NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Suicide prevention video launched

The image in the feature tile is from The Guardian article Numbers tell devastating story in latest Aboriginal youth suicide inquest, published on 7 February 2019. Photo Grant Faint, Getty Images.

Suicide prevention video launched

A suicide prevention video has been launched at the Indigenous Being Wellbeing Conference. Over 500 delegates last week attended the Australian and NZ Mental Health Association (ANZMH) Indigenous Wellbeing Conference (IWC22) on Kaurna country (Adelaide).

A positive and much anticipated change is occurring in the political landscape of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing health space with Aboriginal controlled organisation Healing Works Australia (HWA)and Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) being the major platinum sponsors of the conference. HWA was established in 2019 as an Indigenous led social enterprise delivering social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention training.

Kaela Bayliss a young Kamilaroi woman attending her first conference and supported by Dr Joe Tighe both from HWA gave the keynote address “Nothing About Us Without Us – Delivery of Culturally-Safe Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Evidence-Based Suicide Prevention Training“ and launched their new promotional video.

HWA aim to empower communities through sustainable outcomes. This is achieved by working with communities to determine their own unique needs so that they can more effectively respond competently to suicide. Suicide prevention starts with creating strong, competent communities working together to achieve resilience.

For more information about Healing Works Australia visit their website here.

APY Lands mental health model causes dismay

Vulnerable children living in some of Australia’s most remote communities are set to be left without a permanent, in-community mental health service, despite objections from elders, experts and one of the SA  government’s own departments. The ABC has seen a draft of the new model of care for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands, which provides psychiatric and wellbeing support to children aged 18 and under.

It proposes that staff from Adelaide fly in to two communities on a fortnightly basis, with another psychiatrist to make a minimum of two trips per year. Telehealth appointments are outlined as a way to provide ongoing support. Previously, two Western-trained staff lived and worked on the APY Lands for more than a decade but were removed without explanation more than a year ago. With no staff on the APY Lands, SA Health implemented what, it said, was a temporary telehealth and fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) service last year.

At the same time, SA’s chief psychiatrist, Dr John Brayley, reviewed the program. He found a FIFO model would see children “slipping through the cracks” and recommended several changes, including doubling the workforce and he insisted on-country staff remain part of the program. The new model of care document does not mention Dr Brayley’s report and does not follow several of his recommendations, including returning community-based staff to the APY Lands.

To view the ABC News article First Nations elders dismayed about FIFO mental health model planned for South Australia’s APY Lands in full click here.

Pukatja elder Jamie Nyaningu says he and his community have been left in the dark over changes to a key mental health service for children. Photo: Patrick Martin, ABC News.

Impact of obesity on life expectancy

A Queensland child born over the next 10 years could lose five years in life expectancy if the state’s current rate of obesity is not reduced, new modelling has found. A report, commissioned by state government agency Health and Wellbeing Queensland, shows the life expectancy of a child born in the decade from 2023 could decrease by between six months and 4.1 years in the general population.

For First Nations children born in Queensland, the shortened life expectancy could decrease by up to 5.1 years. Lead researcher Rhema Vaithianathan said the projections were based on a scenario where nothing was done to prevent the current rising obesity rates among children. “It is quite concerning, we might be facing the first generation of Queenslanders whose life expectancy is shorter than their parents,” she said. “That kind of life expectancy reverses almost two decades of progress of life expectancy.” She said the trajectory changed according to a range of factors including socio-economic status and geographical location.

To view the ABC News Health article Impact of obesity on life expectancy in Queensland children shown in new modelling click here.

Photo: shutterstock.com. Image source: The Conversation.

Funding to rebuild Mutitjulu Health Clinic

A new health clinic will be built in the remote community of Mutitjulu, on the lands of the Anangu people, as part of the Albanese Labor Government’s package of measures to improve First Nations health infrastructure.  The $8 million project will replace the Mutitjulu Health Service Clinic, which was built in the early 1990s. An entirely new facility will be built with modern healthcare and safety standards.

Proposed features include additional treatment rooms, an outdoor waiting area and a larger room to store critical medicines and pharmaceutical products, as well a garage for vehicles. The new clinic will be constructed on the site of the existing clinic and includes the cost of establishing a temporary facility during the construction phase.

The replacement of the Mutitjulu clinic is part of a wider investment of $164.3 million for vital health infrastructure projects that will provide modern, high-quality health clinics in areas of large and growing First Nations populations.

To view Senator McCarthy’s media release Funding to rebuild the Mutitjulu Health Clinic in full click here.

Mutitjulu Health Service. Image source: Central Australian Aboriginal Congress website.

Recommendations to address food security concerns

Local governments would be supported through law reform and specific funding to be more active in addressing growing concerns about food insecurity under recommendations from a NSW inquiry. The inquiry by the NSW Legislative Assembly Committee on Environment and Planning also makes many recommendations to improve food security for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including calling for Aboriginal representation on Government’s emergency responses to food security crises.

The inquiry’s report, released this week, calls for the NSW Government to consult with Aboriginal peoples and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to fund and support communities in food production and community traditional foods gardens. The Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW (AHMRC) told the inquiry that community gardens have many benefits, and credited their success to community ownership and leadership, which promotes self-determination and food sovereignty.

The AHMRC highlighted that local food programs established by ACCOs are limited by short funding cycles and this is a consistent barrier for these programs. -The inquiry recommended the NSW Government consult with ACCOs and Indigenous Corporations to develop a strategy that sets out priorities and a framework to grow the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned traditional foods industry.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Inquiry makes wide-ranging recommendations to address food security and related concerns in full click here.

Gina Lyons, Irrunytju WA. Photo: Suzanne Bryce, NPY Women’s Council. Image source: The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NICU Awareness Month

November NICU Awareness Month is a time to highlight the importance of Neonatal Intensive Care Units and their amazing staff around Australia. Offering specialised care and making a difference to the more than 48,000 babies born premature or sick each year. 132 babies are born each day requiring specialised care.

Preterm birth remains the leading cause of death in children up to 5 years of age. The National average rate of preterm birth in Australia has remained relatively constant over the last 10 years (between 8.1 and 8.7%). Many of these babies lose their fight for life. For many Aboriginal babies, the news gets worse. In the NT, the preterm birth rate for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies is almost double that of the non-Aboriginal population at over 14%.

The biggest discrepancy is in the extremely preterm gestational age. Aboriginal women in the NT are 4 times more likely to lose a baby between 20 and 23 weeks gestational age. That is before the baby even gets a chance to survive. This equates to too many mothers walking out of hospital without their babies in their arms.

For more information about November NICU Awareness Month visit the Miracle Babies Foundation website here and for further information about preterm birth in Aboriginal populations visit the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance website here.

Logo from Miracle Babies Foundation website and image from Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance’s preterm birth in Aboriginal populations webpage.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Essential ingredients for Wellbeing Budget

The image in the feature tile is from ABC Radio National webpage Talkback: Australia’s first ‘wellbeing’ budget, Wednesday 26 October 2022. Image: marrio31, Getty Images.

Essential ingredients for Wellbeing Budget

As the world faces escalating climate disruption, environmental degradation and geopolitical instability as well as growing inequality and human rights abuses, the development of wellbeing indicators for the Federal Budget presents both opportunities and challenges.  Indigenous health, public health and environmental health experts and community groups will have an opportunity to contribute to the development of a landmark new set of wellbeing indicators that are being prepared for the 2023 Budget.

While Australian governments publish many indicators that support decision-making, including Closing the Gap and the State of the Environment Report, “no national framework or central set of indicators” to track overall progress on wellbeing currently exists. One of the central challenge of progress reporting is bringing attention to the broader factors that underpin community wellbeing and longer-term economic prosperity, in a focused way. Other countries that have frameworks to measure non-economic progress and quality of life include Scotland, Wales, Canada, Germany and Aotearoa/NZ.

The involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations, people with disabilities, and people with lived experience of mental illness will be important if future wellbeing budgets are to genuinely address inequities within our society. Speaking at the Indigenous Wellness Conference last week, Bardi woman Professor Pag Dugeon from the School of Indigenous Studies, University of WA, said “The things we bring to the table are for us in the first instance but they will also benefit non-Indigenous people. We can share the social and emotional wellbeing approach to wellness.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article To make a proper Wellbeing Budget, what are the essential ingredients? in full click here.

SWAMS funded for major facility upgrade

The South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) has received a big boost in the federal budget, with funding allocated for a major facility upgrade. $18.3 million was set aside on Tuesday night’s budget announcement, honouring an election promise from the Labor government made in March. At the time, Federal Labor Senator Sue Lines said SWAMS first approached her office five years ago in the hopes of receiving support. “They’ve been spending $600,000 a year on rent, which is money that should be going into providing services, so this will allow them to do what they need to,” Ms Lines said.

The funding will go a long way towards building a brand new heath hub for SWAMS in Carey Park on land donated to the project by the City of Bunbury. SWAMS CEO Lesley Nelson said the hub would be a huge step forward for Noongar people.,”The Heath Hub will have an enormous positive impact on the heath and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the south west.”

To view the Busselton-Dunsborough Mail article South West Aboriginal Medical Service gets federal funds for new heath hub in full click here.

SWAMS Chairman Ernie Hill, WA Labor candidate for Forrest Bronwen English, Senator Sue Lines, and SWAMS CEO Leslie Nelson with 3-month-old Gregory Abbott. Image source: Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.

Focus on better programs, services, self-determination

Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy has issued a media release stating the Albanese Labor Government is delivering on its election commitments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians by improving programs and services and investing in self-determination, with this week’s Budget including funding:

  •  to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart, with funding to:
    • the Australian Electoral Commission to prepare for the referendum
    • commence work on establishing a Makarrata Commission to oversee processes for agreement-making
  • for Indigenous health and education, including funding to:
    • train 500 First Nations health workers and practitioners
    • build modern, high-quality health clinics in areas of large and growing First Nations populations
    • build a Birthing on Country Centre of Excellence
    • allow NACCHO to combat RHD in high-risk communities
    • provide 30 four-chair dialysis units
    • improve the ability of Redfern AMS and Tharawal AC AMS to care for patients with chronic diseases
    • provide dialysis treatment buses for remote NSW
    • employ First Nations educators in 60 primary schools to teach First Nations languages and provide greater cultural understanding
    • increase access to early childhood education and care for Indigenous families
    • help First Nations controlled and Community Sector Organisation maintain quality services in light of rising costs
  • for housing and essential services on NT homelands
  • for First Nations Justice, with funding:
    • for 30 community-led justice reinvestment initiatives
    • for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services
    • to build capacity of the peak body National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS)
    • to support the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum
    • to deliver crime prevention and community safety programs in Central Australia
    • to extend the Indigenous Protected Areas program
  • for microgrid technology across First Nations communities to increase access to cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy
  • to establish an Ambassador for First Nations Peoples
  • for a trial program to replace the Community Development Program with real jobs, real wages and proper conditions

To read Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy’s media release Delivering a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  Australians in full click here.

Senator Malarndirri McCathy. Photo: Matt Roberts, ABC News.

Speeding access to innovative medicines

Yesterday Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler officially announced the appointment of the new independent Chair of the Health Technology Assessment (NTA) Review Committee, as well as extending the review by six months until December 2023. Chair of Medicines Australia, Dr Anna Lavell, said the new Chair Adjunct Professor Picone AO will lead major reforms that will speed up access to innovative medicines for all Australians. Dr Lavell said “Reform of Australia’s HTA system is well overdue, “We must reduce the time it takes for Australian patients to access innovative medicines, treatments and health technologies. Our health system must be modernised with a clear focus on patient needs and listening to patient perspectives.”

NACCHO Deputy CEO, Dr Dawn Casey PSM is one of the seven members on the HTA Review Reference Committee. The Committee will undertake the first major review and reform of the HTA system in 30 years. “It is a pivotal opporunity to improve this crucial process in accessing innovative medicines” Dr Vavell said.

To view the Healthy Industry Hub article Health Minister formally announces HTA Review independent chair after earlier reveal in full click here.

Image source: Accestra Access Extra.

COVID-19 vax hesitancy study

A study aimed at addressing lower vaccination rates among First Nations expectant mothers and babies will work with Aboriginal medical services around WA following a funding boost. Curtin School of Allied Health senior research fellow, Noongar woman and project lead Anne-Marie Eade said although the current data for mums and bubs is limited a need for greater access to vaccination is needed to ensure their safety due to greater vulnerability. “What we do know is that Aboriginal people are less likely to have been vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to the general population, with the differences most bleak in WA,” Ms Eade said.

The research comes after an $800,000 boost from the Australian government’s Medical Research Future Fund tackling health disparities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians. “Our study will evaluate the successes, barriers and opportunities of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program to reach Aboriginal women and their unborn children – and potentially target children under five in the event of an early childhood COVID-19 vaccine
rollout,” Ms Eade said.

Ms Eade attributes a mistrust of health systems, misinformation, and a lack of vaccine literacy as factors creating barriers for Indigenous mothers, expectant mothers and women of child-bearing age. The result comes with an increased risk of requiring intensive care, preterm birth and prenatal death. “A pressing concern for pregnant women is about the potential impact of vaccination on their babies. Many prefer to be vaccinated after birth,” Ms Eade said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Study aimed at increasing COVID-vaccination for vulnerable young mums and bubs backed by government funding in full click here.

Photo: Unsplash. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Calls for Netflix ads to prioritise health

More than 50 leading Australian and international health and community organisations have signed an open letter to Netflix, urging the streaming giant to exclude alcohol advertising from its new ad-supported subscription tier. As the world’s biggest streaming platform, Netflix has the chance to set the standard for establishing an ad model that prioritises people’s health and wellbeing, said Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) CEO Caterina Giorgi.

“Netflix has made a really important decision to exclude gambling advertising and they should do the same with alcohol advertising,” Ms Giorgi, a signatory to the joint letter, said. “Alcoholic products cause harm to so many families and communities across the world, causing more than 200 diseases and injuries and more than 3 million deaths each year.” “We know that alcohol advertising contributes to risky drinking particularly among young people, this is why the World Health Organization recommends restricting marketing as a priority area. Netflix can help to prevent harm by excluding alcohol advertising from their platform.”

The joint letter calls attention to research which shows that when young people are exposed to alcohol marketing, they are more likely to start drinking alcohol at a younger age and to drink alcohol at riskier levels. Other signatories to the letter are: NOFASD Australia; Sydney University’s Centre for Research Excellence in Indigenous Health and Alcohol, Addiction Medicine; World Health Organization Less Alcohol Unit; and the World Cancer Research Fund.

To read The National Tribune article Community organisations call on Netflix to set standard with ad model that prioritises health and wellbeing in full click here.

Image source: Candorium.

‘Embassy’ upholds legacy of First Nations protest

Embassy, an installation from the artist Richard Bell, Embassy, has a powerful presence in the forecourt of the Art Gallery of SA (AGSA) last week. A painted sign on the front of the canvas tent read ‘Aboriginal Embassy’ – a nod to the legacy of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, a protest camp set up on the lawns of Parliament House on unceded Ngunnawal Country (Canberra) 50 years ago.

Also part of the Adelaide Film Festival, the Embassy tent brought together artists and community organisers for public talks, and featured film screenings between the conversations. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is recognised as “one of the most significant, if not the most significant moment in Aboriginal protest history. It put into action a lot of the philosophies around self-determination and created so much from it, including the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector.

To read the CityMag article ‘Embassy’ upholds legacy of First Nations sovereignty and protest in full click here.

L—R: Nici Cumpston, Richard Bell and Dominic Guerrera. Image source: CityMag.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Annual Report 2021–2022

NACCHO Annual Report 2021–2022

The NACCHO Annual Report 2021–2022 s now available to view.

The cover illustration symbolises NACCHO as the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health working together with its members and affiliates towards the delivery of comprehensive and culturally competent primary health care.

It showcases the work and achievements of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector and includes the audited financial statements for 2021–2022 and can be accessed here.

NACCHO and BHP partner to improve RHD outcomes

NACCHO and BHP have announced a partnership aimed at eliminating Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) and Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. ARF and RHD are preventable diseases disproportionately affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in regional and remote areas. Between 2016 and 2020, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples accounted for 92% of all ARF diagnoses in Australia.

As part of the agreement, BHP will provide $9.7m over three years, helping to fund critical health care initiatives delivered by ACCHOs across Australia. The funding complements the $18m already committed by the Australian Government. An additional $13.5m is also anticipated following the Labour Party’s election commitment to combat RHD in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This includes $1.5m that is prioritised for the investment in portable echo-cardiogram machines, training and support for primary health care workers, including Aboriginal Health Workers and Practitioners.

NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner, said: “NACCHO’s partnership with BHP and the Australian Government is the first-ever national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sector-led initiative to combat RHD in our communities. This partnership recognises that we are best placed to design and implement health services, including prevention, screening, early diagnosis, treatment and supportive care, for our own communities. This additional investment will expand the support provided by ACCHOs to deliver evidence-based ARF and RHD activities in their communities.”

BHP’s Chief Legal, Governance and External Affairs Officer Caroline Cox said: “BHP is proud to continue its support of NACCHO, building on partnerships established with the Aboriginal community-led health sector over many years. It is important that we back Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and put Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands, as NACCHO’s vision sets out. We are determined to play our part in the collective action required to address the underlying causes of these health issues, such as inequality, inadequate housing and long-standing health inequities.”

BHP’s investment follows $5.9m of donations to ACCHOs throughout the pandemic for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led COVID responses across the country.

You can view the joint NACCHO and BHP media release NACCHO and BHP partner to improve ARF and RHD outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in full on the NACCHO website here.

Image source: BHP.

Killings, disappearances a crisis in plain sight

Last night ABC Four Corners aired a story “How Many More?” – a special investigation into Australia’s murdered and missing Indigenous women. In Australia Aboriginal women are among the most victimised groups in the world, murdered up to 12 times the national average. In some regions, their deaths make up some of the highest homicide rates in the world. The killings and disappearances of Indigenous women across Australia were described in the program a crisis hidden in plain sight.

The program shows a snapshot of what this tragedy looks like. Four Corners revealed that at least 315 First Nations women have either gone missing or been murdered or killed in suspicious circumstances since 2000. But this is an incomplete picture. We will likely never know the true scale of how many First Nations women have been lost over the decades. This is because there is no agency in Australia keeping count, and there is no standard way of collecting this important data in each state and territory.

Canada calls it a genocide. The United States considers it an epidemic. But here in Australia, we’re only just waking up to the scale of the crisis.

To read the ABC News article The killings and disappearances of Indigenous women across Australia is a crisis hidden in plain sight click here and view the Four Corners episode here.

Prevalence of hearing loss research

The Australian Government has announced close to $7.5m funding to support research that will help prevent hearing loss and improve the health and wellbeing of those who live with hearing impairment. Nine projects have been funded, including a number of projects focused on improving access to hearing health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Researchers at Flinders University will co-design culturally appropriate methods to overcome difficulties experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children accessing hearing healthcare. At Curtin University, researchers will provide the first estimates of the number of Aboriginal children who have ear infections and hearing loss from 0 to 5 years of age and will demonstrate the feasibility of screening for ear infections and hearing loss from 2 months of age.

The grants are funded for three years through the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Targeted Call for Research into Hearing Health 2021: Evidence-based support services.

To read Minister Butler’s media release $7.5m for hearing health in full click here.

Image source: Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) Ear and Hearing Health webpage or CAAC website.

Mental health stigma a barrier for veterans

An Indigenous Navy veteran says the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has failed to address stigma around mental health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans. Professor Brad Murphy OAM, who now runs a veteran-focused GP clinic after serving in the Navy as a leading senior medic, has given evidence before the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

He told the commission the stigma attached to seeking help for mental health issues remained a “huge impediment” to caring for Indigenous veterans. “We’ve worked so terribly hard over the years to remove stigma associated with mental health,” Professor Murphy said. “No matter how much we’ve tried, we have failed in this regard. Having [Indigenous veterans] actually reach out, or having family or community that are strong enough and well resourced to actually reach out on their behalf is a significant challenge.”

Professor Murphy told the commission more support was needed for members transitioning out of service and back into civilian life. He said many members leaving the ADF were left disconnected from their sense of family and belonging. “Indigenous culture is very much about family and my own experience and certainly my understanding of military culture is of family,” Professor Murphy said.

To read the ABC News article Indigenous veteran Professor Brad Murphy tells Defence Suicide Royal Commission mental health stigma remains a barrier in full click here.

Photo: Siobhan Heanue, ABC News.

No progress in tackling obesity

Calls for a tax on sugary drinks and warning labels on junk food have increased after a new report showed Australia has made no progress in the fight to tackle obesity. Since 2017, the Food Policy Index has been tracking progress on federal and state government policies to reduce obesity rates in Australia. “Obesity is really a public health crisis in Australia,” said Gary Sacks, an Associate Professor at Victoria’s Deakin University, and a co-author of the latest update on the Food Policy Index. “We’ve got two thirds of adults are overweight or obese, and a quarter of kids are overweight or obese.

Inequities in socioeconomic status have meant certain populations are even more impacted by the prevalence of obesity. The groups include those at higher risk of chronic disease, such as Indigenous Australians and newly arrived migrants. “These communities are at extreme risk. In Central Australia, we’ve got 60% of the Aboriginal population living with Type 2 diabetes. Access to care, such as dialysis, is really complicated, you have to come off Country, water is a real issue,” Ms Martin said. “The supply of fresh food and sometimes flying food in when the wet comes is really, really challenging.”

The prevalence of being overweight or obese is higher in Indigenous Australians compared to the general population. Of First Nations people aged between 2 and 17, the prevalence is 38% versus 24% for non-Indigenous youths, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

To read the SBS News article ‘A public health crisis’: This is how many Australians eat a healthy diet in full click here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

Extending scope of practice concerns

Louise Stone, a GP with clinical, research, teaching and policy expertise in mental health and Associate Professor in the Social Foundations of Medicine group, Australian National University (ANU) Medical School has written an article for AMA InSight about the push to enable health care workers to work “top of scope”.

Professor Stone says that while the scope of practice is traditionally defined by professional standards, codes of ethics and codes of professional conduct, and includes skills that an individual practitioner is “educated, authorised, competent and confident to perform” it has often implied extending practice beyond the traditional limits of a particular role.

According to Professor Stone, there seems to be an assumption that this is a good thing for health care workers, will be cheaper for the health service, and any opposition to it is merely a “turf war” argument designed to protect existing siloes. Professor Stone however doesn’t think any of us have the right to extend our scope of practice without accepting the responsibility of submitting to appropriate oversight to keep the public safe.

To view the InSight+ article “Top of scope”: no rights without responsibilities in full click here.

Associate Professor Louise Stone. Image source: InSight+.

Australia’s Biggest Quiz to end hep C 

Australia’s Biggest Quiz is coming up TOMORROW Wednesday 26 October 2022.

Hepatitis Australia is asking everyone to register and participate in Australia’s Biggest Quiz which is the national community activation of the Ending Hepatitis C Campaign. Register here and join this history-making world record breaking trivia event to have some fun while raising awareness about hepatitis C and its cure!

In the five years since hepatitis C cures became available to everyone, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with hepatitis C has declined by 17%. But more work is needed to close the gap! Australia’s Biggest Quiz aims to raise awareness that hepatitis C has a simple cure. You can get tested at your local Aboriginal Medical Service or GP. Australia’s Biggest Quiz will take place at 16 venues in all states and territories, alongside a national virtual audience, to try break a Guinness World Record, while raising awareness of hepatitis C, and its cure.

You can help promote Australia’s Biggest Quiz using the Stakeholder General Communications Kit, available here. The kit contains: tiles for social media, guidance on how to use the digital communications material, Australia’s Biggest Quiz logo, posters, social media tiles and zoom backgrounds!

This campaign is brought to you by Hepatitis Australia who is working in partnership with 80+ community groups, supported by the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Member’s Conference 2022 theme

NACCHO Member’s Conference 2022 theme

We’re just 5 days away from our long awaited NACCHO Members’ Conference, NACCHO Youth Conference, EGM and AGM!

Today we are delighted to announce the theme for this year’s conference – Honour the Past, Prepare for the Future.

NACCHO is proud to have a membership of 144 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations with over 50 years of cultural expertise, knowledge and capability in the delivery of comprehensive primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Our sector has led the way in responding to the many challenges faced over the last three years and have demonstrated that we are an integral part of the health architecture in Australia. The Conference is an opportunity for us to come together to celebrate the resilience and success of our sector. It is a success worth celebrating and honouring as we prepare for the future.

We look forward to seeing you all soon!

NACCHO also wishes to acknowledge the generous support from our wonderful sponsors who helped make #NACCHOConference22 happen!

We can’t wait to network with you all next week at the NACCHO Youth and NACCHO Members’ Conferences on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country (Canberra).

Mob experience higher rates of obesity

Population groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people with disability, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse
communities (CALD) experience health inequity and resulting disparities in disease rates. These include higher rates of obesity and associated chronic diseases. A paper in the Sax Institute journal, Public Health Research & Practice brings together three perspectives by researchers in the fields of Indigenous health, disability and CALD health to examine how overweight and obesity impact these populations in Australia and to put forward ways of addressing the problem.

The authors urge investment in research co-designed with people from each of these communities and with lived experience of obesity to build valuable knowledge about what preventive actions and interventions will work to reduce obesity rates. They call for evidence-based, tailored obesity prevention programs to address these historical disparities and improve health outcomes among some of Australia’s disadvantaged populations.

One of the three perspectives examined in the paper is the inequities in the treatment of obesity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The author, Ray Kelly from the University of Melbourne finds:

  • Obesity is increasing in Indigenous people and is now up to 45% of that population
  • There is very little Indigenous input into Australian Dietary Guidelines
  • Adopting traditional dietary lifestyle could help Indigenous people lose weight
  • Far more research involving Indigenous people needs to be done in this area.

To view the Public Health Research & Practice (a journal of the Sax Institute) article Inequities in obesity: Indigenous, culturally and linguistically diverse, and disability perspectives in full click here.

Image source: NAAFA website.

Information vacuum around miscarriage

Miscarriage Australia is a first of its kind website that uses medically proven facts to help patients, and it’s been far too long in the making. The information vacuum around miscarriage, combined with the desperation of the grief-stricken, is the perfect breeding ground for misinformation and fertile soil for superstition. And that is why the development and launch of a new website, the first of its kind in Australia dedicated solely to evidence-based, medically-proven information and research, will be an absolute asset for patients in this space. It has been far too long in coming.

The team behind the Miscarriage Australia website comprises academics and clinicians. The site includes information for women, men, LGBTIQ+, friends or family of those affected. You’ll find details on what comprises a miscarriage, why someone miscarries, types of miscarriage and so on. There are referrals to support services. And crucially, there is information and support for medical practitioners working in this space or any other who are likely to come into contact with pregnancy loss patients. The information is fact-checked and the site is managed by the Miscarriage Australia research team, co-led by Bilardi and Temple-Smith, and an expert advisory committee.

You can access the new Miscarriage Australia website here.

To view The Guardian article After my miscarriage, it was hard to find reliable online support for an issue shrouded in silence – that’s about to change in full click here.

Image source: Miscarriage Australia website.

Pathology drones for remote Qld patients

Drones could be used to fly patient pathology samples from Moreton Bay island communities to Brisbane testing labs as early as next year. Yesterday Brisbane’s Mater Hospital announced a partnership program with drone company Swoop Aero that will see a fleet of drones used to shuttle patient pathology samples from areas across Moreton Bay to the hospital’s testing labs at Springfield in Ipswich.

Mater Pathology general manager Deb Hornsby said the initiative was an “Australian first” and would slash waiting times for test results, particularly blood samples and COVID-19 swabs. “It is a game-changer, it will take pathology services to a different level – we’re the first pathology service in Australia to offer this,” Ms Hornsby said. “Right now, we are reliant on ferry terminals and courier pick ups to get samples back to Mater for testing from Stradbroke Island and the other islands. Depending on ferry services, it can take up to six hours. Pathology is a time-sensitive service … turnaround times are really critical to get those results back to GPs and specialists.” She said a 45-minute drive would now become a 15-minute flight.

To read the ABC News article Drones set to transport Mater Hospital pathology samples across south-east Queensland in ‘Australian first’ in full click here.

Swoop Aero pathology drone. Image source: DroneDJ.

Rural GP shortage sees patients turned away

After the departure of a local doctor, a Quirindi aged care will have to turn residents away, threatening the centre’s viability. In a bid to entice a new doctor to urgently fill a vacancy, a NSW town is offering three months free rent, with an ongoing rent cap, in a bid to save its community-run aged acre home, Eloura. The doctor who has left treated a quarter of its aged care residents, and the current medical practices are not taking new patients due to high demand. Without a replacement, the community-built aged care centre will have to turn away new residents, unless they already have access to a GP.

Walhallow Aboriginal Health Corporation, based in Quirindi, has three GPs and two registrars, who are split between the three towns of Coledale, Caroona, and Quirindi. The practice manager, Eileen Goode, said that they did not just need another doctor, they needed “probably another four”. Walhallow has been seeing whoever they can, whenever they can, but still could not keep up with demand. We have a lot of phone calls from non-registered patients saying ‘Can we come and see you? We can’t get into a doctor, our doctor’s not here any more – can you help us?’” Goode said.

“Unfortunately, a lot of those people we’ve actually had to turn away because we’re servicing around 5,000. One of the worst feelings in the world,” Goode says, “is turning someone away, sending them to a hospital who also doesn’t have a doctor.” Goode’s experience means she understands the leap it takes to move to the bush, and that dealing with a backlog of patients in a rural practice meant that GPs could quickly burn out.

To view The Guardian article NSW town offering free rent to attract a GP so aged care home can avoid BYO doctor policy in full click here.

View of Quirindi, NSW. Image source: Aussie Towns website.

WA E-cigarette ban proposal

The WA Cancer Council is leading a push to “revitalise tobacco control” in the state by proposing halving the number of retailers and banning the sale of e-cigarettes, among other measures. The organisation, which is proposing to halve smoking rates in the state by 2030, launched its plan at a two-day symposium of health workers and experts in Perth this week. WA Cancer Council president Ruth Shean said tobacco control in WA had benefited greatly from a strong commitment by the state government.

“However, there are more than 200,000 West Australians still smoking,” Dr Shean said. “Our goal is to halve smoking rates in WA by 2030, but it requires all tiers of government to work together to implement an evidence-based, comprehensive approach.” The WA organisation wants to ban the sale and advertising of e-cigarette devices and components and prohibit vaping in places where cigarette smoking is banned.

Samuel Stubbs, a tackling Indigenous smoking coordinator at the WA Aboriginal Health Council, supported the call to ban e-cigarettes. He said his organisation was seeing a troubling number of young people using the smoking devices. “It’s huge. It’s just taking off,” Mr Stubbs said. “That’s probably the biggest thing we’re facing at the moment, with a lot of questions being asked from community groups, schools — how we can come in and help educate the youth about the effects that e-cigarettes have.”

To view the ABC News article E-cigarette ban proposed as WA Cancer Council aims to halve smoking rates by 2030 in full click here.

WA Aboriginal Health Council’s Samuel Stubbs says vaping has taken off among his community. Photo: Alicia Bridges, ABC Radio Perth.

Sector Jobs

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

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

World Sight Day 2022

The aim of World Sight Day 2022 tomorrow Thursday 13 October 2022 is to focus the world’s attention on the importance of eye care.​ The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) has confirmed it will continue the World Sight Day 2021 theme of Love Your Eyes for this year. The theme stresses the need for awareness about our eye health and the need for taking care of our eyesight. For this purpose, we must get our eyes tested and encourage those we know to go for it, as well.

As per data from IAPB people worldwide live with low vision and blindness. Out of these, 39 million are completely blind while 246 others have moderate to severe visual impairment. Most of these people (approx 90%) reside in low-income countries. However, 80% of visual impairment is avoidable, given that they are readily treatable or preventable. However, there is much that needs to be done to provide eye care facilty to each and every person in need of it. Spreading awareness of the eye related problems including blindness and vision impairment can help a lot in making eye care accessible to all. The World Health Organisation has identified eye health as critical to achieving its Sustainable Development Goals.

To find out more about World Sight Day 2022 click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: This is not about money, profit or turf

The Pixabay image in the feature tile is from the ABC News article Pharmacist prescription trial proposed as possible solution to the GP shortage faces indefinite delays, 23 August 2022.

This is not about money, profit or turf

Dr Jillann Farmer, a Brisbane-based GP and former Medical Director of the United Nations has written an article for the Medical Journal of Australia’s InSight arguing that when something looks simple, it can deceptively create a sense that the work is simple. The ease with which health professionals exercise heuristic skills to rapidly synthesise patient demographic and social circumstances, comorbid conditions, pathology and epidemiology and arrive at a diagnosis and treatment choice make that expertise largely invisible and has likely contributed to an overall perception that most of what GPs do is simple and can be safely and appropriately done by alterative health professionals with significantly less training and experience. Some of the work GPs do absolutely can be done by others. But the health system needs those decisions to be informed by actual expert practitioners.

The North Queensland pharmacy trial, an election promise of the Palaszczuk government, followed on the urinary tract infection (UTI) treatment trial/pilot which allowed patients to present to a pharmacy and be dispensed antibiotics for a UTI. There have been significant concerns expressed about the diagnostic acumen of pharmacists in this space – prescribing based on symptoms alone. GPs do the same if we treat a UTI by telehealth, but for most, that is the exception, not the standard.

The UTI program seems to have emboldened the Queensland Government, and the North Queensland Pharmacy Trial was born. The proposal could cut doctors (not just GPs, but all doctors) out of decisions to diagnose and initiate prescription medicines of some pretty significant diseases. Hypertension and diabetes were on the original list where pharmacists would be able to diagnose and prescribe. The details of the proposals are not public domain, but within current funding frameworks, it seems almost impossible that pharmacists would be able to implement current guidelines for appropriate care to the same standard as doctors.

It is of particular concern that the trial was proposed for a region of Queensland where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are a significant proportion of the population. So we target an already disadvantaged population and substitute care that cuts them off from recommended diagnostic and management capabilities. It is no wonder that NACCHO expressed opposition to the trial.

To view the InSight+ article Give GPs problems to solve, not election promises in full click here.

Image source: RACGP newsGP webiste.

What a male midwife learnt in Arnhem Land

It was a dry Thursday afternoon in Arnhem Land, NT, when young mum Tanisha’s [name changed for privacy] waters broke at just 23 weeks of gestation. Approximately 417 kms from the nearest hospital, an aircraft and doctor chaperone were flown in to her remote Aboriginal community within a few hours of the call for medical evacuation. But Tanisha felt anything but relief when her medical retrieval arrived. The doctor disembarking the aircraft was a man, and in her Aboriginal culture it is taboo for men — including medical practitioners — to interact with women about ‘women’s business’.

In an interesting plot twist, however, Tanisha requested for her male midwife Christian Wright to come with her and be present for the birth. Aside from being one of just 448 men to be working in midwifery in Australia (1.6% of the total workforce) Christian is no ordinary practitioner. Recognising the sensitivities around men and women’s interactions in Aboriginal culture, Christian has always thought outside the box about how he can make his patients feel comfortable.

His trust building with Tanisha began early in the antenatal process, when he learnt the local language and used cultural linguistic cues to convey empathy and earn trust. “Speaking to people ‘in language’ is a great way to help them feel culturally safe. In some Aboriginal cultures though, there are other important linguistic considerations,” he said. “For example, when discussing taboo subjects, like women’s health, men should use alternative, almost euphemistic, variations to formal language, to minimise embarrassment.”

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article What I’ve learned as a male midwife in Arnhem Land in full click here.

Midwife Christian Wright. Image source: ABC Conversations Radio National Twitter.

Must be more than a day of checking in

In 2019 WA Coroner Ros Fogliani delivered the results of her inquest into the deaths of 13 children and young people in the Kimberley. The report is incredibly distressing to read and hollows you out with every page you turn. 13 Aboriginal children and young people who died as a result of hanging, with all bar one considered definite suicide (the other being an open finding). The Coroner explained in meticulous detail the cycle of violence, inter-generational trauma, complexities of distance and circumstances which saw the premature death of 13 people aged between 10 and 24 years of age.

What desolate desperation these children and young people must have faced, with hope so lost, that they thought the only solution was suicide. Case 12 was a young man, part of the Wungu community, born in 1994 and he died at age 20. Growing up his health was very poor, at 18 months of age he was presented to Katherine Hospital with anaemia, gastro and abscess so bad it required surgical intervention. At age six, he was referred to a child psychologist where he stated that he wanted to kill himself. Age six. In his mid-teens he witnessed multiple incidents of domestic violence between his parents.

Last Friday was R U OK? Day.If you asked an Indigenous person that question, the chances are that things are pretty tough. In truth we need to move beyond a single day of checking in (which is the real message of RUOK? Day) because if we’re ever going to start making positive change and turning the tide of suicide, it’ll only be a concerted and constant effort of talk the hard truths and face our struggles together.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Things can be tough for Indigenous people. RUOK Day needs to start a conversation for change in full click here.

Photo: Emily Jane Smith. Image source: ABC News.

Milestone contract to deliver GP training

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has signed a milestone contract with the federal Health Department to deliver GP training in Australia from 1 February 2023. It is the largest medical vocational training contract entered into in history by an Australian Government. The signing of the contract comes after the transition of GP training back to Australia’s specialist medical colleges, the RACGP and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), was announced in October 2017 by then federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price welcomed the signing of the contract, “Just as general practice is integral to our health system, GP training is fundamentally important to provide our next generation of GPs, who will care for our communities into the future. We are working to make this a seamless transition, with as little disruption to the delivery of GP training as possible. We are also working closely with numerous stakeholders to make this happen, including the Department of Health, peak bodies representing GP supervisors and registrars, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation or NACCHO, rural workforce agencies and clinical schools, primary health networks, state health organisations, local hospitals and community health services, the list goes on.”

To view the medianet article RACGP welcomes milestone contract to deliver GP training in Australia in full click here.

Dr Tarun Patel trained as a GP in the NT and worked at Wurli Wurlinjan, an Aboriginal Medical Service in Katherine. Image source: ACRRM website.

‘Empathy’ key in dementia care

Nearly 500, 000 Australians are living with dementia. Its most common form, Alzheimer’s disease, is set to cost $26.6 billion over the next 20 years. Dementia, a degenerative brain disease, affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks, interfering with a person’s normal social or working life. First nations’ voices have rarely been heard on dementia care and health services have not always been developed with Indigenous people in mind.

Speaking at the two-day International Dementia Conference 2022 in Sydney last week former Olympian and federal senator Nova Peris – the first Aboriginal woman elected to federal parliament – said dementia care for Indigenous Australians needed to draw on best practice overseas and Indigenous consultation. “Don’t try and reinvent the wheel, look to world’s best practice … acknowledging and respecting the work that’s already been done in the first nations space,” Ms Peris said. She urged the aged care sector to have empath front and centre when caring for Indigenous people with dementia. “Empathy having that understanding of that person’s life and the care that you provide for them, makes them happy,” the former federal politician said.

To view the HealthTimes article ‘Empathy’ key in Indigenous dementia care in full click here. You can also read a related AgedCare News article IDC2022: our wrap-up of a conference promising a Brave New World ahead in full here.

Bidyadanga residents with dementia are supported by workers at the community care centre. From left: Angelina Nanudie, Zarena Richards, Rosie Spencer and Faye Dean. Photo: Erin Parke, ABC Kimberley.

Strengh-based approach to kids’ health needed

First Nations children represent the future of the world’s oldest continuing culture. Of the 66,000 Victorians who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in the 2021 Census, one-third were aged under 15 years. First Nations children in Victoria are doing well in several health outcomes, a recent Aboriginal Data and Action on Prevention Together (ADAPT) report, available here, has found. This report provides valuable insight into nutrition, physical activity and wellbeing among First Nations children living in regional Victoria.

The survey found more than 300 First Nations primary school children were meeting guidelines for physical activity, healthy eating and screen time. Those who met these guidelines also had higher health-related quality of life. However, the study is rare. Before the report, there was no information available about nutrition and physical activity among primary school-aged First Nations children in Victoria.

To examine First Nations childrens’ health, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers from Deakin University partnered with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), the peak body representing Victoria’s Aboriginal community-controlled health sector. VACCHO’s nutrition team works to improve food security and nutrition outcomes among Aboriginal communities across Victoria.

To view The Conversation article Rather than focusing on the negative, we need a strength-based way to approach First Nations childrens’ health in full click here.

Aboriginal childrens’ health data needs to steer away from negative focuses by balancing the findings with respective community’s progresses. Photo: Dan Peled, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

Indigenous-led research positions

The University of Melbourne Indigenous Studies Unit, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences has two positions available:

Postdoctoral Research Fellow – Indigenous Studies

This is an exciting opportunity to become involved in leading Indigenous health research with a passionate and dedicated team. We are seeking a highly motivated Postdoctoral Research Fellow with a research background in qualitative and/or mixed methods research, particularly using action research approaches. As a member of the NHMRC funded ‘Improving understandings of and responses to alcohol-related family violence for Aboriginal people’ team, the successful applicant is expected to contribute to independent and team-based research aiming to develop the evidence base of alcohol misuse and family violence within Indigenous communities using innovative theoretical and methodological approaches, combining theories of medical anthropology, social network analysis (SNA) and Indigenous Studies.

The successful applicant will be expected to contribute to the development of high-quality research projects and play a key role in the production of outstanding quality outputs. The successful applicant will also contribute to the supervision of honours, Masters and/or PhD students. Indigenous Australians are strongly encouraged to apply for this position.

For more information about the position and details of how to apply click here.

Research Fellow – Indigenous Data Network

The Indigenous Data Network (IDN) is seeking a highly motivated Research Fellow with a background in quantitative and/or mixed methods research, with experience in data linkage. The IDN is a national consortium of organisations and individuals led by the University of Melbourne, within the Indigenous Studies Unit, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population & Global Health. The Research Fellow will be expected to make significant contributions to existing projects and to the development or extension of new, innovative research.

The Research Fellow will work with the IDN leadership team to drive Indigenous data ecosystems transformation, and to develop and undertake ongoing community-led research and national and international engagement. The role will include significant engagement and governance activities with key stakeholders including universities, Federal, State and Local Governments, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities, and private and non-profit organisations.

For more information about the position and details of how to apply click here.

Students from the University of Melbourne Indigenous Knowledge Institute. Image source: University of Melbourne website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Pat Turner attends Jobs and Skills Summit

The image in the feature tile is of NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner AM. Image source: The Conversation, 10 June 2020.

Pat Turner attends Jobs and Skills Summit

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner AM is one of 143 representatives attending the Australian Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit 2022 today in Canberra. The two-day event, being led by PM Anthony Albanese and Treasurer Dr Jim Chalmers, will bring together business, unions, industry and state and territory political leaders for an intensive discussion about the economic challenges within Australia’s labour market.

Earlier last month Pat Turner gave the keynote address at the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) National Conference where she commented on workforce issues with the sector “Demand is outstripping supply of suitably skilled and job ready Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. We are experiencing workforce shortages across the sector and this shortage is already impacting access to culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people nationally.”

“Moreover, without an overall increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people participating in the workforce, services will be competing for workers who are a limited resource across all health and care sectors. Increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses, midwives and other clinical staff is critical to help ensure culturally safe care for our people. To effectively support growing demand, we need to leverage the current ACCHO workforce and draw from local communities to build a multi-disciplinary care workforce that includes both cultural and clinical experts.”

You can read The Sydney Morning Herald article The snap guide to the jobs and skills summit here.

Jobs and Skills Summit 2022. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen. Image source: Financial Review.

Hearing loss mistaken for misbehaviour

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience ear disease – fluid build ups, perforated eardrums and ear infections that can impair hearing – more frequently than most populations in the world. Rates are 8.5 times as highas for non-Indigenous children in Australia. Early childhood development related to speech, language and learning, relies heavily on being able to hear. The consequences of poor hearing can greatly disadvantage a child in the classroom, in the criminal justice system and cause delays in other medical diagnoses.

Caregivers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have described how ear disease and hearing loss can easily be mistaken for misbehaviour.  Letitia Campbell, Aboriginal Research Officer, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University has found that a strong relationship of respect, collaboration and information-sharing between the caregiver and health professionals is a key component to successfully navigating ear disease.

To view The Conversation article More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have ear and hearing problems – and it’s easy to mistake for bad behaviour in full click here.

Audiologist Arveen Kaur tests the hearing of Jackson Wellington in Nowra. Photo: Rhett Wyman. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Politics can’t be separated from health

A new discussion paper, Indigenous Nation Building and the Political Determinants of Health and Wellbeing, available here, has been published this week by the Lowitja Institute in partnership with Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Led by Professor Daryle Rigney, a citizen of the Ngarrindjeri Nation, the paper demonstrates that self-governance and self-determination through nation building results in improved health outcomes for Indigenous peoples.

According to Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, CEO of the Lowitja Institute, and Senior Policy Officer Jessica Szwarcbord “Those working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector have always known that politics cannot be separated from health. Our peoples have a holistic, collectivist worldview. We understand that individual and collective health and social and emotional wellbeing relates to cultural, social, and political determinants and that health and wellbeing sit within a complex constellation of factors that cannot be separated. There are inextricable links between our collective and individual health and wellbeing, our governance, self-determination and nation building as First Nations Peoples.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article Harnessing the power of nation building to strengthen Indigenous health and wellbeing in full click here.

Artwork by Tom Day, citizen of the Gunditjmara people, features on the cover of the new discussion paper, Indigenous National Building and the Political Determinants of Health and Wellbeing. Published with permission of Lowitja Institute in Croakey Health Media.

First new kidney treatment in 20 years

Lachlan Ross describes his more than a decade-long battle with kidney failure as “very long, and very hard.” The 54-year-old from the NT remote community of Lajamanu has been lucky enough to receive a kidney transplant, meaning he no longer has to receive thrice-weekly dialysis treatments. But, he said chronic kidney disease — which Indigenous residents of remote Central Australia are up to 30 times more likely to suffer from — has no quick fix. “You get [a] transplant doesn’t make you any better you know because you’ve still got the hard work of looking after yourself and the transplant and that’s what a lot of people don’t understand, they think a kidney is a cure, it’s not.”

Mr Ross now works as a mentor for others living with kidney disease at Darwin dialysis centre The Purple House, where Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Malarndirri McCarthy announced yesterday that people with the disease would now have more affordable access to a drug which slows its progression. The drug dapagliflozin, also known as Forxiga, is already used to treat diabetes and heart failure, but will now also be available to people with kidney disease under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. It would have previously cost renal patients more than $700 a year, with the expansion of the scheme meaning it will now cost $42.50 per script, or $6.80 for people with a concession card.

To view the ABC News article Kidney disease drug dapagliflozin added to Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in full click here.

Lachlan Ross says remote Indigenous Territorians need to be educated about kidney disease. Photo: Dane Hirst, ABC News.

VACCHO supports Food Fight! Campaign

An Australia Institute poll released this week has found high levels of public support for bans on television advertising of unhealthy products and services, including junk foods, alcohol and gambling.  When Asherly Bradac asks her four young children how they would like to spend their pocket money, they respond with a resounding “slurpee”. When she asks where they want to go on a special outing, they say “McDonalds” or “Hungry Jacks”. These are likely familiar scenarios for many families inundated by advertising of unhealthy food and drinks.

Bradac is a keen supporter of the Food Fight! campaign, led by Cancer Council Victoria, to raise awareness of unhealthy food and drink advertising in places where children spend time.  The campaign is building community support for action to stop harmful advertising on government-owned assets such as public transport and within 500 metres of schools. According to Jane Martin, Executive Manager Obesity Program Cancer Council Victoria the campaign has garnered the support of more than 30 community, public health and other groups and over 10,000 individuals who have signed an online statement.

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) is one supports the Food Fight! Campaign, and through a bold project called FoodPATH (Food Policies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health), has been working to empower Aboriginal communities across Victoria to determine the actions needed to promote good nutrition and healthier food environments in their local communities.

To view the Croakey Health Media article How this campaign is fighting to end unhealthy advertising to children in full click here.

New lease on life after Hep C cure

Debbie Robinson is enjoying a new lease on life after being cured of hepatitis C. Now the proud Worimi woman is urging other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to get tested even if they have no symptoms. Ms Robinson completed the 8-12 week treatment program at Gandangara Health Service in Liverpool. “I had a blood test, the doctor told me I had hepatitis C and I felt numb.

“Then the doctor told me I had 10 years to live. I went to Gandangara and they helped me to access treatment right away,’’ Ms Robinson said. “If it wasn’t for Gandangara, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have done anything about it because I felt healthy. “I felt supported every step of the way at Gandangara. “I’m cured and have a long life ahead of me. I’m proud of myself and my family is proud of me too.’’

To view the South West Voice article Health district bid to eliminate hepatitis C in full click here.

Debbie Robinson. Image source: South West Voice.

WA emerging as hub for eye health

WA is rapidly becoming known as‎ a global centre for research excellence in ocular‎ disease, thanks to a ‘trifecta’ collaboration ‎between Lions Eye Institute (LEI), Curtin University,‎ and University of WA (UWA). To encourage more young optometrists to provide primary care in rural WA, where unmet eye care is particularly prevalent, a team led by Professor Garry Fitzpatrick, has developed a placement program that will see third year students spend significant time working in clinics and on research programs from ‘hub and spoke’ health care models in Broome and Geraldton. Students will gain experience working alongside optometrists and ophthalmologists on outreach programs, with local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and in other community allied health settings.

Professor Fitzpatrick hopes the placement program will provide students with a “very real experience” that increases their awareness of rural and remote eye care needs. He explained that evidence shows students who are exposed and trained in rural settings are more likely to return to practise in these settings.

To read the mivision article Western Australia: An Emerging Hub for Eye Health in full click here.

Image source: SBS NITV website.

TGA committee applications CLOSE Sunday

Applications for the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)’s statutory advisory committee vacancies will CLOSE at 11:30 PM this Sunday 4 September 2022.

They are seeking applications from professionals with expertise in relevant medical or scientific fields or consumer health issues to support our function as a best practice regulator. Committee members contribute significantly towards the TGA’s regulatory functions by providing independent expert advice relating to the regulation of medicines, devices, vaccines and other products and substances.  The statutory advisory committees are:

  • Advisory Committee on Biologicals
  • Advisory Committee on Medicines
  • Advisory Committee on Vaccines
  • Advisory Committee on Complementary Medicines
  • Advisory Committee on Medical Devices
  • Advisory Committee on Chemicals Scheduling
  • Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling

Committee members do not have full-time duties – some committees meet monthly, with others meeting up to three times a year.  Members are remunerated in accordance with the principles and rates set by the Remuneration Tribunal (Remuneration and Allowances for Holders of Part-time Public Office) Determination.

You can find further information regarding the statutory advisory committees on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website here along with the requirements for applying here and a flyer here. Further enquiries can be made by email here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Transforming First Nations nursing education

The image in the feature tile is of midwives Mel Briggs and Kady Colman wearing Sister Scrubs, a new uniform for First Nations midwives to create awareness about the unacceptably high mortality rate of First Nations women and babies. Image source: NITV Radio website.

Transforming First Nations nursing education

Bold recommendations for transforming nursing and midwifery education will be unveiled in a new report to be launched at the 25th Anniversary National Conference of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM). The report, ‘gettin em n keepin em n growin em’ – Strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nursing and Midwifery Education Reform, will include strategies to privilege Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nursing and midwifery knowledges and embed Cultural Safety across all domains of nursing and midwifery education.

“Its recommendations are bold and practical, emphasising who should act and how,” says Professor Roianne West, the CEO of CATSINaM, a descendant of the Kalkadoon and Djunke peoples. Since the release of the first iteration of this report in 2002, Professor West says there has been negligible improvement in the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registered nurses and midwives. “We are far off the necessary numbers completing tertiary programs to ensure parity is reached in the near future,” she said.

Significantly, the conference will also include a National Apology from the Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery about the role of nursing and midwifery education and research in contributing to the harm and ongoing suffering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

To view the CATSINaM media release CATSINaM making news at 25th Anniversary National Conference in full click here.

Image source: Northern Health Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nursing and midwifery career pathways webpage.

Improving health research experiences for mob

Yesterday the University of Newcastle launched a new national study Murru Minya that aims to understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s experiences and involvement in health research. The Murru Minya project is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers with the desire to improve the way all research is conducted with, and for, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. You can find more details on the project’s website here.

Dr Michelle Kennedy, Wiradjuri woman and lead researcher said “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the knowledge holders, it is our job to appropriately capture their voices, experiences and directives to improve the conduct of health research into the future”.

The project has launched a short community survey for Aboriginal Community Organisation’s to share their experience of research. Communities can also opt in to hold Yarning Circles with the research team over the next 12 months to share more details and directives for research into the future.

The Murru Minya survey can be accessed here.

Members of Murru Minya research team. Image source: Murru Minya website.

Push to ban junk food adverts aimed at kids

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) have welcomed the push for the Federal Government to ban junk food advertising aimed at children by Independent MP Dr Sophie Scamps. The RACP have been recently advocating for this through the Kids COVID Catch Up campaign which is calling for mandatory regulations to restrict the marketing of unhealthy diets to children and young people.

RACP President and Paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small says, “The widespread advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks is strongly linked to high child obesity rates. In 2017 to 2018, almost one quarter or Australian children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese. This is a concerning statistic. The Federal Government must recognise this and take immediate action to establish formal standards to protect children and young people from unhealthy food marketing.”

To view the RACGP media release Physicians support push to ban junk food advertising aimed at children click here.

Last year NACCHO made a submission, available here, to the Department of Health on the National Obesity Prevention Strategy supporting efforts to restrict/ban advertising and marketing of unhealthy food, especially to children.

Image source: Priceless SA website.

GP in training returns to Central Australia

For Dr Ellie Woodward, the first time she experienced the landscape and community of the NT was enough to bring her back. Originally from NZ, Dr Woodward moved across the Tasman Sea in 2012 to study medicine in Sydney. It was during this time she was given the opportunity to travel to the NT or an elective placement with the Royal Darwin Hospital physician outreach service. ‘I was immediately drawn to the incredible country and cultures of the Territory,’ Dr Woodward said. “I came back as soon as I could.”

After working as a registrar in medicine and public health in Darwin, she began her GP training in Alice Springs in 2021. Since then, there has never been a dull moment for the GP in training, who this year is splitting her training between the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC) and the Alice Springs Centre for Disease Control, in addition to completing dual training on the Australian GP Training (AGPT) and an Extended Skills Post in Public Health with the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine.

All the while she is being enriched by what her surroundings offer. “It’s a privilege to live and work on Arrernte Country, and I’ve been fortunate to engage in two-way learning with patients and colleagues here to learn more about central desert cultures,” Dr Woodward said. “I’ve been hooked by the close-knit community, natural surroundings and unique medicine of Central Australia, and look forward to continuing my practice here after finishing training.”

To view the RACGP newsGP article ‘I came back as soon as I could’: Why this GP in training is staying rural in full click here.

Dr Ellie Woodward is a GP in training and public health registrar at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Alice Springs Centre for Disease Control. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

COVID casts doubt on trachoma target

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator Malandirri McCarthy is having ongoing discussions about the previous government’s target to eliminate trachoma by 2025, as the COVID pandemic continues to impact health outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Senator McCarthy told ABC News that overcoming trachoma is one of her priorities, but she would need to fully appreciate the situation before she could set a timeline. She said she would be talking to experts to see what could be done to eradicate the eye disease, which has been successfully eliminated in countries including Cambodia, Ghana, and Mexico, but not yet in Australia.

“I’m incredibly mindful we’re still in a pandemic with COVID, and I know that many communities across the country were isolated and the ability for trachoma and any other health programs to be carried out was severely limited, if not completely stopped, and we have to recognise that,” McCarthy said. “What I would like to see in my role as Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health is to ensure that we pick it up again and run with it, to get rid of trachoma in our country.”

To view the Insight News article COVID casts doubt on target to stamp out trachoma in full click here.

More severe cases of trachoma are treated with antibiotics or surgery but the best way to prevent the disease is better hygiene. Photo: The University Of Melbourne. Image source: The Guardian.

Wounds conference – First Nations focus

After a temporary move online in 2020 due to COVID-related restrictions, Wounds Australia’s biannual wounds conference is returning to Sydney this September. To be held at the ICC Sydney from 14–17 September 2022, the conference will bring together leading experts and clinicians to share their insights and experience in working with wounds.

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

Wounds Australia Chair Hayley Ryan said, “As the peak body for wound prevention, diagnosis, treatment and healing in Australia, we are committed to ensuring that Australians receive the best possible wound care. Our national conference is one part of that commitment, helping our hardworking healthcare professionals stay up to date with technological advances and scientific innovations in the area.”

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

ANU cybernetics scholarships for mob

The ANU Master of Applied Cybernetics is the world’s first graduate program focusing on the challenges of ensuring AI systems are safe, sustainable and responsible. Masters students participate in a range of educational experiences and research projects at the School of Cybernetics and beyond to consider: who is building, managing and decommissioning our AI-enabled future?

The the School of Cybernetics sees equity of access to their education programs as important. They believe diversity and inclusivity are a MUST if we are to build the future. People from all walks of life are needed to build that future. A future that is safe, responsible and sustainable for all of humanity. With this in mind, and to increase diversity within the School, new scholarship opportunities, named in honour of Florence Violet McKenzie, Australia’s first female electrical engineer, and the founder of the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps in the Australian Defence Forces in 1939, are being offered, including a targeted Florence Violet McKenzie Indigenous scholarship opportunity for the 2023 Master of Applied Cybernetics program.

You can access an information sheet on the Florence Violent McKenzie Master of Applied Cybernetics scholarships for Indigenous students here.

Image source: University of Texas website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 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: 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 Health News: Mob may miss crucial COVID-19 treatment

Mob may miss crucial COVID-19 treatment 

A health expert warns Indigenous people infected with COVID-19 may be missing out on crucial treatment, as reporting systems struggle to keep up with soaring case numbers.

Jason Agostino, medical adviser to NACCHO, said First Nations people had been more likely to be infected, and more likely to develop a severe illness, throughout the pandemic.

“If we look at infections in NSW and the ACT, almost one in 10 people who were infected through Delta were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. When we look at severity in each age group, Aboriginal people were more likely to be hospitalised or end up in ICU.”

But Dr Agostino said since Omicron has taken hold, health authorities no longer had a clear picture of how Indigenous people were being impacted.

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Floralita Billy-Whap gets vaccinated on the island of Poruma in the Torres Strait

Floralita Billy-Whap gets vaccinated on the island of Poruma in the Torres Strait. Photo supplied by: Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service. Image source: ABC News.

$24m for temporary Telehealth changes

Following a meeting with senior representatives of the five peak general practice organisations, including NACCHO, the Australian Government has committed an additional $24 million to make temporary changes to Telehealth to give GPs and specialists additional flexibility to support their patients safely, including the continued supply of PPE and online support.

Telehealth has been a vital support during the pandemic providing greater flexibility in healthcare delivery at the most critical time and it continues to be a fundamental part of the pandemic response.

The Government will introduce temporary specialist inpatient telehealth MBS items (video and phone) and initial and complex specialist telephone consultation items, and longer telephone consultations for GP’s (level C) until 30 June 2022.

These services will be made available nationally rather than targeted to Commonwealth-declared hotspots as they were previously, recognising the high infection rate and need to provide healthcare support across the community.

Enabling specialist medical practitioners to provide telehealth consultations to hospital in-patients as a temporary measure will support continuity of care for patients when their doctor cannot attend the hospital due to COVID-19 restrictions.

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

Image source: mivision.

When COVID-19 hits low vax town

The Indigenous community of Cherbourg in Queensland kept COVID-19 at bay for nearly two years. But in just two weeks, one in 10 people contracted the virus. SBS News travelled to the town to see how the outbreak is being managed in a vulnerable community.

On the outskirts of Cherbourg cemetery sits an unmarked mass grave. It is said to be the resting place of around 90 Indigenous residents who died during the Spanish flu outbreak just over a century ago.

The small regional town – formerly known as Barambah – was hit disproportionately hard in 1919 when the virus made its way into the community. Within three weeks, one-sixth of the population would die.

100 years on and the existence of the mass burial site acts as a stark warning for the approximately 1,500 residents as the town battles an eerily similar threat: COVID-19.

“We don’t want history to repeat itself and that’s why we’re working very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen,” mayor Elvie Sandow says.

To view the SBS News article in full click here.

Cherbourg is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. Image source: SBS News.

Calls for patient-centred care investment

The RACGP has called on the federal investment to improve patient-centred care The college has put forward a series of reforms to ensure general practice can continue to meet patients’ needs and offer quality care, while saving the healthcare system at least $1 billion each year.

As COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise in Australia, health systems across the country are buckling under the pressure, with thousands of people being admitted to hospital and hundreds of thousands more being managed in the community.

RACGP President Dr Karen Price said the pandemic has both exacerbated and highlighted the cracks in Australia’s health system, and that GPs should be adequately remunerated for managing a growing number of complex presentations.

‘General practice is at the forefront of prevention and chronic disease management, [but] more Commonwealth investment is needed to deliver on this vital role,’ Dr Price said. ‘We want time to care for our patients [and] we want longer consults rewarded at the same value as shorter consults.

To read the GPNews article in full click here.

Image source: NT PHN.

‘Looking Deadly’ Eye Health Training

An eye health training program for primary health care personnel, especially Aboriginal health practitioners, has been launched by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Vision Initiative (Victoria’s eye health promotion program).

‘Looking Deadly’ is a self-paced, online module that covers some elements of the VET accredited unit HLTAHW030 – Provide information and strategies in eye health (Release 2). The content has been specially designed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients in mind.

For further information on the training click here.

Artwork Wiradjuri / Yorta Yorta artist, Lyn Briggs - features Aboriginal hands & eye

Artwork by respected Wiradjuri / Yorta Yorta artist, Lyn Briggs, originally commissioned for VACCHO’s first eye health program, 1998. Image source: University of Melbourne.

Sickly Sweet soft drink campaign launched

A new social media campaign to educate Australians about the health risks of drinking sugar-laden drinks has been launched.

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said the #SicklySweet campaign is a creative, highly visual campaign which turns the tables on sophisticated soft drink ads, directed at young people each summer. “The campaign asks us to think about how much sugar we consume,” he said.

“It may come as a surprise to many Australians that there are eight to 12 teaspoons of sugar in an average 375ml can of soft drink. It is, however, no surprise these drinks are contributing to obesity and preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.”

Dr Khorshid said Australian’s drink at least 2.4 billion litres of sugary drinks every year, with young males the biggest consumers. It’s a staggering figure, and we think Aussies need to know what they are consuming and the impact it can have on their long-term health,” he said.

“Sugary drinks used to be a special treat, but they’re now an every-day product, bringing addiction, and major health problems.” Dr Khorshid said with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing it was important not to overlook other major health issues facing the nation.

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

banner text 'Sickly Sweet - sugary drinks are making us sick. It's time that we do something about it' & soft drink bottle, black liquid, red label with white font words Sickly Sweet' yellow background

Rural and remote student dentistry grants

Two critical issues in Australian dentistry include the prevalence of oral disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and the challenge of delivering viable dental care outside of major population centres. Coupled with the recent challenges of COVID-19 and its associated financial hardships, many dental students particularly in rural and remote areas are struggling.

The Australian Dental Association recognises this and has two grants to assist students who are studying to become registered dentists.

For more information about the grants and to apply click here.

Bachelor of Oral Health student Caitlin Wilkie checks a young boy’s teeth. Image source: University of Melbourne.

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.