NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Recognising First Nations health workers

The image in the feature tile is from a post on the the Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA) Facebook page, 7 August 2022.

Recognising First Nations health workers

Every year on 7 August the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) invites the health sector and all Australians to help celebrate the achievements and evolution of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Health Practitioner workforce.

The Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA) has explained that “within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community this workforce is renowned as a vital and reliable resource critical to improved health and wellbeing outcomes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners work on the frontline of Australia’s primary health care system. They are rarely part of the fly in fly out workforce, but instead have a lived experience in and deep understanding of the communities they serve. Their combination of clinical, cultural, social and linguistic skills delivers an engagement capability and community reach that sets them apart from others working in the health care system.”

“They act as cultural brokers; health system navigators; and provide a high standard of culturally safe and responsive primary health care. Their ability to respond to the clinical, social and cultural needs and contexts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities positions them as unique among Health Professionals.”

On the National Day of Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners and everyday, thank you to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners for their hard work supporting the community, keeping our mob’s health in our own hands.

You can read the NAATSIHWP media release National Day of Recognition for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners here.

Alarming rise in First Nations suicide

Ashleigh-Sue Chatters was sketching designs for her butterfly tattoo in the weeks before her death. Having struggled with mental illness since her teenage years, the 28-year-old Palawa woman told her mother the delicate insect planned for her upper arm was an ode to her will to live. “To her, the butterfly was a symbol of survival and that she hadn’t given up on herself yet, even though the system had given up on her,” her mother Tara Chatters said. Ashleigh had spent numerous inpatient stints in Victoria’s burdened mental health system. In February she was admitted to Dandenong hospital’s psychiatric unit, in Melbourne. She took her own life there four days later on 25 February.

Tara believes the biggest barrier her daughter faced was systemic racism in the mental health sector that undermined her ability to get culturally appropriate treatment. “She was labelled just another black fella. They thought well, this is just how they are and it’s a waste of time helping her,” Tara says. “They would look at her as an Aboriginal girl and think she was a drug addict even when the test results didn’t show that. I don’t want another Aboriginal girl to die because people just look at her like she’s not worth saving.”

Ashleigh’s death is part of alarming increase in First Nations suicide in Victoria. Thelest datafrom the state coroner revealed 35 Indigenous Victorians took their own life last year, a 75% increase, despite a drop in suicide in the state’s broader population. It is a trend that is also replicated nationally, where the rate of Indigenous suicide has nearly doubled in the past decade.

To read The Guardian article ‘I’m scared someone else will lose their child this way’: the alarming rise in First Nations suicide in full click here.

Ashleigh-Sue’s brother Wade Chatters and mum Tara. Photo: Jackson Gallagher, Guardian Australia.

Remote community cost of living crisis

With grocery bills rapidly increasing due to supply chain issues and rising inflation, all Australians are feeling the pinch. But in remote Aboriginal communities, the situation is even more dire. A social media post of a receipt from the Docker River store in the remote indigenous community of Kaltukatjara, in the NT – where many families already live close to the breadline – showed a 2L bottle of Pura Milk cost $9.20. While supermarket chain Aldi has warned grocery prices will “inevitably” continue to rise after the inflation rate surged to 6.1%, by comparison, at a Sydney Woolworths, the same product this week cost $3.10.

A 2021 AMSANT report showed groceries were 56% more expensive in remote communities than regional supermarkets in the NT due to poor quality roads and long supply chains. Back in December 2021 during the Morrison government’s Food Security inquiry, the then WA Treasurer, Ben Wyatt, said “Improving food security and making affordable, fresh and nutritious foods more available in remote indigenous communities is an important part of improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.” According to a Docker River resident “Nothing has been done” to since then to resolve the cost of living crisis.

To view the news.com.au article ‘Disgusting’: Outrage over cost of living crisis in Aboriginal township where 2L of milk costs $9.20 in full click here.

Two litres of Pura milk now costs $9.20 in Kaltukatjara, in the Northern Territory, showing the dire cost of living crisis in the remote indigenous communities. Image source: news.com.au.

Diabetes rate among world’s highest

Selina and Rhonda Bob are waiting for a lifesaving phone call — one that could be years away. Their kidneys are failing, and they hope they won’t have to wait too long on the organ transplant list. Every week, the sisters are bound to a chair for 16 hours as their blood is pumped out of their bodies and filtered through a dialysis machine. The pair were both diagnosed with diabetes – a disease that can damage the kidneys — at a staggeringly young age. And in this isolated pocket of the world, these sisters are not alone in their prognosis.

New research has found that rates of diabetes in Central Australia are amongst the highest ever seen worldwide – and they are getting worse, with more people diagnosed every year at far younger ages than ever seen before. The lead author is Matthew Hare, an endocrinologist at Royal Darwin Hospital and senior research officer at Menzies School of Health Research, said the new research showed a growing diabetes epidemic in remote NT communities, which was “unprecedented in terms of prevalence. Rates of diabetes in these remote communities are increasing such that now 29% of adults in remote Aboriginal communities are living with diabetes, and this is largely type 2 diabetes. The findings of our research were particularly concerning for the Central Australian region where communities are having diabetes prevalence rates up to 40% of adults.”

You can read the ABC News article Diabetes rates in Central Australia among highest in the world, new research shows in full here.

Selina and Rhonda Bob spend 16 hours a week on dialysis, but they are doing everything in their power to live a healthy lifestyle. Photo: Xavier Martin, ABC News.

GP role in primary mental health care

Tim Senior, a GP at Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation and a Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Indigenous Health at Western Sydney School of Medicine is one of nine GPs who have contributed to an article Myth-busting: role of the GP in primary mental health care published in MJA InSight (a newsletter for medical professionals produced by the Medical Journal of Australia) today.

The authors write “In recent years, we GPs have seen a steep increase in mental distress, and the cracks in the system that fail the most vulnerable are familiar to us all. We are well aware of the enormous unmet need for mental health care at this time and we agree with Rosenberg and Hickie, who wrote in InSight+ recently that primary mental health care reform is long overdue. Where we disagree is in our understanding of the problem and in particular, the role of GPs in contributing to the current mental health crisis and its various solutions.

The article authors said “We [GPs] are the best value mental health care in the country using less than 3% of the total mental health budget to see the majority of the patients needing community care. Current underfunding added to rhetoric that alienates and misrepresents GPs seems a counterproductive strategy if we are to provide better mental health outcomes for all Australians.”

To read the article in full click here.

Dr Tim Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

AMSANT CEO – do alcohol bans work?

There’s been furious debate about the future and safety of hundreds of remote communities in the NT after alcohol restrictions imposed under the NT Emergency Response in 2007 were lifted last month. The NT Government says the intervention era bans were racist, and passed legislation in May this year, giving affected communities the ability to choose or “opt in” if they want alcohol bans.

A similar debate is happening in WA where the Director of Liquor Licensing is investigating whether all mid and full-strength alcohol should be banned from takeaway sales in the Pilbara and Kimberley. But do bans like this actually effect change in communities?

In an ABC Radio National broadcast John Paterson – CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT, Marianne Nungarri Skeen – Jaru Woman from Halls Creek region, former health worker and Harold Tracey – Broome Shire President discuss the issue.

To listen to the ABC Radio National broadcast The Roundtable: Are alcohol restrictions in remote communities working? click here.

Signs are supplied to premises that opt into the liquor restriction scheme, which is enforceable by WA Police. Image source: ABC Radio National website.

CATSINaM conference 18–20 August

The Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) is holding its 25th Anniversary National Conference from Thursday 18 to Saturday 20 August 2022.  The 4 event series, Opening, Exhibition, Conference and Gala Dinner celebrating 25 years since the organisation was founded on Gadigal Country in 1997 to the day, will commemorate and honour both individual and collective activism by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner will deliver a keynote address on the first day of the conference on 19 August 2022 and LaVerne Bellear Bundjalung, CEO of Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service will be a guest speaker.

To view a CATSINaM conference flyer click here and click here to access the CATSINaM National Conference website page

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: More community control needed

Image in the feature tile is from the ACT Government 2022–23 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Budget Statement. The ‘Walk through Wiradjuri country’ painting was completed by two Wiradjuri men, Tony “TK” Levett and Trevor Ryan.

More community control needed

The ACT Council of Social Service’s Gulanga Program says the recent 2022–23 ACT Budget, which featured an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Budget Statement, responded to some of the calls from the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, but much more is needed to be done to improve outcomes for First Nations peoples in the ACT. Head of the Gulanga Program, Ms Rachelle Kelly-Church said: “While welcomed, these announcements follow a long period of inaction in implementing recommendations under the Our Booris Our Way and We Don’t Shoot Our Wounded Reports.

“We also need to see significant increases in investment to establish and expand Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs). We need to ensure there is a better distribution of funds so that new initiatives targeting our communities are delivered through Aboriginal community-controlled organisations – not just through ACT Government services. Time after time, experience shows that Aboriginal community-controlled organisations are best placed to support our community and achieve the improved outcomes that we are all desperate for.

“We also need investment to ensure that the services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are culturally safe and respectful. The announcement of $12m for the implementation of Corrections ACT’s Blueprint for Change must include the delivery of mandatory Aboriginal cultural competence training for staff involved in our justice system so that we can challenge ongoing systemic discrimination and racism.”

To read the ACTCOSS media release Gulanga Media Release: ACT Budget – more community control needed in full click here.

Mobile healthcare to remote NSW

A retrofitted motorhome will be used to bring medical care to remote NSW communities to help minimise the spread of COVID-19. Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) revealed it had purchased the vehicle through a BHP donation to provide medical care outside of traditional clinical spaces. It will allow ACCHOs to hold mobile vaccination clinics in communities, negating the need for people to travel to get vaccines.

AHMRC chief executive Robert Skeen said the service’s response team had been integral to the vaccine rollout. “With the help of the valuable partnership of BHP we’re able to provide care to all our mob in every community across the state,” he said. The motorhome will initially be used in the Northern Rivers region where flooding has impacted community clinics.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Aboriginal medical group prepares new motorhome for flood-hit NSW healthcare roadtrip in full click here. You can also find more details about the motorhome on the AH&MRC website here.

Image source: AH&MRC website.

Clinic doubles usual 715 health checks

A clinic in WA more than doubled its usual number of health checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients after introducing free walk-in assessments during NAIDOC week. Lockridge Medical Centre in Perth offered free MBS 715 Indigenous Health Checks to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients who came along during the week. “The health assessments were a great opportunity to offer support for preventive healthcare,” Dr Kayla MacKinnon, a GP at the clinic said.

The clinic doctors were given additional spaces to meet demand and accommodate walk-ins and all nurses agreed to work additional shifts for the week.  All doctors were rostered for one session per week, thereby sharing the experience. Dr Shashi Ponraja, also a GP at the clinic, said it was ‘an excellent opportunity for outreach’ and ‘patients seemed to really appreciate the flexibility in the appointment setup’.

When reflecting on the success of their NAIDOC week experience and increased health assessments, Director Mrs Watts said that “success is measured in many ways, such as the centre’s agreement to undertake Aboriginal Health Workers through Marr Mooditj Training, with the hope of employing an Aboriginal Health Worker as a result and the networking, the collaboration and the improvement in preparing the practice to be a culturally safe healthcare home for the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.”

To view the RACGP newsGP article NAIDOC week leads to more health assessments in full click here.

Boxing champion fights for mental health

Newly-crowned Australian masters boxing champion Darcy Brown knows whatever faces him in the ring, the larger fight on his hands is breaking down stigmas mental health, ADHD and autism. The 51-year-old Wiradjuri man won the national 75.1-80kg class in the 50-55 age bracket in July. Fighting under the name Buddy Oldman, Brown took to the sport fewer than two years ago to get back into physical shape before realising the bigger battle was fought upstairs.

Sexually abused as a child and later suffering from PTSD and depression through adulthood, Mr Brown shied away from boxing earlier in life. It was labelled a mug’s game by his late late father, who himself had been an exhibition tent-fighter in his youth. Brown’s dramatic rise from novice to national champ is spurred on partly by his own struggles, but even more so by the opportunity he hopes it brings to the lives of others.

Now living in Albury, he and his wife have fostered Aboriginal kids for 20 years and are currently the guardian to a neurodivergent child. Working in special needs and with an autistic son and grandson, Brown said representation through sport could have wide-reaching advantages. He fights to raise awareness for these conditions and for those diagnosed to be treated equally in all area’s of life. His message has stretched to include the Aboriginal health in general, and at times the LGBTQ+ community. “I’ve just taken it upon myself to make it happen,” Brown said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Boxing novice-turned national champion Buddy Oldman fights for mental health with every venture into the ring in full click here.

Newly-crowned Australian masters boxing champion Darcy Brown. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Telehealth provides care closer to home

A boy who accidentally slashed his throat when he rode his motorbike into a fence, a burns victim, and an elderly Indigenous woman who wanted to die on country – all are among rural patients successfully treated by telehealth, a conference has heard. The trio were seen by specialists through the WA Country Health Service Command Centre, which provides telehealth via video conferencing to help frontline doctors treat patients at rural hospitals. The centre is part of the world’s biggest rural service in geographical terms, covering more than 2.5 million square kms from Kalumburu in the Kimberley to Albany in the south.

Speaking at the National Rural Health Conference in Brisbane, the command centre’s managing director, Justin Yeung, said it aims to provide “care closer to home” for people in rural and remote areas across the vast state. “We see the whole gamut,” Dr Yeung told the conference, which is focusing on collaboration and innovation in rural health. The centre runs emergency care, inpatient treatment to reduce the number of patients who need to be transferred to bigger hospitals, maternity care, psychiatry and palliative care. Dr Yeung said telehealth is not a replacement for face-to-face care, but supplements traditional treatment.

To read The West Australian article Burns and injuries treated via video in WA in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

Diabetes youth webinar series

Menzies Diabetes Across the Lifecourse Northern Australia Partnership aims to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by targeting the intergenerational cycle of type 2 diabetes and is hosting a 10-part webinar series to give a comprehensive overview of youth type 2 diabetes, screening, management, multidisciplinary care, models of care and preventative strategies. The discussions will be co-led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals and community members in partnership with clinicians and researchers. Delivered fortnightly starting on Thursday 4 August from 12:45–1:45 PM. Those who cannot attend the live sessions but would still like to view the sessions can sign up to be sent a recording of the presentation.

You can view a flyer about tomorrow’s webinar here. Please register for the first event by following this link. Registered participants will be sent a calendar invite and a zoom link for the live presentation and a link to the recorded presentations for later viewing. Subsequent events will be communicated thereafter.

HealthInfoNet user survey and prize draw

Australian Indigenous HealthINfoNet is conducting an online survey designed to gather feedback from users of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (HealthInfoNet) as part of its continual improvement.

The survey will take about 5-10 minutes to complete.

Survey responses will remain anonymous. Choosing to answer the survey questions indicates your informed consent to participate. You can stop the survey at any time by closing the computer window in which the survey appears.

At the end of the survey, you have the option to submit an entry for a prize draw for a $350 Coles Group & Myer gift voucher. The winner’s name will be drawn at random and they will be contacted by phone or email after the survey closes. Your contact details will not be linked to your survey responses. Survey respondents who enter the prize draw within its first week will automatically be entered twice.

The survey is open now until 11.59pm (AWST) Sunday 21 August 2022.

You to complete the 2022 Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet User Survey by clicking here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: CTG efforts must be redoubled

Image in the feature tile is of Clarence Paul, who died age 48, and his grandson. Photo: Closing the gap campaign. Image source: The Guardian, 12 February 2014.

CTG efforts must be redoubled

The Healing Foundation warns momentum must be gained urgently on the Closing the Gap Priority Reforms, or targets will remain out of reach. The warning follows the release earlier today of Productivity Commission data showing only four of the 17 Closing the Gap targets are on track for being met within the coming decade.

The Healing Foundation Board Chair Professor Steve Larkin said the news should come as shot in the arm to the incoming government, who now has the power to make the necessary changes to ensure Priority Reforms are just that – the priority of all governments. “We must use the knowledge from these updates as a catalyst for redoubling our efforts to right the wrongs of the past so that there is finally justice and healing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Professor Larkin said.

To view the Healing Foundation’s media release Closing the Gap Progress Report a Warning to Redouble Efforts click here.

Image source: Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s What is ‘Closing the Gap’ webpage.

Root cause of First Nations incarceration

The head of the Territory’s only Indigenous-owned and community-controlled health service has accused the ACT Government of just putting words on paper over its recent Budget funding announcements aimed at reducing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system. Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services CEO Julie Tongs has again renewed calls for a Royal Commission-style inquiry into Indigenous disadvantage in the ACT – something the government hasn’t yet committed to.

Ms Tongs was concerned about how many initiatives the government said it would fund with that $11.5 million over four years. She said these commitments look good on paper but may not address the root cause of Indigenous incarceration rates. “The biggest problem in this community is the racism and the poverty. From there stems the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, family violence and other issues,” she noted. “We can’t just keep throwing bits of funding at things when things get a little bit political. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. We are still going to have the problem until we work with the families who suffer racism every day.”

To view the Riotact article ‘Just words on paper’: Winnunga CEO calls for root cause of First Nations incarceration to be addressed in full click here.

Julie Tongs says nothing will change without a royal commission-style inquiry into Indigenous disadvantage in the Territory. Photo: Region Media. Image source: Riotact.

Breaking First Nations wealth ‘curses’

Young Indigenous women are breaking intergenerational patterns of economic disadvantage and using storytelling to cultivate “rich” mindsets, says a banker turned podcaster. Larisha Jerome, host of the Rich Black Women podcast, has worked across debt collection, financial hardship, financial capability and financial abuse prevention including at the Commonwealth Bank, Indigenous Business Australia and the Women’s Legal Service Queensland. She now plans to use the power of stories to empower Indigenous women to break “generational curses” and take control of their finances.

“We do that through sharing stories, connecting and breaking down that money shame, and by empowering our community,” Ms Jerome said. “We talk about generational curses, generational trauma, but what about our generational strength? I believe that healing ourselves is generational wealth.” The main message she wants to impart is that despite experiencing genocide, dispossession and colonisation, Indigenous women are capable and deserving of prosperous lives.

To view the Financial Review article The former banker who wants to break First Nations wealth ‘curses’ click here.

Larisha Jerome is photographed in her home in Mango Hill, north of Brisbane. Photo: Dan Peled. Image source: Financial Review.

Team to resuscitate MBS short a player?

Yesterday Health Minister Mark Butler unveiled the panel Labor hopes will drive its efforts to reinvigorate primary care. Dr Dawn Casey, deputy CEO, NACCHO is one of the 16-person panel making up the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce. Francis Wilkins who wrote the article Labor names team to resuscitate MBS, available here, that appeared in the Medical Republic yesterday argues that while most areas are represented on the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, medical technology companies are conspicuous by their absence.

“They are the companies that provide the infrastructure that enables Medicare and our models of care to operate,” digital health and interoperability expert Michelle O’Brien said. “The fact that our current technology is outdated and siloed, and there is no funding for multi-disciplinary care across the health eco-system is contributing to the crisis we are experiencing. Technology infrastructure shouldn’t just be an afterthought, and the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) does not represent our health technology companies.”

You can access the Minister for Health and Aged Care the Hon Mark Butler’s media release Strengthening Medicare Taskforce appointed in full here. You can also read the AMA’s media release welcoming the federal government’s establishment of a Strengthening Medicare Taskforce, to decide priority areas for primary care funding here.

Image source: The Medical Republic.

Recognising First Nations medicine

For tens of thousands of years, Indigenous people in Australia have prepared and used plants to treat ailments. But what happens if a community wants to take their medicine to the world? In an episode on ABC Radio tells the story of a thirty year quest to get a native plant listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) – and the challenge isn’t over yet.

The discussion includes thoughts from Dr Virginia Marshall, Inaugural Indigenous Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian National University School of Regulation and Global Governance and Dr Emma Kowal, Professor of Anthropology at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University.

You can listen to the ABC Radio National episode Recognising Indigenous medicine here.

Juvenile detention food choices study

A study of food served in a youth detention centre in SA gives insights into the place diet and menu choices make in improving or reducing their incarceration experience. A Flinders University study found general disappointment in the quality of food and the need for the child or young person to make more healthy choices, practice their culture or make positive personal choices while in custody and after their release.  

“This is the first time we have considered the extent the lived food-related experiences of incarcerated children matched the principles proclaimed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People Detained in Training Centres,” says Flinders University researcher Dr Simone Deegan. “The interviews at the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre revealed many of the young people found their food service a punitive aspect of their incarceration, particularly in so far as it fails to reflect cultural expectations or preferences.”  

More institutional engagement with residents to change or improve their food service would improve their experience, commencing with a review of the food offerings by a qualified nutritionist-dietitian. As well as getting youth involved in improving the quality, quantity and variety of meals and snacks in the tuckshop, the engagement of young people could then branch into learning to plan, budget, shop, cook and share a healthy meal provided independent living skills and maintain connections to culture where appropriate. 

To view the Flinders University media release Appetite for reform could be borne in juvenile detention food choices – study in full click here.

Flinders University researcher Dr Simone Deegan. Image source: Flinders University.

Final chance to nominate mental health hero

There is still a small window for Australians to nominate a deserving mental health hero for the Australian Mental Health Prize, with nominations closing on MONDAY 1 AUGUST 2022. The Prize aims to recognise the important and ground-breaking work that many Australians are doing for mental health.

This year, the Prize has expanded to accept nominations in four categories:

  • Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander: To recognise and celebrate outstanding Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander mental health leadership at a national or community level.
  • Lived experience: To recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership by someone with lived experience of mental health, either personally or as a supporter, at a national level.
  • Professional: To recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership in the clinical, academic or professional sectors at a national level.
  • Community hero: To recognise and celebrate outstanding mental health leadership at a State or community level.

To view the Southern Downs article Final chance to recognise a deserving mental health hero in full click here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

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

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

World Hepatitis Day 2022

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

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

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

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

More work needed to CTG

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

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

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

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

Heal Our Way campaign launched

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

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

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

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

Children sought for sore throat study

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

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

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

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

Image source: Australian Journal of General Practice.

Celebrating motherhood and culture

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

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

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

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

Medicare needed for prisoners

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

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

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

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

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

Wounds conference speakers announced

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

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

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

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

Image of leg being dressed from National Seniors Australia website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Improved environmental action needed to CTG

The image in the feature tile is of artwork that appears on the cover of the Australia State of the Environment Report 2021. The painting We All Share Water 2001 is by Gertie Huddleston, Wandarang/Mara peoples.

Improved environmental action needed

Earlier today the Coalition of Peaks (CoPs) issued a media release saying: as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we have been saying for a long time that we need to have a much greater say in how programs and services are delivered to our people, in our own places, and on our own country. The Australia State of the Environment Report 2021, released last week, reiterates the importance of this.

“The State of the Environment Report’s findings are shocking, but they’re not surprising”, says CoPs Lead Convener Patricia Turner AM. “Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations see the impacts of colonisation on our Country every day. Our people aren’t involved enough in decision-making on key environmental and heritage issues, to the detriment of the environment. The National Agreement on Closing the Gap outlines formal partnership and shared decision-making, and clearly this mindset needs to be extended to environmental and heritage issues as well”, Ms Turner said. “The report found that Australia’s environment is poorer because of lack of Indigenous leadership, knowledge, and management. We’ve been caring for Country for 65,000+ years – it’s time to listen to what we have to say”, said Ms Turner.

The report also found that ongoing and intergenerational impact and trauma of colonisation continues to adversely affect Indigenous people’s connection to Country and manifests in unacceptable rates of imprisonment, suicide, and unemployment. “This report shows unequivocally that our connection to Country is vital to our wellbeing. We will never close the gap and reach the socio-economic targets in the National Agreement without governments acknowledging our deep, cultural connections to Country”, Ms Turner said.

To view the CoPs media release State of Environment Report highlights need for improved action under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap in full click here.

The devastating 2020 bushfires killed or displaced an estimated 3 billion animals. Photo: James D Morgan. Getty Images. Image source: The Guardian.

Elder reveals mental health demons

A stolen generation survivor has revealed his own mental health demons as he pleads for his community to rally around those with suicidal thoughts. Uncle George Ellis is a “third-generation dispossessed person”, his grandmother brought to Sydney from Tennant creek as a child, his mother growing up at Cootamundra Girls Home and father at Kinchela Boy’s Home. Uncle Ellis was taken to Marella Mission in Kellyville as a boy.

Speaking at the Cox Inall Ridgeway Connect, Reach Out, Heal our Way suicide prevention campaign launch on Wiradjuri land Tuesday, Uncle Ellis spoke of his plight and decision to make a change. “I never thought I’d say this out to people, I’m actually seeing a psychologist,” Uncle Ellis said. “And that’s made a big difference in addressing issues that I’ve had.” Uncle Ellis shared his lived experience and its impact on life, parenting and his own father’s “big decline” later in life from similar tolls from dispossession.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are overrepresented in suicide statistics, accounting for 5.5% of all deaths compared to 1.9 % of non-Indigenous Australians according to the Governments Institute of Health and Welfare’s most recent reporting period.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Stolen Generations Elder bravely reveals mental health demons in rallying cry for community support in full click here.

Uncle George Ellis – Dubbo Suicide Prevention campaign launch. Photo: Brycen Horne. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Australia urged to join NZ tobacco ‘endgame’

Leading tobacco-control experts have urged the federal government to join NZ in pursuing “endgame” reforms that could eliminate smoking and dramatically close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and white Australians. As the Ardern government introduced legislation designed to make tobacco products non-addictive and prohibit the sale of cigarettes to future generations, anti-tobacco campaigners said the Australian government needed to shake a decade of complacency and resume its global leadership role.

While adult smoking rates in Australia are among the lowest in the world, rates among Indigenous Australians remain lethally high. Tobacco-related disease kills more than one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “We are talking about a significant opportunity for change,” said ANU researcher Raglan Maddox. “If we are talking about closing the gap, eliminating or reducing as far as possible tobacco use is a massive step in the right direction.”

Tom Calma, an Aboriginal social justice campaigner whose work led to the Closing the Gap movement, praised NZ’s ambition and lamented our own. “The New Zealand parliament has embraced this target of a smoke-free Aotearoa. The Australian government hasn’t been so interested.”

To view the WAtoday article Australia urged to join New Zealand in tobacco ‘endgame’ in full click here.

Photo: Dave Hunt, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

VIRAL: Are You The Cure? film launched

Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s VIRAL: Are You The Cure? is a  deadly short film about smashing hepatitis C. Originally staged as a play which toured in 2018 and 2019, VIRAL is a short film made by Australia’s longest running First Nations theatre company, Ilbijerri, about navigating hepatitis C. The film is one of a suite of works tackling health and social issues, commissioned by Ilbijerri’s long term partners of 15 years, the Victorian Government’s Department of Health. These works are specifically designed for First Nations audiences and are performed and distributed in community spaces, prisons, and health centres across Victoria. Now, in film format, VIRAL is set to reach broader audiences, available via Ilbijerri’s website, and will be further disseminated by myriad partners across the health and justice sector, and many First Nations community groups.

This project has been commissioned by the Victorian State Government via the Department of Health. With special thanks to Liver WELL incorporating Hepatitis Victoria, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS), Justice Health via Department of Justice and Community Safety, Thorne Harbour Health, the Burnet Institute, and the Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health (CERSH).

You can view the Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s media release VIRAL: Are You The Cure? A deadly short film about smashing hepatitis C here and the film here. The film below is one of the true stories you can access on the Ibijerri Theatre Company Are You The Cure? webpage.

ACT overincarceration funding ‘not enough’

Faced with disproportionate numbers of First Nations people in prison, the ACT Government has announced it will spend more than $20 million to reduce overincarceration and to improve health services for inmates. But Julie Tongs, head of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (WNAHCS), which runs a clinic in the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC), Canberra’s prison, thinks more must be done.

For perhaps the most progressive jurisdiction in Australia, the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison figures are concerning – as the government recognises. Indigenous people make up less than 2% of the ACT’s population, but nearly a quarter (24.4%) of AMC detainees, January’s Report on Government Services stated. The ACT has the lowest adult imprisonment rates in Australia – but Indigenous people in the ACT are incarcerated at 19 times the rate of the general population (well above the national average of 16 times). And 91% of Indigenous detainees have been imprisoned before.

To view the Canberra Weekly article ACT’s $20M response to Aboriginal overincarceration ‘not enough’ in full click here.

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services. Photo: Kerrie Brewer. Image source: Canberra Weekly.

Preserving language a matter of life and death

With a history stretching back more than 60,000 years, Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, have one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures. But that long history — centuries and generations linked by the common thread of shared languages — is at risk. For thousands of years, Indigenous languages relied on storytelling to pass down historical accounts, and with them a sense of nationhood. In 1788, there were approximately 250 languages and 800 dialects spoken. Today, estimates suggest that just  120 languages are in use.

That number is likely to decrease as more Indigenous communities across the globe lose their languages due to the consequences of colonisation: changes to way of life, land dispossession, assimilation policies and migration, as well as the death of native speakers resulting in the loss of intergenerational transmission of Indigenous language.

As language declines, so too does its associated culture and all the knowledge it has acquired over countless generations. It is yet possible, however, to preserve these ancient languages and cultures — and in doing so, improve medical outcomes for Indigenous communities who have too often missed out on the extraordinary medical advances of recent years and decades.

To view the World Economic Forum article For Australia’s Indigenous communities, preserving their languages is a matter of life and death in full click here.

The Sea of Hands exhibit was part of Australia’s National Reconciliation Week for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Image source: World Economic Forum website.

Calls to pause post-intervention alcohol laws

Alcohol bans, first introduced by the Commonwealth during the NT intervention in 2007, lifted in some remote communities after federal legislation expired earlier this month. The end to the bans has coincided with reports from frontline services of a spike in alcohol-related incidents and health presentations, as well as a rise in liquor sales. Independent MLA Robyn Lambley said the end to alcohol restrictions in some remote communities was fuelling domestic incidents in Alice Springs. “What we’re seeing in Alice Springs is the rolling out of an absolute disaster,” she said.

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) CEO John Paterson has previously said the organisation had concerns about the “hasty” transition process following the end to the legislation and that more consultation was needed. “We’re predicting that there will be an increase in emergency department admissions, alcohol-related injuries, domestic violence, child safety,” he said in April. Earlier this year, Mr Paterson said he had written to the federal and NT ministers requesting a delay to allow Aboriginal organisations to prepare. He said he could see a future where the alcohol bans were lifted, but that “we’ve got to have good regulations”.

To view the ABC News article Northern Territory government facing calls to pause new post-intervention alcohol laws in full click here.

Chief Minister Natasha Fyles has defended the lifting of alchohol restricitons in dozens of remote communities. Photo: Hamish Harty, 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: Harmful impacts of cannabis use among mob

Image in the feature tile in from the ABC News article Cannabis use and psychosis: what is the link and who is at risk? – 25 April 2018.

Harmful impacts of cannabis use among mob

The Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre has published a Review of cannabis use among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peopleAuthors of the review note that the health effects of cannabis use may not always be seen as a high priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, yet the impact of cannabis use on physical and mental health can have significant consequences. The use of high potency cannabis has increased over the last two decades, with a corresponding increased risk to health. In particular, young people and those who started using cannabis whilst young are at increased risk of experiencing harms to mental health. The increase in harms has been matched by a reduction in the perception that cannabis use is harmful. The use of cannabis with other drugs, especially  tobacco is also concerning and should be an important item on the Aboriginal health agenda.

This latest review says that physical harms to health include effects on the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, an increased risk of cancer, and in-utero effects from maternal use. Harms to mental health include an increased risk of psychotic episodes, depression, anxiety and problems with memory and paying attention. While generalising findings about cannabis use for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is problematic due to limited data, high rates of cannabis use have been identified and are a cause for concern. The review highlights protective factors that reduce harms from cannabis use and suggests future directions for collaborative culturally secure approaches in addressing cannabis related harms in communities.

The review is part of a suite of knowledge exchange products that includes an infographic summary of the review, a video (below) and a key factsheet ensuring the information reaches a time poor workforce in multiple ways.

Culturally tailored suicide prevention training

Even one suicide is one too many. For the family, friends and community left behind, it is a devastating and often unexpected loss. But talking about suicide can be deeply painful and complex. This issue can be compounded in Indigenous communities, where cultural sensitivity and awareness are fundamental to breaking down barriers and providing support. The University of Wollongong’s MIND the GaP initiative, based at Shoalhaven Campus, has partnered with the South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation (AMS) to develop and provide culturally tailored suicide prevention training to the region’s Aboriginal communities.

Known as Community Linkers, the project aims to reduce suicide by bridging the gap between at-risk community members and professional services. The project is training Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and organisations providing services to Shoalhaven’s Aboriginal communities in how to recognise at-risk behaviour and help those in need to easily and readily access support services.

To view the University of Wollongong Australia article Community Linkers tackle suicide in Shoalhaven’s Indigenous communities in full click here.

Image source: The University of WA website.

Bagot Elder reflects on end of alcohol bans

At 75, Helen Fejo-Frith’s life resembles a series of David versus Goliath battles against rivals, ranging from corporate giants to former prime ministers. She can recall who lives where in Bagot — the urban Darwin Indigenous community she presides over — with her eyes closed, and anyone causing trouble knows not to do it in her sight. But alcohol remains one of her biggest and oldest adversaries. Despite being banned, liquor still finds its way into the grid of streets that make up Bagot, putting neighbours, elders and children in harm’s way.

While alcohol remains banned in Bagot, liquor has begun flowing into other parts of the NT for the first time in at least 15 years, after intervention-era bans ended this month, when federal legislation quietly expired. NT laws have picked up where the intervention left off, except it has given communities the right to choose if they wanted alcohol to return, providing Indigenous leaders with a seat at the policy-making table. Some say prohibition has never worked, and putting policy control back in Indigenous hands will encourage self-determination and healing after a dark, 15-year chapter. Others are bracing for the territory’s sobering rates of alcohol-related harm to rise even further, due to what they say has been a “hasty” transition.

To view the ABC News article After 15 years of prohibition, the Northern Territory’s intervention-era alcohol bans come to an end in full click here.

A related article Indigenous Australians minister to meet NT chief minister over alcohol ban ending published in The Mandarin today can be accessed here.

Helen Fejo-Frith is the president of Bagot community in urban Darwin. Photo: Jesse Thompson, ABC News.

Healing practices critical in mental healthcare

At the recent Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Congress, psychiatrist Dr Loyola McLean presented an eloquent keynote highlighting the importance of embodying First Nations’ healing practices in mental healthcare

McLean, an expert in trauma-informed care and attachment, spoke to an Aboriginal paradigm where, instead of connecting stars to sketch constellations, it was the spaces between that were joined to form the whole, an “ecological matrix” where we sought coherence and understanding. Describing herself as a woman with a “stolen story”, due to family disconnection from kin and Country as a result of Stolen laws and practices, she is still on a journey to reconnect, McLean reflected at length on the power of relationships to shape and heal, with “distrust and disgust” corrosive to connection in ways that could become pathological.

To view the First Nations’ healing practices critical for cultural safety in mental healthcare article in Dr Amy Coopes and Alison Barrett’s report on the RANZCP 2022 Congress – ‘stronger bridges, safer harbours’ click here.

Phot:o Nicole Avagliano on Pexels. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Easing the grief of stillbirth

The Albanese Government is providing a package of $6.8 million in targeted funding to help ease the grief of stillbirth for bereaved women and families. Women and families mourning the death of a baby or infant will receive support through funding of $4.2 million to Red Nose Australia’s Hospital to Home program. A further $2.6 million will be for stillbirth education and awareness initiatives focusing on groups at higher risk of stillbirth, including First Nations women.

More than 2,000 women and families are impacted by stillbirth each year. The Government is delivering Australia’s first National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan, which aims to reduce stillbirth rates in Australia by 20% or more by December 2025. Improving holistic bereavement care and community support following stillbirth, and raising awareness and strengthening education, particularly in communities that have a disproportionately high rate of stillbirth, are priorities under the Plan.

To view the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, The Hon Ged Kearney MP’s media release Helping to ease the grief of stillbirth in full click here.

Image source: The Hippocratic Post.

Increasing hospital access for First Nations peoples

Many First Nations people who present to a hospital emergency department leave before they’ve even seen a doctor. Even if they are seen and admitted to hospital, First Nations people are 2.5 times more likely than non-First Nations people to discharge themselves early against medical advice, research from Federation University shows. Dr Aziz Rahman, Associate Professor of Public Health and Research Advisor from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, says changes are needed in hospitals so that First Nations people feel welcome, safe, understood and able to access full medical care.

The work is ongoing, with an extensive report on emergency departments published in 2020, based on research at three hospitals in Elizabeth, SA; Alice Springs, NT; and Nowra, NSW. “In my experience working in public health in different national and international contexts, and coming from a developing country [Bangladesh], I did not expect there would be differences in terms of access and treatments for First Nations people in Australia,” Dr Rahman says. “Yet there is a clear difference in health outcomes for First Nations people, such as a 10-year difference in life expectancy, so that was a big surprise to me. Why should that happen when they are accessing the same facilities?”

To read the Federation University article Making hospitals more accessible for First Nations peoples in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

100s of mob denied adequate medical care

A north Queensland community leader says he is aware of hundreds of First Nations people being denied adequate medical care as an inquiry into three deaths in 2019 continues. A coronial inquest which began Monday is examining the deaths of Betty Booth, Shakaya George and Adele Sandy who were alledgedly denied adequate medical care at Doomadgee Hospital in NW Queensland. The three young Indigenous women had severe rheumatic heart disease and died after seeking treatment at the hospital.

In March the ABC’s Four Corners program reported on the circumstances surrounding the deaths and found that Doomadgee Hospital had a track record of failing to follow basic medical procedures and keep up-to-date records of some patients’ medical history. Waanyi, Garawa and Gangalidda lore man Alec Doomadgee said the treatment of the women showed the health system did not care about the wellbeing of First Nations people. “There have been hundreds turned away, and people have died as well,” he said. “Many people have been beaten down by the system and they give up, a lot of our mob walk away from it. “It happens that I have a big mouth and I never give up – for more than two years I have been telling the story. “This is something we need to address and there are a lot of families out there that have not been able to do that.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Claim ‘hundreds’ of Indigenous people denied proper medical care amid Queensland hospital deaths probe in full click here.

Photo: Louie Eroglu ACS, Four Corners. Image source: ABC News.

Urban-regional divide affects children

Australia’s affluence can be seen in its cities: trendy coffee shops litter pristine streets against a backdrop of high-rise buildings from Melbourne to Perth. There’s data to back it up; Australia has the twentieth highest GDP per capita in the world, ahead of Japan, the UK and Canada, and boasts the fifth highest quality of life. Affluence is often harder to come by in regional and rural areas. Remote communities frequently lack the access to the services and amenities that urban Australians enjoy, and are generally less prosperous than their urban contemporaries.

Healthcare is more difficult to access in rural and remote areas due to challenges associated with geographic spread, low population density, limited infrastructure, and the higher costs of delivering healthcare outside of cities which are not accounted for in funding models. People living outside major cities are also 1.4 times more likely to experience family violence.

Indigenous Australians have a history of being not only left behind, but also forcibly excluded. Indigenous Australians are more likely to live in rural and remote areas, accounting for 32% of remote and very remote communities compared to less than 2% of major city populations. Indigenous communities have lower life expectancies, poorer health outcomes, lower wages, and face greater barriers to education and employment opportunities than non-Indigenous Australians due to limited access to public services and widespread discrimination. This must change.

To read the Pro Bono Australia article Affluent but unequal: how the urban-regional divide is affecting Australian children in full click here.

Photo: Ben Collins. Image source: 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.

National Pain Week

Chronic pain is arguably Australia, and the world’s, fastest-growing medical condition. 1 in 5 Australians live with chronic pain – including adolescents and children. This includes 1 in 3 people over the age of 65. 1 in 5 GP consultations involve a patient with chronic pain and almost 5% report severe, disabling chronic pain. The prevalence of chronic pain is projected to increase as Australia’s population ages – from around 3.2 million in 2007 to 5 million by 2050.

While there is limited data available on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s experience of chronic pain, lower socio-economic status and restricted access to effective pain management and other medical treatments increases Indigenous communities’ risk of living with chronic painful conditions.

National Pain Week is an annual awareness event coordinated each year by Chronic Pain Australia. For more information you can access the Chronic Pain Australia website here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Pleas for governments to ‘listen’

Image in feature tile is from The Guardian article NT intervention a ‘debacle’ and second attempt should be made, commission told, 22 June 2017. Photo: David McLain, Getty Images, Aurora Creative.

Please for governments to ‘listen’

The intervention rolled into the NT like an unseasonal storm. That’s how some Territorians who lived through the policy – formally named the emergency response – remember its arrival, 15 years ago. John Daly, a remote community resident from Nauiyu, was the Northern Land Council’s chairman at the time, says “I think it was done in a way that was so hurtful. When you look at the intervention, it was based on a report – this wasn’t the response [the authors] wanted from their report. Ten years after allegations of abuse and violence in the Indigenous community of Mutitjulu sparked the NT intervention, locals say very little has been achieved.

“Why basically ride in there and take away the rights of every traditional owner and Aboriginal person?” In north-east Arnhem Land, Djambarrpuyngu clan cultural leader Lapulung Dhamarrandji remembers residents from Milingimbi fleeing to neighbouring homelands and communities out of fear. “To us, it was like there wasn’t any blue skies around us, it was covered with thick grey clouds – when the intervention came, it was like that,” he said. “The fear inside us all, I mean we are parents just like you people you know.”

To view the ABC News article Residents who lived through the NT intervention plead for governments to ‘listen’, 15 years on in full click here.

Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann said there was a failure to listen deeply and hear residents’ solutions. Photo: Felicity James, ABC News.

PAMS Healthcare Hub built for the desert

Through a series of projects in the arid environment of WA predominantly built for Aboriginal communities, Kaunitz and Yeung Architecture has proposed a different approach to working with the beautiful, yet harsh, desert environment. Designing with, not for, remote Aboriginal communities, Kaunitz and Yeung are changing the narrative of remote regional architecture – creating a new vernacular for Australian desert architecture.

While one of their most recent projects, the award winning Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) Healthcare Hub, may be the most prominent of Kaunitz and Yeung’s work, some of their earlier Western Desert projects were fundamental in breaking the architectural tradition already present in Australia’s desert areas. The work of Kaunitz and Yeung has been iterative. Starting with the Wanarn Health Clinic in 2015 which, in David Kaunitz’s words, “smashed the mould of verandah buildings” then the Punmu and Parnngurr clinics in 2018, each project has learned from the previous and the design has evolved.

To view The Property Tribune article Creating architecture for the Australian desert in full click here.

The new PAMS building has been constructed around an internal courtyard which provide shad in summer and shelter from the harsh sun. Image source: The Property Tribune.

Pharmacy trial puts patients in danger

A small Aboriginal community in Far North Queensland, the town has in effect been selected as one of the sites for a radical and potentially dangerous experiment in patient care. That experiment is the Queensland Government’s plan to allow pharmacists to diagnose, prescribe and dispense up to 150 different S4 drugs across 23 medical conditions.

Dr King, a Yued/Whadjuk Noongar man, explains why he fears the worst. I first learnt that Yarrabah would be a site for the North Queensland pharmacy trial back in March. I found out because a journalist sent me those secret, confidential documents that had originally been leaked to Australian Doctor earlier this year. I did not find out because the community was consulted about what was coming— the local council, the ED next door to us, both knew nothing. I was confused, and I was angry.

The government says this trial will allow pharmacists to compensate for GP workforce shortages in North Queensland. If Yarrabah is on the list, then that is nonsense. We have seven FTE GPs, and even in the most difficult parts of the pandemic, we haven’t had shortages. To slap us with this trial with no consultation about what is happening is ludicrous and offensive. It also shows a deep level of ignorance at the highest level of Queensland Health for what actually goes on within communities from a primary health perspective and the vulnerabilities of our patients.

To view the Australian Doctor article Pharmacy prescribing trial: ‘The lives of my patients are in real danger’ in full click here.

Dr Jason King, Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service, Yarrabah, QLD. Image source: Australian Doctor.

Use the NDIS? We want your story

Do you or your family use the NDIS??

We’d like to film your story?!

People from all locations welcome.

Your time will be paid $$.

Please contact Chris Lee by email here or by phoning 02 6246 9352.

Urgent need for more mental health services

More than two in five Australians experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. In 2020–21 more than 3.4 million Australians sought help from a health care professional for their mental health. These sobering statistics are from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing, with in-depth data from more than 5,500 people aged 16 to 85 years old. The study found that during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 21.4% of Australians had experienced a mental health disorder in the previous 12 months, with anxiety the most common disorder. Almost half (47.1%) of those who had a mental health disorder in 2020–21 sought support, an increase since the last study in 2007.

Across their entire lifetime around one in six (16.7%) Australians reported having had suicidal thoughts or behaviour, with females (18.7%) having a higher rate than males (14.5%). 38% of Australians were close to someone who has attempted or died by suicide, a tragedy which impacts family, friends and communities.

You can read the media release Major Mental Health Study Released issued by Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler MP and the Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health, Emma McBride MP in full here.

Other organisations also issued media releases in response to the ABC data:

Image source: High Street Medical Clinic.

Change starting for VIC LGBTQI community

From growing up with his ‘foot in two camps’ – queer and Indigenous, to being the voice of the LGBTQI community in Victoria, Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities Todd Fernando says it’s been an exciting journey. Todd Fernando is the first out queer, Indigenous person to be appointed a commissioner in Australia. For this descendant of Kalarie people from the Wiradjuri nation, growing up with his “foot in two camps” was not an easy task.

“Being a young Wiradjuri person, we were fighting for the recognition of our culture. I had to put my queerness on the back burner and, and really not allow it to overshadow what we were trying to do within the Wiradjuri space,” Fernando said. Fernando grew up in the regional rural town of Condobolin, located on the Lachlan River in central-western NSW. “I was very fortunate to grow up on country and to learn about my culture in a variety of ways with my family. One of the things that I did miss out on was connecting to my culture through my queerness.”

To view the Star Observer article We’re starting to see change, says Todd Fernando Victorian Commissioner for LGBT communities in full click here.

Todd Fernando, Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities at the opening of the Victorian Pride Centre in July 2021. Photo: Gabriel Jia. Image source: Star Observer.

Better anti-racism training needed

Monash researchers have found medical practitioners are promoting ill health through racist practices with Aboriginal health consumers. Monash academic Petah Atkinson published the findings from her PhD research Aboriginal Health Consumers Experiences of an Aboriginal Health Curriculum Framework in The Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin Journal with co-authors Professor Karen Adams and Professor Marilyn Baird.

The study found unwanted care included three racism themes: 1) The practitioner perpetuating and being unresponsive to racism; 2) Assimilation; and 3) An inability to consider the impacts of settler colonialism. Desired care included four anti-racist themes: 1) Responsiveness to racism and settler colonialism; 2) Advocating within the settler colonial health system; 3) Engaging with the diversity of Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing; 4) Lifelong learning and reflection.

In settler colonised countries, medical education is situated in colonist informed health systems. This form of colonisation is characterised by overt racism and contributes to the significant health inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples. Curriculum in these countries includes content relating to Indigenous peoples but doesn’t recognise Aboriginal knowledge as valuable nor consider the Indigenous health consumer’s nuanced lived experience of the delivery of medical care.

To view the Monash University article Better anti-racism training needed for medical practitioners in full click here.

Image source: INSIGHT Into Diversity.

Broaden your horizons with AGPT program

General practice is the perfect career choice for any doctor who enjoys diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions and building long term relationships with their patients. With GPs at the frontline of primary healthcare during this recent pandemic, there are more opportunities than ever for a rewarding career in general practice – particularly those who choose to train in rural and remote Australia.

The Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program

Expressions of interest are open for the 2023 Australian General Practice Training (AG{T) Program (AGPT). The AGPT trains medical registrars in general practice. Registrars who achieve their fellowship through the program can work as GPs anywhere in Australia. Explore our pathway to Fellowship for a visual representation of the suggested steps for your journey.

By expressing interest, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) will support you will valuable information through the application process.

You can express your interest by visiting the RACGP website 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.

16th National Rural Health Conference

In the lead up to the recent Federal election, the crisis in rural health received considerable media attention. It is well understood that the lack of sufficient health professionals and limited access to healthcare, result in lower life expectancy and higher levels of disease and injury in rural, regional and remote communities compared to metropolitan populations.

“If we are going to make significant inroads into improving access to affordable, high-quality healthcare, we need to bring together the whole rural health sector to learn from others about effective, innovative and tailored, place-based solutions for our rural communities,” said Dr. Gabrielle O’Kane, CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance). To this end, the Alliance will host the 16th National Rural Health Conference from 2-4 August 2022 in Brisbane, Queensland.

To read the National Rural Health Alliance media release 16th National Rural Health Conference from 2–4 August 2022 ‘Bridging social distance; rural health innovating and collaborating’ in full click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

The image in the feature tile is a photo taken by Michael Amendolia (2014) featured on the Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Eliminating trachoma by 2025 under threat

The new federal minister responsible for Indigenous health has stopped short of backing the previous government’s target to eliminate trachoma by 2025 as the pandemic continues to impact health outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Australia is the most developed country in the world where trachoma — which causes blindness and is linked to poor face hygiene — is still prevalent. New Assistant Minister Malarndirri McCarthy has declared overcoming trachoma is one of her priorities in the job, but said would need to fully appreciate the situation before she could set a timeline. “This is going to be an absolute priority for me and I will be travelling the country to talk to those experts to see what we can do to eradicate this scourge.”

Asked directly whether she backed the 2025 target, Senator McCarthy replied: “I’m having ongoing discussions, I’ve only been in this role a matter of weeks.” In 2009, the Rudd Labor government pledged to eliminate the eye disease by 2020. Since then, Cambodia, Ghana, Mexico and more have achieved the feat. But in Australia, the disease persists. The target was pushed back to 2022, but it is now clear Australia will not meet the commitment. The previous Coalition government announced a new target of 2025 to eliminate all avoidable blindness in Indigenous Australians, including beating trachoma.

To view the ABC News article Goal of eliminating eye disease trachoma by 2025 under threat as pandemic bites in full click here.

The Indigenous Eye Health unit travels to remote communities and teaches face hygiene. Photo: Jack Snape. Image source: ABC News.

Funding for Winnunga’s jail model of care

ACT Government says it is prioritising funding for community sector organisations that provide essential services and programs to Canberrans in crisis. Some the programs and organisations that will receive funding through the 2022–23 ACT Budget include: meeting health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC). The ACT Government will provide $9.40 million dollars over four years to continue a holistic model of health service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees. The funding will support the continuation of the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services’ model of care at the AMC.

To view the ACT Government website page More funding for the ACT community sector in full click here.

AMC cell converted into an Australian-first Indigenous health clinic in 2019. Photo: Jamila Toderas. Image source: The Canberra Times.

First Nations aged care voice boosted

The Federal Government has appointed Yugambeh woman Jody Currie to the National Aged Care Advisory Council. The appointment of Ms Currie, a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council, is part of efforts to close the gap in design and delivery of aged care programs and services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Assistant Indigenous Health Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said First Nation voices were vital in the implementation of aged care reforms.

“For far too long older First Nations people have experienced barriers to accessing aged care services in their homes and communities,” she said. “To address service gaps and improve access to care, we must include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices in the design, discussion and implementation of aged care reforms.” While 27% of non-Indigenous people participate in the aged care system’s key programs, only 17% of Aboriginal Elders participate.

In WA’s south-west, including Perth, the gap is the largest in the country, with only 8.6% of Elders participating in aged care programs. Aboriginal Community Elders Aged Care Partnership for Perth and South-West WA chairman Jim Morrison said there was discrimination in the ability for Aboriginal older people to access culturally appropriate aged care services. “All Stolen Generation people will be (at least) 50 next year, and we will qualify for aged care,” he said. “We want to consider our elder care and look after our older people…and it might be that our elder care centres be healing centres where our Elders can depend on their culture.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Jody Currie gains Federal appointment to tackle ‘discrimination’ in aged care system in full click here.

Image source: Compass (an EAAA project) website.

Shocking treatment of mental health patients

First Nations Victorians are being restrained and secluded at a higher rate than the general population, a shocking new report by the state’s peak mental health advocacy body has revealed. The Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC) third Seclusion Report found more than 5% of people admitted to Victorian mental health facilities subjected to seclusion were Indigenous, despite First Nations people making up just 3.5% of total people admitted. The rate of restraint among Indigenous patients was also higher at 4.6%. The findings come one year after the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System found poor mental health and substance use disorders accounted for as much as 14% of the health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

VMIAC CEO Craig Wallace said the new data made it clear why First Nations people might be apprehensive to seek help. “It’s these mental health services and the acute units where people are supposed to go to feel safe,” he said. “And then they’re being harmed by these practices, and traumatised by these practices. That makes people really concerned about seeking help in the future, knowing that these things have happened to them or could happen to them.” Djab Wurrung and Gunditjmara woman and Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) social and emotional wellbeing executive director Sheree Lowe said the figures revealed in the report the tip of the iceberg. “(The figures) indicate that people might have been secluded twice in their stay,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Restraint, seclusion of Indigenous mental health patients in Victoria laid bare in damning report in full click here.

Image source: Melbourne University Pursuit.

SEWB services consultation survey

NACCHO is conducting a consultation survey to better understand the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) services, support and coordination provided to communities by Affiliates and ACCHOs. The survey has been developed in partnership with Professor Pat Dudgeon from the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing (TIMHWB) project, led by the University of Western Australia. Responses to this survey will help to build a national picture of what SEWB services and support are currently available, help to map SEWB services nationally, and identify service gaps. This evidence base will inform NACCHO’s advocacy to government for improved support to Affiliates and ACCHOs to deliver SEWB services and inform policy development.

The survey covers the following topics:

  • SEWB services and support
  • SEWB workforce and training
  • barriers to providing SEWB services or support
  • other SEWB activities that your organisation may be involved in.

NACCHO members should have received a link to the survey, and we are keen to hear from all of you! The survey will be open until Sunday 7 August 2022. If you have any questions about the survey, please reach out to Sasha Banjavcic-Booker, Senior Advisor Mental Health Policy and Programs via email or call 0409 919 398.

VACCHO Biannual Statewide Social and Emotional Wellbeing Gathering. Image source: VACCHO website.

headspace Grad Program applications open

Applications for the headspace Graduate Program 2023 have now opened for First Nations Allied Health Graduate roles.

These rewarding positions will be situated in a clinical team at a headspace centre and closely linked to the First Nations Wellbeing & Healing Division at headspace National. You’ll work alongside passionate people and make a real difference to young people, families, and communities. Where you’ll hit the ground running and continue developing your skills and career in youth mental health/social and emotional wellbeing. Find your place at headspace.

These graduate positions are designed to provide social work, occupational therapy and psychology graduates access to a two-year comprehensive youth mental health training and development program with support of cultural supervision.

Further information about this opportunity, including our First Nations information and yarning session, can be accessed at the headspace Graduation program website available here.

Applications close Monday 22 August 2022.

Data shows kids picking up healthy habits

Two-thirds of Indigenous children in Victoria are meeting encouraging levels of key wellbeing indicators, according to a report from a pair of leading health researchers. The results, courtesy of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and Deakin University’s Institute for Health Transformation (IHT) found the vast majority of 9–12 year olds are getting enough sleep, practice a healthy diet with 84% meeting physical activity guidelines.

VACCHO and IHT also found relatively low levels of excess screen time, and a correlation between eating well and higher social and emotional wellbeing. Their Aboriginal Data and Action on Prevention Together report surveyed primary school students in 18 local government areas of the state’s Great South Coast, Goulburn Valley and Ovens Murray regions in 2019.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are the future of the world’s oldest population, and in my 25-plus years working in Aboriginal health there has always been limited data that can inform and assist us with decision making around improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Victoria,” VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher said. “Improving access to affordable healthy food is an important part of improving the holistic health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – our future.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Encouraging data reveals Indigenous Victorian children picking up healthy eating, excercise habits click here.

The Deadly Koolinga Chef Program involves cooking classes that teach skills in food and nutrition essential to improving Aboriginal health outcomes. Image source: Murdoch University Research Tweet 4 March 2021.

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.

National Homelessness Week

Homelessness Week is held annually across the nation to raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness. It’s also a time reflect on the collective action needed by community and all levels of government to help break the cycle of homelessness. In Australia there are over 116,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night. Homelessness Week aims to raise awareness of the impact of homelessness on Australia via national and local community events, including providing information on the importance of housing as a solution and educating communities on how they can make a difference.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples made up 3% of the Australian population in 2016. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accounted for 20% (23,437 persons) (down from 26% in 2011) of all persons who were homeless on Census night in 2016. For further information about Aboriginal homelessness in Australia click here.

The theme for Homelessness Week 2022 is To end homelessness we need a plan. A range of resources are available on the Homelessness Australia website here including social media tiles, web banners, email signatures, posters and messaging to support your advocacy. One on the website you can also register for the Homelessness Week 2022 launch from 12:00 PM–1:30 PM Monday 1 August 2022.

Image source: The MHS Learning Network.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: National Diabetes Week 10-16 July

The image in the feature tile is of Professor Louise Maple-Brown (with a patient) who was a Chief Investigator leading a qualitative study, supported by Central Australia Academic Health Science Network (CAASHN) with a Medical Research Future Fund grant to better understand the experiences of Aboriginal youth in Central Australia living with type 2 diabetes. Image source: Australian Health Research Alliance, 16 December 2021.

National Diabetes Week 10-16 July

National Diabetes Week 2022 is on from Sunday 10 July to Saturday 16 July. This year’s awareness week will focus on the emotional health and wellbeing of people living with diabetes.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost four times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Improving the lives of people affected by all types of diabetes and those at risk among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a priority for Diabetes Australia. You can view the Diabetes Australia webpage specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here.

You can also access online e-Learning diabetes modules for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and practitioners on the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) website here.

SWAMS to extend programs and services

The City of Busselton has announced the South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS), an ACCHO that provides holistic wrap around services to the Indigenous community in the South West, as the new lease holder for a campsite at Locke Estate in Siesta Park. SWAMS have demonstrated experience in setting up new clinical services, drive, passion and professionalism, across the South West region and across their 35,000sq km footprint.

SWAMS has exciting plans for the campsite and proposes to develop a community hub with family units, dorm buildings, common areas, a caretaker’s residence and a fire pit. SWAMS CEO Lesley Nelson said it proposed to use the campsite as a culturally safe place to deliver social, emotional and physical health programs. “We’re excited for what’s to come, intending to offer a diverse range of services, including youth camps, Elders groups, men’s and women’s groups, cultural immersion and health related programs,” she said.

You can read the Busselton-Dunsborough Mail article City of Busselton partner with South West Aboriginal Medical Service with a lease on Locke Estate in full here.

Representatives from SWAMS Board, CEO Lesley Nelson, SWAMS team and community; along with Busselton City Councillor Anne Ryan, Acting CEO Tony Nottle and City Officers. Image source: Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.

Hearing on NDIS in remote communities

A Disability Royal Commission five-day public hearing on the operation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in remote communities began yesterday at the Mparntwe (Alice Springs) Convention Centre. The hearing will explore barriers to accessing the NDIS and disability services faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in remote and very remote communities.

The recent National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey determined that more than one in ten of the 66,000 First Nations people with profound or severe disability live in remote or very remote locations. The hearing will examine to what extent inaccessibility to services cause or contribute to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of Indigenous people with disability. During a previous public hearing, Dr Scott Avery gave evidence that disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities was twice as prevalent, more complex and “compressed within a shorter life expectancy” compared to other Australians.

Pat Turner, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convener Coalition of Peaks will be speaking at the public hearing this Thursday alongside representatives from the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) and other community-controlled organisations on specific barriers they’ve seen getting in people’s way over and over again when they try to get NDIS disability support.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Disability Royal Commission turns spotlight on Indigenous people in remote communities in full click here.

Disability Royal Commission five-day public hearing on the operation of the NDIS in remote communities. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Minister Burney on First Nations suicide

The Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Linda Burney MP, has described the Labor Government’s suicide prevention approach, saying it would focus on, “self-determination, respect for First Nations knowledge systems, restoration of culture and First Nations leadership of programs and services.”

In her first major speech about suicide as Minister, Ms Burney told a national webinar audience of mental health leaders, convened by the Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP), that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide rate, “hurts me every time I see it. It hurts all of us. These statistics hurt because they represent people in pain, people we know, families who need to put the pieces of their lives back together.” Indigenous adults die by suicide at twice the rate of other Australians, while for children and teenagers the rate is four times as high.

Ms Burney, a Wiradjuri woman who represents the electorate of Barton in southern Sydney, described her own 2017 loss of her son to suicide, saying he was, “in his 30s and a beautiful young man who found this earth a very difficult and cruel place.” She said suicides were connected to the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives. “Too many experience poverty, trauma, marginalisation and discrimination,” she said. “We know we must make progress on all these fronts if we want to see the future First Nations people deserve.”

To view Minister Burney’s media release Minister Burney speaks out about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide in full click here.

How dietitians can make a stronger impact

Diet, nutrition, exercise advice and community programs are as important in rural and metropolitan settings as regional and remote areas, and peer support for health professionals can help deliver better results particularly if resources are limited. A new study from Monash University and Flinders University academics has identified what Australian dietitians and nutritionists need to do to make a stronger impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in the communities they serve.

The study of Australian health workers, published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (Association of UK Dietitians), looks at how a peer mentoring process, or ‘community of practice’, can support dietitians to work more effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The majority of dietitians in Australia are non-Aboriginal people, with only 32 individuals of more than 7,500 full members and students self-identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in 2020, according to Dietitians Australia’s annual report.

To view the Flinders University media release Building peer support for dietitians published yesterday in SCIMEX in full click here.

Nicole Turner, one of only five qualified Aboriginal community nutritionists speaking at the Food Governance Conference 2019, University of Sydney. Image source: Twitter.

UQ academic on incarceration of youth

Lorelle Holland describes herself as a disruptor. The proud Mandandanji woman and University of Queensland (UQ) PhD candidate is relatively new to academia but is already making her mark. Last month, prestigious medical journal The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health published a commentary piece written by Mrs Holland and her PhD supervisory team from the UQ school of Public Health on the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

It is a topic Mrs Holland cannot discuss without getting emotional. “It’s a national crisis,” Mrs Holland said. “These vulnerable, marginalised children are in youth detention at a rate 17 times higher than all other ethnicities combined – during a critical period of child development. How people cannot be outraged by this escapes me.”

Her paper called for a community-led response to the issue and for Australian policy to conform to UN guidelines to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14 years.

You can read the University of Queensland UQ News article From nurse to UQ academic: A journey to create change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in full here.

Lorelle Holland, above right, in the NT with colleague Antonella Martin. Image source: UQ News.

Deadly Vision Centre CTG on eye health

Shaun Tatipata, the founding Director of Australia’s first Aboriginal-owned optical and eye care provider, Deadly Vision Centre, has a strong vision for the future of Indigenous eye health. The goal of the business is to contribute to closing the gap in eye health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians by providing access to culturally safe and socially responsive eye care.

Mr Tatipata, who is of Wuthathi and Ngarrindjeri descent, has gained extensive experience in delivering primary health care and designing and implementing outreach programs in Indigenous communities. He is passionate about ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able to access eye care services that are delivered to them by their community.

You can read the mivison (The Ophthalmic Journal) article Celebrating Founder of Deadly Vision Centre in full here and listen to an Shaun Tatipata in conversation with Karl Briscoe about Indigenous eye health below.

First Nations member sought for AMC

The Australian Medical Council Ltd (AMC) is currently seeking applications for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, who has experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues, position on Council.

You can view the EOI notice, providing additional information on the selection process here. Further information and the nomination form are available through the AMC website here.

The application deadline is Friday 19 August 2022.

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: COVID-19 antiviral eligibility expanded

Image in feature tile is from today’s ABC News COVID-19 antiviral treatments to become available to more Australians article. Photo source: Pfizer via AAP.

COVID-19 antiviral eligibility expanded

From today, more Australians will be eligible for COVID-19 antiviral drugs in an attempt to reduce the number of people in hospital. Health Minister Mark Butler said he was hopeful expanding the eligibility would help ease pressure on hospital systems. “COVID cases and hospitalisation numbers are climbing, particularly with the new variants,” he said.

Under the current rules, the drugs are restricted to Australians who are 65 years or older with particular risk factors, but from today any Australian who tests positive to COVID-19 and is over the age of 70 will be able to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Known as Lagevrio and Paxlovid, the drugs cost about $1,000 but because they are on the PBS they are reduced to $6.80 for a concession card holder. People aged over 50 with at least two risk factors that could lead to severe disease, as well as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged 30 and older with at least two risk factors will also be eligible.

A broader range of chronic respiratory conditions have been added to the risk factors list. They include moderate or severe asthma, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, demyelinating conditions and renal impairment. Risk factors already on the list and that will remain include neurological conditions, such as stroke and dementia, cirrhosis, kidney failure, obesity, diabetes type one or two, and anyone who lives in remote areas and doesn’t have access to higher level healthcare.

To view the ABC News article COVID-19 antiviral treatments to become available to more Australians in full click here.

Paxlovid will be one of the antivirals available to more Australians under the scheme. Photo: AAP. Image source: ABC News.

Winnunga health service comes a long way

From its humble beginnings as a temporary medical service set up at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy site, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (Winnunga) has grown into an important part of the health services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the national capital. WNAH&CS have recently moved into a new, purpose-built facility in Narrabundah, enabling the service to do more. 

Julie Tongs’ vision as CEO, a role she has held since 1997, has always been for Winnunga to be a leader in the provision of primary health care. “All Winnunga wants to do is give people an opportunity to be better, to feel good about themselves, and to start to work through some of the layers of trauma that Aboriginal people have experienced,” Tongs says.

Winnunga was established in 1988 by local Aboriginal people inspired by the national mobilisation of people around the opening of the new Parliament House in May and the visit by the Queen.  Since then it has grown into a pivotal healthcare service, which last year saw some 7,000 clients. Providing around 60,000 occasions of service to its clients annually, Managed by the local Aboriginal community, Winnunga takes a “holistic” approach to health care offering clinical and medical services, and social health programs.

To view the Canberra  City News article Winnunga health service comes a long way from the Tent Embassy in full click here.

Outside the new health centre in Narrabundah… “We managed the project, built it on time and on budget, without any government involvement apart from the funding,” says Julie Tongs. Photo: Holly Treadaway. Image source: Canberra City News.

Changing First Nations birth narrative

Shanara Fourmile wakes with a small pain under her belly. It’s seven in the morning and the sun is pouring through the window of her home in the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah. As she opens her eyes, her water breaks. Shanara, an Irukandji woman from far-north Queensland, knows the baby is coming.

She texts her sister, who calls an ambulance. Yarrabah women are directed to birth in Cairns Hospital — an hour’s drive through rainforest, winding coastline and cane paddocks. Shanara knows she won’t make it so she’s taken to Yarrabah’s small emergency department. It doesn’t have a permanent obstetrician. There’s no anaesthetist or resourcing for an emergency caesarean. No access to epidural or equipment to resuscitate a newborn if the baby is struggling to breathe. And no blood bank in case women haemorrhage after birth.

Kaurna and Narungga woman Tayla Smith, Yarrabah’s first Indigenous midwife who works at Gurriny Yealamucka Aboriginal-controlled Health Services says women some women wait until it’s too late to go to Cairns as they want to have their baby on Gunggandji Country. Local health workers call these women “the naughty mummies” of Yarrabah. While there are benefits for having the baby close to home, in Yarrabah it comes with serious risks. The clinic is just not set up to deliver babies. And if there are complications during the delivery, the consequences could be dire.

To read the ABC News article Meet the Black matriarchs changing the narrative of First Nations births in full click here.

Irukandji woman Shanara Fourmile gave birth to her baby girl Keilani in Yarrabah’s small emergency department in June. Photo: Kristy Sexton-McGrath, ABC RN.

NT mob worse GI cancer survival rate

Survival rates for gastrointestinal (GI) cancer among Northern Territorians have improved in the past 30 years but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in the Territory still have worse survival outcomes, a new analysis has found. “We need a concerted effort aimed at investigating the existence of modifiable sociodemographic factors underlying these disturbing trends,” Savio Barreto, Study Senior Author and Associate Professor, General Surgeon, Flinders Medical Centre and Researcher, Flinders University

“There is a need to enhance preventative strategies, as well as to improve the delivery of cancer care and its uptake amongst Indigenous peoples.”

The study, published in the journal Cancers, reviewed data from the NT’s Cancer Registry between 1990 and 2017, looking at adenocarcinomas of the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum and pancreas, which are collectively known as GI cancers.

To read the News Medical Life Sciences article GI cancer survival rates improving among Northern Territorians except for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in full click here.

Image sources: News Medical Alert, heal+h plus.

Palm Is receives grant for youth program

Palm Island youth who have disengaged from the formal education system are the target of program to be delivered by the Palm Island Community Company in partnership with the state government. The Bwgcolman Youth Program will support local 13-to-17-year-olds by linking them with training, education and employment opportunities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford said the project was one of five locally led initiatives across the State, totalling more than $1 million, to improve community social health. “The Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve mental health, emotional wellbeing, and social outcomes,” Mr Crawford said. “It will also respond to substance misuse, and reduce rates of suicide in their communities,” he said.

“Like other Local Thriving Communities initiatives, the Program supports First Nations peoples to make decisions about their own future, build on their strengths, invest in things that will make their communities stronger, and make an enduring difference to people’s lives.

To read The National Tribune article Palm Island Community Company secures $235,000 Queensland Government grant to develop youth training program in full click here.

Queensland Maroons legends visiting Palm Island youth. Photo: Siobhan Heanue, ABC North Queensland.

Docker River aged care facility upgrade

Culturally safe aged care sites and face-to-face support for older First Nations people are being invested into by the Australian Government. The programs are anticipated to cost a combined $221 million and will be delivered over four years.

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians, Malarndirri McCarthy, said First Nations communities experience many barriers when accessing aged care services. “Lack of culturally safe care, a complex system, ongoing trauma, and social and economic disadvantages all contribute to older First Nations people accessing aged care services at a rate lower than needed,” she said. “The government is committed to delivering aged care and health services that meet the needs of our Elders and enables them to remain close to their homes and connected to their communities.”

Four National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care (NATSIFAC) services in SA, the NT and Queensland will receive funding to construct culturally safe, purpose-built facilities. Among them will be the rebuilding of Kaltukatjara’s Tjilpi Pampaku Ngura Flexible Aged Care, which which will provide care for First Nations peoples at Docker River.

Australian Regional and Remote Community Services (ARRCS) general manager, Wendy Hubbard, said the location for the rebuild will be close to the existing Tjilpi Pampaku Ngura Flexible Aged Care service. “That means our residents can stay where they are at Tjilpi Pampaku Ngura Flexible Aged Care and we can continue providing services without disruption, and watch our vision come to life,” she said.

Better mental health for Minjerribah youth

Better mental health and life outcomes for young people on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) is the target of the Yulu-Burri-Ba Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health in partnership with the Queensland state government. The North Stradbroke Island Indigenous Youth Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program will facilitate after-hours activities and yarning circles with Elders, offer counselling sessions and specialist services, and provide a safe place for young people to go when feeling overwhelmed.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Craig Crawford said the project was one of five locally led initiatives across the State, totalling more than $1 million, to improve community social health. “The Social and Emotional Wellbeing Program supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve mental health, emotional wellbeing, and social outcomes,” Mr Crawford said. “it will respond to substance misuse, and reduce rates of suicide in their communities,” he said. “Like other Local Thriving Communities initiatives, the Program supports First Nations peoples to make decisions about their own future, build on their strengths, invest in things that will make their communities stronger, and make an enduring difference to people’s lives.”

To view the Queensland Government media release Yulu-Burri-Ba Corporation secures $235,000 Queensland Government grant to improve mental health for Minjerribah youth in full click here.

Image sources: logo from Yulu-Burri-Ba Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health website, ORIC.

Ex-NRL star tackles mental health challenges

Owen Craigie was a teenage Rugby League prodigy. The only player to make the Australian Schoolboys team three years straight. While blitzing at schoolboy level, Craigie signed his first professional rugby league contract with Newcastle Knights in the early 1990’s, when he was just 17, and bought a house.

After leaving the club two years later, he had stints at the Wests Tigers, the Rabbitohs and Widnes in the English Super League. When he retired in 2005, things got tough. Craigie has previously spoken of how he turned to drugs, alcohol and gambling, and said he lost an estimated $2 million to his addiction. And three years ago, he said he entered the darkest phase of his life. Craigie went through rehabilitation, and says he’s now been able to recover.

“I am a different person than I was three years ago … I see my kids now. Life’s good. I am working on a couple of businesses.” Craigie said his biggest achievement over the past three years is that he has “found himself”. “I have mates that couldn’t,” said Cragie, who’s now determined to help those in the community who face similar challenges. He has just opened a gym; his charity, the Big OC Foundation, and his Chase the Energy initiative both aim to help people who’re battling addictions and mental health challenges. “I am passionate about [helping people] because I want to help the next Owen Craigie.”

To read the SBS NITV article How former NRL star Owen Craigie turned hardship into happiness in full click here.

Owen Craigie’s Chase the Energy initiative aims to help people battling additions and mental health challenges. Image source: SBS NITV.

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.