NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Referendum an overwhelming time for mob

feature tile image of Aboriginal flag flying with Australian Parliament House in background; text 'Voice commentary leading to rise in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander psychological distress'

The image in the feature tile is from an article Voice to parliament won’t give ‘special rights’ to Indigenous Australians, legal experts say published in The Guardian on 13 December 2022.

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

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

Referendum an overwhelming time for mob

In an opinion piece about the Voice referendum proud Bundjalung woman and journalist Bronte Charles said “I get asked which way I’ll be voting. I’ve watched others speak over my people.  I’ve seen the racist tweets and posts, and held my breath as discussions get more toxic. I hear the nasty conversations and go to bed feeling anxious. The referendum on the Voice to Parliament has brought with it a lot of emotions – some good, some bad, some eh. To put it mildly, it’s been an overwhelming time for mob. In a time full of uncertainty – one thing is for sure: whether the outcome of the referendum is a yes or a no, we need to be there for one another and, most importantly, be there for ourselves.”

Ms Charles spoke to three First Nations people working in the mental health space:

  • Tanja Hirvonen is a Jaru Bunuba clinical psychologist and Board Director of the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association
  • Dr Clinton Schultz, a Gamilaroi psychologist and director at the Black Dog Institute
  • Maddison O’Gradey-Lee is a provisional psychologist and is currently completing a PhD that explores young mob’s mental health

who all agreed the Voice has fuelled bigoted attitudes and behaviours, with “a lot of mob are reporting that they’re finding that constant attention, as well as the criticism and debate, becoming quite toxic and impacting heavily on their social and emotional well-being. The psychological distress that we’re seeing amongst mob at the moment is definitely raised.”

Tanja Hirvonen said mob can look after themselves during the referendum by doing what mob do best: “check in on each other as well as your Elders. Draw on the strength of your ancestors and draw on the strength of your mob and make sure to look after yourself. Touch base with your family and have those conversations with your trusted peers or family members. Make sure that you’re connecting with people that are like-minded, who are going to give you that care and compassion and that warm hug that you might need.” Whether you’re voting yes, no or you still haven’t decided, Tanja says that mental health should be a priority.

To view the SBS NITV article OPINION: The referendum campaign already has me overwhelmed. Here’s how you can look after yourself in full click here.

image of back of heads of protesters & Aboriginal flags flying

Photo: AAP. Image source: SBS NITV article ‘The Voice will spark an improvement in Indigenous mental health, say peak bodies.

Maningrida named NDIS market gap trail site

The NT Labor Government has welcomed the announcement of Maningrida as the first of two trial sites in a $7.6m investment into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Minister for the NDIS, the Hon Bill Shorten MP revealed that Maningrida would be a beneficiary of the pilot program for alternative commissioning approaches in thin markets where there are not enough services available to meet participants’ needs.

This is to ensure that participants can better access supports in remote and First Nations communities and will build on the work the NT Government is undertaking in partnership with the community, NDIA and sector as part of the deep dive into how the NDIS is working in Maningrida. Alternative commissioning will be undertaken in partnership with First Nations and remote communities to ensure the pilot is both culturally appropriate and underpinned by an understanding of community strengths and preferences.

Minister Shorten announced Maningrida’s inclusion as a trial site following a gathering with all State and Territory Ministers for Disabilities for a meeting of the Disability Reform Ministerial Council (DRMC) in Darwin, saying “This pilot will allow us to gain invaluable information on how we can ensure Australians with disability living in remote and First Nation communities can access supports and provide lessons on how to build the capability of communities and governments, and the types of alternative commissioning that work best.”

You can view The National Tribune article Maningrida announced as first trial site in $7.6 million NDIS market gap investment in full here and a transcript of the doorstop interview where Minister Shorten refers to the Maningrida trial here.

Manuel Brown Member for Arafura, Luke Gosling MP, Manuel Brown MP, Member for Arafura; Luke Gosling OAM, MP, Member for Solomon; Minister Bill Shorten; Member for Karama and NT Minister for Disabilities Ngaree Ah Kit

L-R: Manuel Brown MP, Member for Arafura; Luke Gosling OAM, MP, Member for Solomon; Minister Bill Shorten; Member for Karama and NT Minister for Disabilities Ngaree Ah Kit. Image: Manuel Brown’s Facebook page.

NT CTG should start with kids

Human-rights activist Timmy Duggan OAM said the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and Bringing Them Home reports highlighted the ‘urgent national crisis’ of the Gap more than 25 years ago. But as a history of generational trauma continues to weigh on the NT’s Aboriginal kids, he said it was clear more needed to be done to give today’s young people “doses of resilience”. “We can have an impact on them while their brain is still developing and provide good, positive experience[s], good, positive Aboriginal role models that they see day in and day out,” he said.

The NT’s first NBL player combined his sporting career and knowledge of Aboriginal health to launch Hoops 4 Health in 2002, with hopes to drive better outcomes for the NT’s kids. The organisation’s first base is set to open in about six weeks in one of Palmerston’s northern suburbs. Palmerston is home to 7.9% of the NT’s Indigenous population, according to 2021 census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Mr Duggan said the organisation started as a way to give back to the NT community and engage with kids in the Palmerston and Darwin areas.

Following a royal commission into the protection and detention of children in the NT, he said he was spurred into action and has not missed a weekend session with the kids in Don Dale Youth Detention Centre since 2016. The latest Productivity Commission data shows 96% of NT kids in detention are Indigenous, with First Nations children locked up at a rate 33 times higher than non-Indigenous children. Mr Duggan said Hoops 4 Health was not just about basketball – it was based on Bruce Perry’s neurosequential model for addressing trauma. “Using the trauma-informed model and culturally-informed coaching … can have a big impact in addressing trauma and chronic traumatic experiences,” he said.

The above has been taken from an article Palmerston, NT Closing the Gap efforts should start with kids published in the Gold Coast Bulletin earlier today, 30 August 2023.

founder of Hoops 4 Health, Timmy Duggan OAM with hands on shoulders of young ATSI boy holding basketball, background wall with basketball figures & basketball hoop

Hoops 4 Health founding director Timmy Duggan OAM said the Gap was reaching a ‘crisis’ point and more needed to be done to close it. Photo: Sierra Haigh. Image source: The Gold Coast Bulletin.

100% pass rate for GPs in training

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has today labelled a recent 100% exam pass rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GPs in training as a phenomenal achievement. It comes following the recent results of the College’s Clinical Competency Exam (CCE), an exam designed to assess clinical competence and readiness for independent practice as a specialist GP.

RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Censor Dr Olivia O’Donoghue congratulated the GPs in training. “As Censor of the faculty this warms my heart and soul to see more of my peers achieving success in these high stakes assessment and moving onto RACGP Fellowship,” she said.  “The RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health faculty and assessment team have improved the Yagila Wadamba program – ‘Learn to heal’ in Wurundjeri – a culturally appropriate AKT and KFP intensive, and there are policies and procedures supported by the faculty Censor to provide additional advocacy and support through training and assessments. Moving towards training and workforce equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GPs is a priority for the RACGP and a key performance indicator for our training program.”

Dr O’Donoghue said that she was keenly focused on boosting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GP numbers. “We are making progress, but there is a lot more work to be done,” she said. “Numbers of self-identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees have been steadily increasing. The RACGP currently has 60 GPs in training and 124 Fellows. The aim is for greater than 3% representation across training and for Fellows.

To view the RACGP media release RACGP welcomes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander exam success in full click here.

ATSI GP checking patient's heart with stethoscope

Photo: James Cook University General Practice Training. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

IWC tackles antenatal care gap for mums-to-be

The healthcare gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is well-known, but its extent concerning women’s antenatal and reproductive care remains relatively obscure. This is one of the reasons the Indigenous Wellbeing Centre Ltd (IWC) in Bundaberg, Qld, runs a midwifery program that offers monthly ante-natal check-ups, post-birth weigh-ins, and breastfeeding checks. Working alongside participants general practitioners or the hospital ante-natal clinic, this bulk-billed program provides expecting mothers of Bundaberg and North Burnett with vital continuity of care, which has been proven to improve a mum’s comfort level through her pregnancy and into early motherhood.

Through their dedicated work in this program, midwife Stephanie Rackemann and Indigenous health practitioner Lisa McGrady could not ignore the lack of engagement from Indigenous mums-to-be in mainstream healthcare services during their pregnancy in the Bundaberg and North Burnett region. “I’ve seen too many Indigenous mums late in their pregnancy who have not so much as had a GP appointment. It is sad to know that there is such a mistrust of the mainstream health care system that Indigenous mums would rather avoid care,“ Stephanie said.

“There are so many reasons these mums aren’t engaging in their healthcare, with barriers like lack of transport, a lack of understanding on the importance and not having the confidence to speak up and advocate for themselves in a clinical situation,“ Lisa explained. This is where the difference in the IWC Midwifery program comes in. Not only do these mums have access to a knowledgeable, experienced and approachable midwife, but they also have continued access to Lisa.

To view the Bundaberg Today article IWC tackles the gap in antenatal care for Indigenous mums-to-be in full click here.

Lisa McGrady, IWC Indigenous health practitioner with some of the valuable supplies provided by the community

Lisa McGrady, IWC Indigenous health practitioner with some of the valuable supplies provided by the community. Image source: Bundaberg Today.

Better access for people with diabetes and CVD

“Many Australians have diabetes and cardiovascular disease” (CVD), says Expert Advisory Panel member Professor John Prins. “These chronic diseases cause severe illness and death. But healthcare services are not uniform across Australia for people living with these diseases.” A new Targeted Translation Research Accelerator Research Plan calls for ‘better methods of getting that care to people.”

Prof Prins continued. “One way to improve care is to build our knowledge of the causes of diabetes and CVD. “If you have both these diseases, they get worse faster than if you had just one disease. If we can find common mechanisms causing both diseases we can attack them both at the same time. The research plan also calls for new ways to predict who is at risk of diabetes and CVD and their complications. This will help health practitioners get the right care to people at risk. We want health practitioners to recognise patients they need to escalate to that next level of care. That might be the GP 100kms down the road or a major centre that can do further investigations.”

The plan supports researchers to build our knowledge about disease mechanisms and risk prediction with Incubator project funding. This research will help develop new diagnostics, devices, therapies and risk predictors for people living with diabetes and CVD. The plan also supports funding for large-scale multidisciplinary projects that use technology and data to improve care. The large-scale projects will be codesigned with consumers and health services to:

  • improve remote patient monitoring
  • focus on urban, rural, regional and remote areas
  • focus on First Nations people
  • focus on culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people.

The aim of these projects is to improve access to high-quality, patient-centred care.

To view the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care news article Improving health outcomes for people with diabetes and cardiovascular disease in full click here.

ATSI man gripping chest

Image source; Medical Journal of Australia.

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: The NACCHO Board supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart

The image in the feature tile is of the Chair of NACCHO, Donnella Mills.

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

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

The NACCHO Board supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart

NACCHO supports constitutional recognition and a First Nations Voice to Parliament. We are an organisation representing 145 Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations operating over 550 clinics across Australia, delivering services to over 410,000 Australians.

NACCHO supports the full implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, including a Voice, treaty, and truth.

Alignment with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap

The Voice also aligns with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Supporting self-determination and building the capacity of the community-control sector is central to the commitment that all Australian governments made as part of this seminal Agreement. The Voice will only lend strength to the Agreement and to existing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and structures.

The power of a Voice

There is one excellent example of what happens when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a voice. It was when we led the way during COVID. The Aboriginal community-controlled sector stepped up early, knowing that the COVID pandemic had the potential to cause devastation among our people.

Almost 2,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives were saved by allowing our communities to design their own COVID responses in their own communities, when the Commonwealth Government heard our voice and even handed over the COVID funding direct to our organisations.

In early 2020, our sector asked the Commonwealth to sit down with us and get an emergency plan in place. Together, we set up the National Indigenous COVID Advisory Committee co-chaired by NACCHO and the Australian Government and including representatives from all state and territory governments. In addition, there was timely funding provided by the Australian Government, disbursed to our members. They knew, better than anyone else, what our communities needed. This meant that targeted funding was on the ground within days. The response had to be rapid, and it was.

As a result of our own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID response, lives were saved. The original estimate was that 2,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would die. This was the estimated share of deaths based on population share, burden of disease and comorbidities. Yet only about 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lost their lives. A voice and a genuine partnership with the Department of Health, therefore, saved almost 2,000 lives. This is the power of a Voice.

To download the statement go here.

Honouring Elders and their contributions to health and wellbeing

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is, ‘For our Elders’. This is a concept in action in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) around the country. ACCHOs and ACCOs are aware they stand on the shoulders of the Elders and older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who are responsible for establishing systems and structures outside of the mainstream, to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country.

These organisations are not only part of the fabric of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, ACCHOs are now considered a leading model for primary healthcare in Australia and the world. Working alongside ACCOs, they deliver culturally secure and effective services, fostering engagement and improving health outcomes. Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative and Kura Yerlo are among many organisations that have designed programs and events specifically tailored to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders. These initiatives aim to encourage cultural engagement, promote social connections and facilitate health and wellbeing.

Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative Men’s Group is aware of the significant role of Elders in their community, what they have fought for, the culture they know, their wisdom and the importance of providing the space for that wisdom to be shared with younger generations. Levi Geebung, the Social & Emotional Wellbeing Caseworker who leads the Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative Men’s Group stated:

“Elders are one of the main driving forces for why we do what we do, this is the passing down of knowledge and culture. If it wasn’t for the teaching I’ve received from my Elders, I wouldn’t be able to pass that knowledge on to those who attend our men’s group.”

To read the Croakey Health Media article Honouring Elders and their contributions to health and wellbeing in full click here

Kura Yerlo Elders. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

The future of NDIS in remote communities

Local expertise and responses are urgently needed for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, where little has been delivered since the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was launched. Founding NDIS chair Bruce Bonyhandy, who is co-chairing the Independent Review Panel has also said the health and education sectors need to step up to ensure that the NDIS is sustainable and transformative for people with disability. It comes as the NDIS review panel released its interim report last week, ahead of the 10th anniversary of the NDIS and amid ongoing concerns for the scheme’s future.

In the NDIS Review’s interim report, a NDIS participant’s family member said, “I love the NDIS. It has been a life saver for my family but not without stress, anxiety…and seeing my family at breaking point. Every year we go through the same mundane crap and have to fight the fight, not knowing what the outcome will be.”

Members of the Review spent a week visiting the NT, spending time with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Bonyhandy said the lack of impact from the NDIS over eight years, especially in remote communities, “is not just disappointing; it is deeply shocking that so little has been achieved.” He said the NDIA is still flying or driving support workers into and out of remote communities, rather than building the NDIS community-by-community, training local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be support workers, allied health assistants, recovery coaches and peer workers.

This would not only be more cost effective, “it would also boost remote economies, deliver culturally-safe services, and help Close the Gap,” he said.

Read the full Croakey Health Media article here and to get involved with the NDIS Review go here.

NDIS Logo. Image Source: UNSW Canberra.

Health key policy area for the Voice

The Indigenous Voice to Parliament will be asked to give advice on four main policy areas including health, education, jobs and housing, if the referendum held later this year is successful. At the National Press Club on Wednesday Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said, “The Voice will be tasked with taking the long-view.

“I will be asking the Voice for their input to solve these most pressing issues,” she said.

Minister Burney said Australia needs new perspectives to solve old challenges. To illustrate how the Voice would work and how better policy can be developed, Ms Burney used the example of the Indigenous-led birthing on country movement.

“Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations have pioneered a more effective way of caring for mums and babies, one that embraces tradition and language so mothers feel safe accessing medical services early and often.

“And by respecting and elevating the role of the extended family Birthing on Country sets mums and babies up for a health beginning,’ she said.

Read the full National Indigenous Times article Voice to be asked for advice on four key policy areas here.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney. Image source: Mick Tsikas AAP Photos.

TAC reflects on 50 years of providing care and advocacy

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) has been dedicated to promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights, culture, health and wellbeing for 50 years. Serving the Tasmanian community for five decades, TAC northern regional manager, Lisa Coulson reflected on the adversity overcome by the organisation in its early days and the milestones achieved throughout the years.

“From its small beginnings in Tamar Street … to today with over 240 staff shows the growth of the organisation and the need within the Aboriginal community for the support of the programs that we deliver,” Ms Coulson said.

TAC has already ticked off a few celebratory events this year, including the Putalina Festival, “There was also the Invasion Day rally on January 26, and in March we celebrated a 30-year anniversary of the Palawa Kani language program,” said Ms Coulson.

Looking ahead TAC aims to expand its services, strengthen cultural education, and create sustainable economic opportunities for Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people.

Read the full article here.

TAC northern regional manager Lisa Coulson. Image source: Rod Thompson.

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: Decolonising harm reduction: what, how, why

feature tile image: back of person wearing black hoodie with words 'Harm Reduction Saves Lives'; text: wide-ranging benefits to flow from decolonising harm reduction'

The image in the feature tile is from the NZ Drug Foundation webiste. Photo: Charles Mackay, HRI.

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

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

Decolonising harm reduction: what, how, why

People and organisations working for harm reduction have been urged to decolonise their work and unpack “the biases, structures, systems that operationalise racism, in our own practices and organisations”.

In a powerful address to the Harm Reduction International conference taking place in Naarm/Melbourne this week, Professor James Ward, Director of the University of Queensland Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, outlined wide-ranging benefits that would flow from decolonising harm reduction. In his address Prof Ward considered why  current harm reduction policies that is not working for Indigenous peoples.

“Beyond Australia, contemporary substance use among Indigenous peoples today is inextricably linked to colonialism, both in the ways land was acquired and in relation to the disruption and trauma that came with colonisation, including the ongoing intergenerational trauma experienced by the younger generations of Indigenous peoples today.”

“The introduction of drugs and substances, to Indigenous peoples has had devastating impacts on our peoples globally. The most common feature of the modern day response to the weaponising of alcohol and other drugs against Indigenous peoples has been to double down on law enforcement and control.

“Indigenous, Black and Brown peoples who use drugs are over-policed, have higher rates of arrest, fatal overdoses, prosecution and incarceration for drug use than other identifiable population. And at the same time they lay bare their bodies to the triple whammy of discrimination, racism and stigma.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article A powerful call to decolonise harm reduction in full click here.

Professor James Ward portrait photo

Professor James Ward, Director University of Queensland Poche Centre. Image source: Harm Reduction Australia.

Biodiversity loss matters to human health

Australia is one of 17 megadiverse countries globally, with many plants, animals and ecosystems found nowhere else on Earth. Unfortunately, over 200 years since European colonisation, Australia has suffered the largest decline in biodiversity of any continent, including the highest rate of extinctions in the modern world.

Now, a comprehensive and sobering report on the state of Australia’s environment (SOE) over the past five years has been released. This shows ongoing environmental deterioration at a continent‐wide scale. Pressures from climate change, habitat loss, pollution, resource extraction, and invasive species are threatening every Australian ecosystem, with 19% showing signs of collapse.

Yet, although we are increasingly hearing dire warnings about our environment, there is a lack of reflection on the consequences for human health among policy makers and the general public. Addressing this, for the first time, the SOE report explores environment–human health linkages, recognising that the state of our environment is highly consequential for the health and wellbeing of Australians.

To view the Medical Journal of Australia article Why losing Australia’s biodiversity matters for human health: insights from the latest State of the Environment assessment in full click here.

word 'save' spelt with wooden letters 's' 'a' 'e' and 'v' is a seedling; globe on soil, trees in background

Photo: Getty Images. Image source: Flinders University webpage – Pandemic exposes biodiversity-health nexus.

Mob face double NDIS disadvantage

A fraction of the estimated 60,000 Indigenous Australians living with a disability are receiving support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The federal government has outlined plans for serious and systemic reform to ensure the decade-old NDIS’s long-term effectiveness.

The First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) works with individuals whose needs are more complex than some. “The complications of living in regional, rural or remote areas means often the only disability services available to mob are hundreds of kms from where they live with no allowance made for transportation to access these essential services,” FPDN CEO Damian Griffis said. “The tyranny of distance is enough of an issue, but throw in the lack of cultural safety in mainstream disability services and you have another compounding factor in mob not participating in the NDIS.”

But the most fundamental reform would be to ensure the NDIS was surrounded by increased community and mainstream support services. Mr Griffis said it is vital that the reforms address the under-representation of Indigenous people in the NDIS. “When you get things right for our people and overcome the double disadvantage that disabled Indigenous people face, you invariably improve things for everyone,” he said.

To view The Senior article Indigenous face double NDIS disadvantage, network says in full click here.

young ATSI man in wheelchair with 2 camp dogs

Photo: Karen Michelmore, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

Major disparity in organ donations

The World Transplant Games in Perth have been used to highlight the disparity faced by Indigenous Australians who face five times the risk of kidney disease and a lower chance of receiving organs. Only a small percentage of First Nations people (9.5%) are waitlisted compared to non-Indigenous counterparts.

The consent rates for organ donation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families was also significantly lower than non-Indigenous families in 2016, with only 20% providing consent compared to 67%. To address this issue, Transplant Australia is actively promoting the discussion of organ donation within these communities to encourage consent for organ donation.

“Indigenous Australians receive a kidney transplant at about a quarter of the rate of non-Indigenous Australians and that inequality needed addressing urgently. Kidney transplantation is the optimal treatment for End Stage Kidney Failure but there is significant and persistent disparity in transplants to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Sadly, Indigenous Australians are also five times more likely to suffer kidney disease due to lifestyle, genetic and economic factors,” Transplant Australia CEO Mr Thomas said.

To view The National Indigenous Times article World Transplant Games kick off in Perth, addressing the major disparity in organ donations among First Nations communities in full click here.

World Transplant Games 2023 logo & participant Ken Farmer, Indigenous heart recipient

Ken Farmer, Indigenous heart recipient in attendance at the World Transplant Games in Perth, WA. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

The making of a doctor

Two chance encounters were just the right medicine for Riley Phillips when he was grappling with a major career change. The first was fleeting, meeting an elderly Aboriginal man while working as an employment officer in his home town of Taree, on the mid North Coast of NSW. “I had a lot of older clients and there was this one particular bloke who had mental and physical issues who one day started to cry,” Riley recalls. “He didn’t need employment help; he needed medical help. But he didn’t know what help was available; that there were people called psychologists and mental health care plans. I helped get him in to see a GP.”

The second major influence was Dr Keith Gleeson, also an Aboriginal man, who worked as a locum at Taree’s Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre and had begun studying medicine at a mature age. “After meeting Dr Keith, he kept saying to me ‘you could be a doctor’. We had many chats about how I would cope studying as an older student with a young family.”

At 35 Riley was the first in his family to even contemplate university, a path supported by the University of New Englands’s TRACKS Tertiary Preparation Program, which caters to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students looking to prepare for undergraduate studies.

To view the UNE article The making of a doctor in full click here.

Riley Phillips, medical student University of New England

Medical student and future doctor Riley Phillips. Image source: University of New England website.

Room to Breathe Program extends houses

Minister for Housing and Homelands, Selena Uibo, says families in Angurugu and Galiwin’ku have recently returned to their homes, which were extended as part of the Room to Breathe program. In Angurugu, Miranda Lalara and her family received an extension to their home, which included two new bedrooms, plus a separate toilet and bathroom.

The upgrades have reinvigorated the much-loved family home, where Miranda has lived since she was a child with her parents and four siblings. The Room to Breathe program has converted the family home into a five-bedroom residence, allowing Miranda to share her home with her sibling and adult children while ensuring there is room for generations to come.

Galiwin’ku will receive 87 new builds under HomeBuild, and 45 homes will receive Room to Breathe works, which are already completed and underway. The Room to Breathe program aims to improve the living conditions of Aboriginal Territorians in remote communities by extending homes and upgrading amenities. A goal to extend an identified 996 homes in remote communities is underway, with works completed to 392 homes and works currently underway in 209 homes.

To view Minister for Housing and Homelands Selena Uibo’s media release Room to Breathe program improving housing on Elcho and Groote islands in full click here.

2 images - ATSI builders brick laying & moving materials

Images from the NT Government Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities Room to Breathe webpage.

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: 2023 CTG report calls for greater and faster change

feature tile, image of Australian and Aboriginal flags flying; text '2023 Close the Gap Campaign Report highlights essential role of ATSI-led decision-making and self-determination

The image in the feature tile is a photo taken by Lukas Coch/AAP published in The Guardian on 8 October 2020.

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

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

2023 CTG report calls for greater and faster change

This years 2023 Close the Gap (CTG) Campaign Report was launched earlier today at the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) in Little Bay Sydney. The theme this year is, ‘Strong Culture, Strong Youth: Our Legacy Our Future’ which highlights the essential role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led decision-making and self-determination in shaping a vision of health and wellbeing built upon a strong cultural foundation.

You can download the report here and watch a video of the launch using this link. You can also watch a short ABC News video Close the Gap report calls for greater and faster change here.

A bit of history. . .

The CTG Campaign is an independent, Indigenous-led campaign that calls on political leaders from all levels of government to take action on health and life expectancy equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It is separate to Closing the Gap, which is an Australian Government strategy.

The CTG Campaign, launched in 2006 to address the unacceptable gap in life expectancy and other health indicators between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians, helped influence the establishment of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, and the formation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap in July 2020.

The Campaign is made up of 52 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health, NGO and human rights organisations. More than 200,000 Australians have signed a pledge supporting the Campaign.

cover of the Close the Gap Campaign Report 2023; 9 photos of ATSI people/children; text 'Strong Culture, Strong Youth: Our Legacy, Our Future

Early Years Strategy must focus on equity and justice

Experts in child and family health are developing submissions for the Federal Government’s new Early Years Strategy, which it says will “shape its vision for the future of Australia’s children and their families”. Among a number of groups who have shared their concerns and priorities the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) is concerned the early focus of the strategy “does not demonstrate a health equity lens”. We note the verdict on that is mixed. The ACN points to the Discussion Paper’s aim that a national Strategy “will seek to ensure that all children, wherever they live, enjoy the same opportunities to learn, develop and thrive.”

The ACN says “this is not a health equity lens. Instead, it assumes all children, irrespective of class, culture and context, require the same opportunities. This ignores some of the children who need this most, like those children that have different abilities or grow up in specific cultural contexts like First Nations children.”

Maybe the Federal Government should also be turning a sharp eye on all the policies, programs and, of course, politics that are currently causing major harm to young people in Australia, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and/or threaten to further entrench inequity.

To view the Croakey Health Media article As governments entrench disadvantage, will Australia’s Early Years Strategy focus on equity and justice? in full click here.tile purple, lime green, pink, orange; text Australian Government The Early Years Strategy in white font & Australian Coat of Arms

First podcast for mob with disabilities

Having to learn how to walk and talk again after an incident left him in an induced coma, Bernard Namok, a proud St Paul, Badu, and Erub Torres Strait Islander man, is now advocating for Indigenous people living with disabilities in the Far North. Mr Namok is teaming up with the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) to help empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders with a focus on giving a voice to the voiceless. Today, on National Closing the Gap Day, Mr Namok and the FPDN launched a first-ever podcast dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with disabilities.

Mr Namok said one of the barriers facing people with disabilities from Indigenous communities is simply knowing what help is out there and how to access it. “Creating the podcast was about finding a way to get information to people who may be living in remote areas in places like Thursday Island where I grew up, as well as telling their stories,” he said

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that almost a quarter (24%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia living in households lived with a disability with 8.8% living with a profound or severe limitation.

The above story featured in the Herald Sun article First podcast for First Nations people with disabilities launches published earlier today.

Bernard Namok, TSI disability advocate

Bernard has been working in disability advocacy in Cairns after previously working in radio broadcasting in the NT.

Culture + Kinship program has positive outcomes

Yesterday the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) launched the groundbreaking Culture + Kinship program evaluation report in the lead up to today’s National Close the Gap Day. VACCHO noted that last year’s Closing The Gap report data and the Coroners Court of Victoria suicide Report in February this year provided “unmistakable evidence” that the devastating gaps in health and wellbeing outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Victorians continue to blight health equality in Victoria.

VACCHO said its Culture + Kinship Report demonstrates that by focusing on the cultural determinants of health, “there are constructive approaches that can be taken to close the gaps in health and wellbeing disadvantage”. The report notes that through the Culture + Kinship program, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have been able to re-connect with Community, Culture and Country.

VACCHO said “The Culture + Kinship program was uniquely Community driven with a flexible funding model that empowered Communities to lead the way with their own solutions in the form of self-determined, locally led programs.” VACCHO also said a social return on investment analysis showed the program “produced significant value for its stakeholders, with Community Members benefiting especially through reconnecting with Community, Culture and Country, and in doing so, experiencing a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes”.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Aboriginal-led Culture + Kinship program makes breakthroughs in health and wellbeing in full click here.

Budja Budja Yarning Circle

Budja Budja Yarning Circle

Scholarship helps Palm Is AHW realise dream

A young Indigenous woman awarded a scholarship to study nursing at Mater Private Hospital Townsville is realising a dream to follow in her family’s footsteps. “My grandma is a twin and she and her sister worked at Mater for many years as registered nurses,” said Tehanna Tanerau-Love, who works part-time as a health worker on Palm Island.

Ms Tanerau-Love, 20, a Yorta Yorta woman with Māori ties, said she had a number of great role models. “My other grandma is a CEO of an Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation and my sister is a social worker,” she said.

Ms Tanerau-Love said the Indigenous scholarship to study a Diploma of Nursing at Mater would help her connect with her community and provide the opportunity to give back to her mob. “My ultimate goal is to work in remote and rural Aboriginal communities to have a meaningful impact on people’s lives,” she said.

The above story featured yesterday in the Cairns Post article Palm Island health-worker Tehanna Tanerau-Love to become nurse at Mater Townsville.

Tehanna Tanerau-Love in hospital room

Young North Queensland woman Tehanna Tanerau-Love has been awarded an Indigenous scholarship to study a Diploma of Nursing at Mater Private Hospital Townsville. Image source: Cairns Post.

Pioneering Cape ear health program gaining traction

The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Integrated Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) program, launched as a pilot in 2021 to target hearing problems in Cape York and the Torres Strait, is seeing exponential growth, with the number of patients seen almost doubling within 12 months.

The team includes a GP with specialist ENT training, a senior ENT nurse, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, an audiologist and a speech pathologist who travel to 13 remote communities across the region. They treat both children and adults, predominantly for hearing issues, but also with other ear, nose and throat conditions. The team saw more than 1,300 patients during 2022, well up from the 861 seen in 2021.

A further $1.6m of state government funding has been committed to the program over 18 months which will allow for additional staff to support the huge growth. Senior audiologist Kristen Tregenza said she believed the project’s success was due to the culturally-appropriate service they were providing, with patients now seeking them out instead of learning about them via referral. She said most of the hearing conditions being seen and treated were caused by treatable ear infections. “It is well documented that remoteness, lower socio-economic living and all the things that come with that – access to nutritious foods, housing conditions, exposure to passive cigarette smoke – significantly increase the number of ear infections, severity and recovery time,” she said. “It is all preventable.”

To view the Cape York Weekly article Pioneering program launched in Cape gaining traction in full click here.

Kowanyama’s Naveen Accoom getting his ears tested by Dr Stephen Johnston

Kowanyama’s Naveen Accoom getting his ears tested by Dr Stephen Johnston as part of the successful ENT program. Image source: Cape York Weekly.

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: Pharmacist Scholarship recipient Bryony Forrest

The image in the feature tile is of NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship recipient Bryony Forrest during an interview at the 2022 NACCHO Members’ Conference in Canberra.

Pharmacist Scholarship recipient Bryony Forrest

Bryony Forrest (Darumbal / Kanolu), an aspiring deadly pharmacist and a recipient of the NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship was interviewed at the recent NACCHO Members’ Conference following the Medicines and Pharmacy stream session.

In February 2022, NACCHO announced applications were open for the inaugural NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship, proudly supported by a grant from Sanofi Australia. The scholarship provides subsidy and support for prospective or current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy students and aims to build the pharmacist workforce among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It includes tailored mentoring from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders.

In April 2022 NACCHO was pleased to announce the five successful recipients. Though the scholarship was initially established to support two applicants, the quality and number of applicants led to the expansion of the program:

  • Bryony Forrest, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)
  • Jai-ann Eastaughffe, James Cook University
  • James Sowter, RMIT
  • Jason Coleman, University of SA
  • Louis Emery, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Dr Dawn Casey, NACCHO Deputy CEO said, ‘NACCHO was impressed with the calibre and volume of applicants we received, especially in this first year of the scholarship’s implementation. We are proud to provide opportunities that help build leadership and skills amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals, who are significantly underrepresented in the pharmacy profession.’

Karen Hood, Sanofi’s Country Lead said, ‘As members of Australia’s healthcare community we know how important it is to listen to, and work in partnership with, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve health outcomes and support meaningful steps toward a more fair, equal and just society. ‘Recognising the crucial role pharmacists play in our health system and the clear need for greater Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in this field of study, we are delighted to be supporting the inaugural NACCHO scholarship as another step toward improving health and economic participation as determined by Australia’s First Peoples.’

Bryony Forrest said ‘I have always had a passion for pharmacy from when I started as a pharmacy assistant in 2018, which only deepened as time went on and I gained more experience in this field. Connecting with my community is extremely important to me and forming these meaningful connections with individuals in the context of health showed me how powerful being a pharmacist is, and what a unique opportunity it holds for health interventions and long-term health solutions in improving the lives of others. I look forward to practising as a pharmacist and making a difference for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’

You can find further information about the NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship on the NACCHO website here and listen to Bryony Forrest’s interview below.

Winnunga Health and Wellbeing Service at AMC

Winnunga has been operating the standalone Winnunga Health and Wellbeing Service in the AMC (Alexander Maconochie Centre, ACT adult prison) since January 2019, within its own model of care. This is an Australian first and one Winnunga believes will prove to be one of the most significant advances in the care and rehabilitation of Aboriginal detainees. Development of this service required meeting the RACGP Standards for health services in Australian prisons with infrastructure, staffing, equipment and policies. The service provides high quality holistic care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in prison and continuity upon a client’s release from prison.

A client satisfaction survey of the Winnunga prison health and wellbeing service was published in the Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet in February 2022. Participant responses indicated a high quality of care across all five aspects of
care that were evaluated (participation in care; care design; care planning and self management; care coordination; follow up and respectful care). At least three-quarters of respondents indicated that they had received the specified aspects of care ‘Most of the time’ or ‘Always’. The provision of respectful care was rated particularly high, with all respondents indicating that they always had things explained in a way they could understand, had their concerns listened to, and felt that they and their beliefs were respected by Winnunga staff. Clients were also highly satisfied with the care provided to them and their families through Winnunga.

The most common suggestions for improvement in the client survey related to Winnunga not yet having an opioid replacement pharmacotherapy program so some clients could not be transferred to Winnunga care. This has now been addressed and more detainees have access to the Winnunga prison health and wellbeing service

The above information about the AMC Health and Wellbeing Service Survey was published the Winnunga News November 2022 edition here. You can read the Evaluating Patient Experience at a Novel Health Service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prisoners: A Pilot Study article here.

Winnunga Health Clinic at Alexander Maconochie Centre. Image source: The Canberra Times.

HIV and sexual health webinar this WEDNESDAY

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) and NACCHO are partnering to deliver a webinar during Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week 2022, to discuss available HIV resources and support that we can offer to the sexual health sector. The purpose of the HIV Toolkit Webinar is to provide ACCHOs and the HIV and Sexual Health Sector with culturally appropriate, evidence informed, and effective training for workers to build the capacity and confidence to support and educate their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients around HIV and sexual health.

The webinar also aims to increase the uptake and utilisation of AFAO’s recently published ‘Healthcare Workforce Toolkit: HIV and Sexual Health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people tool kit as an ongoing resource with comprehensive information, including to help improve rates of HIV and sexual health testing, and to increase the awareness and uptake of HIV treatment, and prevention tools including condoms, PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis).

The webinar is from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm (AEST) Wednesday 7 November 2022. To REGISTER click here.

ACCO literacy campaign linked to crime reduction

Researchers from Literacy for Life Foundation, the Lowitja Institute and the University of NSW have authored a report about the beneficial impacts of a First Nations community-controlled adult literacy campaign. The most significant quantitative finding was a 50% reduction in reported serious offences in a sample of 162 campaign participants. Qualitative data from interviews found an increased use of legal assistance services following the campaign. These findings are contextualised through the lived experiences and perceptions of First Nations campaign staff and participants, community leaders and government and non-government agency personnel.

This study demonstrates the potential benefits of an adult literacy campaign in reducing the incidence of negative justice system outcomes in rural and remote NSW Indigenous communities with low levels of English literacy. By drawing on linked administrative data to corroborate self-reported and observer reported data, this study has shown that participation in a community-controlled Aboriginal adult literacy campaign correlates with reductions in the average number of total offences, especially those related to traffic and justice procedures.

Of particular note, serious offences were halved in our study group, especially in women and in relation to assault. The analysis of qualitative data indicates that improved literacy may lead to greater degrees of self-control, among other positive impacts. If efforts to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous adults in the criminal justice system are to be successful, further research into and resourcing of adult literacy interventions is urgently required. Such research can assist in moving beyond simplistic law-and-order agendas by acknowledging that ‘building of positive futures for communities relies on building a foundation of well addressed non-criminal needs’.

You can read the International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy article Impact of a Community-Controlled Adult Literacy Campaign on Crime and Justice Outcomes in Remote Australian Aboriginal Communities in full here.

Image source: Literacy for Life Foundation website.

What’s next for our kids? asks Chris Bin Kali

Deputy Chairperson, Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA) Chris Bin Kali has written an opinion piece published in the National Indigenous Times last Friday about Premier Mark McGowan announcement of a $63m plan to address conditions for youth in detention. Bin Kali said while it is clear that additional funding is desperately needed, so is clarity around what is next for our young people in detention.

Bin Kali said a single funding announcement is not enough to make lasting change, ‘We know that in Australia, Aboriginal youth are disproportionately represented in youth detention. A large majority of the youth detainees currently at Banksia Hill are Aboriginal.  Under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, the WA Government has committed to partnerships and shared decision-making with Aboriginal people about issues impacting our lives, and to improving the accountability and responsiveness of government to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

“To honour these commitments, the WA Government must listen to Aboriginal people and partner with us to find solutions to these issues. We know that these problems are complex and will require long-term changes across a range of areas. We know how troubled some of our young people are and the healing they need. We don’t pretend these things can be fixed overnight. But we are certain that they won’t be fixed without prioritising Aboriginal voices.”

To view the NIT article What next for our kids, Premier? in full click here.

Chris Bin Kali. Photo supplies by AHCWA. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

NDIS Ready videos and social media tiles

At the end of 2021 NACCHO delivered over $1.25m in grants to 57 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to support the delivery of culturally safe and appropriate National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) services to their communities. The grants were delivered through the NDIS Ready program which is funded by the Department of Social Services.

The Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grants, worth $22,000 each, are designed to build the capacity of ACCHOs and ACCOs to deliver disability services sustainably under the NDIS by empowering them with the resources they need to be NDIS ready. This will support the growth of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander NDIS market and workforce and help improve access to culturally safe services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.

Some of the funding has been used by NACCHO affiliates to produce the following videos:



AHCSA (no videos)

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: U and Me Can Stop HIV video launch

The image in the feature tile is of the U and Me Can Stop HIV banner painted by VACCHO staff for the VACCHO reception area. Image supplied by VACCHO.

U and Me Can Stop HIV video launch

On World AIDS Day yesterday VACCHO launched a video U and Me Can Stop HIV video. This video was a result of a collaboration by VACCHO with Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and Thorn Habour Health. Over a period of two days VACCHO made 1,000 awareness red ribbons for World AIDS Day. VACCHO said the ribbon making was a great way to engage people and have a low key yarn about HIV.

Warra could change face of Indigenous leadership

Research tells us that the more diverse management and leadership teams are, the better organisations function. Diversity leads to richer ideas, a more inclusive work culture and better business decisions and outcomes. In fact, McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, found in 2020 that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance had strengthened over time.

Despite this, many organisations continue to fall behind the eight ball on diversity, with the statistics especially dismal for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who remain vastly underrepresented – or completely excluded – from leadership in the Australian workforce. According to the Minderoo Foundation’s Indigenous Employment Index, Indigenous employees are almost entirely absent from senior management and executive leadership positions. Among the 31 employers who reported the relevant data, Indigenous representation at senior leadership levels was just 0.7%.

It’s a reality that Kamilaroi woman, Carlyn Waters is all too familiar with. Over the past 20 years, Waters has held senior positions in various government roles, often finding herself as one of very few Indigenous people at the same level. Now, Waters is calling time by, spearheading a new sponsorship program called Warra, the first program delivered by Cultivate Indigenous – a majority First Nations owned and operated business. The program seeks to inspire and develop talent at all levels by embedding a culture of sponsorship, and delivering tailored development opportunities to grow, retain and advance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

To read the Women’s Agenda article ‘That kind of support can be transformative’: A new, curated sponsorship program could change the face of Indigenous leadership in full click here.

Carlyn Waters. Image source: Women’s Agenda.

Questions must be answered on pharmacy trials

According to a media release from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) state governments have a responsibility to answer questions about why they are determined to move Australians to a second-class health system and put patient safety at risk through pharmacy prescribing trials. AMA President Professor Stephen Robson launched a video today posing six questions to state governments about pharmacy prescribing trials and the decisions that led to their implementation.

Professor Robson said these trials presented a clear risk to patient safety; ignored ethical concerns regarding separating prescribing and dispensing of medicines and could lead to an increase in anti-microbial resistance and the emergence of more superbugs. “Responding to GP shortages with second-class policy solutions that trample over the advice of independent bodies like the Pharmacy Board of Australia and the Therapeutic Goods Administration and bypass established national processes that exist to protect patient safety isn’t the answer.

“GPs train for 12–15 years to have the expertise to diagnose conditions that are being covered in some of these trials. You can’t replace that training and experience with a few hours of weekly online training without putting patients at risk. GPs are highly skilled and equipped to diagnose the difference between a UTI and other serious and potentially deadly health conditions. They are equipped to take a full medical history of their patients and understand the full range of contraceptive options available to women. A second-tier health system that moves the costs of health services from the government to the patient (except for Victoria which is proposing to cover some of the costs) isn’t the solution.”

To view the AMA media release Questions must be answered on pharmacy prescribing trials in full click here.

Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Exhibition showcases art’s healing power

The healing power of art is reflected in an exhibition of First Nations ceramic works originating from a new collaboration, which co-mingles visual art education and well-being activities for Purple House dialysis patients in Alice Springs. Charles Darwin University (CDU) Academy of Arts has partnered with Indigenous-owned and operated health service Purple House, to present the exhibition that blends and celebrates the cultural diversity of Aboriginal communities in central Australia.

The exhibition’s title, Pana, Tjulpirpa, Pilki combines the words for clay in three different desert languages spoken by the ceramic artists who hail from the region’s Pintupi-Luritja, Pitjantjatjara and Kukaja communities. It showcases the creative talent of First Nations women who are Purple House patients receiving dialysis treatment, while studying visual arts at CDU’s Alice Springs campus.

Purple House is a non-profit health organisation, based in Alice Springs, that aims to improve the lives of First Nations people with renal failure, support families and reduce the impacts of kidney disease in communities. Purple House CEO Sarah Brown said that art has always been integral to Purple House and the lives of its patients. “Art helps keep culture strong in communities, and it’s a powerful way to share knowledge and stories, and an important source of income,” Ms Brown said. “Our patients get so much out of their ceramics classes at CDU each week and this is a fabulous opportunity for them to exhibit their artwork.”

To view the Charles Darwin University Australia News article Exhibition showcases art’s healing power in Alice Springs in full click here.

An exhibition in Alice Springs showcases the ceramic artworks of First Nations women who are receiving dialysis treatment at Purple House, while studying Visual Arts at CDU. Image source: CDU website.

Improving transplantation access for mob

More than 30 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney patients and their carers will travel from across Australia to attend a two-day meeting in Adelaide next week. The meeting aims to improve access to and outcomes from transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, according to a statement from The National Indigenous Kidney Transplantation Taskforce (NIKTT), a multidisciplinary national network of clinical, patient, and community advocates.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney transplant recipients, dialysis patients, and their carers and family from the Kimberley, the Torres Strait, central Australia, far north Queensland, regional NSW and Victoria, and the Top End will travel to Adelaide to work together with clinicians, researchers, and policy makers to determine priorities and next steps for the NIKTT.

Organisers say the meeting has been designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney patients, non-Indigenous advocates, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers to be “a safe, shared, brave space that will allow us to co-design the future of transplantation equity together”.

To view the Croakey Health Media article As new report launches, historic meeting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney patients and carers to co-design transplantation equity in full click here.

Theatre staff prepare surgical equipment for a kidney transplant operation. Photo: Frances Roberts, Alamy. Image source: The Guardian.

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.

International Day of People with Disability

International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is held on 3 December each year. IDPwD is a United Nations observed day aimed at increasing public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability. The Australian Government has been supporting IDPwD since 1996 and provides funds to promote and raise awareness of the day and support activities around Australia. This includes encouraging individuals, schools, community groups, businesses and organisations to get involved and hold events on, or around, 3 December.

The IDPwD program aligns with key action areas under Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–31. This includes improving community awareness by recognising the positive contribution people with disability make to society, and building confidence in the community to work and engage with people with disability.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience disability at up to twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians and while many receive support for their disability, historically Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been up to four times less likely to receive a funded disability service. For more information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, including statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare click here.

You can find more information about IDPwD here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Indigenous perspectives of planetary health

The image in the feature tile is artwork by Yaegl artist Frances Belle Parker, who explained the symbolism of her artwork: the gum leaf shape, when upright, can also represent a flame. Inside the leaf is an aerial mapping of the Clarence River, the river is one that connects all people of the Clarence Valley. The dots represent people and the stripes represent the resilience embedded into us as people. The yellow dashes represent the bushfires which have caused havoc in the region, the green represents the replenishing and the new growth of nature. Image source: Monash University article Indigenous knowledge at the heart of planetary health published on the Monash Sustainable Development Institute webpage on 1 July 2022.

Indigenous perspectives of planetary health

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, or COP27, is being held from 6–18 November 2022 as the 27th United Nations (UN) Climate Change conference. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the UNs Framework Convention on Climate Change. In the thirty years since, the world has come a long way in the fight against climate change and its negative impacts on our planet; we are now able to better understand the science behind climate change, better assess its impacts, and better develop tools to address its causes and consequences.

Indigenous Peoples have resiliently weathered continued assaults on their sovereignty and rights throughout colonialism and its continuing effects. Indigenous Peoples’ sovereignty has been strained by the increasing effects of global environmental change within their territories, including climate change and pollution, and by threats and impositions against their land and water rights.

This continuing strain against sovereignty has prompted a call to action to conceptualise the determinants of planetary health from a perspective that embodies Indigenous-specific methods of knowledge gathering from around the globe. A group of Indigenous scholars, practitioners, land and water defenders, respected Elders, and knowledge-holders came together to define the determinants of planetary health from an Indigenous perspective. Three overarching levels of interconnected determinants, in addition to ten individual-level determinants, were identified as being integral to the health and sustainability of the planet, Mother Earth.

To view The Lancet article The determinants of planetary health: an Indigenous consensus perspective in full click here.

Photo: Nicolas Rakotopare. Image source: Threatened Species Recovery Hub website.

SWAMSmob digital health platform wins award

SWAMSmob app, a digital health platform designed specifically for the South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) and their patients is the annual Curtinnovation Awards Faculty of Health Sciences winner. The app enables SWAMS patients to access telehealth and health promotion information 24-hours a day. It provides another way for SWAMS to engage and connect with the Aboriginal residents and promote wellbeing, by enabling GPs and Aboriginal healthcare workers to provide individual or group health consultations.

The app is novel in that it has been programmed for Aboriginal identity and cultural practices as well as health features. For example, the app accommodates ‘men only’ and ‘women only’ spaces. Importantly, the app will also help to increase digital literacy and technology education among Aboriginal users. Overall, the technology helps SWAMS to transform be more prepared for health challenges and to help Close the Gap.

To view the Curtin University article Alzheimer’s discovery crowned overall Curtinnovation winner in full click here.

Ieramaguadu woman uses FASD diagnosis to help mob

For 43-year-old Ieramagadu (Roebourne) woman Rachel Sampson, her diagnosis of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) opened the door to work and putting smiles on the faces of mob in the Pilbara. After accessing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) via Mawarnkarra Health Service, Ms Sampson took on the role of an NDIS community connector.

FASD can cause a range of complications to those exposed to alcohol in the womb. For Ms Sampson, difficulties concentrating and being easily distracted have been a factor in life. Now difficulties once endured to find work have shifted to a new confidence in her knack for brightening others’ days, travelling around Ieramagadu, Wickham and Karratha to assist people living with disabilities with their everyday needs and tasks. “I feel very proud of it,” Ms Sampson said. “I really feel that I’ve found my purpose to help others. It was nerve-wracking when I first started, but with love and support, with these guys I found my confidence.

To view the National Indigenous Times article The Roebourne foetal alcohol disorder sufferer turning disability into opportunity for local mob in full click here.

Ieramagadu (Roebourne) woman Rachel Sampson. Image supplied by: Regen Strategic. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Non-Indigenous world views still inform health research

While Indigenous health research is often following guidelines aimed at ensuring Indigenous participation and governance, much of the research is still largely based on non-Indigenous world views, according to Australian researchers. Researchers conducted a survey of about 250 people involved in Indigenous research,to find out how frequently the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) ethics guidelines for Indigenous health and medical research were being followed. They say while the non-compulsory guidelines were seeing widespread use, Indigenous health research is still largely informed by non-Indigenous world views, led by non-Indigenous people, and undertaken in non-Indigenous organisations.

According to the researchers the fundamental question raised by the survey was “how can Indigenous health research benefit Indigenous people without meaningful oversight and participation by Indigenous people?” The survey findings suggest that barriers to translating the NHMRC guidelines into research practice remain,” they wrote. “These include inadequate levels of education about applying the guidelines, the history of Indigenous health research in Australia, and Indigenous governance and data sovereignty. Most importantly, we found that Indigenous governance and participation was inadequate at each stage of research. Re-orientation and investment are needed to give control of the framing, design, and conduct of Indigenous health research to Indigenous people.”

To view the Medical Journal of Australia media release Indigenous Health Research: governance by Indigenous organisations vital in full click here.

Aboriginal doctor and researcher Professor Alex Brown is leading a five-year $5m project to advance the benefits from Genomic Medicine for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Image source: John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU.

Kimberley urgently needs youth suicide action

A suicide in Fitzroy Crossing has sparked renewed calls for urgent action to address mental health needs among young people in the Kimberley. The recent death came two weeks after an attempted suicide by another young person. Local businessman Patrick Green said the blackout occurred after a young boy who had repeatedly sought medical attention attempted to take his own life.

WA Mental Health Commission’s operations acting deputy commissioner Ann Marie Cunniffe said Fitzroy Crossing Hospital provided 24/7 access to mental health support through drug and alcohol teams, psychiatrists and telehealth services. “Nurses and doctors at Fitzroy Crossing Hospital also work with Aboriginal liaison officers to provide cultural support and ensure care is culturally appropriate,” she said. Ms Cunniffe said the Kimberley Aboriginal Youth Wellbeing Steering Committee has been established to support Aboriginal community-led solutions to improve Aboriginal youth wellbeing.

The Committee facilitates implementation of the 86 recommendations identified in the State Coroner’s 2019 Inquest, among other measures. Ms Cunniffe said Aboriginal-led solutions and cultural understanding and respect were guiding principles of the approach. “The Commission funds regional Community Liaison Officers across the State, including the Kimberley,” she said. “These positions are employed by ACCHOs as they have the strongest understanding of their region, knowledge of appropriate cultural considerations and local issues.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Youth suicide sparks renewed call for urgent action in the Kimberley in full click here.

Patrick Green, Photo: Giovanni Torre. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Chlamydia prevention and management

14 years on from a call for innovative chlamydia screening programs to reduce the high rates of notifications in Australia at the time, chlamydia remains as the country’s most notified bacterial sexually transmissible infection (STI). Most new chlamydia infections are occurring among young people aged 15–29 years. An important exception is that notification rates appear to be falling in women under 25 years old, for whom chlamydia testing rates have plateaued and positivity among those tested is declining.

In addition to people with female reproductive organs and young people aged 15–29 years, chlamydia is also disproportionately high among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people living in remote and very remote areas, those with greater socio‐economic disadvantage, and among gay and bisexual men. People who are pregnant are also a priority population, where chlamydia infection is associated with miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm birth, low birth weight, and postpartum infections in the mother and/or newborn. Once treated, an individual may become reinfected, contributing to further potential transmission and increasing the risk of morbidity in the form of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancies, infertility, and chronic pelvic pain. Chlamydia remains a significant public health issue in Australia, with the search for novel prevention and management strategies ongoing.

To reduce the burden of disease from chlamydia in Australia, comprehensive follow‐up of cases and contacts to reduce the risk of complications is required. When chlamydia is detected, retesting at 3 months for reinfection and performing thorough partner tracing and management can help interrupt transmission and reduce the risk of reinfection and reproductive complications. Further studies investigating the timing of testing and treatment of chlamydia infections on the progression to reproductive complications will help guide public health strategies to further reduce the burden of chlamydia in Australia.

To view the Medical Journal of Australia article Chlamydia prevention and management in Australia: reducing the burden of disease in full click here.

Chlamydia bacteria. Image source: Medicine Plus website.

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: Management of COVID-19 in community

The image in the feature tile is from ABC News article Indigenous communities won’t be safe from COVID until we act on the lessons learnt in Wilcannia, 28 November 2021. Photo: Micahel Franchi.

Management of COVID-19 in community

A research article published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) says we need to learn from Australia’s response to the pandemic and break down siloes, so we can build a more integrated and resilient health system. While the Australian health care system is well regarded on the global stage in terms of the balance between investment in health care and outcomes delivered, there is considerable fragmentation and poor coordination of care and communication between hospitals and primary care, which limits further improvement. Geographical barriers, workforce shortages and issues relating to acceptability of services limit health care access for residents of rural, regional and remote communities, Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, and together with an inadequate focus on prevention, limit progress towards health equity.

The article says strong advocacy from NACCHO and GPs in outbreak areas (including the Primary and Chronic Care Panel of the National COVID‐19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce) did consider the issues inherent in managing COVID‐19 in remote communities with overcrowded housing, but resource constraints limited execution of solutions. Early central planning and discussion also rarely involved primary care providers — from private, public or Aboriginal community controlled health sectors — and highlighted a lack of regional health care planning structures. The authors claim there is a particular need for purposeful rebuilding of remote PHC, emphasising the primacy of the Aboriginal clinical workforce, demonstrated as essential for overcoming vaccine hesitancy and enabling timely vaccine rollout.

To view The Medical Journal of Australia article Management of COVID‐19 in the community and the role of primary care: how the pandemic has shone light on a fragmented health system in full click here.

NACCHO developed COVID-19 resource. Image source: Croakey Health Media .

Racism is a public health issue

The Yokayi Footy panel has weighted in on the “horrifying chapter” of racism accusations embroiling Hawthorn football club and AFL coaches Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan Program host Megan Waters made a heartfelt plea and said as mob the news makes her feel “sick to the gut” before emotions got the best of former players Andrew Krakouer, Gillbert McAdam and Darryl White.

Hawthorn football staff, including Clarkson and Fagan, are alleged to have targeted three unnamed First Nations players during their time at the club, pressuring them into severing relationships with partners and families to better focus on their careers. “The story of racism is still very much alive in this country,” Ms Waters said.

Krakouer said similar stories of racism seem to come up every week, highlighting the need for stronger processes to better address the issue, cut suicide rates and social determinate factors felt by Indigenous people as a result of its ongoing impacts. “Racism is a public health issue,” he said. “It affects our health, life and our safety so we need to get serious about racism because what has been done previously, it’s not good enough.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article ‘Racism is a public health issue’: Indigenous footy personalities speak out on Hawthorn probe in full click here.

Andrew Krakouver. Photo: Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Abolition of cashless debit card

The Albanese Labor Government is delivering a long-term plan to ensure certainty, choice and support to communities moving off the cashless debit card program. Following extensive consultation in sites across the nation, the Government has today announced a suite of measures that empowers local communities and will assist in abolishing the cashless debit card program and ensure communities are better off.

This will deliver on our election commitment to end a failed program. The Government will abolish the cashless debit card program and make income management voluntary in Ceduna, East Kimberley, Goldfields and Bundaberg-Hervey Bay. Under the plan, the Cape York region will retain all of its powers of self-determination and referral for community members to go onto income management under the Family Responsibilities Commission.

To view the joint media release Empowering communities with the abolition of the cashless debit card program in full click here.

Photo: Natalie Whitling, ABC News.

WA study to address low vax rate

Pregnant, expectant and breastfeeding First Nations mums will be the focus of new research that seeks to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among Aboriginal women across WA. The project will be led by Dr Anne-Marie Eades from the Curtin School of Allied Health. Dr Eades, a Noongar woman from the Wagyl Kaip region of WA, said First Nations women, particularly of a childbearing age, urgently needed greater access to vaccinations because they were most vulnerable to infection.

“There is currently a lack of research addressing the barriers to the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination among Aboriginal families,” Dr Eades said. “What we do know is that Aboriginal people are less likely to have been vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to the general population, with the differences most bleak in WA. Our study will evaluate the successes, barriers and opportunities of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program to reach Aboriginal women and their unborn children – and potentially target children under five in the event of an early childhood COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”

Partnering with the South-West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) and Babbingur Mia-Aboriginal Women’s Health Service, Dr Eades will be supported by a team of leading experts in Aboriginal health, COVID-19 vaccinations, immunisation, and midwifery. “We need to determine what factors could have encouraged a greater uptake of vaccination for First Nations mothers who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive,” Dr Eades said.

To view the Curtin University media release Study to address low COVID-19 vaccinations among Aboriginal women in full click here.

Michell Farrell gets her first COVID-19 vaccine at the Ngukurr Clinic. Photo: Kate Ashton, ABC News.

Healthy Skin Guidelines online survey

Telethon Kids Institute is inviting you to participate in an online survey to help with the evaluation of the 1st edition of the National Healthy Skin Guidelines (NHSG). The 1st edition of the NHSG was published in 2018 by the Australian Healthy Skin Consortium. It focuses on the prevention, treatment, and public health control of skin infections (such as impetigo, scabies, crusted scabies and tinea) for Aboriginal populations. Available online, the NHSG has been viewed >10,000 times, downloaded > 3,500 times, and the quiz for knowledge assessment completed >300 times.

Telethon Kids Institute want to know your experience of the guideline to help inform the updates to the next edition, or if you haven’t used it, we’d like to know about where you might go to access this kind of information and resources. The survey is intended for any healthcare worker who cares for people with skin infections. There are two separate surveys for those who have, and those who have not, used the 1st edition of the NHSG. You do not have to have used the 1st edition to take part in this survey, and you will only complete one survey.

It is estimated that the survey will take a maximum of 20 minutes. All responses are anonymous.

Click on this link to begin the survey. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Asha Bowen using this email link.

Increasing maternal health service uptake

University of Huddersfield researcher Devendra Raj Singh hopes that improvements in public health in disadvantaged communities will be the result of his international collaborations under the UK’s Turing Scheme. Devendra recently spent two months at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where he found that his research drew parallels between health issues faced by Australia’s Aboriginal community and people in his native Nepal.

The PhD research aims to co-design an initiative to improve the delivery and uptake of free maternal and new-born health services in Nepal, where Devendra hails from Madhesh Province in the south of the country. While in Canberra, Devendra worked closely with academics at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at ANU, one of Australia’s highest-ranked universities, and he gained invaluable insights into the issues facing Australia’s First Nations peoples.

“My visit to ANU has provided me with an excellent practical introduction to implementation research methodologies such as co-design, realist review, and policy analysis. But it was my absolute privilege to learn about the historical past, culture, and challenges of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia,” he adds.

To view the University of Huddersfield article Health researcher Devendra aims to build on Turing Scheme experience in full click here.

Natalia Moore-Deagan says the Indigenous health workers are one reason she goes to Danila Dilba. Photo: Lucy Marks, ABC News.

Medicare must be accessible to prisoners

Gerry Georgatos, a suicide prevention and poverty researcher with an experiential focus on social justice has written an article for Independent Australia arguing that Medicare must be accessible for prisoners. “It is my experience, in general, people come out of prisons in worse conditions than when they commenced the situational trauma of incarceration” Georgatos said. Health inequalities and discrimination in this nation’s 132 prisons are rife. Nearly 45,000 prisoners are denied Medicare.  Medicare is denied to prisoners, old and young, and to children as young as ten.

In addition, the incarcerated in effect are denied access to the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme  and denied access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, with disastrous impacts. It is established and self-evident, nearly all of Australia’s prisoners are comprised of people living in the lowest quintile of income. Additionally, they also comprise the quintile of the weakest primary and secondary health.”

To view the Independent Australia article Medicare must be accessible for prisoners in full click here.

Image source: The West Australian.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Getting NDIS funding only half the battle

The image in the feature tile is of the super talented artist 23 year old Dion ‘Cheeky Dog’ Beasley who is profoundly deaf and has Muscular Dystrophy. Image is from ICTVPLAY – Indigenous community videos on demand, 2014.

Getting NDIS funding only half the battle

Some NDIS participants worry if they don’t spend their annual funds, they won’t be offered the same support in their next plan – and it’s harder for some to use what they’ve been allocated. Around 4.5 million Australians live with disability but less than 13% of them are covered by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Getting into the scheme is one thing. But many NDIS participants find using their funding is yet another.

Research indicates a major issue in terms of the fairness of the scheme is less in the allocation of funding but more about whether people are able to spend their funding. Some groups – particularly people living in regional or remote areas or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – are less able to use their budgets. The research compared plan size and spending for participants from culturally and linguistic diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and according to where people live, taking into consideration factors such as age to ensure comparisons were “like with like”.

The research found participants from culturally and linguistic diverse backgrounds backgrounds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people received larger plans than other NDIS participants. But they spent a similar amount, despite having bigger budgets. This resulted in lower levels of utilisation. Modelling showed increasing the use of support coordinators could increase plan utilisation and reduce inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse participants, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds and those with psychosocial disabilities.

The ConversationTo view the UNSW Sydney Newsroom opinion piece ‘Use it or lose it’ – getting NDIS funding is only half the battle for participants by Helen Dickinson, Professor, Public Service Research, UNSW Sydney and George Disney, Research Fellow, Social Epidemiology, The University of Melbourne click here.

Xtremecare Australia founders William and Marjorie Tatipata with their son, Will. Image source: Hireup website.

Ear disease mistaken for misbehaviour

New research from Western Sydney University has revealed living with childhood ear disease and hearing loss can substantially impact the physical, emotional, and social wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, with the symptoms of Otitis Media often difficult to identify and mistaken for misbehaviour. The study focused on the experiences of caregivers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with Otitis Media, revealing the barriers and challenges they face in accessing effective treatment.

Lead author, Letitia Campbell, a community-based Aboriginal Research Officer with Western Sydney University’s School of Medicine, says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a high burden of Otitis Media in childhood, and she is determined to improve how families can manage the condition and receive better healthcare. “Living with chronic ear disease and its consequences on hearing, language development, school performance and behaviour is a common reality for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, with the impact of hearing loss in children having long lasting effects on their wellbeing and development,” said Ms Campbell. “Caregivers have described how easy it is to mistake ear disease for misbehaviour in a child, and how distressing this is to the children who feel they are always getting into trouble for ‘not listening’ or talking too loudly when there is a genuine underlying medical reason.”

The view The National Tribune article Symptoms of childhood ear disease and hearing loss mistaken for misbehaviour, new study finds in full click here.

Dr Kelvin Kong. Photo: Simone De Peak. Image source: RACGP news GP.

Kidney replacements more than double

The number of Australians receiving kidney replacement therapy has more than doubled over the past two decades, new data shows. Kidney replacement therapy numbers jumped from 11,700 to 27,700 from 2000 to 2020, showing chronic kidney disease (CKD) remains a significant health issue, particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. CKD is defined as the presence of impaired or reduced kidney function lasting at least three months, according to an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report. An estimated 1.7 million Australians are living with early signs of kidney disease, however, many are unaware due to its asymptomatic nature.

AIHW data shows that more than half (14,600) of those receiving kidney replacement therapy were on dialysis and the remainder (13,100) had functioning kidney transplants that required ongoing follow up care. Approximately 2,500 Indigenous Australians with kidney failure received kidney replacement therapy in 2020, a rate of 284 per 100,000, with more than 1 in 4 receiving treatment close to home.

After living with diabetes for 20 years, Ina, an Aboriginal artist from Central Australia, was diagnosed with kidney failure and needed dialysis. She was forced to relocate from a remote are to Adelaide for treatment, which has been the most difficult thing about living with kidney disease. “It’s very important and pretty difficult to manage. Some of us, some of our families, lose us on this machine,” she said.

To view the Daily Mail Australia article Kidney replacement therapy on the rise in full click here. You can also view the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) media release Recipients of kidney replacement therapy more than doubles over 20 years here.

Darwin dialysis patient Jacqueline Amagula would like to be waitlisted for a kidney transplant. Photo: Bridget Brennan, ABC News.

Child vax rates falling behind

First Nations people are being urged to get their COVID-19 vaccine and booster by the country’s peak Indigenous health organisation, NACCHO. The rate of people over 16 who have had two vaccine does sits at nearly 82%. However, only 55% have had a third does and just 30% of eligible people have had their fourth shot.

Earlier this morning Medical Adviser for NACCHO, Dr Jason Agostino, spoke on Koori Radio 93.7FM about how children’s vaccination rates are falling behind “in children coverage has been quite poor and only about one in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids aged 5 to 11 have received any vaccine and only about one in five are fully vaccinated and that hasn’t changed much in the last four, six months.” NACCHO says mob may be eligible for new antiviral medications and should talk to their doctor.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

PHC lessons from overseas

New federal Health Minister Mark Butler says primary care is “in worse shape than it’s been in the entire Medicare era” and has made it his top health priority. Primary care is any first point of contact with the health system, such as a GP clinic, dentist, or community pharmacy, but the government is likely to focus on GP clinics. A new taskforce will advise the minister on how to spend $750 million to improve access, chronic disease management, and affordability. The taskforce has until Christmas to come up with a plan, which is a big ask given where the system is now. It has been recommended that Australia should take on lessons from what’s worked overseas to reform general practice funding.

Almost half of Australians have a chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma or depression. More than half of Australians over 65 have two or more. Those proportions have been rising fast in recent decades. To help patients manage these conditions, GPs need ongoing relationships with patients (known as continuity of care), and a team working with them by providing routine care, outreach, coaching, and advice. That lets GPs spend more of their time working with the most complex patients, resulting in better care and outcomes. The National Rural Health Alliance has proposed the sector move towards a model with similarities to Aboriginal-controlled clinics and community health providers.

To view the on-line Viw Magazine article General practices are struggling. Here are 5 lessons from overseas to reform the funding system in full click here.

Image sources: Indigenous Access Program for health professionals webpage Services Australia.

Awabakal regional vax clinic IT lessons

At a time when most IT professionals retreated to isolated workplaces, local experts Smikteck found a unique way to assist others during COVID-19. The Cardiff business hit the road to support Aboriginal health care provider Awabakal at vaccination clinics in regional areas. Now, 12 months on, they are ready to share their lessons learnt with other medical services. Smikteck director Michael Stafford admitted the pandemic changed the way health care was provided and IT was fundamental to that adjustment. “Lots of industries had to pivot how they provided their services,” he said. “Medical and health services were no exception.”

Instead of trying to troubleshoot issues from a help desk, the Smikteck team joined forces with the health professionals and became an integral part of the clinic set up and service delivery. “Awabakal Ltd came to us with a challenge,” Mr Stafford said. “They provide medical services to an Aboriginal community of more than 8,000 patients. So, the solution was to provide pop-up vaccination clinics in local communities throughout the Hunter. But, to do this, they needed to have the same, secure technology available as a normal medical clinic – and system downtime needed to be minimal.”

To view the Newcastle Weekly article IT helps build community health in full click here.

Smikteck director Michael Stafford and Awabakal Ltd chief operations officer Scott Adams. Image source: Newcastle Weekly.

Cultural safety training for optometrists

Last year, Optometry Australia offered 100 members the opportunity to undertake cultural safety education through Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA). Following the incredible interest they received they have purchased access to IAHA’s Cultural Responsiveness Training (Levels 1 and 2), available for free to all members via the Optometry Australia Institute of Excellence. IAHA’s cultural safety training uses an evidence-based Cultural Responsiveness Framework. Levels 1 and 2 are action-oriented and highly interactive, focusing on strength-based outcomes through critical self-reflective practice.

In 2022, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and National Boards (except Medical, Nursing and Midwifery and Psychology) released a revised Code of Conduct which took effect on 29 June. The revised Code includes a new section on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety, requiring that all optometrists provide culturally safe and sensitive practice for all communities.

To view the Optometry Australia article Cultural responsiveness training now available for all Optometry Australia members article in full click here.

Optometrist Kerryn Hart does an eye examination on Andrew Toby who needed glasses. Andrew, a driver for the Anyinginyi Allied Health Clinic, Tennant Creek, collects patients to bring them to the clinic. Image source: Optometry Australia.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: International Day of Indigenous Peoples

The image in the feature tile shows bush tucker as part of the connectedness with the land and each other that nourishes body and soul in Indigenous communities. Photo: Paul Miller, AAP. Image source: The Conversation 24 June 2015.

International Day of Indigenous Peoples

The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge

On 9 August, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (IDWIP) is celebrated globally. This year’s theme is: “The Role of Indigenous Women in the Preservation and Transmission of Traditional Knowledge”.

“Indigenous women are the backbone of Indigenous peoples’ communities and play a crucial role in the preservation and transmission of traditional ancestral knowledge. They have an integral collective and community role as carers of natural resources and keepers of scientific knowledge.” The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Indigenous Peoples IDWIP 2022

On IDWIP it is important to note that according to the Law Council of Australia (LCA) despite announcing support for the UN Declaration of Rights on Indigenous People (UNDRIP) in 2009, Australian governments and parliaments are yet to recognise and implement its standards in a formal and comprehensive way (see LCA media release Australian must formally adopt UNDRIP here).

In June this year NACCHO provided a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs into the application of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) in Australia. In their submission, NACCHO’s made nine recommendations, including:

  • the Australian Government introduce legislative measures to enact the UNDRIP into Commonwealth law, in line with the UNDRIP Article 38.
  • there be acknowledgement of the key role ACCHOs have played in paving the way for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination
  • the National Agreement on Closing the Gap be acknowledged as a critical precursor for full enactment of the UNDRIP.

You can read NACCHO’s submission in full here.

Image source: World Vision website.

National Stroke Week

This week marks National Stroke Week Monday 8 – Sunday 14 August 2022, an annual campaign run by Australia’s Stroke Foundation. The Stroke Foundation was set up 1983 to conduct research to improve the treatment of diseases impacting the brain and nervous system. When stroke emerged as one of Australia’s top health priorities, the focus of the changed to be exclusively on stroke and in 1996 the National Stroke Foundation was established.

The ambitions that informed early research efforts continue to inform the Foundation’s primary objectives, which are to champion innovative stroke research and treatments; to advocate for widespread access to these innovative treatments; to educate health professionals in delivering best-practice care for stroke sufferers; and, to raise public awareness about preventing and recognising stroke.

National Stroke Week helps the Foundation achieve its primary objectives by providing a platform with which to roll out stroke education and awareness to the general public about identifying and managing the signs of stroke. The focus of this year’s National Stroke Week is to spread the F.A.S.T signs of stroke message among family and friends, so that stroke casualties can receive medical attention early, and thereby continue to enjoy more of life’s precious moments.

For more information about National Stroke Week visit the Stroke Foundation website here.

Black nurses and midwives’ stories exhibition

A new exhibition charting the activist history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives will for the first time privilege and recognise CATSINaM’s trailblazing women and men, spanning seven decades from the 1950s to the present. CATSINaM CEO, Professor Roianne West, said the “In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses and Midwives Stories National Exhibition” was a “must see” for every Australian nurse and midwife.

“It’s an opportunity to see nursing and midwifery in Australia through the eyes of Australia’s First Nations nurses and midwives,” said Professor West, a descendant of the Kalkadoon and Djunke peoples. “Our nurses and midwives experienced so much adversity in their training and working lives, but they fought every step of the way for justice and equity for those who would follow them. Our Elders and our leaders want our young people to hear these stories.”

Auntie Dr Doseena Fergie OAM, a member of CATSINaM’s Elders Circle, said the exhibition highlighted CATSINaM’s goal since its inception to increase the recruitment and retention of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nursing and midwifery workforce. “This exhibition pays tribute to the courage of these trailblazers then, and professional role models since, who actively challenged the health system that ostracised First Australians, and who now advocate for culturally safe health services for Mob. The intimate, private, and heart-wrenching stories told will penetrate the hearts and souls of even the most hardened hearer,” she said.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Previewing a “must see” exhibition: In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses and Midwives Stories in full click here.

Gudanji and Garrwa woman Jayvina Raggett recreates a nursing scene from the 1960s for “In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses and Midwives Stories” exhibition. Photo courtesy CATSINaM. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Critical need for allied health workers

A new report has revealed alarming shortages and increasing staff turnover rates of allied health workers across the country, which could put people with disability at risk. The data, released by the peak body for disability, National Disability Services (NDS), is part of its latest Workforce Census Report and found difficulty accessing allied health services was a contributing factor to underutilisation of NDIS funds, particularly for remote areas.

The report also states the data may point to the long-term national neglect of allied health workforce needs, which it finds the NDIS National Workforce Plan is unlikely to effectively address. NDS CEO Laurie Leigh said the report shines a light on the continued disruption the sector has faced over the last financial year, with urgent need for collaboration between industry and government.

“It is clear from the findings in this annual census report that the disability workforce is still feeling the ongoing impact of COVID-19,” she said. “With the Federal Government Job and Skills Summit coming up in a few weeks, now is the time for the government and providers to come together to ensure we are moving forward with the right measures to ensure disability workforces are supported during this turbulent period for the sector. This report also highlights the ongoing issues faced by the disability sector in recruiting the allied health workforce needed, especially to provide services in remote and very remote areas.”

To view The National Tribune article New report shows critical need for allied health workers, as wait lists grow across country in full click here.

Gunyangara Clinic. Image source: Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation website.

Indigenous data governance

In 2016, Professor Tahu Kukutai and Emeritus Professor John Taylor from ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research asked, “what does data sovereignty mean for Indigenous peoples, and how is it being used in their pursuit of self-determination?”. These were just two of the questions addressed by 183 Indigenous data users, data scientists, researchers and government and community representatives at the Indigenous Data Governance and Sovereignty Roundtable by the Indigenous Data Network (IDN) in Narrm at the University of Melbourne.

The Roundtable, convened by Professor Marcia Langton, Dr Kristen Smith, Dr Vanessa Russ and Levi-Craig Murray, was an important step in the IDN’s project – Improving Indigenous Research Capabilities: An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Data Commons. Its objective is to build national Indigenous research capabilities, framed by a set of agreed Indigenous governance principles that can leverage existing data assets and link them to new and existing data.

To view The National Tribune article Indigenous data governance for 21st century click here.

Many institutions won’t permit researchers to see these materials without “permission from communities”. Picture: Getty Images. Image source: University of Melbourne online magazine Pursuit.

Australia-first health and wellbeing campus

The McGowan Government is set to begin work on a unique, Australian-first health and wellbeing campus that will focus on culturally appropriate care for the Broome community. The Yinajalan Ngarrungunil (Care for People) Broome Health and Wellbeing Campus will take shape on Dora Street on land owned by Nyamba Buru Yawuru (NBY), the operational company of the Yawuru people – Traditional Owners of the land and waters in and around Rubibi (Broome). The McGowan Government has allocated $8 million to the project’s subdivision consultancy and civil works. Broome business Roadline Civil Contractors will undertake the project, helping to support local jobs. The campus will combine a holistic range of new facilities and services with a focus on enhancing the delivery of collaborative healthcare services in Broome.

To view the media release click here.

Nyamba Buru Yawuru CEO Nini Mills and WA Premier Mark McGowan, centre, with Yawuru staff and government members. Picture: Yawuru Image source: National Indigenous Times.

End of Cashless Debit Card welcome

The St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia welcomes the Albanese Government’s introduction into Parliament of legislation to abolish the Cashless Debit Card. ‘The Society has been a leading voice calling for the abolition of the Cashless Debit Card,’ said National President Ms Claire Victory. ‘We have held concerns that this approach has had significant unintended and expensive consequences across Government and the community, including social exclusion and stigmatisation, increased financial hardship, and the erosion of autonomy and dignity. ‘The Society believes the best form of assistance is the type that helps people to feel, and recover, their own dignity, as this empowers them and enables them to forge ahead and change their own destinies and those of their local communities.

To view the St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia’s media release Legislation to abolish cashless debit card welcome – St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia click here.

Image source: The Guardian.

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.

Save the Date

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