NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: racism in perinatal health services

Image in feature tile is of Stacey Foster-Rampant with her baby boy, Tyler, at a Malabar Community Midwifery Link Service clinic. Photo: Louise Kennerley. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Racism in perinatal health services

After nine months, imagine giving birth to a beautiful, healthy baby. As tired as you are, you adapt to your new sleep-deprived routine, feeding your newborn at any time of the day and night as needed. But then child protection services arrive with the police, and a court order, to take your baby from your arms and place them in the care of a stranger. Sadly, this is the case for too many First Nations women in Australia.

Issues relating to the removal of First Nations infants from their families by contemporary child protection systems can be traced to perinatal health services. Tracey Stephens, a Kurnai woman and registered midwife, sees racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women across mainstream healthcare settings on a regular basis. “Stereotypically in mainstream midwifery there’s this strong sense that all Aboriginal women are going to smoke cannabis and drink alcohol and are drug addicts. However, this isn’t the case.” she says. “Far too much of my time is spent trying to educate others and address unconscious bias and racism amongst the healthcare workforce.

To read the article Separated at birth: Racism and unconscious bias in perinatal health services by Research Fellow, Health and Social Care Unit, Monash University in full click here.

Image source: Monash University Lens webpage.

SA to start Voice to Parliament journey

South Australian Attorney-General Kyam Maher wants to begin talks on a state version of the First Nations Voice to Parliament ahead of a launch of the body next year. It would provide advice to Parliament about decisions affecting the lives of First Nations people. Mr Maher — SA’s first Aboriginal Attorney General and Aboriginal Affairs Minister — said South Australian Labor made a commitment to adopt the Statement from Uluru after the 2019 federal election.

He said he believed the state should not have to wait for the federal government to act. “At its core, it’s about Aboriginal people having more a say in decisions that affect their own lives,” Mr Maher said. “I find that pretty hard to argue against.”

To view the ABC News story Consultation to start on SA Indigenous Voice to Parliament ahead of 2023 launch in full click here.

Kyam Maher is the only Indigenous person elected to parliament in South Australia at a state or federal level. Photo: Ethan Rix, ABC News.

First Nations more likely to die in childbirth

While Australia is one of the safest places in the world to give birth, First Nations women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than other Australian women and First Nations infants are almost twice as likely to die in the first month of life with preterm birth the biggest cause of mortality.

The causes of these gaps in life expectancy are complex and stem from colonisation, including:

  • racism and lack of cultural safety in hospitals and from healthcare providers
  • pregnant First Nations women avoiding antenatal care for fear of child protection services taking their children. This is a legacy of the “stolen generations” with continuing high rates of child removals
  • closures of regional and remote birthing services requiring more First Nations women to leave home and travel long distances to give birth, often alone. Some women opt to give birth without a midwife, which can have significant issues for mother and baby.

Ensuring First Nations children are born healthy and strong is the second Closing the Gap target – a critical foundation for “everyone enjoying long and healthy lives”. A much needed step to guarantee this is to increase First Nations health workers, particularly midwives and nurses.

To view The Conversation article First Nations mothers are more likely to die during childbirth. More First Nations midwives could close this gap in full click here.

Geraldine at the Gudang Dalba Hostel, Darwin NT. Image source: ABC News.

Mental health restraint concerns

Patients in Victoria’s mental health hospitals are being restrained at higher rates and for longer than the national average, a new report has found. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being secluded and restrained at higher rates, which the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) said is concerning.

“Many Aboriginal people have complex trauma,” a spokesman for VACCHO said. “We are concerned with this data and would like to know more on the reasons that drive this over-representation. A model of care that is focused on healing, social and emotional wellbeing and cultural safety is what works for Aboriginal people.”

To view the 7 News article Restraint concerns in Vic Mental health in full click here.

Image source: The University of Melbourne Pursuit webpage.

Approaches for non-Aboriginal health professionals

SA’s outstanding young leaders were recently celebrated through the 40 Under 40 Awards. Annabelle Wilson, Associate Professor of Implementation Science at Flinders University, SA was included in the list. 38-year-old Professor Wilson is a dietician and PhD with a clear focus on Indigenous health. “Through my research and leadership, I have disrupted and challenged current thinking about how non-Aboriginal health professionals work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, specifically in nutrition and dietetics,” Annabelle says.

“My research has impacted health professional practice by identifying and translating approaches that non-Aboriginal health professionals can use when working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including reflexivity and awareness of one’s own attitudes and biases.” Annabelle’s work led her to develop models of practice, which were adopted in mentoring and training courses for health professionals. “In the next few years I plan to continue and extend the work I have been doing. In particular, I have applied for funding to lead transformation in nutrition and dietetics related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.”

To view the InDaily and CityMag article SA’s top young business leaders click here.

Associate Professor Annabelle Wilson. Image source: citymag.indaily.com.au.

Indigenous Health Division is recruiting

Do you want to make a real contribution to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes? Do you have a unique set of skills and experiences to contribute to this challenging undertaking? The Indigenous Health Division of the Department of Health has multiple roles for you across both the APS5 and APS6 levels.

The Department of Health is seeking experienced and committed people to develop relationships, policies and programs that improve the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You will help to shape the development and implementation of the Australian Government’s healthcare commitments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Applications close on Monday 27 June 2022. Further detail on the roles is available on the APSJobs and the Department of Health’s website or by using this link.

Remote PHC Manuals project June update

The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) are currently being reviewed and updated. Monthly updates are being provided to keep health services and other organisations up-to-date as RPHCM moves through the review process. It is now almost two years into the manuals updating project and activities are continuing to meet planned timelines (despite some COVID impacts that have tightened deadlines for reviews).

All protocols will be finalised for publication on Thursday 20 June 2022. After this date, there will be no further changes to the manuals as they move into the final editing and publication stage. The new editions are planned for release (online and hardcopy) in November 2022. The project team will meet with key stakeholders shortly to discuss major changes and prepare health services to use the new editions.

You can view the RPHCM Project Update June 2022 flyer here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Take Heart: Deadly Heart screening

A virtual screening of the Take Heart: Deadly Heart – A Journey to an RHD Free Future followed by a Q&A panel session will take place from 11:00 AM–12:00 PM AEST on Wednesday 29 June 2022.

A guest speaker for the Q&A panel session is a senior Noongar woman, Vicki Wade, who has over 40 years of experience in healthcare. Vicki is a co-producer of Take Heart: Deadly Heart. She has guided the production process in a culturally appropriate way and employed a series of yarning circles throughout the pre-production phase. Vicki is well respected for the work she has done to close the gap. She sits on the National Close the Gap steering committee and is a previous board member of the Congress of Aboriginal Nurses and Midwives.

The screening is an opportunity to see the work that is being done across Australia, in regional and remote communities, to eliminate Rheumatic Heart Disease. Attendance is free but registration is essential. To register click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Diabetes burden still impacting mob

Image in feature tile by Tom Joyner, ABC Goldfields showing patient hooked up to dialysis machine.

Diabetes burden still impacting mob

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease condition globally. Type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic proportions, with the greatest burden falling on socially disadvantaged groups and Indigenous peoples. The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet’s latest Review of diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people focuses primarily on type 2 diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The high levels of type 2 diabetes in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities reflect a broad range of historical, social and cultural determinants, and the contribution of lifestyle and other health risk factors. It provides general information on the social and cultural context of diabetes, and the behavioural and biomedical factors that contribute to diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There is growing concern regarding the emergence of type 2 diabetes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adolescents.

The review includes information about incidence and prevalence data; hospitalisations; mortality and burden of disease; the prevention and management of diabetes; relevant programs, services, policies and strategies that address the health issue of diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To view a summary of the review in plain language, a one-page factsheet and a short animated video below of the key points from the review you click here.

AH&MRC wins governance award

Last night Reconciliation Australia, the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute, and the BHP Foundation proudly announced the winners of the 2022 Indigenous Governance Awards. The Awards share and promote success from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations around Australia.

CEO of Reconciliation Australia, Karen Mundine said that following a rigorous judging process, the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) Human Research Ethics Committee based in Sydney was named the winner of Category 1 – Outstanding examples of Governance in Indigenous led non-incorporated initiatives. The AH&MRC is the peak body for Aboriginal controlled health services in NSW and the Ethics Committee helps ensure that Aboriginal people are at the centre of Aboriginal health research. “The Ethics Committee helps ensure that Aboriginal people are at the centre of Aboriginal health research, and provides an Aboriginal lens to make sure that research is conducted ethically and in a culturally safe way,” Committee Co-chair, Dr Summer May Finlay said.

To view the Reconciliation Australia article in full click here and watch a video about the AH&MRC Human Research Ethics Committee below.

Missing piece of chronic pain puzzle

The patient experience isn’t what we thought it was, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research is showing us better ways to treat it. An important factor has been missing in the assessment of pain, according to Dr Manasi Murthy Mittinty who practices at the Pain Management Research Institute at the Royal North Shore Hospital.

“More and more research shows us that we need to take a biopsychosocial approach to managing pain,” she says. “It is very much a person-centered approach. ‘One size fits all’ doesn’t work for pain.” Dr Mittinty’s pain research has taken her around the world including studies with patients from India, First Nations people from Appalachia in the United States and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from SA. She says culture and spirituality are missing aspects in the conventional assessment and treatment of pain.

Dr Mittinty has some helpful tips for GPs, including a new understanding of conventional pain assessment scales. “Most of the pain measurement we use clinically and research has never been adapted for Indigenous communities. The questions we pose to the patient do not always relate to, or reflect, their lived experiences,” she says.

You can listen to the Medical Republic podcast A missing piece of the chronic pain puzzle here.

Image source: Medical Republic website.

Greg Inglis on mental health

He’s one of the greatest rugby league players of all time, but when football injuries put him on the bench Greg Inglis’ mental health started to slip. Former NRL player and Dhungutti man, Greg Inglis has been running the Goanna Academy the first accredited and Indigenous-owned mental health organisation in Australia. The Goanna Academy was designed to help end the stigma surrounding mental health and improve social capacity to identify, talk about, and manage mental health for all Australians – in particular at risk groups such as Regional Males, Youth, and First Nations communities.

The Goanna Academy (est. 2020) is representative of Greg’s life after football – showing his commitment to giving back to the community and improving the mental health outcomes of Australians. The Academy gives Greg the opportunity to share his personal journey and own battles with mental illness with the ambition to inspire and influence others – especially within his own culture, the Indigenous community.

You can listen to the Greg Inglis’ interview with Fi Poole on ABC Coffs Coast radio here. You can also access the Goanna Academy website here.

Poor food choices – a colonisation legacy

The ongoing impacts of colonisation complicates healthy diets and relationships to food for First Nations people in semi-regional areas, a new study has found. The Sax Institute study tapped into local Aboriginal medical services in Western Sydney and Wagga Wagga, where it found food security concerns were not just an issue in remote Aboriginal communities. “Often people when they think of food insecurity, maybe they think of the more extreme food insecurity where people are starving,” said Wotjobaluk woman and lead author of the  study Simone Sherriff.

Ms Sherriff said fast food was often favoured over healthy options, which caused a direct link between financial disadvantage and weight gain, obesity and chronic disease. “A family spoke about how they’ve got so much going on in their lives and stress and things sometimes you just need to make sure the kids are fed,” she said. “That’s going down to the corner shop and getting $5 of hot chips.”

Ms Sherriff heard stories of taxis avoiding certain areas and difficulties with public transport limiting options when there was no family car. She said those accessing food relief services at times felt targeted for taking too much when trying to provide for extended family. Some were also deterred by the lasting impact of the Stolen Generations. “People are really afraid to go and tell a white organisation I’ve run out of food, I can’t afford to feed my family, can you help me,” Ms Sherriff said. “(They are) just so fearful to tell people because they’re worried their kids will be taken.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article How colonisation has left a legacy of poor food choices for First Nations people in full click here.

Nominate those making a difference 

The Purple House story began with paintings by Papunya Tula artists from Walungurru and Kiwirrikurra. Auctioned in 2000, these paintings raised more than $1 million to kick start a new model of care based on family, country and compassion. Since then, the Purple House has been making families well. An entirely Indigenous owned and operated service, Purple House offers remote dialysis, social support, aged care services and the NDIA and it runs a bush medicine social enterprise called Bush Balm.

Purple House has transformed Central Australia from having the worst to the best dialysis survival rates. For service to community health, remote area nursing and to the Indigenous community, CEO Sarah Brown has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia.

People from all parts of Australia and all backgrounds are honoured and celebrated through the Order of Australia, but they all have one important thing in common – someone nominated them. All nominations are made by members of the Australian community. If you know someone who is making a positive difference in your community, your nomination could help celebrate them. Visit the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia Australian Honours and Wards webpage here and complete a nomination form today.

To view the Australian Government Department of Health’s Award-winning healthcare for Western Desert communities webpage click here.

Sarah Brown AM, CEO Purple House. Image source: ABC News.

Stayin’ On Track resource for young dads

Stayin’ On Track is a collaborative community-based project, working with funding from Young and Well Co-operative Research Centre, the University of Newcastle NSW, and Microsoft. The website was created by a group of Aboriginal dads who got together and shared their experiences about fatherhood. They wanted to pass on useful information and tips to other young dads for support. The stories shared centre on themes about pride in being a father, tough times, culture, the emotions on finding out they would be a dad, feeling down, and who their role models are. Stayin’ On Track showcases some of these stories and aims to acknowledge dads who are doing great work and sharing their insights with other young dads.

You can visit the Stayin’ On Track website here and hear what other young dads have to say about the real stuff of fathering at a young age.

COVID-19 conference early bird registration due

The Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) is hosting the 2nd Australasian COVID-19 Conference. This two-day face-to-face conference will be held at the Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park from Thursday 21 to Friday 22 July 2022. The conference theme is “Taking stock of our COVID toolkit”: researchers from an array of disciplines, specialist clinicians, epidemiologists and community members have developed new and harnessed existing tools to comprehensively address prevention, treatment and management of COVID-19/SARS-COV-2 and evolving challenges presented.

Professor Sharon Lewin, AO, Director of the Peter Doherty Institute; Professor Allen Cheng, ID physician, epidemiologist/statistician, President ASIDANZ and Program Chair Associate Professor Edwina Wright, AM, of the Alfred Hospital and Monash University will convene the conference. The recently released program for the conference can be found here.

The early bird DEADLINE for registration is Sunday 12 June 2022. The early bird registration is a savings of $100 so it is worth getting in early. The registration fee also includes dinner on the first night of the conference as well as morning/afternoon tea and lunch each day.

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: Closing First Nations life expectancy gap

Image in feature if of Helicopter Joey Tjungurrayi Waruwiyi – Canning Stock Route Project website.

Closing First Nations life expectancy gap

Closing the gap in life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be the focus of an Australian first health alliance. The Research Alliance for Urban Goori Health will unite a research organisation, health service and primary health care provider to improve health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The partnership between UQ’s Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) and Metro North Health, has identified cancer care, rehabilitation programs and innovative models of care, such as hospital in the home, as priority areas.

Poche Centre Director Professor James Ward said the Alliance’s work would be transformational, helping to accelerate Australia’s progress towards closing the gap in life expectancy. “Some of the issues we’re looking to explore is where the health system works well for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, and where it needs to be improved,” Professor Ward said. “As a Pitjantjatjara and Nukunu man, I know how important it is to ensure our peoples’ voices are at the center of service design and delivery, to ensure equal access across the healthcare system.”

To view the University of Queensland article Australian-first health alliance aims to close life expectancy gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people published on the New Medical Life Sciences website click here.

Image source: SNAICC website.

Pain Scales don’t work for mob

Presenting at the Australian Rheumatology Association Annual Scientific Meeting last week, Dr Manasi Murthy Mittinty said it was critical to address cultural differences into the diagnosis and management of pain. “Conventional pain scales have only been tested for Caucasian populations and do not capture the significant influence of spirituality and chronic harm,” said Dr Mittinty, clinician and pain scientist from the Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney.

Dr Mittinty’s research on conceptualisation of pain by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples revealed that it is embedded in a psycho-socio-spiritual context that is core to perceptions of health and wellbeing in Indigenous Australian communities. The research revealed that some experiences of pain by Indigenous people are unique. These perceptions of pain incorporate factors such as spiritual connection with pain, grief and loss, history of trauma and injury, fear of addiction to pain medication and exposure to pain from early childhood.

To view the Oncology Republic article Why pain scales won’t work for Indigenous Australians in full click here.

Image source: Gidgee Healing website.

Food insecurity not only a remote issue

A new study has found Aboriginal families in urban and regional NSW regularly experience food insecurity and has identified five key contributing factors that need to be addressed. The research – led by Aboriginal Doctoral researcher Simone Sherriff and senior researcher Sumithra Muthayya from the Sax Institute – is based on collaborative work with two Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs): Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation in Campbelltown in outer Sydney and Riverina Medical and Dental Aboriginal Corporation in Wagga Wagga in regional NSW. Extensive interviews were conducted with local Aboriginal people and AMS staff from the two communities, along with stakeholders from local food relief and government agencies, food suppliers and schools.

Aboriginal people felt strongly that food insecurity was a huge issue facing many Aboriginal families in the two communities, despite not being in remote areas. When data obtained from both sites were analysed, the authors identified five key drivers of food insecurity unique to Aboriginal communities in non-remote areas.

To read the Sax Institute media release Aboriginal families strongly impacted by food insecurity, study
finds in full click here. The research paper Murradambirra Dhangaang (make food secure): Aboriginal community and stakeholder perspectives on food insecurity in urban and regional Australia is available here.

Let’s Yarn About Sleep program

Young Indigenous people in Mt Isa will be taught about the mental health benefits of a good night’s sleep as part of a nation-leading program developed by The University of Queensland. Australia’s first ever Indigenous sleep coaches, Karen Chong and Jamie Dunne from Mt Isa, will work with 120 local youth on sleep education, sleep health coaching and narrative therapy as part of UQ’s Let’s Yarn About Sleep program (LYAS).

Launched last year by the Institute for Social Science Reseach, Senior Research Fellow Dr Yagoot Fatima said the program was an Australian first that promotes sleep health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by integrating traditional knowledge with Western sleep science. “The LYAS program provides holistic, inclusive and responsive solutions to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents’ understanding of sleep and empowers them to embrace sleep health,” Dr Fatima said.

To view The University of Queensland UQ News article Dreamtime: Australia’s first Indigenous youth sleep program forges ahead in full click here.

Community members have created an artwork, “Lets Yarn about Sleep”. The artwork is a powerful representation of how the research team, community Elders, youth workers, and service providers work together to connect young people with their culture and improve their sleep and SEWB. Image source: The University of Queensland website.

Good Medicine Better Health online modules

The Good Medicine Better Health IGMBH) team at NPS MedicineWise have developed a series of seven education courses for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners. The free online learning modules are designed to improve quality use of medicines (QUM) in Aboriginal communities, with each module featuring a member of a family as they learn more about their medicines.

In the video below, proud Ankamuthi and Erub woman and Advanced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker, Judith Parnham, talks about the importance of QUM education and introduces the modules which cover a range of medical conditions: asthma, chronic pain, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, respiratory tract infections, and anxiety and depression, with more to come in 2022. All modules are self-paced, free to enrol in and earn CPD points.

To find out more you can access the GMBH program webpage here.

Prevocational standards committee EOIs sought

The Australian Medical Council (AMC) is currently seeking expressions of interest for a member of its Prevocational Standards Accreditation Committee who is an international medical graduate (IMG) and who has been granted general registration following completion of an AMC-accredited workplace based assessment (WBA) program. As the AMC is planning to undertake a review of the WBA processes (along with other assessment pathways for IMGs) they are hoping to receive expressions of interest from IMGs with experience working in an Aboriginal Medical Service, to share their insights on this, as well as the other areas of responsibility of this Committee.

You can find information regarding the position and how to apply on the AMC website: here. Expressions of interest should be submitted to using this email link by Friday 24 June 2022.

For more information, please contact Brooke Pearson, Manager, Prevocational Standards and Accreditation, using the above email link or by phoning 02 6270 9732.

Act now on Ice Inquiry recommendations

The Law Society of NSW is calling on the NSW Government to act without further delay on the recommendations of the Ice Inquiry to implement a health focused approach to battling the scourge of drug abuse. President of the Law Society of NSW Joanne van der Plaat says that it has taken far too long for the Government to act on the recommendations of the Ice Inquiry, and now is the time to make a decision and start implementing programs that will tackle the drug problem in earnest.

“The Law Society agrees with the experts called to give evidence during the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug Ice that the current prohibitionist approach is not working. We agree with law enforcement authorities who have said we can’t arrest our way out of drug problems,” Ms van der Plaat said.

To view The Law Society of NSW media release No MERIT in further delay of bold drug law reform and rehab in full click here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day will be held on Thursday 4 August 2022 with this year’s theme “My Dreaming, My Future.”

Children’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate our children and their connection to culture, family and community. Each year the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) promotes the event to engage children and communities across the country.

People are encouraged get involved with the day by hosting their own event. You can register your event on the SNAICC website here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: iSISTAQUIT helps pregnant young mums quit

iSISTAQUIT helps pregnant young mums quit

This World No Tobacco Day (31 May 2022), Southern Cross University’s iSISTAQUIT project is launching a compilation of campaign video clips to raise awareness about the importance of culturally appropriate care in assisting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pregnant women to quit smoking. Tobacco smoking represents the most important preventable risk factor for chronic disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. About 44% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women smoke during pregnancy compared to 12% of their general population counterparts.

The initial six videos to be launched on the YouTube Channel iSISTAQUIT TV will showcase the importance of culturally appropriate care and communication in supporting women to quit smoking. Research has found education and advice on their own are insufficient, and women are needing practical help and support with quitting. iSISTAQUIT has also developed a training package to help equip health professionals to have culturally appropriate conversations with their patients. Currently there are 26 sites nationally that have undertaken the training.

You can view Donnella Mills, NACCHO Chairperson and Chair of Wuchopperen Health Service and the first Aboriginal person to win a Olympic Gold Medal, Nova Peris OAM have both released videos talking about the launch of the iSISTERQUIT films. Both mention how pleased they are that ACCHOs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community women were consulted during the early stages of the development of the iSISTERQUIT films. You can view Ms Mills’ video here and Ms Peris’ video here. You can also access the iSISTERQUIT website here.

Yarrabah community engaged in new wellbeing centre

A new health and wellbeing centre in the Aboriginal community of Yarrabah demonstrates the value of projects that engage the local community not only in building design but in ongoing economic opportunities. When People Oriented Design (POD), with Coburn Architecture, won the bid to design the new Gurriny Yealamucka Health and Wellbeing Centre (GYHWC) at Yarrabah, on the lands of the Gunggandji and Yidinji peoples, the question for co-director Shaneen Fantin was not how to meet what the contract required, but, “How far can we build on what the contract was asking us to do?”

The practice identified opportunities to maximize Indigenous economic benefits at multiple levels, exceeding the requirements for Indigenous employment, training, suppliers and engagement – and all within a tight contractual timeframe. The health centre was delivered without excessive cost blowouts and ahead of its scheduled delivery by the Indigenous-owned company H. C. Building and Construction. This was no small feat, particularly with the impact of COVID affecting building supply chains, construction programs and labour continuity.

According to Suzanne Andrew, chief executive of Gurriny Yealamucka Community Control Health Services, “Local input is not just about designing the building, it’s also about ensuring financial return to the community.” At Yarrabah, “there was a good vibe in the community around this building” because the community was aware that it was being undertaken by an Indigenous company – “giving jobs to mob.” H. C. gave back to the community by buying from local shops and sponsoring the local football team. The project also included a significant budget for local artwork.

To view the ArchitectureAU article Indigenizing practice: Maximizing economic benefits in full click here.

Gurriny means “good healing water” in the language of the Gunggandji peoples, and the design references water in the building siting, layout, finishes, external art screen and garden. Photo: Scott Burrows. Image source: ArchitectureAU website.

Deadly Choices exemplar of tobacco control

Marking World No Tobacco Day 2022, Australia’s National Coordinator of the Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) Program, Professor Tom Calma AO has officially recognised Deadly Choices as a recipient of a World Health Organisation (WHO) award. Representatives of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health’s (IUIH) Deadly Choices preventative health arm were on hand to accept the honour, which acknowledges efforts in promoting the dangers of smoking among Indigenous communities.

Professor Calma said “I would like to congratulate Deadly Choices for their WHO award which has recognised the program as the exemplar of how people should be going about tobacco control. Deadly Choices has won the global award for helping Mob from right across Australia give up smoking. The core work of Deadly Choices focuses on ensuring smoke-free homes and cars through health and education programs like the ‘Deadly Places – Smoke Free Spaces’ initiative in schools and community events, which align perfectly with this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme of ‘protecting the environment’. Ten years ago, smoking rates among Mob were 51%, now they’re down to 39%, but we can’t just focus on smoking cessation, we also need to focus on population health; to give people the right information to make good, healthy choices; to make Deadly Choices.”

World No Tobacco Day is an extremely important day to raise awareness in the community around smoking, to start a conversation and recognise the support that is needed among communities to give up tobacco use. “It’s an outstanding outcome to have our health education and promotional programs acknowledged globally, which reinforces the capacity of Deadly Choices to help close the gap in health and life expectancy outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities from right across the country,” confirmed IUIH CEO Adrian Carson

You can view the IUIH media alert released yesterday here and access further details of the World No Tobacco Day 2021 award winners on the WHO website here.

Image source: IUIH South East QLD Twitter.

Elcho Island Elders celebrate new dialysis nurse

After the plane lands on Elcho Island’s tiny airstrip, Malawa Dhamarrandji’s mood visibly shifts to a sense of calm. The Yolngu Elder insists on walking down the plane’s isle without assistance. It has been years between visits home for Mr Dhamarrandji, who relies on nurse-assisted dialysis in Darwin to stay alive. “Here in my home town, I reckon it’s paradise,” he said. “There’s all the family, it’s all family – all my grandsons, granddaughters, everyone.”

Mr Dhamarrandji and his late brother spent decades advocating for nurse-assisted renal chairs at their island home,the large Arnhem Land community of Galiwin’ku. Now, a renal unit that has been sitting unused in the community for years has been staffed by a nurse from Indigenous-owned health service Purple House. The organisation recently chartered a plane for its Darwin-based patients who wanted to host a ceremony celebrating the unit’s opening. “For the future, children and adults, be careful what you’re eating,” Mr Dhamarrandji said at the ceremony. “Prevent the sickness, prevent the kidney sickness.”

To view the ABC News article Elcho Island Elders celebrate new dialysis nurse and treatment, bringing them home to families in full click here.

Dianne Biritjalawuy Gondarra is among the group that has been pushing for nurse-assisted dialysis. Photo: Felicity James, ABC News.

New ACT suicide prevention service

A new program to help reduce suicide, and the impacts of suicide, within the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community will be delivered by a lead Aboriginal community-controlled organisation service provider, Thirrili Limited. The program, which was an ACT Greens 2020 election commitment, will be delivered in partnership with the local postvention Way Back Support Service at Woden Community Service. Minister for Mental Health Emma Davidson said that Thirrili has been appointed as the service delivery provider through a community-led commissioning process to ensure culturally appropriate support is provided through this service.

To read the ACT Government media release New ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention, intervention, postvention and aftercare program click here.

The ACT Government has committed $1.28 million to the new Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Integrated Suicide Prevention, Intervention, Postvention and Aftercare Service over its first two years. Image source: Canberra Weekly.

Avoiding pre-term baby heartache

Starting life on an even field remains a challenge for Australian First Nations babies. The rate of stillborn and neonatal deaths for Australian First Nations babies is vastly disproportionate to that of non-First Nations babies. Not surprisingly, one of the leading causes of perinatal mortality for Australian First Nations babies is spontaneous preterm birth. Nationally, approximately 14% of babies born to First Nations mothers are preterm, compared with 8% of babies of non-First Nations mothers. The odds of preterm birth are increased when First Nations mothers have limited antenatal care and pre-existing medical conditions such as hypertension or diabetes.

The key to improving outcomes is by providing the best possible pregnancy care and this should not begin following a positive pregnancy test. Providing good health care to women in the preconception period is a vital step in making a difference to better pregnancy outcomes. It offers an important opportunity to address a multitude of factors that can affect the health of generations.

To read the National Indigenous Times article Healthcare key to avoiding pain of pre-term baby heartbreak for First Nations parents in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times website.

Charity improves period product access

The Wurrumiyanga Women’s Centre on Bathurst Island in the NT has received a delivery of about 1,000 free period products to help women and girls in the community manage their periods. In remote Indigenous communities like this one, the cost of period products can be a massive barrier for many girls and women in managing their period. It’s not uncommon for packs of pads to retail for $15 or more. This delivery of period products is the 100th pallet of products distributed to remote Indigenous communities across Australia as part of the charity Share the Dignity’s Indigenous Menstrual Health program, in partnership with Libra.

Bathurst Island is part of the Tiwi Islands, located off the coast of the NT mainland. The delivery to the Wurrumiyanga community (Nguiui) coincided with World Menstrual Hygiene Day. Evita Puruntatameri, the Activities Supervisor at Wurrumiyanga Women’s Centre, said the exorbitant cost of pads and tampons is a challenge for many women and girls in the community. “Period products are incredibly expensive here on Tiwi so having support from Share the Dignity allows the women in our community to access products for free and in private,” Evita Puruntatameri said. “It makes such a massive difference to our health by not having to worry about the cost.”

To view the Women’s Agenda article This charity is working to give women better access to period products in remote Indigenous communities in full click here.

Cara Munn, Evita Puruntatameri, Sophia Tipuanantunirri (on ute), and Louise Kelantumama. Image source: Women’s Agenda website.

Significant inequities in paediatric health

Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN) say they want to ensure they provide services that are culturally responsive and inclusive for all of the patients we see. “It’s important to work in partnership with Aboriginal families and communities to foster strong reciprocal relationships that are responsive to the individual needs of Aboriginal people and their communities,” says SCHN Aboriginal Health Outcomes and Equity Manager Natasha Larter. “Significant health inequities still exist in paediatric health care. A recent analysis of SCHN data revealed that Aboriginal children and young people accessing our hospitals and services are twice as likely to die while in our care, present to our ED in higher triage categories. In addition, they are more likely to require admission to ICU than non-Indigenous children and young people.

“Aboriginality is a significant factor in poorer health outcomes, however it is important to understand the multiple factors behind the severity on presentation, and redirect the focus to work with Aboriginal patients, families, communities and organisations to change this. For example, we know that Aboriginal children and young people arrive sicker and often later, perhaps because of historical factors that make them fearful of going to health services.

By working closely with Aboriginal patients, families, communities and organisations, we better understand their social and cultural needs, and be sensitive to their concerns upon presentation to our services. We can provide appropriate support, a respectful service that instils trust in our clinicians and enable timely treatment that contributes to reducing Aboriginal mortality, unplanned representation and need for admission. Reconciliation plays an important part in a positive return in health and wellbeing outcomes across the life course for Aboriginal children and young people.”

To view the SCHN article National Reconciliation Week in full click here.

Image source: WA.gov.au website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO congratulates ALP on election win

Image in the feature tile is of Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanese as he walks off the stage during a reception after winning the 2022 general election in Sydney. Image source: SBS NITV.

NACCHO congratulates ALP on election win

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) congratulates the Australian Labor Party for its win in the 2022 Federal election and looks forward to working with the incoming government in continuing to fight for improved outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

In particular, NACCHO welcomes the emphasis that Senator Penny Wong and Prime Minister elect, Anthony Albanese, gave to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in their victory speeches on election night. The Uluru Statement from the Heart sets out the way forward for all Australians in a process of genuine reconciliation. There must be no further delay in implementing a Voice to Parliament for First Nations peoples enshrined in the constitution.

The CEO of NACCHO, Pat Turner, speaking in Canberra, said, ‘NACCHO congratulates Linda Burney for her strong win in Barton. We are looking forward to seeing the first Aboriginal woman serve as Minister for Indigenous Australians and, presumably, in the new Albanese Cabinet.’

NACCHO also congratulates all the elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the new Parliament and thanks Ken Wyatt, the outgoing Minister for Indigenous Australians, for his contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs over the past three years.

NACCHO commits to working with the incoming government and the likely new Health Minister, Mark Butler, on the $111m package announced for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

The Chair of NACCHO, Donnella Mills, said at Cairns on Sunday, ‘The ALP’s package was a welcome pre-election announcement. It includes the 500 trainees for our ACCHOs and badly needed dialysis clinics. It also includes action in combatting rheumatic heart disease, a preventable disease that is killing so many of our children, needlessly. Our youths are 55 times more likely to die from rheumatic heart disease than other Australian youths. This must stop. The ALP’s funding commitment is a critical step.’

The ACCHO sector serves over 410,000 clients per year, delivering over 3.1 million episodes of care, of which 1 million are delivered in remote communities. Our clinics are favoured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and are directly controlled by the communities they serve.

You can view the NACCHO congratulates the ALP media statement on NACCHO’s website here.

Image source: The Guardian.

It comes down to working together, differently

When the landmark National Agreement on Closing the Gap was signed in 2020, Pat Turner AM, lead convener of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of NACCHO called for celebration – and hard work. “Today we celebrate this historic Agreement and those who fought hard to make it a reality,” said Turner, at the time. “But tomorrow, the true work begins when we start to implement its commitments within our communities.”

Tomorrow has well and truly arrived. And so, while we continue to applaud the intent of the agreement between federal, state/territory and local governments, and the Coalition of Peaks; it’s time to get down to work. There’s a shared understanding that working together should look different in 2022. Australian governments have committed to working in new ways with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so they can achieve self-determination. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, meanwhile, have expressed a desire to work alongside governments to design and implement outcomes that are identified by – and with – Indigenous communities.

This new approach is not about changing Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing. In fact, it’s about embracing them. This change is about governments and Indigenous communities finding ways to work in the ‘middle space’ together. It’s about collective decision-making and shared accountability. And it’s about common outcomes and positive change. The key, however, will be working differently.

To view the PwC’s Indigenous Consulting article Meeting in the middle: How governments and Indigenous communities can work together, differently published in The Mandarin in full click here.

Image source: The Mandarin.

What now for mob under Labor?

The National Indigenous Times editor, Tom Zaunmayr, has looked at what is in store for Indigenous Australians following Labor’s win in the 2022 Federal election. Zaunmayr says it is good news for First Nations people, as there will be a referendum on a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the constitution by 2025. By putting a nation-changing Indigenous policy front-and-centre of its campaign, Labor showed how serious it is about First Nations issues. The talk has been promising, now it is time for action. Suring up the Voice – how it will look, who will be involved and when the vote will happen is priority number one. Truth and treaty, the other two key elements of the Uluru Statement are as important to get to work on.

Bringing the Federal Government back to the table in funding remote housing is critical, and Labor now needs to follow through. Labor’s campaign policies on justice and deaths in custody were lacklustre and remain a point of concern. The money pledged for remote justice initiatives is chicken feed and is insufficient for one region, let alone the entire nation. The promise to bring a stronger Indigenous voice to deaths in custody cases lacks detail.

Climate action in the Torres Strait Islands remains a sticking point too. We heard plenty about long-term plans for a net-zero economy, but nothing about what will be done for communities being swallowed by the sea right now. Without short-term infrastructure fixes, the first climate refugees to mainland Australia may very well be our own Indigenous island nation inhabitants.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Labor has won the election and the Greens may have power. What now for Indigenous Australians? in full click here. You can view a related article ‘This will change Australia’: Linda Burney says Labor committed to Indigenous Voice published today in The Sydney Morning Herald here.

Incoming Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney says Australia is ready for a referendum on a Voice to parliament. Photo: Brook Mitchell. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

First Nations eating disorders research

Sydney’s first eating disorders research and translation centre offers nationwide grant opportunity to progress prevention, treatments and support in partnership with research, lived experience, clinical and community experts. The Australian Eating Disorders Research and Translation Centre, led by InsideOut Institute at the University of Sydney, focuses on risk and protective factors, very early intervention and individualised medicine as part of the top 10 research priorities identified in the National Eating Disorders Research and Translation Strategy 2021–31.

The Centre has launched the IgnitED Fund to unearth new ideas that have the potential to solve the problem of eating disorders. IgnitED offers grants of up to $25,000 to develop and test innovative ideas that have potential to improve outcomes for people with eating disorders and their loved ones. It is the Centre’s first funding initiative following the $13 million grant awarded in January to establish the new national centre.

According to the Centre’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Co-Lead, Leilani Darwin, First Nations Australians are believed to experience high rates of eating disorders, disordered eating and food insecurity issues. “The IgnitED Fund facilitates Indigenous innovation,” said Darwin. “For the first time, we are uniquely positioned to elevate the need to better understand the issue of eating disorders and to build the evidence and best practice for our communities.”

For further information and to apply for an IgnitED Fund grant ,visit The University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine and Health webpage National eating disorders centre ignites research fund for new solutions here.

WA bowel cancer screening campaign relaunch

Due to its great success, the Cancer Council WA recently relaunched its 2021 bowel cancer campaign on social media platforms to raise awareness of bowel cancer amongst the Aboriginal WA community. The campaign encourages eligible people to do the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) home test. Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer affecting the Aboriginal Australian community but is one of the most treatable cancers if found early. Less than half of all eligible West Australians participate when they receive the home test kit which is designed to detect bowel cancer in its very early stages. When detected early, more than 90% of bowel cancers can be treated successfully.

The campaign shares social media tiles featuring local people who are keen to share the message about bowel screening with their communities and encourage more people to do the NBCSP test when they receive it in the mail. Cancer Council WA has teamed up with Mary G, an Aboriginal personality, educator, and radio presenter to raise awareness of bowel cancer amongst the Pilbara and Kimberley Aboriginal communities.  The campaign was developed in consultation with Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia and Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service, with Aboriginal Medical Services, Elders, and Aboriginal staff from local clinics and organisations in the regions, including WA Country Health Service being consulted in the process.

You can access further information to the Cancer Council WA website here.

Irrkerlantye forgotton for 40 years

Nestled in the hills east of Alice Springs lies Irrkerlantye, a community in limbo. Irrkerlantye has none of the basic services the rest of Australia takes for granted: water is trucked in and a meagre power supply is provided by a few solar panels. There is no sewerage. The residents live in tin sheds and a few decaying demountables that offer little protection from Central Australia’s extreme desert temperatures.

Felicity Hayes has lived at Irrkerlantye most of her life. The stoic Elder is at her wit’s end, saying “We’ve been asking the government for housing and essential services this whole time, however nothing has been done to provide the most basic services that all people are entitled to. We just want people to come here and have a look and not sit in their offices all day and make decisions about us. They need to come here and talk to us because we’re the ones that are suffering.”

The only water supply to the community was cut in 2014 under a Country Liberal government and was never restored. At the time it was seen as an attempt to force the closure of Irrkerlantye. Felicity Hayes and her family could be facing another forty years forgotten on the fringes of one of the world’s most developed countries. “We’ve been fighting for forty years and we’ve got children, the next generation, and they’re still going to be living here” Ms Hayes said.

To view the SBS NITV article How governments have forgotten this NT community for 40 years click here.

Locals say Irrkerlantye has been ignored by all levels of government for decades. Image source: SBS NITV.

‘Through the rood’ food prices in remote NT

John Paterson regularly has people from remote communities text him grocery receipts to show how prices have spiked over the past few months. Travelling across the NT in his role as CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) Paterson says he notices prices increase sharply the more remote the location. “It has almost become unaffordable now,” he says.

In the NT, food in supermarkets is 56% more expensive in remote communities than regional supermarkets due to long supply chains and poor quality roads, according to a 2021 report by AMSANT. Inflation – predicted to reach 6% by year’s end – has increased pressure. The Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA), supports 27 remote community stores by securing grocery items and covering the store’s freight budgets to reduce the cost of food. Normally, its annual freight budget is $250,000. But in the past 18 months, the fuel levy to deliver food to just five of its remote communities – that require delivery by sea – has risen from $37,000 to $279,000. Rob Totten, store manager of a supermarket in Maningrida, Arnhem Land, says the price of some food products has “gone through the roof”.

Paterson is advocating to extend the footprint of an Aboriginal controlled organisation like ALPA to increase the buying power of remote community stores. “People want fresher food, they want cheaper food, and the way to do that is bulk purchasing by community stores that are run and led by Aboriginal people,” he says. “If we want to close the gap, plus the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, then food security is a major issue that needs serious attention.”

To view The Guardian article ‘Through the roof’ food prices in remote NT are forcing Aboriginal families to make impossible choices in full click here.

Docker River Community Store. Image source: B4BA. Docker River Community Store NT $9.20 receipt for 2L of milk. Image source: The Guardian.

New process for job advertising

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

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

National Palliative Care Week

National Palliative Care Week  (NPCW), held from Sunday 22 to Saturday 28 May 2022, is Australia’s largest annual awareness-raising initiative held to increase understanding of the many benefits of palliative care. The theme for National Palliative Care Week 2022 is It’s your right. The theme seeks to raise awareness about the rights of all Australians to access high-quality palliative care when and where they need it. One of the great myths about palliative care is that it is only a synonym for end-of-life care. It is so much more than that.  Anyone with a life-limiting illness has the right to live as well as possible, for as long as possible.  

Virtual and face-to-face events will be held across the country during National Palliative Care Week 2022 to acknowledge and celebrate the commitment and dedication of all those working and volunteering in the palliative care sector across Australia.   Now in its 27th year, and traditionally held in the last full week of May, NPCW is organised by Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and supported by the Australian Government Department of Health.

To find out more about National Palliative Care Week 2022 you can access the PCA website here. You can also view a range of palliative care resources PCA have developed specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples here.

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

Indigenous data sovereignty tool released

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image source: Research Professional News.

New national suicide prevention approach

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

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

To view the media release in full click here.

Isolation not a privilege available to all

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

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

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

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

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

RACGP disappointment over 10 Year Plan 

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

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

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

To view the newsGP article in full click here.

Eating disorders funding welcomed

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

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

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

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

Remote mob’s vitamin D deficiency risk

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

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

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

To view the Curtin University article in full click here.

Image source: Irish Cancer Society website.

Healthy Feet Project

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

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

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

For further information about the HFP click here.

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

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Fourth dose recommended for vulnerable

Fourth dose recommended for vulnerable

On Friday 15 March 2022, the Australian Government has accepted the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation’s (ATAGI) recommendation that an additional booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine be provided to vulnerable population groups to increase their protection levels before winter. The winter dose will be provided to people who are at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. These people will have received their primary vaccination and first booster dose prior to receiving the winter dose. The groups are:

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

ATAGI recommends that the rollout of the additional booster dose for these groups start from April 2022, coinciding with the rollout of the 2022 influenza vaccination program. You can view Minister Hunt’s media release here and access further information from the Australian Government Deputy Chief Medical Officer here.

blue background, vector image of vials & syringe

Image: Nebojsa Mitrovic, Getty Images. ABC News website.

What to do if you get COVID-19

The Australian Government Department of Health has released an opinion piece from the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, about what to do to prepare for the possibility of testing positive for COVID-19 – and what to do if you do test positive. The document is available in English and a number of language translations:, including Kimberly Kriol; Pitjantjatjara; Torres Strait Creole – Yumplatok; Warlpiri; Western Arrarnta and Yolngu Matha.

You can download the fact sheet here.

blue glove hand holding positive RATS test for covid-19

Image source: Urgent Care La Jolla website.

Shelley Ware backs online safety campaign

The Online Safety Act 2021 came into effect earlier this year giving the safety commissioner more powers to remove serious online abuse from platforms. Shelley Ware, Australian Aboriginal TV personality, educator and corporate speaker is championing the online safety campaign for Mob . The eSafety ambassador explains that the new law provides a stronger protection to the community allowing victims to seek permanent removal of harmful content and providing avenues to press further charges. You can listen to the interview with Shelley Ware on NITV Radio here.

Shelley Ware, Aboriginal TV personality standing in front of Yalinguth Stories, Sounds, Knowledge sign

Shelley Ware, Australian Aboriginal TV personality, educator and corporate speaker champions online safety campaign for Mob. Photo: 33 Creative. Image source: NITV website.

Mental health, housing and homelessness

Good health and wellbeing rests, in part, on access to good-quality housing. Having adequate housing and a place to call home supports ‘connection to body’, one of the 7 domains for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing. Unreliable or poor quality housing and homelessness contribute to and perpetuate health inequities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

The health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can be further compromised by (dis)connection from Country, which is another of the 7 domains of social and emotional wellbeing. There is emerging evidence that providing housing and addressing homelessness is important for preventing mental ill-health and suicide among Indigenous Australians. The relationship between housing and mental health is bi-directional. This means that someone’s mental health could be negatively affected by the lack of safe, affordable and high quality housing, and the experience of mental illness could affect access to suitable housing.

The recently release Australian Government Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Indigenous mental health, housing and homelessness paper

  • synthesises the evidence of what works and does not work for mental health and suicide prevention programs and policy initiatives that address housing and homelessness for Indigenous Australians
  • reports key information about research, evaluation, program and policy initiatives
  • identifies best-practice approaches and critical success factors for implementation
  • outlines limitations and gaps in the evidence.

You can access the AIHW Indigenous mental health, housing and homelessness report here.

Aboriginal art: The journey towards healing by artist Linda Huddleston

The journey towards healing by artist Linda Huddleston featured on the cover of the AIHW Indigenous mental health, housing and homelessness report.

A related article in the National Rural Health Alliance online Partyline magazine looks at how empowering rough sleepers via the charity, Wheels of Wellness (WoW) can save lives. WOW provides an innovative and dynamic model of primary health care to some of regional Australia’s most vulnerable people on the streets of Cairns in Far North Queensland.

WOW’s van is fitted out as a GP consulting room and goes out during the day and after hours with a doctor, Indigenous health worker and mental health social worker. They provide free holistic primary health care to people sleeping rough, staying in a night shelter, or living in transitional and temporary accommodation.

The focus of the WoW team is to build rapport and long-term relationships with the people they meet on the streets. They actively support those wanting to address their health issues, which may include chronic disease, acute care, pain management, mental health, post-trauma stress, domestic violence, drug and alcohol dependency – and the list goes on. The WoW team strongly believes that, along with stable accommodation, focusing on holistic primary health care is crucial to empowering the lives of our most vulnerable Australians.

You can view the Saving lives by empowering rough sleepers article here.

WOW outreach van. Image source: National Rural Health Alliance Partyline online magazine.

Action urged on health, justice and ‘Voice’

Leading Indigenous advocacy groups have called on the Coalition and Labor to promise major reforms to the justice, health and welfare systems ahead of the federal election, and for a Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the constitution. Change the Record, an alliance of legal, health and family violence prevention organisations, has demanded the major parties agree to increase Centrelink payments, raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and urgently build more housing in remote communities to address overcrowding.

Cheryl Axleby, a Narungga woman and co-chair of Change the Record, said problems in areas such as housing were linked to other issues like social security. “We’ve been saying this for decades; if we have appropriate shelter and affordable housing that would solve a lot of issues for our families who are living under welfare or are struggling to make ends meet,” she said. She added that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted the need to urgently address overcrowded housing, which became a serious problem during an outbreak in western NSW last year. “Where family members are trying to self-isolate, well, how do they do that when they don’t actually have anywhere else where they can actually go?”

You can access the full article in The Sydney Morning Herald here.

Cheryl Axleby is the co-chair of Change the Record, which has made several key demands for the Coalition and Labor. Cheryl Axleby is the co-chair of Change the Record standing in front of yellow orange brown white Aboriginal art

Cheryl Axleby is the co-chair of Change the Record, which has made several key demands for the Coalition and Labor. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Growing positive food habits in remote schools

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation believes every young person deserves to benefit from a fun, hands-on approach to food education – in every part of the country. This is especially important for kids growing up in remote cities and towns, which form the backbone of the nation’s food system.

In the Gibson Desert, 550 kms north of Kalgoorlie, Willuna Remote Community School is revitalising their kitchen garden and striving to create connections to country. “We want to use the garden to bring Aboriginal cultural learning into the school,” explains teacher, Scott Olsen. “We already grow a native bush banana, a silky pear, and are having conversations with local elders about food native to the area.”

Teaching students how to grow food is a practical way to gain access to fresh produce. “Because we are a remote place, fresh food and vegies can be expensive and hard to find,” says Scott. “One thing we grew last year was peas – the kids absolutely loved picking the peas and eating them fresh in the garden. If they had to go to the shops to buy that big bowl of peas, they might have cost $50. Or they might not even stock them.”

To view the National Rural Health Alliance article in its online magazine Partyline in full click here.

collage: young Aboriginal boys holding seedling, 2 girls carrying water jerry, boy with tray in garden, close up image of plants

Students from Wiluna Remote Community School in kitchen garden.

caring@home Indigenous art competition winners

The caring@home for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families project recently announced the winners of its caring@home Indigenous Art Competition. What begam as am ‘off the cuff’ idea from Project Director, Professor Liz Reymond, grew into a powerful palliative and end-of-life care conversation starter in many communities around Austra.ia.

“The caring@home art competition has had an amazing impact here. Patients and families have really gotten into it and it has brought up amazing conversations about spirituality, culture and our multicultural community…the conversations it has started have been beyond anything I could have imagined.” Nurse, Remote Palliative Care Service

Thanks have gone out to:

  • the judging panel members: Karl Briscoe – CEO, National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP); Fiona Cornforth – CEO, The Healing Foundation and The Hon Ken Wyatt, AM MP – Minister for Indigenous Australians,
  • the 757 people voted in the People’s Choice Awards, and
  • the artists, whose experiences, stories and artistic expression provided a deeper and profound understanding of palliative care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

You can view all the artworks on the caring@home website here until June 2023.

winner of caring@home Indigenous Art Competition - Life's Journey by Lee Hall

Overall winner of the caring@home Indigenous Art Competition – Life’s Journey by Lee Hall.

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.

WA Aboriginal Family Safety Strategy

The WA Department of Communities is working with Aboriginal people and communities on a strategy to address family violence impacting Aboriginal families and communities. Aboriginal women and children experience family violence at disproportionately high rates with devastating impacts on their own health and wellbeing, and on the health and wellbeing of community.

The contributing factors to family violence in Aboriginal communities include colonisation, dispossession, intergenerational trauma and racism. We need to develop an approach that recognises these differences and considers the specific drivers of family violence in Aboriginal communities.

To guide deliberate work and coordinated effort from government and community over the next decade, we are developing a dedicated Aboriginal Family Safety Strategy. Comprehensive consultation with a range of Aboriginal stakeholders and Aboriginal community members has occurred to inform the content of the draft strategy.

Feedback on the draft Strategy is now open until 5:00 PM AWST Thursday 14 April 2022. To have your say complete the survey here. If you have questions or would like to speak to someone about the project, please send an email using this link.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Birthing on Country services empower women

Image in feature tile is of South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Corporation Waminda midwife Melanie Briggs sourced from the South Coast Register.

Birthing on Country services empower women

Many Australian women rely on and trust maternity services to see them through pregnancy, labour and the early stages of new parenting. But for First Nations women, these same services can be confronting and can result in poor outcomes. Many women must travel far from family and community to birth. And if they do, they often feel misunderstood and judged by mainstream health services.

There is another way. Birthing on Country means First Nations women give birth on their ancestral country. It acknowledges First Nation peoples’ continued ownership of land and unique birthing practices. Birthing on Country services centre First Nations values, and are designed to meet First Nations people’s social, emotional, cultural and health needs. The services are embedded within larger health service networks.

The Molly Wardaguga Research Centre team works in partnership with First Nations communities to deliver Birthing on Country maternity services that address health inequities. In one urban setting there was a profound reduction in preterm birth and increased antenatal attendance and breastfeeding. This was achieved through integrating within a wraparound system of care, designed as a one-stop-shop in an Aboriginal community controlled setting.

It also involved redesigning the service using a successful blueprint that prioritises investing in the workforce, strengthening families’ capabilities, and embedding First Nations governance and control in all aspects of maternity service planning and delivery. However, Birthing on Country services are yet to be trialled in regional and remote Australia. So there is much work to do to ensure all First Nations women can access these services.

To view The Conversation article in full click here. You can also view a trailer of a documentary (mentioned in the article) filmed in remote Arnhem Land, following two women who hope to reclaim 60,000 years of birthing culture from the stronghold of Western medicine, by working with community to pilot the training of djäkamirr- the caretakers of pregnancy and birth, below.

Cultural safety and humility program

The values and beliefs of those who provide healthcare to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a central area of study in Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) ground-breaking Murra Mullangari program. The first Indigenous-developed Cultural Safety program for nursing and midwifery to also include Cultural Humility has been a very long journey, according to CATSINaM CEO Professor Roianne West, who said Elders and ancestors had for five decades been calling for education that took into account colonial power structures.

“It’s the very first time a program like this has been done outside of the university sector and a program that really sets the standard for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and Cultural Safety education. It adds the additional dimension that’s unique to CATSINaM, and that the aspect of Cultural Humility,” Professor West said. Murra Mullangari means “the pathway to wellbeing” and is a term gifted to CATSINaM by Aunty Dr Matilda Williams-House, a Ngambri-Ngunnawal Elder and CATSINaM Matriarch.

Clinically safe practice in nursing and midwifery is not possible without cultural safe practice Professor West said during the webinar (see below) to launch Murra Mullangari: Introduction to Cultural Safety and Cultural Humility e-learning program. You can read the full Croakey Health Media article here.

iSISTAQUIT supports pregnant women

Indigenous people experience a disproportionate burden of disease due to high tobacco smoking rates, a legacy of colonisation and government sanctioned policies where rations of tobacco were widely distributed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. In pregnancy, 44% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women smoke, compared to 12% of non-Indigenous mothers. Although Indigenous women are motivated to quit smoking to protect their unborn child, they typically receive inadequate health provider support to quit.

iSISTAQUIT provides wrap-around support for pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are wanting to quit smoking. It involves a model of care designed with culturally appropriate and national best practice training informed from previous studies. iSISTAQUIT provides free, online training for health providers in smoking cessation methods and educational resources for pregnant women. Having culturally thought out approaches with assisting women to quit smoking through a pathway of support, helps Indigenous women navigate health and wellbeing systems safely. Building on the research their team has been undertaking over the last seven years, the project is now leading a nationwide scale up of iSISTAQUIT. The ISISTAQUIT team is a multi-disciplinary team of doctors, researchers, communicators, community engagement specialists and students. Quitting smoking is a process that is hard to do alone. Getting support and help from different places can increase a person’s changes to become smoke-free.

To read the full Croakey Health Media article click here and access the iSISTAQUIT website here.

tile image of 2 Aboriginal mums & babies, text 'iSISTAQUIT'

Image source: iSISTAQUIT website.

First Nations Youth and Justice System

Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing (TIMHWB) have produced a Fact Sheet: First Nations Youth and the Justice System, an executive summary of the article ‘First Nations peoples and the law’ by Milroy and colleagues 2021. The headings in the fact sheet include: Historical and Contemporary Context; The Australian Context; and Ways Forward. The Fact Sheet highlights three quotes from the Milroy article:

  • “We suggest that young people ending up in the criminal justice system represents a failure of other systems to properly identify and provide support and effective interventions across development.”
  • “We are imprisoning traumatised, developmentally compromised, and disadvantaged young people, where imprisonment itself adds to the re-traumatisation and complexity of supporting rehabilitation and recovery.”
  • “Ideally, the way forward would include prevention, early intervention and comprehensive clinical and community intervention should a child or young person encounter the youth justice system.”

To download the Fact Sheet click here.

Non-GP Specialist Trainee Support Program

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) has secured funding to implement a unique and comprehensive program. the Non-GP Specialist Trainee Support Program (AIDA STSP) to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander non-GP specialist trainees.

“The STSP will be the first Indigenous-led initiative established to provide peer and collegiate support to non-GP doctors in training, with the goal to increasing numbers into training programs and supporting them through the program so that we see high success rates of graduation.” – Ms Monica Barolits-McCabe, CEO AIDA.

Interviews can be arranged upon request. Please contact the communications team via email on here or call Wendy Wakwella on 0426 169 109. To streamline the interview process, we ask that you please complete the interview request e-form available here, prior to contacting the communications team.

To read the AIDA’s media release in full click here.

Kiara Peacock is a trainee Aboriginal Health Worker in Darwin. Photo: Emilia Terzon, ABC News.

AMA wants tax on sugary soft drinks

The AMA says with polling consistently highlighting health is a top concern for voters, next week’s Federal Budget is the last chance for Government to demonstrate it is serious about addressing the health system’s significant strains and logjams. As part of Australia’s prevention agenda, the AMA is calling for tax on sugary soft drinks to help tackle obesity and other preventable chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

In comments made in 2018, on the priorities for inclusion in the 2018-2023 Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan AMSANT said a tax on sugar has been shown to be effective in reducing consumption and is projected to lead to the biggest health gains, particularly for people on the lowest incomes. Similarly NACCHO proposed in its 2021–22 Pre-Budget Submission that the Commonwealth introduce a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, with the revenue accrued redirected back into a subsidy on fresh fruit and vegetables back into communities where the impact is greatest.

You can view the AMA’s media release in full here.

Image source: The Guardian.

LGBTQA+ mental health and wellbeing project

Walkern Katatdjin is a national research project that aims to understand and promote the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Asexual + young people, and to work with services to develop appropriate interventions. There is very little locally-specific information and guidance available for services that work with young people on how best to support someone who is both Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and identifies as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Asexual (LGBTQA+). This means that young people (14-25 years) who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and LGBTQA+ may not receive the same level of social support and health care as other members of the community.

Young people who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and LGBTQA+ may be at increased risk of poor social emotional wellbeing and increased mental health difficulties, but there is very little research currently. This is an opportunity for researchers to talk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and LGBTQA+ young people to: understand their mental health needs and social emotional wellbeing, and work with local health services to develop interventions that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and LGBTQA+ young people say will support them.

You can take part in the National Survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQA+ young people’s mental health and social emotional wellbeing if you are: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; LGBTQA+ (you don’t have to be ‘out’); and 14 – 25 years old.

You can read the Participant Study Information Letter here and some of the important information here. You can access the Walkern Katatdjin Rainbow Knowledge website here which includes a link to the survey.

cartoon image of Aboriginal woman midriff top, trans Aboriginal man & Aboriginal woman holding hands of each other, Aboriginal man with gay pride flag, text 'Walkern Katatdjin Rainbow Knowledge' & chalk like lines red, yellow, white, green, dark blue/purple

Artwork by Shakyrrah Beck. Image source: Walkern Katatdjin Rainbow Knowledge website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference

The Australasian Viral Hepatitis face-to-face Conference from Sunday 29 ­– Tuesday 31 May 2022 will be a forum with the aim of supporting the health workforce, government and community to work towards the elimination of hepatitis B and hepatitis C and support the communities living with these conditions in Australia, NZ and the Asia and Pacific regions.

To access further information about the conference, to register and submit a late submission click here.

Late Breaker Abstract Submission Deadline: Monday 27 March 2022

Early Bird Registration Deadline: Monday 27 March 2022

Accommodation Deadline: 10 April 2022

Standard Registration Deadline: 1 May 2022

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO CEO on ABC’s The Drum

Feature tile - Fri 18.3.22 - CEO on The Drum

Image in feature tile: NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM, Photo: Alex Ellinghausen, The Sydney Morning Herald.

Pat Turner on The Drum

When NACCHO CEO Pat Turner appeared on the ABC’s The Drum last night she said the Close the Gap report released earlier in the day “highlights in no uncertain terms what we already know – policy and programs led by our own people work better for our people. They work so much better because they provide a culturally safe environment for our people to engage with service providers and they also have an ability to reach out into the community. Most of our services are more trusted that government services. The recent Four Corners program on RHD shown that lack of trust was evident in the Doomadgee community.”

“But we also know that comprehensive structural reform is needed to ensure more equitable outcomes for our people, and quite frankly we’ve been telling governments this for decades and it’s about time they took note of the evidence that this report and many others demonstrate that Aboriginal-led initiatives and locally-led solutions work and that’s where the investments have to be made.”

“Key data shows that the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health is profound, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are:

    • 5.0 times more likely to die from rheumatic heart disease;
    • 4.5 times more likely to smoke during pregnancy;
    • 3.7 times more likely to have kidney disease;
    • 3.2 times more likely to have diabetes;
    • 2.1 times more likely to suicide as young people;
    • 2.0 times more likely to die in infancy; and
    • 1.4 times more likely to die from cancer.”

“So it’s really hardly surprising that we live 8–9 years less than other Australians.” Pat Turner also said there is a continuing funding gap in health with a dangerous myth that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people receive ‘plenty of health funding’. A recent conservative calculation put the gap in health expenditure, compared to other Australians, at $5,042 per Aboriginal person per year. You can watch the full episode of the ABC’s The Drum here.

screenshot of ABC The Drum episode & panelists Narelda Jacobs, Pat Turner, Paul Karp & Kudzai Kanhutu

Awabakal opens new dental clinic

Hamilton is now home to a new Awabakal Dental Clinic following the official opening of the $400,000 facility this week. The state-of-the-art centre will operate in partnership with Hunter New England Local Health District (HNELHD) to provide bulk-billed dental services to the local Aboriginal community.

Previously, the clinic boasted two chairs working out of a small section of the Awabakal Hamilton Medical Clinic. The new-look facility, funded by NSW Ministry of Health – Oral Health Unit, via the Centre for Aboriginal Health, was custom-built to meet the demand of local oral health needs. “We’ve been trying to get this off the ground for some time,” Awabakal CEO Raylene Gordon said. “So, it’s an important day for us – and I believe it’s one of the best clinics around. This is a collaboration between Awabakal and Hunter New England Local Health District that’s about making dental care more affordable for Indigenous people. Good oral hygiene is directly linked to good overall health. Poor dental care can impact on lots of nutrition and lifestyle issues. If you have no teeth, you can’t eat.”

To view the Newcastle Weekly article in full click here.

wabakal Ltd CEO Raylene Gordon, HNELHD Oral Health Unit’s Dr Lanny Chor, City of Newcastle councillor Deahnna Richardson and Newcastle state MP Crakanthorp at the official opening of the Awabakal Dental Clinic at Hamilton

Awabakal Ltd CEO Raylene Gordon, HNELHD Oral Health Unit’s Dr Lanny Chor, City of Newcastle councillor Deahnna Richardson and Newcastle state MP Crakanthorp at the official opening of the Awabakal Dental Clinic at Hamilton. Photo: Peter Stoop. Image source: Newcastle Weekly.

COVID response praised in CTG report

The Close the Gap report released yesterday detailed how Aboriginal decision-making was critical in responding to the unprecedented health challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. The report found there was a need for trust and accountability in partnerships to enable transformative change.

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

Kimberly Aboriginal Medical Service CEO Vicki O’Donnell said Indigenous community-controlled services were crucial for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. “They achieve better results, employ more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, are connected and embedded in the community, and are therefore often preferred over mainstream services,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article in full click here.

vax being administered into arm

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

ACCHO model for LGBTQ+ health services

The NSW government has committed more than $4 million toward establishing a health centre, which will provide tailored medical services to Sydney’s LGBTQ+ community. The funding announcement is part of NSW Health’s five-year LGBTQ+ health strategy, which also saw the state dedicate $3.4 million annually for a specialist trans and gender diverse public health service. A further $2.65 million went toward NSW Health workforce education and training initiatives to support the strategy.

Operated by LGBTQ+ non-profit ACON, the health centre will also offer state-wide services through telehealth, service partnerships and shared care arrangements. ACON Deputy CEO Karen Price – who, it should be noted, is a fully separate person from RACGP President Dr Karen Price – said that the health centre is similar in concept to an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Centre. “In other areas, we know that specific services really work well to meet the needs of specific populations,” Ms Price said.

To view The Medical Republic article in full click here.

Aboriginal and Pride flags flying

Photo: Julia Turner. Image source: Cosmos Magazine.

Community Dream Research Project

First Nations’ organisation, Community First Development, has launched a new research project that explores the benefits of tracking the narrative of the long-term dreams of First Nations’ communities.  The research project is set to spark some conversations and challenge some research and evaluation norms.

The organisation holds the belief that research can-and-does enable the creation of spaces that promote First Nations’ self-determination and strong Country. It is intended to make way for the valuable insights found in First Nations’ perspectives and to strengthen the leadership and governance of First Nations’ people in evaluation. Community First Development’s approach is to push the boundaries that limit people’s understanding of First Nations’ perspectives and culture. The organisation’s approach is inclusive to the hundreds of diverse First Nations’ communities it works with – over 800 over the course of the past 20 years.

Community dreams are multi-dimensional and consider a range of aspects: the economic, environmental, mob, spiritual, cultural customs, and Country. Dreams are holistic, shared and form the basis for strengthening First Nations’ future generations and ensuring that Country is sustainable. The dream narrative cannot be understated, not only for the success of individual community projects, but also for the revitalisation and resurgence strategies that communities are putting in place.

To view the Community First Development media release please click here.

Deadly New Dads video competition

The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet and SMS4dads are proudly supporting a competition giving soon-to-be-dads or dads with a bub under 12 months old the chance to win $3,000 in a video competition.

First Nations dads are invited to submit a short video (under 2 minutes) showcasing what they love about being or becoming a new dad. The video should be about:

  • What’s deadly about becoming a new dad? (for soon-to-be dads); OR
  • What is something you love doing with your new bub? (for dads with a bub under 12 months)

GET YOUR ENTRY IN NOW!!  Don’t miss out – total prize pool of $10,000. To view a flyer with all the details click here.

banner for Deadly New Dads Video Comp - image of young Aboriginal dad & his baby

Medicines safety PhD opportunity

The Univeristy of Queensland in offering PhD opportunity focused in the area of medicine safety in primary care, as part of the MRFF funded trial “Activating pharmacists to reduce medication related problems: The ACTMed trial”. The focus of the PhD can take a number of directions related to this trial including: (i) co-design of the service with health practitioners and/or consumers; (ii) health service design and evaluation; (iii) medicine safety; or (iv) health economics, depending on the skills and interests of the candidate. The specific research questions can be tailored to the candidate.

The candidate will have the opportunity to work with the experienced team to improve medicine safety at ACCHOs and in mainstream health services and improve population health, including the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. First Nations candidates will have access to the UQ “Yarning for Success” program which will connect you with other Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander researchers throughout their PhD.

The candidate will be required to work closely with ACCHOs, peak bodies such as NACCHO, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and other government agencies.

For further information about this PhD opportunity and to apply click here.

Image source: Journal of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society website.

Scholarships to research racism

Two research scholarships funded by Australian Research Council (ARC) are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The first is an ARC Indigenous Discovery Aboriginal Youth Racism Project, a 3-year research project funded by the ARC to the value of $30,000 p.a. tax free for 3.5 years full-time study (or part-time equivalent). The objective of this project is to test a new model for assessing covert racism experienced by Indigenous youth, which includes the roles and responsibilities of non-Indigenous agents. This model can be utilised to guide evidence-based interventions to address multiple forms of racism against Indigenous Australians. You can access further information about this scholarship, including application details here.

The second scholarship is for the Aboriginal Youth Racism Project, a 3-year research project funded by the Australian Research Council to the value of s for $27,609 p.a. over 3 years. This project involves researchers from across five universities, led by Murdoch University. The candidate will be enrolled at the University of Technology Sydney based on research at the Perth and Sydney sites and the primary supervisors’ university affiliation. The objective of this research project is to test a new model for assessing covert racism experienced by Indigenous youth, which includes the roles and responsibilities of non-Indigenous agents. This model can be utilised to guide evidence-based interventions to address multiple forms of racism against Indigenous Australians. For further information about this scholarship, including application details here.

hand writing 'RACISM' with chalk on blackboard

Image source: Monash University website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Dietitians Week 2022

Dietitians Week, held from Monday 21 – Sunday 27 March 2022, is about supporting our nutrition champions and the work they do transforming our lives and communities. Accredited Practicing Dietitians (APDs) around the nation, supported by Dietitians Australia, will be sharing stories about how they improve lives through their experience as nutrition professionals.

Dietitians Week is the time to honour the dietitians in your community. Whether they are your colleagues, acquaintances, loved ones, educators, healthcare partners or carers, help share their extraordinary impact on the lives they touch.

You can find out more about Dietitians Week and download the Dietitians Week digital toolkit here.

The Good Tucker App is one example of the great work that dietitians do in the ACCHO sector. The App was developed by Uncle Jimmy Thubs Up, The University of SA and Menzies School of Health Research in partnership with The George Institute, to provide a simple way for people to identify the healthiest food and drink options available in stores. You can watch a video about the App below download the Good Tucker App here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Quarantine centre closer to community needed

feature tile text 'calls for quarantine centre clos to remote communities for covid-positive mob' & image of Indigenous leader Lisa Mumbin

Image in feature tile is of Barunga Indigenous leader Lisa Mumbin who backs calls for a quarantine site closer to remote communities. Photo: Michael Franchi, ABC News.

Quarantine centre closer to community needed

Justina Blacksmith and her one-year-old daughter Nyeisha were the first in their household to fall sick with COVID-19 early this month. Then her uncle and the other five adults living in their small three-bedroom house tested positive. By day six of their isolation period, all four children had symptoms and their week of quarantine turned into two. “It was very hard with 11 people in the house,” Ms Blacksmith said. “We couldn’t do our shopping or get a power card.”

In the remote Indigenous community of Binjari, 15 kms outside Katherine, the toll of COVID-19 is being felt in the small homes that sometimes house as many as 15 people. Amid Omicron outbreaks, the Australian Medical Association’s (AMA) NT branch is calling on the NT government to declare a Code Brown alert for every public hospital.

Binjari Community Aboriginal Corporation CEO Deb Aloisi said residents who tested positive were no longer being taken to the Howard Springs quarantine facility. Instead, she said they were being forced to isolate together in cramped conditions.

To view the ABC News article in full click here and the AMA media release here.

Justina Blacksmith with her baby girl outside house

Justina Blacksmith had to isolate in her small house with 11 people. Roxanne Fitzgerald, ABC Katherine. Image source: ABC News.

Working with mob makes Kim’s heart skip

Kim is a traditional Saltwater Bidjigal/Gweagal woman from La Perouse, Botany Bay, Sydney. She’s 52 and has been working in clinical and non-clinical roles for over 30 years. Ordinarily she practices at the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service, but is currently in Central Australia, nearing the end of her third week of a nine-week placement in Tennant Creek working as an Aboriginal Health Practitioner/Nurse Immuniser as part of the government’s “Vaccination Acceleration Campaign” targeting remote communities. Kim said it is so rewarding talking to and educating mob about the COVID-19 vaccine, and how important it is to protect themselves, their mob and the rest of community.

As an Aboriginal Health Practitioner/Nurse Immuniser in this role, Kim said she can connect easily with mob and treat them in a culturally safe way. She is also able to educate the non-Indigenous nurses who work alongside her on how to provide care in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner. Together they’ve formed a great team – they are having fun and creating memories, trusting friendships and relationships with community.

Kim, whose mob still live in La Perouse (formerly the site of the La Perouse Aboriginal Mission), grew up not having a lot. She believes she didn’t choose health as a career it chose her. She remembers the nurses from the Prince of Wales Hospital coming to the mission 3-4 times per week to change the dressings for her Nan’s sister’s toes. The dressings were for the sores and ulcers that were slow to heal due to diabetes. By the time she was 12 years old, Kim had learnt how to replace the dressings and draw up the insulin for her Aunty Marie – something her aunty found difficult due to her poor eyesight, also the result of diabetes.

Kim has had a lengthy career in health starting her first job in 1986 working in the kitchen of Prince Henry Hospital, Sydney. From there she worked in several private hospitals (Prince of Wales, Westmead, Nepean ) before being contracted as a civilian heath professional by the Royal Australian Air Force (3 Combat Support Hospital, RAAF Richmond), working as a Endoscopy Technician/CSSD Manager. Kim was directly involved in supporting the RAAF medical team and their sterilised equipment that was deployed at extremely short notice to evacuate injured Australians following the Bali bombings in October 2002. Following a move to Albury in 2004, Kim worked for seven years as an endoscopy technician in the operating theatres of Albury Base Hospital.

Now with a passion for working in Aboriginal health and after completing further training and study, Kim worked in various Aboriginal health roles including as an Aboriginal Liaison Officer at the Wangaratta Hospital, an Aboriginal Health Worker with Ovens and King Community Health and with Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation. Kim then completed her training to become an Aboriginal Health Practitioner (AHP) and started work with the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service (AWAHS). Kim said she uses the knowledge and skills gained from her years of health experience and the clinical work she has undertaken and AHP training in her job every day.

Kim said she is having so much fun on her placement and the enormous satisfaction gained from working with mob makes her ‘heart skip’. Kim’s husband and former Australian Soldier, Darren Moffitt – who is also Aboriginal, (who she supported throughout his 27 years in the Army) said “it is now Kim’s time to shine”, with full support of the whole family and mob back home.

Kim wants to encourage young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and Men to work in health, where they can do great stuff. With good mentors along the way, Kim said, her experience has been so much fun. Kim said it is so rewarding working with mob knowing you are making an enormous difference in their health and wellbeing.

Kim Moffitt

Kim Moffitt, AHW, Nurse Immuniser, NT.

Health worker shares COVID-19 experience

Scared for her life and feeling isolated away from her ‘mob’, Bowen local Charmaine Pangi spent eight days in the COVID ward of Mackay Base Hospital where she was often struggling to breathe and suffering immense kidney pains. The Indigenous Health Care Worker, who looks after Bowen and Collinsville residents, was diagnosed with COVID on Friday 21st January.

On the days prior, she had been feeling hot but strangely her temperature had remained normal, then on day three she got a tickle in the back of her throat. She went to the hospital the next day because she was finding it hard to breathe and received some medicine which eased her symptoms considerably. That afternoon, however, they came back ten-fold, and she was admitted to hospital. By the following afternoon she was transported to Mackay Base Hospital for specialist monitoring.

“Trying to get air . . . it was scary – even now I struggle sometimes,” she said. Alone in her room at the hospital, Ms Pangi began creating some short videos to document her journey and show others what it was like to endure COVID. “I thought I have to do something, I don’t care how it looks, I just need to tell people wear that mask properly. Don’t wear it under your nose – cover your mouth and nose,” she said.

To view the Mackay and Whitsunday Life article in full click here.

Charmaine Pangi in hospital with covid-19

Charmaine Pangi describing what COVID-19 feels like from hospital bed. Image source: Facebook.

Calls for transparency on WA COVID-19 response

The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) has refuted claims by the Department of Health that the Government’s WA COVID Care at Home program is accessible to clients in remote locations. AHCWA Chair Vicki O’Donnell OAM said while the sector had been involved in some of the clinical protocol details of the State Government’s opt-in telehealth program, which was launched this January to provide at-home care to patients diagnosed with COVID-19; Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) were never afforded the opportunity to be part of the process as contracted providers of services to fill the inevitable gaps.

“The ACCHS sector has on multiple occasions raised concerns about aspects of the proposed model, and while some have been addressed, a number of serious issues remain,” Ms O’Donnell said. “The State Government’s WA COVID Care at Home program does not address concerns raised by the AHCWA around accessibility barriers for Aboriginal people. While the program will likely be effective for much of the general population; an opt-in phone service delivered by an Eastern States-based third party unfamiliar with Western Australian Aboriginal communities will not meet the needs of many Aboriginal people,” she said.

“The Council is concerned this will result in a service gap and additional, unresourced work by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services sector will be needed to fill it, which, without additional funding from the State Government, will in turn divert resources from other services.” Ms O’Donnell said the program neglected a significant proportion of Western Australians not just in remote and regional locations, but in metropolitan areas as well.

To view AHCWA’s media release in full click here.

KAMS CEO Vicki O'Donnell

KAMS CEO Vicki O’Donnell.

Top 3 COVID vax questions

Dr Lucas de Toca, COVID-19 Primary Care Response First Assistant Secretary, has answered the current Top 3 questions (below) being asked on social accounts in a short video.

  1. What is classified as fully vaccinated in Australia and why has this changed?
  2. Why are some people in the same household getting sick with COVID-19 while others don’t show any symptoms?
  3. What is classified as an adverse COVID-19 vaccine reaction?

Reducing mob’s nutritional poverty

Recognising that poor nutrition was a key reason for health disadvantages in Aboriginal communities, Caroline De Mori founded Edge of Nowhere Thriving Community Program (EON) which partners with Indigenous communities and schools to create access to fresh and affordable fruit and vegetables through edible gardens and other initiatives.

The former Perth journalist and public relations supremo told Gareth Parker on 6PR Breakfast’s ‘West Aussie Great’ segment that she became passionate about providing nutrition education and training opportunities for Aboriginal communities to create long-term, healthy lifestyle change after meeting legendary WA Indigenous politician Ernie Bridge. “I saw first hand for the first time what was going on…  it’s just the most shameful thing to be in such a successful, powerful, rich state and yet there’s children with health statistics and infection and disease loads that are just outrageous, worse than the poorest developing nation on the planet,” she told Parker.

“It’s the nutritional poverty that leads to for example some 70% of Aboriginal kids starting school with hearing loss. We offer this as opportunity [for communities] to grow their own food, harvest their own food, cook their own food, eat their own food and get the health benefits of getting off [bad nutrition].”

You can listen to the full interview with Caroline De Mori here.

young Aboriginal girl chopping shallots on red cutting board

Image source: EON Foundation.

Remote PHC Manuals February update

Review and updating of the Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) continues. The most recent RPHCM update advises: 99% of protocols (excluding administration protocols) are in the updating stage with progress towards finalisation of protocols for secondary review which is due to go out at the start of March 2022. Project activities are progressing well, considerations for adaptions for working with Editorial Committee champions and undertaking secondary review are in place given recent increase in DOVID numbers within the NT.

Coming up sales of the remaining current editions of manuals will cease in April 2022. If you would like to order a printed copy before then, please download an order form here. 33% of protocols are finalised and awaiting formatting prior to secondary review.

To view the RPHCM February 2022 update click here.

First Nations youth and the justice system

Professor Pat Dugeon (from the Bardi people of the Kimberley in WA and the first Aboriginal psychologist to graduate in Australia) and her team at the University of WA are leading the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing (TIMHWB) project. The TIMHWB team have produced a fact sheet First Nations Youth and the Justice System, which is an executive summary of the 2021 article First Nations peoples and the law by Professor Helen Milroy (a consultant psychiatrist with the WA Department of Health and the first Indigenous Australian to become a medical doctor) and colleagues.

The fact sheet, which organises information under three key headings: (1) historical and contemporary context (2) the Australian context, and (3) ways forward, seeks to summarise how the current situation has come about and what the way forward could look like. Some key points include:

  • Young people ending up in the criminal justice system represents a failure of other systems to properly identify and provide support and effective interventions across development.
  • Imprisoning traumatised, developmentally compromised, and disadvantaged young people adds to the re-traumatisation and complexity of supporting rehabilitation and recovery.
  • Overall, the article argues that offending behaviours lie at the end of a continuum of risk. This continuum includes exposure to intergenerational and current trauma within the historical context of genocide, and the ongoing issues of generational poverty, social disadvantage, and discrimination.
  • Ideally, the way forward would include prevention, early intervention and comprehensive clinical and community intervention should a child or young person encounter the youth justice system.

To download a copy of the fact sheet click here.

banner text 'fact sheet: First Nations youth and the justice system' transforming Indigenous mental health and wellbeing' & small square of brown white blue black Aboriginal dot paining

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.

Teal Ribbon Day

Teal Ribbon Day will be held on Wednesday 23 February 2022 – the last Wednesday in February. It’s a day to support Australians affected by ovarian cancer, honour those we have lost and raise awareness of this deadly disease to change the story for future generations. Ovarian cancer is a disease where some of the cells in one or both ovaries start to grow abnormally and develop into cancer. Learn the signs and symptoms, stages of ovarian cancer, risk reduction and prevention.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.4 times as likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer as non-Indigenous Australians, str 0.9 times as likely to die and have only a 45% change of surviving for five years. You can access the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report containing these figures about ovarian cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here.

Ovarian Cancer Australia provides care and support for those affected by ovarian cancer and strives to make ovarian cancer a national priority. They advocate for increased sector funding to enable delivery of the key priority areas outlined in the National Action Plan. For more information about Teal Ribbon Day click here.

tile text 'ovarian cancer Australia' logo & blue teal ribbon