health professionals.

The  Department of Health’s Ageing and Aged Care Sector Newsletter article Aged Care Nursing and Allied Health Dementia Care Scholarships available here includes comments from Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Adjunct Professor Alison McMillian, Chief Allied Health Officer Dr Anne-marie Boxall, and previous scholarship recipients.

Additional information about the scholarships is available on the Australian College of Nursing website here.

Kurranulla’s Aboriginal aged care and disability worker Larissa McEwen with her client, Aunty Loyla Lotaniu. Photo: John Veage. Image source: St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.

$25m to fix ‘dehumanising’ Banksia Hill conditions

The Banskia Hill juvenile detention centre will receive a $25.1 million upgrade after it was slammed by a Perth Children’s Court judge as a “dehumanising” space. The money will go towards a $7.5 million crisis care unit, improvement to the centre’s intensive supervision unit, in-cell media streaming for education and therapeutic purposes, and a new Aboriginal services unit.

While sentencing a 15-year old boy for a range of offences, in February, Perth Children’s Court President Judge Hylton Quail said “if you wanted to make a monster, this is the way to do it”.

To view the ABC News article Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre gets $25 million to address ‘dehumanising’ conditions, cut incarceration rates in full click here.

parents of children inside Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre protesting

Parents of children inside Banksia Hill have recently spoken out about conditions inside the centre and are considering a class action. Photo supplied by Megan Krakouer. Image source: ABC News.

In a related story Condobolin Health Worker Ellen Doolan says while people have got to feel safe in their own homes, sending more Indigenous kids into juvenile detention is not the solution. Elderly Aboriginal people in Condobolin are just as frightened as elderly whites, she says. Many of the kids ­involved have grown up in ­“extremely tough circumstances” and are being raised by elderly grandmothers. “We’ve already got the highest rate of incarceration of any people in this country and so a lot of the fathers are in jail and now a lot of the mothers are too,” ­Doolan says. To view Ellen Doolan speaking click here.

Condobolin AHW Ellen Doolan

Condobolin health worker Ellen Doolan. Image source: The Australian.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Primary Care COVID-19 update

The latest in a series of webinars to update primary care on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout will be held from 3:30 PM–4:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 21 April 2022.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health on the panel this week will be Australian Government Department of Health Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health.

GPs and all health professionals are welcome to attend the webinar and can join using this link. If you’re unable to view this webinar live, you can view it on-demand using the same link, within a few hours of the live stream ending.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: First Nations housing in crisis

Image in feature tile of Cassandra Chula, Gloria Chula, Heather Tcherna and Majella Tipiloura in their home where 16 people live in Wadeye. Image source: SBS NITIV, 21 February 2020.

First Nations housing in crisis

An election forum on Indigenous housing will today hear that at least 8,500 new codesigned, culturally appropriate, climate resilient properties are needed in the next four years to address severe overcrowding and disadvantage. The call comes in an election priorities paper jointly released by Change the Record and Everybody’s Home.

The paper First Nations Housing – Election Priorities also calls for further funding to the states and territories to ensure existing public housing stock is retrofitted and properly maintained as the climate crisis worsens. The paper recommends sustained, long-term commitments to increasing and properly resourcing Aboriginal Community-Controlled housing, to meet the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

To view the Everybody’s Home media release in full click here.

Aboriginal house on outskirts of Alice Springs

Part of an Aboriginal town camp on the outskirts of Alice Springs. Photo: Helen Davidson, The Guardian.

A related ABC News story illustrates at a personal level the impact of inadequate housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Karen Sebastian breaks down in tears as she contemplates life after COVID-19. “I don’t know where we’ll go after this,” she sobs. “Me and the kids will probably go squat at a house or try camp out with some family, if they’ll have us.”

The Broome woman has been homeless for 10 years, but was taken on a 220-km taxi ride to stay at a rundown hotel after contracting COVID-19. She and her teenage sons went into isolation in the tourist accommodation for a week as part of the WA government’s pandemic response.

Vicki O’Donnell, who heads the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services, said “We’ve pushed for people to be put into hotels where it’s appropriate, purely so they can be looked after better, particularly for the homeless. Part of the reason people need to be taken to hotels is the terrible overcrowding we’ve got and poorly maintained houses and that’s been an issue for 20 years. It’s been highlighted during the virus and it’s something governments have to address.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Aboriginal woman with hands against security door to motel

The WA government booked Karen Sebastian and her sons into a hotel to isolate while they had COVID-19. Photo: Andrew Seabourne, ABC News.

Bushfire impact disproportionate for mob

First Nations Australians suffered worse impacts from the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires due to inappropriate planning and unsuitable interventions by authorities during the crisis, researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) argue.

The researchers have published a report examining the first-hand experiences of Indigenous Australians during the 2019-2020 bushfires, and say the findings are also reflected in the current northern NSW floods. Indigenous Australians experienced racism and unfair treatment in the face of the bushfire catastrophe, in addition to loss of home, land and lives, the ANU researchers found.

To view the ANU’s media release in full click here.

burnt forest Yuin Nation S Coast NSW 2019 bushfires

Solutions to remedy nation’s dental system

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) says the coming election is a golden opportunity to remedy the enormous mess that the nation’s dental system. The peak body for dentists has a number of remedies on its election wish list to fix the system and is putting these to the major political parties for their pre-election consideration.

Over recent years the ADA has repeatedly called on the Federal Government to address the overwhelming and urgent need to set up a targeted and sustainable funding scheme to meet the needs of older, rural and low-income Australians. ADA president Dr Mark Hutton said “People often ask the ADA why there isn’t such a scheme and I have no answer as to why this is not yet in existence. Governments of all colours have consistently failed to address this issue which affects millions.”

TOne of the ways to address the issue according to the ADA is to ensure all over 75s, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over 55 and residents of aged care facilities get a mandatory and reportable oral health assessment.

To view the Bite Magazine article ADA offers solutions to fix a broken dental system in full click here.

Aboriginal man in dental chair receiving treatment

A patient is treated at the Armajun Aboriginal Health Service at Inverell. Photo: Bridget Brennan, ABC News.

NT Melioidosis on the rise

Top End residents and visitors are being urged to take extra precaution to avoid melioidosis following a recent spike in case numbers. Melioidosis, a potentially deadly disease, is caused by the bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, found in tropical soil and water.

Dr Vicki Krause, Director of the NT Centre for Disease Control, said people are more likely to come in contact with these bacteria during the wet season, when they can be found in soil surface layers and muddy surface waters. “This wet season’s high rainfall has led to a 50% increase in the number of melioidosis cases than expected,” Dr Krause said. “On average, 32 cases of melioidosis are reported in the NT each wet season. So far this wet season, 48 cases have been recorded.”

To view the NT Government’s media release in full click here.

Bare feet walking on soil image from NT News and the motile bacteria that causes  melioidosis from the Eye of Science.

Resources for mental health workers

A series of video interviews about the risks of poor mental health and other social issues for young people have been produced by True Pictures for the NSW Ministry of Health.

The videos, like the one below, explain how mental health workers can provide culturally safe services and programs. You can access the Working with Aboriginal People Enhancing Clinical Practice in Mental Health Care Discussion Guide here and the ​video resources on the WellMob website here.

Services for LGBTIQSB+ youth ineffective

There is an absence of research into the effectiveness of service provision for First Nations LGBTIQSB+ young people in Australia. To address this gap, young people’s perspectives on essential components of service provision have been gathered. Concerns were expressed about the ongoing impact of implicit and explicit settler-colonial heteronormativity and racism on services providing support for young First Nations LGBTIQSB+ peoples.

Although set in Australia, this research supports the body of international research and has the potential to create policies and practices centered on the voices and needs of First Nations LGBTIQSB+ youth. To view the abstract of Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services research article “I felt invisible”: First nations LGBTIQSB+ young people’s experiences with health service provision in Australia in full click here.

Photo: Getty Images. Image source: Maxwell Medical Group.

COVID-19 booster vax and RAT demo

In a recent video Dr Aleeta Fejo, Larrakia and Warumungu traditional owner and Elder, and a General Practitioner, Senior Doctor at Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in South Hedland, WA explains why you should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose. Dr Fejo emphasises how getting a booster dose can reduce a person’s risk of  spreading COVID-19 to family and community members, getting seriously ill, going to hospital, and dying.

Getting tested for COVID-19 and knowing when you should stay home helps protect the whole community. If you are feeling unwell, the quickest way to get tested is with a  rapid antigen test, also known as a RAT. In these videos, Dr Mark Wenitong walks us through the testing process step by step:

You can buy RATs from pharmacies, grocery stores, and other retail and online outlets. It’s good to have a few at home, so if you feel sick you have one ready to go. If you have an eligible Commonwealth concession card, you can get up to 20 free RATs from participating pharmacies until the end of July 2022.

And remember, if you test positive, stay at home and isolate from others in your house if you can for at least 7 days. You should also let your friends and family know that you have COVID-19, so they can also monitor for symptoms and take a test if needed.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Mental health response to disasters

feature tile text 'to be effective, mental health response to disasters must be culturally informed' Cabbage Tree Island ATSI residents evacuating homes

Image in feature tile is of Cabbage Tree Island residents preparing to evacuate their homes during flooding. Photo: Tracey Nearmy, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

Mental health response to disasters

Kabi Kabi and Australian and South Sea Islander psychologist, Ms Kelleigh Ryan and other First Nations experts spoke on SBS NITV radio over the weekend about how in order to be effective, the mental health response to disasters must be culturally informed.

Ms Ryan explained that the system that’s currently in place is not set up to provide effective support, resulting in inadequate cultural competency training leading to pervasive and ongoing life-threatening consequences for First Nations peoples, including chronic poor health, high psychological stress and high suicide and incarceration rates.

“These issues are compounded in times of high stress, such as when dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters,” Ms Ryan said. February and March 2022 saw extreme flooding in Queensland and NSW that devastated entire communities, with towns on Bundjalung Country, including Lismore, Coraki and Cabbage Tree Island, some of the hardest hit.

To listen to the SBS NITV interview in full click here.

Kelleigh Ryan - Australian Psychological Association (APS) Fellow

Kelleigh Ryan – Australian Psychological Association (APS) Fellow. Image source: ABC News.

Dr Casey joins HTA reference committee

The Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Review Reference Committee announced yesterday, is tasked with driving major reforms to shape the future of Australia’s health system and provide faster access to novel medicines for patients. The Committee includes stakeholders from Government, industry, the health sector and the patient community.

The independently chaired Committee, will undertake the first major review of the HTA system in 30 years. The HTA Review will focus on medicines, biotherapeutics, and vaccines and will also include any related diagnostic tests and medical devices.

In welcoming NACCHO’s Deputy CEO Dr Dawn Casey PSM as one of two patient advocates appointed to the Committee, Medicines Australia Chair, Dr Anna Lavelle said “The First Nations voice from NACCHO is vital. The outcomes must lead to health system improvement and meet future patient needs and demands,”

To view the Health Industry Hub article Patient advocacy group and Medicines Australia set eyes on bold reform as HTA Review Reference Committee announced in full click here.

NACCHO Deputy CEO, Dr Dawn Casey PSM. Image Source: AIDA.

Formal representation in aged care

The Federal Government has allocated $14.8 million over three years to ensure aged care organisations can continue supporting and advocating for older people during a period of significant change and reform of the aged care system.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said “we must have a deep understanding of the views, the wishes and the concerns of our diverse communities. It is vital that people with dementia, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, LGBTQI+ individuals and communities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, gerontologists and associated health professionals continue to be well represented.”

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), acting on behalf of the National Advisory Group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care (NAGATSIAC) is one of the seven aged care consumer peak bodies being funded from 1 July 2022. Funding will also support the establishment of a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council (NATSIACC) to formalise representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in aged care.

To view Senator Richard Colbeck’s media release in full click here.

Germanus Kent House resident Bertha Linty and care worker Victoria Gardener

Germanus Kent House resident Bertha Linty and care worker Victoria Gardener. Image source: Aged Care Guide.

Help improve how pharmacists provide services

Have your say – help improve how pharmacists provide services

NACCHO is working to make the guidelines for pharmacists working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples better.

We want to understand from you how pharmacists and pharmacies can be culturally safe and give the best care to you and your community.

Click here to complete the online survey.

Please pass this information on to any other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who would be interested in completing the survey.

Remote NT drinking water concerns

Laramba is a remote Aboriginal community, roughly 205 kms west of Alice Springs, that is home to about 300 people. Its water comes from a bore, and uranium occurs naturally in the area. Laramba resident Stanley Fletcher is worried that long-term exposure to the community’s drinking water is making people sick.

A 2020 Power and Water report found the community’s water was contaminated with 0.052 milligrams per litre of uranium, more than three times the concentration limit recommended in Australia’s drinking water guidelines.

Professor Paul Lawton, a kidney specialist with the Menzies School of Health Research, is leading a study to determine whether drinking contaminated water is contributing to health issues. “In remote NT communities, there are great concerns about the quality of drinking water right across the Territory,” Professor Lawton said. “Almost all remote communities are reliant on bore water and, as a result, there are concerns that groundwater is being exposed to large amounts of minerals, particularly heavy metals.”

To view the ABC News article Concerns about drinking water quality in ‘almost all’ remote NT communities. What can be done about it? in full click here.

Laramba resident Stanley Fletcher holding baby

Laramba resident Stanley Fletcher tries to avoid drinking water from the tap whenever he can. Photo: Isaac Nowroozi. Image source: ABC News.

Project to detect diabetes in pregnancy 

A ground-breaking project set up to protect the health of Aboriginal mothers and their families in rural communities by optimising the screening and management of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy has received a $3.2 million funding boost from the Medical Research Future Fund.

Professor Julia Marley, a Senior Principal Research Fellow from The University of WA’s Medical School and the Rural Clinical School of WA, is chief investigator of the ORCHID Study – a collaboration between the Rural Clinical School of WA, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) and their member services, Diabetes WA and WA Country Health Services. In welcoming the funding, Professor Marley said diabetes disproportionately impacts the lives of Aboriginal people, with predisposition beginning in pregnancy.

To view the University of WA article Major funding boost for detecting diabetes in pregnancy in rural communities in full click here.

From left, Emma Jamieson (Research Associate, RCSWA), Professor Julia Marley (Senior Principal Research Fellow, RCSWA), Janelle Dillon (Midwife and Diabetes educator at Bega Garnbirringu Health Service), Erica Spry (Research Fellow, RCSWA and Research Officer, KAMS

From left, Emma Jamieson (Research Associate, RCSWA), Professor Julia Marley (Senior Principal Research Fellow, RCSWA), Janelle Dillon (Midwife and Diabetes educator at Bega Garnbirringu Health Service), Erica Spry (Research Fellow, RCSWA and Research Officer, KAMS). Image source: The University of WA website.

RACGP urges action on smoking

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has urged the federal Government to set ambitious goals and act decisively to reduce tobacco use across the nation. It comes following the college’s submission to the Government’s draft National Tobacco Strategy 2022-2030 (“the Strategy”).

Among its recommendations the RACGP is calling for a targeted approach for different populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other high-risk groups, to help achieve lower smoking rates

RACGP President Professor Karen Price said “We need to consider how to best reach those groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who are using tobacco at higher rates compared to the rest of the population. I think part of the answer here lies in culturally appropriate resources to really zero in on populations who have been left behind in the general population decline in smoking prevalence. The RACGP also strongly supports funding programs for and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, noting that funding appears to have declined where it is needed most.”

To view the RACGP media release in full click here.

Aboriginal man's hand on wooden rail holding cigarette

New process for job advertising

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

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

2nd Australasian COVID-19 Conference

The 2nd Australasian COVID-19 Conference hosted by the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), is being held in Sydney from Thursday 21 to Friday 22 July 2022 and will showcase researchers from an array of disciplines, specialist clinicians, epidemiologists and community members who have developed new and harnessed existing tools to comprehensively address prevention, treatment and management of COVID-19/SARS-COV-2 and evolving challenges presented.

To support the conference ASHM are extending invitations to submit abstracts. Abstracts can go towards delivering an oral presentation or a poster presentation at the conference and is a great opportunity to share the amazing work your staff/services do, or share innovative models developed in the ACCHO sector, others in mainstream can learn from. For those who submit abstracts and are successful, NACCHO and ASHM can support costs to attend (travel, accommodation etc).

One of the conference themes addresses the social, political, and cultural issues shaping responses to the pandemic responses as well as COVID-19 prevention, treatment, and care, in the Australasian region, and it would be great to share some of the great work that’s happened and continues to happen in the ACCHO space relating to the COVID response.

The deadline to submit abstracts is Sunday 24 April 2022. You can access the abstract guidelines here and an abstract template here. If you have any questions or would like to chat more about submitting an abstract, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Megan Campbell using this email link or Edan Campbell-O’Brien using this email link. NACCHO really would love to showcase our sector in these large mainstream forums, so please forward on to services if they’re interested and let us know if you’d like to set up a follow up discussion to discuss further.

On a related note, ASHM are also hosting the Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference from Sunday 29 May to Tuesday 31 May in Brisbane (QLD). The registration deadline closes on Sunday 1 May 2022please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: First Nations self-governance aids mental health

feature tile text 'ATSI self-governance linked to improved mental health and suicide prevention outcomes'

The artwork The journey towards healing by Linda Huddleston (Nungingi) in the feature tile is from the cover of the AIHW paper Indigenous self-governance for mental health and suicide prevention.

First Nations self-governance aids mental health

The Australian Government Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has published an 80 page paper Indigenous self-governance for mental health and suicide prevention. The paper provides a synthesis of the information about Indigenous self-governance in relation to mental health and suicide prevention and explores the ways in which Indigenous organisations embody and enable processes, structures, institutions, and control associated with self-governance and how these contribute to Indigenous wellbeing and suicide prevention.

To view the paper in full click here.

Artwork: Camilla Perkins for Mosaic.

NACCHO CEO to deliver keynote address

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner AM will be delivering a keynote address at leading law firm, King & Wood Mallesons’ refreshed strategy for Community Impact event this Friday 8 April at 12.30pm AEDT.

Standing Strong & Tall Together is King & Wood Mallesons’ new five-year strategy focused on transformational partnerships and systems change to create sustained generational change.

The event will be live-streamed via a free webinar that you can register for here.

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner AM.

First Indigenous sleep coaches in Australia

Two First Nations people from Mount Isa have completed their certification to become Australia’s first Indigenous sleep coaches. Karen Chong and Jamie Dunne are working as project officers for Lets Yarn About Sleep program to promote sleep health in First Nations communities. The Lets Yarn About Sleep program was rolled out in Mount Isa in 2020 led by Dr Yagoot Fatima (Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland) and is funded by a Medical Research Future Fund-Indigenous Health Grant.

Dr Yaqoot said sleep and health are closely linked and problems with the quality, timing and amount of sleep affects physical and mental health. “There is strong evidence confirming the protective role of sleep in reducing the risk and severity of poor health outcomes,” Dr Yaqoot said. “Yet, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents, who experience a disproportionately high rate of health issues, the potential of sleep in improving health and wellbeing outcomes remains untapped”.

To view the Mount Isa has Australia’s first two Indigenous sleep coaches article in the North West Star in full click here.

Dr Dwayne Mann (Postdoctoral Research Fellow), Roslyn Von Senden (Cultural Mentor), Karen Chong (Sleep Coach) and Jamie Dunne (Sleep Coach)

Dr Dwayne Mann (Postdoctoral Research Fellow), Roslyn Von Senden (Cultural Mentor), Karen Chong (Sleep Coach) and Jamie Dunne (Sleep Coach). Image source: The North West Star.

First Nations students role models for mob

Birri Gubba woman Melissa Ann Fisher knew as a teenager she wanted to be a nurse, but it was not that simple. Her activist mother wanted Ms Fisher to attend university rather than learn a trade, which is what nursing was considered in those days, and refused to sign the application papers — a decision she later regretted. After a career doing other jobs and raising five kids, Ms Fisher decided it was her turn. “I just had this stock moment when I was actually quite pregnant with my last child, and said, ‘I’m gonna study nursing’,” she said. “I don’t care about my age … I’m doing it.” That was in 2015.

Some eight years later, Ms Fisher has just graduated from Charles Darwin University (CDU). Another seminal moment occurred when Ms Fisher, a diabetic, was sitting in a clinic as a patient. “I sat there in a couple of different appointments and thought, ‘I could do this so much better’,” she said. “I want to make a difference in Indigenous health in diabetes.” Ms Fisher is now studying for a masters and wants to become a nurse practitioner, which meant she expected to be studying for another six years.

CDU Deputy Vice-Chancellor of First Nations Leadership Professor Reuben Bolt said it was important to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work of students. “Our First Nations students are role models for their communities and other students wanting to enter higher education, and are an important part of the university’s identity,” he said.

To view the Melissa among First Nations graduates changing their own lives to make a difference for others article in full click here.

CDU nursing grad Melissa Ann Fisher sitting on tree trunk by stream in tropics

Charles Darwin University nursing graduate Melissa Ann Fisher. Photo: Conor Byrne, ABC Radio Darwin. Image source: ABC News website.

Continuing on the theme of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tertiary students, an article in the Shepparton News looks at 12 First Nations students who graduated last week from rural health courses under the Department of Rural Health at the University of Melbourne. Taking in graduates from 2020 and 2021, the event saw seven students graduate from a specialist Certificate in Empowering Health in Aboriginal Communities, one of which also completed a Graduate Certificate in Aboriginal Health in Rural Communities, one graduate from a Master of Public Health and four from the PhD program.

Professor Marcia Langton associate provost is one of the driving forces behind the creation of the courses. “It’s a dream come true for them and it’s a dream come true for me too,” she said. “It’s primarily a credit to the students themselves, some of them have really forged a pathway to create an indigenous health workforce that’s highly qualified and as good as any health workforce in the country.”

University of Melbourne Department of Rural Health director Lisa Bourke said the aim of the courses was for students to be able to study, live work and study on Country without having to go to the city.

To view the Shepparton welcomes graduates of rural health course article in full click here.

Professor Julian Wright, Andreia Marques, Dr Shanawa Andrews, Gwenda Freeman, Helen Everist, Dr Karen Ferguson, professors Marcia Langton, Lisa Bourke, Doug Boyle and John Prins; (front) Dr Raylene Nixon, Chanoa Cooper, Leah Lindrea-Morrison, Tracey Hearn and Dr Sharon Atkinson-Briggs

From back left: Professor Julian Wright, Andreia Marques, Dr Shanawa Andrews, Gwenda Freeman, Helen Everist, Dr Karen Ferguson, professors Marcia Langton, Lisa Bourke, Doug Boyle and John Prins; (front) Dr Raylene Nixon, Chanoa Cooper, Leah Lindrea-Morrison, Tracey Hearn and Dr Sharon Atkinson-Briggs. Image source: Shepparton News.

Mental health experts to guide research

The federal government has appointed mental health experts to the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission (MMMHRM), who will guide research into mental health, including looking at prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Almost one in four Australians experience some form of mental ill health in any given year, while almost one in two Australians will experience mental ill health in their lifetime. Mental illness significantly increases the risk of suicide, the leading cause of death of people aged 15–44.

Research is essential to improve our understanding of what causes and contributes to mental illness. It can also lead to better prevention, diagnosis and improved treatment options. The new expert panel will provide advice on priorities for future research investment through the Mission by reviewing the existing Roadmap and developing an Implementation Plan.

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said we need ongoing research into mental health so we can reduce the impact on individuals, families and communities. “This research will ultimately improve the mental health and wellbeing of Australians, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, children and young people; and broaden our understanding of eating disorders and suicide prevention,” Minister Hunt said.

To view Minister Hunt’s media release in full click here.

Image source: DoH website.

Anger over age of criminal responsibility

An Aboriginal-led coalition of legal and health experts has accused the Queensland government and opposition of “kicking the can down the road” while children are locked behind bars, after both refused to back calls to raise the age of criminal responsibility. In Queensland, as in all other Australian states and territories, children as young as 10 can be held in watchhouses and hauled before courts to face criminal charges.

Earlier this week, the Raise the Age coalition published an open letter to premier Annastacia Palaszczuk expressing deep concern that their expertise “appears to have been ignored” by a parliamentary committee that rejected calls to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 in the state. The letter was signed by more than 20 health, legal, youth and child developmental organisations whose experts made submissions to that inquiry.

“We unanimously advised the Committee to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old,” the letter read. “This is consistent with the overwhelming medical evidence, unanimous support from more than 300 written submissions to the inquiry, and the views of the majority of witnesses who provided evidence at the inquiry’s public hearing.”

To read The Guardian Aboriginal-led coalition angered over Queensland’s failure to raise age of criminal responsibility article in full click here.

dark skinned hands gripping green jail bars

Photo: luoman, Getty Images. Image source: The Guardian.

$5m to support First Nations maternal health

Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) Molly Wardaguga Research Centre has welcomed $5 million in this year’s budget for the Birthing On Country project to support First Nations mothers and their babies in remote communities for the next five years. Funding from the federal government allocated to the improving the Health and Wellbeing of Indigenous Mothers and Babies will raise the safety of birthing on country and integrating cultural sensitivities as women move into motherhood.

CDU Professor of Indigenous Health Yvette Roe, a proud Njikena Jawuru woman, and Professor of Midwifery Sue Kildea, Co-Directors of the Molly Wardaguga Research Centre said the project builds upon 25 years of health services research. “This gives us an opportunity to provide a strong research framework to enable First Nations communities to reclaim their birthing services to ensure the best start to life for mothers and babies,” Professor Kildea said. “We are very excited to be able to test the translation of research evidence that shows extraordinary benefits for First Nations mums, babies and communities into rural (Nowra, NSW), remote (Alice Springs, NT) and very remote (Galiwin’ku, NT) settings.”

To view the Molly Wardaguga Research Centre secures $5 million to support First Nations maternal health article in The National Tribune in full click here.

CDU Professors Yvette Roe & Sue Kildea

Charles Darwin University (CDU) Professors Yvette Roe (left) and Sue Kildea head the Birthing on Country program, which integrates culturally appropriate care with health outcomes to help First Nations women in birthing.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Primary Care COVID-19 update

The latest in a series of webinars to update primary care on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout will be held from 11:30 AM–12:00PM (AEDT) Thursday 7 April 2022.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM, Deputy Chief Medical Office, Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) this week will be DoH Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response.

GPs and all health professionals are welcome to attend the webinar and can join using this link. If you’re unable to view this webinar live, you can view it on-demand using the same link, within a few hours of the live stream ending.

banner DoH Primary Care COVID-19 update Dep CMO - image of DCMO & COVID-19 virus cell

COVID-19 Treatments Forum

A special COVID-19 treatments forum co-hosted by the Australian Government Department of Health and the National Health and Medical Research Council is being held from 5–7:00PM (AEST) tomorrow, Thursday 7 April 2022. The forum will provide information and the opportunity to discuss approaches to COVID-19 treatment strategies by government officials, regulators, research scientists and clinicians.

The forum will feature:

  • scientific and clinical information about COVID-19 treatments;
  • details on the appropriate use of available COVID-19 treatments based on current evidence;
  • discussion on the continuing transition to community-based healthcare for people with COVID-19;
  • discussion on key COVID-19 treatment issues faced by primary care providers and their patients including access through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS);
  • discussion on how the Commonwealth and States and Territories are facilitating equitable access to treatments through the PBS and the National Medical Stockpile (NMS) to eligible patients.

For further information about the forum, including the agenda click here. The forum can be watched live via the livestream or at a later time at your leisure. You can access the webinar link here.

green gloved hand holding lab tray, vial in background

Image source: The Pharmaceutical Journal.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: First national crisis support line for mob

First national crisis support line for mob

13YARN is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander crisis support line funded by the Australian Government with the support of Lifeline and developed in collaboration with Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia. It is run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 13YARN has been co-designed using Lifeline expertise with several Aboriginal mental health professionals including NACCHO, Black Dog Institute Aboriginal Lived Experience team and the Centre of Best Practice along with input from Torres Strait Islander, remote, regional, and urban peoples with lived experience.

This initiative works to explore options for ongoing support and community members will always be reassured they will be connected to another Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person who will understand where they are coming from and value knowing HOW to listen, without judgement or shame.

If you, or someone you know, are feeling worried or no good, we encourage you to connect with 13YARN on 13 92 76 (24 hours/7 days) and talk with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter. This is your story; your journey and we will take the time to listen. No shame, no judgement, safe place to yarn. We’re here for you.

For more information visit the 13YARN website here. You can also listen to 13YARN National Program Manager Aunty Marjorie Anderson talking about 13YARN on the ABC Radio program Sunday Extra with Julian Morrow here and read Minister Greg Hunt and Minister David Coleman’s joint media release about 13YARN here.

First image: Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia Twitter post 30 March 2022. Second image: 13YAR National Program Manager Aunty Marjorie Anderson, Nikita Ridgeway and Jia Natty. SBS NITV.

2022 Budget ‘an opportunity lost’

NACCHO is calling for a substantial review of funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. The call comes following the handing down of the Federal Budget last week which the NACCHO has described as business as usual. NACCHO says they are tiring of singular announcements and that while there have been some welcome announcements, the core funding for First Nations health services remains the same. NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills says single announcements interrupts the quality of care.

CEO Pat Turner says this budget is an opportunity lost. She says as long as this $4.4 billion funding gap remains and as long as there are funding gaps elsewhere – in particular, in housing – we cannot expect the unconscionable health gap to close.

You can listen to NACCHO’ Chair Donnella Mills speaking on the National Indigenous Radio Service with journalist Adam Evans here.

 

Hope for community rocked by youth suicide

When Aunty Joyce Cooper leads a child through their first smoking ceremony, she knows something is changing. Her body painted in the red and brown ochre of Yorta Yorta country, she guides them through the smoke, letting it wash over them. In First Nations culture, it is believed smoke has healing properties, and can ward off bad spirits. It can also be a form of communication, a cry for help in crisis.

And while she may not hear it audibly, Aunty Joyce knows many of these young people are crying out. Hers is a community rocked by a deep grief, an overwhelming sense of loss – of culture, of community. And now, of its young people. “Sometimes I worry who’s going to be next,” she said. “It’s a ripple effect. Because no-one is listening to our young people. No-one is listening to their stories.”

When it comes to Indigenous youth suicide, Greater Shepparton is an area of high concern. In the past year alone, several young people have taken their own lives and there are concerns if nothing changes, a suicide cluster could form. In January this year, national Indigenous postvention group Thirrili was called in to provide urgent crisis support to the grieving community.

Talking to families, Thirrili CEO Annette Vickery said several devastating themes emerged – systemic racism and bullying, and a widespread loss of culture. “Bullying is a significant issue in Shepparton, including at school and on social media,” Ms Vickery said.

To read the ABC News article in full click here.

Aunty Joyce leads young women in a smoking ceremony. Photo: Rod Briggs. Image source: ABC News website.

Half of Australia’s youth detainees First Nations

Almost half of all young people in detention in Australia are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, even though the overall number of children going to jail has fallen in the past five years, research shows. Young Indigenous people are only 5.8% of all young people aged 10–17 in Australia but make up 49% of all young people in detention, according to the latest data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Indigenous children were younger when they entered the criminal justice system than their non‑Indigenous counterparts, and more likely to be from remote and lower socio-economic areas. Young people from very remote areas were six times as likely to be in detention as those from major cities. Young people spent an average of six months in detention. The majority of all young people in detention were unsentenced or awaiting trial, the AIHW found. More than a third (37%) of Indigenous young people were first in contact with the criminal justice system when aged 10 to 13, compared with just 14% of non‑Indigenous youth.

Cheryl Axleby, the co-chair of Change the Record, an Indigenous-led coalition of welfare and legal groups, said she was appalled by the latest report. “This paints a really clear picture of exactly how our criminal legal system is working – it’s targeting poor kids and black kids,” Axleby said. “On top of that, First Nations kids are more likely to be targeted and dragged into the criminal legal system when they are extremely young. It is outrageous that Aboriginal children in primary school are being arrested by police.”

To view the Guardian’s article in full click here.

razor wire rolls at top of chain wire fence

Photo: Jonny Weeks, The Guardian.

Mornington Island deaths due to poor services

There are too many dead bodies on Mornington Island. At least 16 people have died within three months due to a “health pandemic” in the predominantly Indigenous Queensland Gulf community, leaders say. The spike in recent deaths has been attributed to poor healthcare; specifically, a lack of access to renal dialysis on the island, where many residents suffer from chronic kidney disease.

“Our morgue and emergency facilities are full. Sixteen deaths before April is ridiculous,” Mornington Shire Mayor Kyle Yanner said. In 2019, millions of dollars were allocated to install dialysis chairs in several vulnerable communities around NW Queensland, all of which were scheduled to be operating in mid-2021. 600kms south of Mornington Island, in Cloncurry, two chairs were installed, but are not yet working. Of the four chairs allocated to the remote Indigenous community of Doomadgee, two are working. Mornington Island was allocated six dialysis chairs. Only one chair is available.

Mornington Shire Councillor David Barnes said the situation was creating stress on patients and their families. “This means sick patients are having to travel to the mainland to receive treatment and, unfortunately, some are passing away off the island, leaving their grieving families to organise repatriation home for burial,” Mr Barnes said. He’s one of several community leaders calling on Queensland Health and the region’s North West Hospital Health Service (NWHHS) to make available the island’s five other renal chairs.

To view the ABC News story in full click here.

Kyle Yanner below has been calling for an audit of government health services. Photo: Leonie Mellor, ABC News. Image source: ABC News website.

Bigiwun Kid Project – prenatal alcohol exposure

The Lililwan Project was the first Australian population-based prevalence study of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) using active case ascertainment. Conducted in 2010–2011, the study included 95% of all eligible children aged 7–9 years living in the very remote Aboriginal communities of the Fitzroy Valley, WA. Women from Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre, a local Aboriginal-led organisation, are concerned that some participants from the study are struggling in adolescence so partnered with researchers from the University of Sydney to follow up the Lililwan cohort in 2020–2022 at age 17–19 years.

The overarching aim of the Bigiswun Kid Project is to identify adolescents’ needs and build knowledge to inform services to improve the health and well-being of adolescents in remote Aboriginal communities.

You can access further information about Bigiswun Kid Project in the BMJ Open BMJ Journals here. You can also listen to Emily Carter, CEO Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre and Sue Thomas, Strategic Priority Lead Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre speak with Patricia Karvelas on RN Drive about the project here.

Members of the Marulu team. Image source: Australian Government Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations.

Mob have increased risk of concussion

The diagnosis and management of concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), has seen increased attention in recent years as an area requiring greater identification and action. Despite typical lay associations as an injury sustained during contact sport, this activity only makes up about 20% of concussion diagnoses, with the majority of concussion cases resulting from falls, motor vehicle and bicycle crashes, assaults (including domestic violence), and other physical activities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are 1.7 times more likely to sustain a TBI than the general population.

There is a lack of comprehensive epidemiological data relating to TBI in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Available data relating to concussion have historically been collected from hospitalisations. These data fail to capture Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who fail to present to hospital after a potential concussion episode; those who present to ACCHOs, general practice, and nurse‐led primary health care centres; those who present to hospital but their symptoms and signs are overlooked, and those who present to hospital but fail to undergo assessment due to prolonged waiting times or as a result of a lack of cultural competence at first point of contact.

To read the Concussion in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: what is the true epidemiology? article in The Medical Journal of Australia in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

New process for job advertising

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

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

International Conference on Human Retrovirology

The 2022 International Virtual Conference on Human Retrovirology: HTLV and Related Viruses will take place from Sunday 8 ­May – Wednesday 11 May 2022. The aim is to focus on Oceania and especially Australia for the first time in the history of this conference. In 2022 the aim is to emphasise the need to increase HTLV-1 public health and social science research output in the global response to HTLV-1. The HTLV 2022 conference is hosted virtually by Melbourne, Australia on behalf of IRVA, The International Retrovirology Association and will be in Australian Eastern Standard Time.

You can access further information about the conference , including registration details on the HTLV22 website here. The registration deadline for the conference is Sunday 24 April 2022.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Indigenous data sovereignty tool released

Indigenous data sovereignty tool released

The Lowitja Institute today launched the Indigenous Data Sovereignty Readiness Assessment and Evaluation Toolkit for researchers, governments, and communities, to strengthen community control use and protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data and information.

Lowitja Institute CEO, Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, said the toolkit will play a critical role in efforts to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.

Dr Kalinda Griffiths of the Centre for Big Data Research in Health at UNSW who led development of the toolkit said “Data is power. There has always been a push for non-Indigenous people to decide what is done with data relating to Indigenous communities and peoples, and in how data is measured. But this needs to change.”

“Data governance plays a huge role, as well as data capacity building within the community. Once there is improved Indigenous data governance and ownership, we will likely see more timely and accurate data, which can be vital in circumstances like what we now face with COVID-19. These are complex problems and there’s no easy fix. But the needle is beginning to move,” Dr Griffiths said.

“We have a fundamental right to control our data, develop our data, use our data, maintain our data and protect our data if we are to close the gap in health outcomes for our peoples.’

To view the Lowitja Institute media release in full click here.

Image source: Research Professional News.

New national suicide prevention approach

$46.7 million has been allocated in the 2022-23 Budget to strengthen suicide prevention at the local level. For the first time, every region in Australia will have a local leader focused on suicide prevention, ensuring early intervention and suicide prevention activities are better coordinated and right for the local area. Suicide Prevention Response Leaders will work within their community to bring together service providers, local councils, emergency services, schools and community groups. They will also have funding to back local approaches and services to reduce suicide.

As part of the Plan, the Government is also investing more than $96 million into mental health and suicide prevention measures for Indigenous Australians whose suicide rate is more than double that of non-Indigenous Australians. This includes funding to establish regional suicide prevention networks in each jurisdiction, implement culturally sensitive, co-designed aftercare services with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations being the preferred service providers, and to create a culturally appropriate 24/7 crisis line that is governed and delivered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

To view the media release in full click here.

Isolation not a privilege available to all

The Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service (KAMS) says it is reaching its limit as it battles rising COVID-19 case numbers and overcrowded housing in remote communities across the region. The organisation has also accused the WA government of being “fixated” on vaccination rates while being unprepared to provide “basic primary health care needs” when people do become infected.

KAMS CEO Vicki O’Donnell says access to food, welfare, accommodation and mental health services have been raised as “constant concerns” over the past two years. Ms O’Donnell said KAMS had struggled “every day, every hour and every minute” to maintain services as case numbers grow. “The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services have managed COVID-19, in our respective regions, and will continue to, but we are reaching our limit…and we are doing this at our own expense,” she said.

Ms O’Donnell said overcrowded accommodation was a “major concern and logistical issue” in providing safe and practical isolation accommodation in remote communities. “The ability to isolate is a privilege and for our people in this state, we need support to facilitate this,” she said.

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Photo: Jacqui Lynch, ABC Kimberley. Image source: ABC News.

RACGP disappointment over 10 Year Plan 

The RACGP has issued a warning that measures announced in the Federal Budget do not address the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and future challenges of a fatigued health system. Of chief concern to the college is a failure to implement major components of the Primary Health Care 10 Year Plan, much of which remains unfunded.

Responding to the Budget, RACGP President Dr Karen Price said “Reform without proper investment is not worth the paper it’s written on.” The lack of focus on funding and implementing the 10-year plan will result in continuing gaps in aged care, mental health, disability, and chronic and complex care.

“There is also a disappointing lack of new investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare,” Dr Price said. “If we are serious about Closing the Gap, then surely giving greater assistance to general practices, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and other health services to improve health outcomes must be a priority.”

To view the newsGP article in full click here.

Eating disorders funding welcomed

More than one million Australians are living with an eating disorder, which has one of the highest mortality rates of any mental illness. And yet less than a quarter of those receive treatment or support.

Anyone can experience an eating disorder, with research showing that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience eating disorders and body image issues at similar rates to other people in Australia. Discrimination or exposure to traumatic life situations can increase a person’s risk for this illness. Research is needed to understand any cultural or other differences in the types of eating disorders that might be experienced and to develop a culturally-specific diagnostic tool that will help recognise when an eating disorder or body image issue might be a factor for someone.

Butterfly CEO, Kevin Barrow, said the Budget announcement of $23.4 million for  would help to support those with an eating disorder or body image issues, providing better access to critical treatment services, and investing in preventing eating disorders from developing.

To view the Butterfly media release click here, access the Butterfly Foundation website here including their webpage Culturally safe support drastically needed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing eating disorders with Garra’s Story below.

Remote mob’s vitamin D deficiency risk

A new Curtin University study has found 95% per cent of Australians have low vitamin D intakes. Lead researcher dietitian and PhD student Eleanor Dunlop, from the Curtin School of Population Health, said the study suggests that Australians need data-driven nutrition policy to safely increase their intakes of vitamin D.

“Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of poor bone health. Since nearly one in four adults are vitamin D deficient in Australia, carefully considered food-based strategies may safely increase intakes of vitamin D and improve vitamin D status in the Australian population.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas are particularly at risk of vitamin D deficiency, as well as people born outside of Australia or the main English-speaking countries. People residing in southern states of Australia, and people who are obese or have low physical activity levels, are also at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency.

To view the Curtin University article in full click here.

Image source: Irish Cancer Society website.

Healthy Feet Project

Diabetes and diabetes related foot disease are disproportionately prevalent in the Aboriginal population. In NSW, Aboriginal people experience almost a four-fold amputation rate due to diabetes-related foot disease when compared to non-Aboriginal people. A 2016 literature review recommended an increase in the NSW Aboriginal workforce in foot care and podiatry to provide culturally safe and community focused care for Aboriginal people with diabetes related foot disease.

The NSW Ministry of Health, along with partners, developed the Healthy Deadly Feet (HDF) Project. In line with improving access to High Risk Foot Services in NSW this project aims to increase the Aboriginal workforce in foot care and podiatry and improve diabetes related foot disease outcomes for Aboriginal people in NSW.

The project team will work with podiatrists, Aboriginal Health Workers and Practitioners and Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal allied health assistants in participating local health districts and special health networks in NSW. By increasing the health workforce in NSW, the project aims to see improved access and awareness of culturally safe foot care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people leading to an increase in screening and early interventions in NSW.

For further information about the HFP click here.

Cover of NSW Government HDF publication. Artist: Wiradjuri woman Trudy Sloane.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 2022–2023 budget short-changes health

2022-2023 budget short-changes health

NACCHO released a media statement earlier today in response to the 2022–2023 Federal Budget announced last night:

Another big-spending budget short-changes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has already welcomed the previously announced four-year rolling funding agreement for the sector, but this is just a necessary adjustment to support the current arrangements. ‘Business as usual’ is not going to close the health gap.

NACCHO is tiring of singular announcements in Aboriginal health while the health gap fails to close. Structural reform is required and substantial funding investment. The last three big-spending budgets were the Government’s opportunity to address this. They have failed to act.

The CEO of NACCHO, Pat Turner said, “Although I am grateful to see the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme and support for screening services, mental health policy partnerships and $2.4m for ACCHOs to help in responding to the East Coast floods, I am disappointed that the core funding for our services has remained much the same. I am also worried that the Budget has assumed that ACCHOs’ expenditure will contract significantly after COVID. This may be a significant flaw in their modelling.”

In Cairns, the Chair of NACCHO, Donnella Mills said, “What we need is a substantial review of funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. In work we commissioned from Equity Economics it has been calculated – as conservatively as possible and using validated Government data – that the funding gap in Aboriginal health is $4.4 billion (= $5,042 per Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person). The Commonwealth’s share of this shortfall is $2.6 billion. Yet dangerous myths prevail that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is over-funded. How can we seriously expect as a nation to ever close the health gap if the funding gap is so large? We will continue to live lives 8-9 years shorter than other Australians.”

NACCHO serves well over 410,000 clients per year, delivering over 3.1 million episodes of care, of which 1 million are delivered in remote communities. Its clinics are favoured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and are directly controlled by the communities they serve. They are more cost-effective than mainstream health services and represent an effective investment means for the Commonwealth. The model was developed in 1971 – which predates Medicare itself – and can no longer be considered an unproved model of care.

The government has had the opportunity to fix the funding gap in three big-spending budgets focused on stimulus measures. If it had done so, at the same time, it could have delivered financial stimulus to the 550 local economies in which our services are located.

CEO Pat Turner said, “As long as this $4.4 billion funding gap remains and as long as there are funding gaps elsewhere – in particular, in housing – we cannot expect the unconscionable health gap to close. This Budget is an opportunity lost. NACCHO calls upon the Government to close the funding gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

You can view NACCHO’s media statement in full here.

Budget misses key suicide prevention priorities

Suicide Prevention Australia has welcomed additional funding in the 2022 Federal Budget but urged further investment for those most at-risk and across key whole-of-government priorities. Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray, said “Investment in local responses, suicide prevention research and young people at risk will help save lives. Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity for other priority populations including men, LGBTIQ+ and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We need to see extra support for those in distress, those who have attempted suicide and the loved ones of those touched by suicide. Greater investment is needed to ensure people with lived experience are integrated in all parts of suicide prevention and a comprehensive suicide prevention workforce strategy.”

To view the Suicide Prevention Australia’s media release in full click here.

First Nations voices needed in climate conversation

The urgency of tackling climate change is even greater for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and other First Nation peoples across the globe. First Nations people will be disproportionately affected and are already experiening existential threats from climate change. The unfolding disaster in the Northern Rivers regions of NSW is no exception, with Aboriginal communities completely inundated or cut off from essential supplies.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have protected Country for millennia and have survived dramatic climatic shifts. They are intimately connected to Country, and their knowledge and cultural practices hold solutions to the climate crisis. Despite this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to be excluded from leadership roles in climate solution discussions, such as the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

To read The Conversation article in full click here.

Student climate protest in Melbourne. Image source: The Conversation.

Help improve how pharmacists provide services

Have your say – Help improve how pharmacists provide services

NACCHO is working to make the guidelines for pharmacists working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples better.

We want to understand from you how pharmacists and pharmacies can be culturally safe and give the best care to you and your community.

Click here to complete the online survey.

Please pass this information on to any other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who would be interested in completing the survey.

WA COVID-19 resources for mob

The WA Department of Health has developed a factsheets to provide information about the COVID-19 vaccines and ensure WA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are informed about the vaccines and are aware of any misinformation.

Topics include:

  • vaccine mythbusters – click here
  • what the COVID-19 virus is – click here
  • available vaccines
  • why having the COVID-19 vaccine is important – click here
  • side effects of vaccines – click here
  • COVID-19 and pregnancy – click here.

For further information click here.

Connections improve hep C care for homeless

Aaron was shocked when his hepatitis C rapid test came back positive. When he was approached by a nurse and peer worker at the Hutt Street Centre to get tested, he had been pretty sure his results would be ok. If you’re homeless and have no symptoms, testing for hep C is probably low on the list of priorities. Aaron considered himself pretty clued in about blood-borne virus risk; he’d been injecting drugs for many years and was an expert in technique, always using clean equipment. He was keen to go on treatment straight away and was indeed referred immediately to get started. Viral Hepatitis Nurse, Lucy Ralton said Aaron later told her that he had seen his GP due to persistent fatigue but hadn’t been screened for an HCV infection at the time. “He was very glad he got talked into having a test that day and said he only did so because he was asked,” she said.

The testing clinic at the Hutt Street Centre was part of the PROMPt study where a nurse and a Hepatitis SA peer worker directly approach individuals to invite them to have a test. Anyone with a positive result is referred to the community Viral Hepatitis Nurses for treatment. What programs like this have shown is the importance of connections and support for community and health workers who provide services to clients who are homeless and at risk of hepatitis C.

One way to improve access to hepatitis C care for this vulnerable group, is to bring together different services to explore ways of working together to make the process as simple as possible for both service providers and clients.

New models of care that integrate peers and healthcare workers have demonstrated that community-based screening, point of care testing and on the spot prescribing by either a nurse practitioner or GP in a non-judgmental and friendly environment can improve screening and treatment uptake. PROMPt – the project which helped Aaron get cured of his hepatitis C – was one example of such a model.

C the Whole Story is an online forum hosted by ASHM to discuss this challenge. This forum will provide participants with the tools, contacts and confidence to be able to discuss HCV screening and treatment with their clients. As well, it will create an opportunity for people to connect and explore ways for services to work together. The forum is on Friday 1 April 2022 via Zoom. For more information and to register click here.

To read the HepSAY article Improve Hepatitis C Care for People who are Homeless article in full click here.

Image source: Hepatitis SA website.

We’ve Got Your Back toolkit for mob

The new online safety laws give greater protection from serious online abuse, and are available to all Australians. It’s important that everyone in the community knows about the new protections, including how to report serious online abuse.

A New Online Safety Laws: We’ve Got Your Back – Helping to protect Australians online – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stakeholder Toolkit and printed resources are available here to support the new online safety laws.

ATSI woman looking at laptop with sticker 'online safety laws we've got your back'

Image from cover of ‘New Online Safety Laws: We’ve Got Your Back – Helping to protect Australians online – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stakeholder Toolkit – Australian Government eSafety Commissioner.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Primary Care COVID-19 update

The latest in a series of webinars to update primary care on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout will be held from 11:30 AM–12:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 31 March 2022.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health this week will be Australian Government Department of Health Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, and Professor Nigel Crawford, Chair, Vaccine Safety, Special Risk Groups, Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.

GPs and all health professionals are welcome to attend the webinar and can join using this link. If you’re unable to view this webinar live, you can view it on-demand using the same link, within a few hours of the live stream ending.

banner DoH Primary Care COVID-19 update Dep CMO - image of DCMO & COVID-19 virus cell

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Looking beyond the CTG statistics

Image in feature tile from Australian National Audit Office website.

Looking beyond the CTG statistics

Following the release of the 13th annual Close the Gap report, Pro Bono Australia spoke to the CEO of the Lowitja Institute, Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, about the need for governments to embrace genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to close the gap in health outcomes.

Produced by the Lowitja Institute, this year’s Close the Gap report centres on the work of community-led organisations and services providing health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. Among its key recommendations are calls for action on gender and climate justice, a national housing framework, and full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Adjunct Professor Mohamed, said that the report showed that community-led work on closing the gap on health outcomes was already happening, but now it needed to be “truly” supported.

“The report is a beautiful and powerful call to action, showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led brilliance at work, in all sorts of settings, paving the way ahead as we have done as peoples over millennia,” Mohamed said. “Now it’s time for governments and mainstream services to step up, and step back, if we are to truly close the gap in health outcomes for our peoples.”

You can read the Pro Bono Australia article in full here.

Image source: Pro Bono Australia website.

2022 National Immunisation Program

Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Health, Dr Brendan Murphy has provided a 2022 National Immunisation Program influenza program update, with important information about influenza vaccines available under the National Immunisation Program (NIP) for the 2022 Influenza season.

Dr Murphy says that the influenza vaccination is particularly important this year. Over the COVID-19 period/reduced circulation of influenza virus and lower levels of influenza vaccine coverage compared with previous years may have resulted in low levels of community immunity. With international borders reopening a resurgence of influenza is expected in 2022, with the Australian community potentially more vulnerable to the virus this year.

You can view Dr Brendan Murphy’s letter in full here.

ATAGI advice on COVID-19 vax winter dose

The Australian Government Operation COVID Shield 25 March 2022 Primary Care Vaccine Roll-out Provider Bulletin includes the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) advice on the winter dose of the DOVDI-19 vaccine. The ATAGI recommends an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine for winter for selected population groups who are at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and who have received their primary vaccination and first booster dose. These groups include:

  • Adults aged 65 years and older
  • Residents of aged care or disability care facilities
  • People aged 16 years and older with severe immunocompromise (as defined in the 11th February 2022 ATAGI statement on the use of a 3rd primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and older

ATAGI recommends the rollout of the winter dose for the above groups commence from April 2022 and coinciding with the rollout of the 2022 influenza vaccination program.

You can access the 25 March 2022 Primary Care Vaccine Roll-out Provider Bulletin here; recommendations for key population groups for an additional COVID-19 vaccine winter dose from April 2022 here; and the ATAGI Recommended Dose and Vaccines poster here.

syringe entering arm

Photo: Albert Perez, AAP. Image source: ABC News website.

Health workforce: not normal, not safe

Dr Clare Skinner, President of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine has written an article Health workforce: Not normal, not safe, but it can be fixed for the Medical Journal of Australia’s online publication, InSight. Dr Skinner writes: There is a Māori proverb in Aotearoa New Zealand that says, “He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata he tangata.” It translates as, “What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, health care workers across Australia have said, repeatedly, the biggest problem is not the supply of ventilators, or intensive care beds, or personal protective equipment, the problem is people, specifically the supply of skilled workforce. We don’t have enough staff, we don’t have enough staff in the right places, and we don’t have enough staff with expertise in the right areas.

The clinical workforce is unevenly distributed. Health professionals, especially doctors, are highly concentrated in major cities. Health outcomes in rural and remote areas lag behind outcomes in metropolitian areas. There is an urgent need to develop workforce models that improve health care access and equity, especially for Indigenous Australians living in remote communities.

Australia must also train an adequate health workforce to meet its own needs, and the needs of the region, as well as allowing for some international movement of trained clinicians with well designed and responsive re-credentialling processes. In particular, we need urgent and sustained attention to training and supporting Indigenous health professionals.

To view the InSight article in full click here.

Dr Clare Skinner with stethoscope around neck in front of ER sign

Dr Clare Skinner, President Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. Image source: Daily Telegraph.

Diabetes across the Lifecourse

The Menzies School of Health Research has developed a range of health professional resources to improve systems of care and services for people with diabetes and their families in rural and remote Australia, specifically the NT, Far North Queensland and the Kimberley, WA.

You can access the resources here, including Dhalaleena’s Story – Talking about Diabetes video here. This video features Dhalaleena, an Aboriginal Health Practitioner with the Top End Regional Health Services, talking about her journey with diabetes. In the video Dhalaleena discusses the following topics 1) diabetes and glucose 2) the role the pancreas plays in diabetes 3) the importance of maintaining a healthy diet, and 4) the importance of exercise in managing diabetes.

Cognitive function in those with diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) has a subtle deleterious effect on cognition and imposes a higher lifetime risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. A research article Using health check data to investigate cognitive function in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living with diabetes in the Torres Strait, Australia published in Volume 5, Issue 1 of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism says the findings of their research suggest that early and subtle decrements in working memory may be a potential complication of diabetes among Indigenous Australians living in the Torres Strait. In this population, which has elevated dementia rates linked to chronic disease, our results highlight the need for more preventative health resourcing. The results of the research suggest that early identification of younger people with diabetes, targeted education and supported glycaemic control could be important for protecting cognitive health.

To view the article in full click here.

Image source: ICU Management & Practice website.

Using digital wellbeing tools webinar

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have always adapted to new technologies and are finding creative ways to maintain their health and wellbeing in the digital world. There are a range of websites, apps, videos and other online resources that our health and community workforce can use with their Indigenous clients to help them stay physically and mentally well. A recorded one hour webinar available on demand will introduce you to a new social and emotional wellbeing website called WellMob. The WellMob website is a bank of over 200 Indigenous-specific digital resources to promote a healthy mind, body and culture.

The inspiration for the WellMob website came from our frontline workers who identified the need for a ‘one-stop-shop’ of culturally appropriate wellbeing resources. An all-star panel of Indigenous wellbeing workers will share some online wellbeing resources and yarn about how to use with your clients and community.

You can access further details about the webinar and enrol using this link.

Image source: The Australian & NZ Mental Health Association.

Trauma and pregnancy project research position

The Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health has an exciting position to work with VACCA and La Trobe Regional Hospital in Morwell, supported by the Healing the Past By Nurturing the Future project team:

The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), in partnership with Latrobe Regional Hospital, are looking for a new Community Researcher to work with them on a research project: Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future.  It is an Aboriginal-led project that aims to demonstrate how we can best provide support during pregnancy and after birth for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents who have experienced complex trauma. The Community Researcher will work to engage Aboriginal Community members and use their knowledge of Community, culture and Aboriginal ways of knowing and doing to advise the team.

This position is based at VACCA and Latrobe Regional Hospital, with support from University of Melbourne. This is a fixed term position for up to 4 years, open to full-time or part-time applicants. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are strongly encouraged to apply. If you would like more information or to apply, please refer to the Position Description here and/or contact Cath Chamberlain on 0428 921 271 or via email using this link.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) encourages and assists entry-level Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health students to complete their studies and join the health workforce. The Australian Government established the Scheme as a tribute to one of Australia’s most outstanding Aboriginal leaders, the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter. Puggy is known for his outstanding contribution to Indigenous Australians’ health and his role and Chair of NACCHO. He devoted the majority of his life to improving Aboriginal health outcomes.

From this year, the Scheme is extending the opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals to participate in the PHMSS Mental Health Studies Mentoring Program as a mentor. The program pairs up PHMSS scholarship recipients (within the mental health discipline) with more experienced First Nations practitioners. The aim is to increase the amount of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health professionals and retain them. This will be done by supporting the students to complete their studies and transition them successfully into their practice as smoothly as possible.

For more information and to apply visit the Australian College of Nursing website here. No need to register, just click on the link on the day to join. Applications close Monday 11 April 2022.

There will also be an online information session at 1:00PM on Monday 4 April 2022 via Zoom here.

Working with the Nephrologist: Stages 4 & 5

Kidney Health Australia are hosting a health professional webinar from 7:30PM–8:30PM (AEST) Tuesday 12 April 2022. Nephrologist A/Prof Richard Baer will present a case study that addresses symptoms, management and treatment options in stages 4 and 5 of CKD. A suitable management plan to slow the progression of CKD will be discussed along with treatment options in kidney failure and when to refer to a nephrologist.

This is a RACGP accredited activity for 2 CPD points. Activity # 331983 (pending approval).

To register for this webinar, you will require a Zoom Account. If you have a Zoom account you can register here for the webinar.

If you do not have an existing Zoom account sign up here first sign up for Zoom here and then register for the webinar via the link above.

Upon successful registration you will receive a confirmation email from Zoom.