NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Unique funding enables First Nations-led COVID-19 research

feature tile - older Aboriginal man with Aboriginal flag sweatband & ceremonial paint on face waving to camera

First Nations-led COVID-19 research funding

A unique $2 million funding round has privileged First Nations voices and resulted in high-quality COVID-19 research projects that will result in better outcomes for First Nations communities. The 11 projects from across Australia were awarded funding from the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies (APPRISE) Centre of Research Excellence, based on a $2 million donation from the Paul Ramsay Foundation to support the development of effective responses to COVID-19 for First Nations communities. Townsville-based APPRISE investigator Professor Adrian Miller of the Jirrbal people of North Queensland and Director of the Centre for Indigenous Health Equity Research at CQ University says APPRISE gave the space for a First Nations-led process that began with the creation of the APPRISE First Nations Council to advise on all aspects of  the grant process from research priorities to evaluation criteria.

To view the APPRISE media release click here.

Two Aboriginal women & 3 Aboriginal children walking on Country away from the camera

Image source: Standford News, Standford University website.

Start evaluating for impact

How do you know if your programs are making a difference?

Interplay works with communities to design evaluations that measure the things that communities value. The Interplay Project is designed to bring the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members into research and evaluation with a vision that all people are empowered to experience optimal wellbeing from the safety and strength of their own culture. Interplay work towards this by collaboratively building science around different ways of knowing and being. To view the Interplay Project’s new website click here.

The Interplay Project also recently launched a mobile app, Disability in the Bush on behalf of the NDIS. You can check out the mobile app, available in five different Aboriginal languages by clicking here.

Five Aboriginal women, two Aboriginal children & a terrier dog sitting on bare weathered red rocks

Image source: The Interplay Project website.

WA Connecting to Country grant program

The Connecting to Country grant program supports projects that enable Western Australian Aboriginal people and organisations to undertake on Country trips to renew links between community, Country and culture. Grants up to $25,000 are available for a wide range of activities that foster the transfer of knowledge between generations, preservation of culture and strengthening of communities. Activities may include those that improve understanding of Country, ancestry and kinship and promote positive mental health, wellbeing and resilience through community-led cultural healing projects.

For further information about the Connecting to Country grant program click here. Grant applications close on 10 November 2020.

Aboriginal elder of Nyikina country, John Watson show grandchildren his special lands in WA's Kimberley area

Aboriginal elder of Nyikina country, John Watson show grandchildren his special lands in WA’s Kimberley area. Image source: St Stephen’s School website.

Free palliative care online training program

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) has developed a free online training program to help aged and community care workers, carers, volunteers, family members and health professionals who provide palliative care to aged persons in the community. Every person’s needs are unique and sorting your way through the emotional and social stresses faced by a dying person and their family can be difficult. The modules will help those involved in providing end of life care develop skills and confidence in that role.

To find out more about the AHHA palliative care training program and to register click here.

Aboriginal hand held within two other Aboriginal hands

Image source: Aged Care Guide website.

Fierce Girls wellbeing resources

An ABC podcast Fierce Girls tells the stories of Australian girls who dare to do things differently, adventurous girls, girls with guts and spirit. Among the inspiring tales of some of Australia’s most extraordinary women are those of Ash Barty and Nova Peris.

For more information about the ABC Fierce Girls podcast click here.

snapshot of cartoon drawing of Ash Barty from ABC Fierce Girls podcast webpage

Image source: ABC website.

University fee hikes put CtG targets at risk

The Federal Government’s “job-ready” university reforms will dramatically increase the cost of courses in the social sciences, a consistently popular discipline amongst Indigenous students. According to the latest national data, 33 per cent of Indigenous students chose to enrol in social science degrees compared to 19 per cent of the general cohort. Experts are concerned the changes will disproportionately disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, by lumping them with more debt or deterring them from study altogether — scenarios which both stand to jeopardise national higher education targets agreed to just months ago. Wiradjuri man Lachlan McDaniel believes his arts degree was “probably the best thing that ever happened” to him, but fears new laws passed this week will make it much tougher for other Indigenous students to get the same opportunities.

To view the full article click here.

Wiradjuri man Lachlan McDaniel graduating from arts/law degree

Wiradjuri man Lachlan McDaniel graduating from an Arts/Law degree. Image source: ABC website.

NSW – Casino – Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation

FT/PT Practice Nurse

Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation (BNMAC) Richmond Valley is looking for a motivated Practice Nurse to join our team in Casino NSW with part time and full time work options available. The Registered Nurse will take a proactive role to assist clients to address health issues in a holistic way at BNMAC’s Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service. BNAMC endeavors to take a proactive approach working with local communities to raise awareness of health issues and to develop and implement intervention strategies in the treatment of chronic conditions.

To view the job description click here. Applications close Saturday 14 November 2020.Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation logo

VIC – Shepparton – Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd.

FT Aboriginal Family Violence Practice Leader

Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative has a vacancy for a full-time Aboriginal Family Violence Practice Leader. This is a leadership position co-located in The Orange Door site and will have a significant role to work closely with services to lead high quality, culturally safe and effective responses to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking support and safety. The Orange Door is a free service for adults, children and young people who are experiencing or have experienced family violence and families who need extra support with the care of children.

To view the position description click here. Applications close 4.00 pm Monday 2 November 2020.Rumbalara clinic & logo

Working from home, any location – Hearing Australia

FT Manager of Aboriginal Engagement and Awareness for HAPEE

Hearing Australia is currently recruiting for a Manager of Aboriginal Engagement and Awareness for the Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears (HAPEE). This is a national team of 11 Community Engagement Officers that among many things establish and facilitate free hearing assessments primarily in Aboriginal Medical Services, Childcare Centres and CP clinics nationally. This role is responsible for: ensuring that the Community Engagement Officers can effectively engage with primary health and early education services in their locations; ensuring targets for number of locations that Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears (HAPEE) operates in are met; working with marketing on the development and delivery of culturally appropriate awareness campaigns; expanding HAPEE so that families who use private medical services are aware of and can access the program; providing high quality advice and support to senior management of Australian Hearing.

To view the job description click here. Applications close as as soon as a pool of suitable applicants are identified.Hearing Australia logo - outline of Australia using soundwaves

Across Australia (except Vic & Tas) – Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

2021 Census Engagement Manager x 35 (25 in remote areas, 10 in urban/regional locations)

The ABS is recruiting Census Engagement Managers for the 2021 Census. Due to the close working relationship with the community, 35 Census Engagement Manager positions will be only open to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicants. Census Engagement Managers are specialised roles requiring a high degree of community interaction. They will be working within communities telling people about the Census and ensuring everyone can take part and get the help they need. Where possible, Census Engagement Managers will be recruited locally. To view a recruitment poster click here.

For further information on the roles and to apply click here.

Applications for Census Engagement Manager roles are open now and close Thursday 5 November 2020. ABS 2021 Census Engagement Manager banner

Aboriginal hand with cannula on edge of hospital bed

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: AMA says COVID-19 shows a need to reset health spending

COVID-19 shows a need to reset health spending

According to AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, Australia needs to reset it attitude to health expenditure, with a fundamental reassessment of the priority put on real increases to health spending. “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to rethink many of our assumptions about the functioning of society. Absolutely fundamental to this is our understanding of what a health system that is fit for purpose looks like,” Dr Khorshid said. “The pandemic has shown the strains on so many parts of our health system, particularly aged care, mental health, and protections for our frontline healthcare workers, as well as the need to keep this deadly virus out of our Indigenous communities. There can be no avoiding it. A serious investment in health with a substantial real increase in spending is required.”

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

Sunrise Health Service worker checking heart of patient

Barunga Healthcare worker Desleigh Shields. Image Source: ABC News website.

Diagnosing otitis media with telehealth

Each year 650,000 Australian children suffer from recurrent or chronic ear infections called otitis media (OM). OM can cause permanent hearing loss but is entirely preventable when treated early. Aboriginal children are disproportionately impacted by middle ear disease with OM affecting one in four children in Australia – but one in every two Aboriginal children. The current average wait time of two years for assessment is too long for children who are in crucial key stages of language, behavioural and educational development. Struggling to understand what is happening to them, many may face long-term social or mental health impacts.

Paediatric audiologist Dr Chris Brennan-Jones is committed to finding solutions for ear health – like changing assessment wait times from two years to 10 days. Dr Bennan-Jones is working with an ear health partnership in metro Perth called Djaalinj Waakinj – ‘Listening, Talking’ in Noongar language. In a program that is the first of its kind in Australia Djaalinj Waakinj fuses telehealth technology with support from local Aboriginal health workers to facilitate remote diagnosis of OM.

To view the full article click here.

Dr Chris Brennan-Jones sitting outside with laptop

Dr Chris Brennan-Jones. Image source: Particle website.

Puggy Hunter Memorial Health scholarships

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying, or intending to study, entry-level health courses could receive life changing financial assistance to follow their passion thanks to the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS). The PHMSS is designed to encourage and assist undergraduate students in health-related disciplines to complete their studies and join the health workforce. The Australian Government established the Scheme as a tribute to the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter’s outstanding contribution to Indigenous Australians’ health and his role and Chair of the NACCHO.

To read the full article about the PHMSS in the National Indigenous Times click here.

Applications for the PHMSS are now open and will close on Sunday 8 November 2020. For more information click here.

portrait of Ashleigh Ryan PHMSS recipient

PHMSS recipient Ashleigh Ryan. Image source: Australian College of Nursing website.

NCCRED Clinical Research Scholarship Program

The National Centre for Clinical Research on Emerging Drugs (NCCRED) has developed a Clinical Research Scholarship Program to build the scope and capacity of clinical research on emerging drugs across the drug and alcohol sector. This is a national program open to clinicians at all levels, anywhere in Australia. NCCRED is opening TWO new competitive rounds which will give financial and research support allowing recipients to conduct a new research project. The rounds will have a focus on the following areas:

  • Practicing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals (clinicians, nurses, allied health workers) in the AOD sector.
  • nursing and allied health professionals preferably practicing alcohol and other drugs nurses and allied health professionals, though applications are open to all clinicians working within the AOD sector.

For more information about the NCCRED scholarship program click here. 

Applications are now open and close on 6 November 2020.

Aboriginal health professional sitting in from of Aboriginal D&A banner

Image source: ABC News website.

National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce Communique

You can read the full National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce Communique #25 here.

National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce logo

Image source: National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce website.

COVID-19 transmission in educational settings

Since March 2020, the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) has joined forces with the NSW Ministry of Health and NSW Department of Education to investigate COVID-19 cases in schools and early childhood education and care (ECEC) services.

You can view the webinar Learning together – Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in NSW educational settings covering COVID-19 transmission in NSW educational settings, what the latest data show and how a multi-disciplinary approach has helped people learn together by clicking here.

Nawarddeken Academy school - 14 Aboriginal students sitting at a table

Nawarddeken Academy school. Image source: The Conversation website.

Melbourne workers of concern to Tennant Creek health groups 

Up to 10 gas pipeline workers from a coronavirus hotspot have begun quarantining in a Tennant Creek hotel under a Government-approved plan that Indigenous health groups are demanding be shared with them. The group from Melbourne has also been given permission to leave the hotel under an arrangement organised for maintenance work on Jemena’s Northern Gas Pipeline, which runs from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa. The vast majority of people arriving in the NT from coronavirus hotspots are ordered into a fortnight of supervised quarantine at designated facilities in Darwin or Alice Springs at a cost of $2,500.

Indigenous health groups are concerned the alternative arrangement risks coronavirus spreading to Tennant Creek’s majority Indigenous population and that of nearby communities. Barb Shaw from Anyinginyi Health, the region’s major Indigenous health service, said she had requested to see the company’s COVID-19 management plan early last week but never heard back.

To read the full ABC News story click here.

portrait of Anyinginyi Health CEO Barb Shaw

Anyinginyi Health CEO Barb Shaw. Image source: ABC News.

Keep Our Mob Safe from COVID-19

The latest update on COVID-19 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households, communities and organisations is available click here. Things can change quickly so it is important to stay up to date.

Keep Our Mob Safe, Stop The Spread banner

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

2021 seasonal influenza preparation required

During 2020 there was a significant demand for seasonal influenza vaccines in light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. It is anticipated that this demand is likely to continue and also be evident for future seasons. To this end, the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer is encouraging key stakeholders to turn their minds to their preparations for next year’s season. To view the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer’s letter to stakeholders click here.

text flu season syringe inserted in vial

Image source: 1011 Now News website.

PBS changes a win for palliative care

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) welcomes much needed improvements to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listings for opioids, which will clarify their important role in alleviating suffering for palliative care patients. AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said the Association supported important reforms to reduce the inappropriate use of opioids in Australia. Dr Khorshid said the original PBS changes implemented on 1 June 2020 caused significant confusion and concern from prescribers and their patients, unintentionally making prescriber access to opioids more difficult for palliative care patients with a legitimate clinical need. This was particularly difficult for non-cancer palliative care patients.

The AMA has been advocating to the Department of Health and the Therapeutic Goods Administration, providing feedback from AMA members on the 1 June 2020 changes. “The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has reflected this feedback in the 1 October 2020 PBS listing changes, so it’s pleasing that the vital advocacy work of the AMA has been heeded,” Dr Khorshid said. “Patients will be exempt from the 12-month pain management review by a second doctor or palliative care nurse practitioner if their clinical condition makes the review not possible. “This is an important change for palliative care patients who may be too unwell for this to occur.”

To view the AMS’s media release click here.

Aboriginal man with arms around Aboriginal woman looking out across river in Australian landscape

Image source: Palliative Care Victoria.

Social enterprise to tackle remote NT food inequities

An urgent food crisis is threatening remote Aboriginal communities across the country, with an estimated 1.2 million Australians unable to regularly access culturally appropriate, safe and nutritious food from a non-emergency source. Kere to Country, a new First Nations-led social enterprise, hopes they can make a difference, starting in Alice Springs/Mparntwe. Kere means ‘food from animals’ in Arrernte.

Three young Indigenous entrepreneurs—Jessica Wishart, 31, Jordan Wishart, 25, and Tommy Hicks, 24 (pictured below) —were inspired to do something about the crisis after visiting Alice Springs/Mparntwe. The trio saw Aboriginal communities couldn’t afford essential products that were necessary to keep their families healthy and safe. “It’s an urgent crisis—one that has been going on for a really long time, but it’s gotten worse since the pandemic,” CEO Jessica Wishart said.

The concept is simple: Kere to Country will provide remote communities with access to meat through bulk purchases or smaller packs. Aiming to eventually expand to all of central Australia, the team will distribute packs to Alice Springs/Mparntwe, both in and out of town, and the Tennant Creek region.

To visit the Kere to Country website click here.

Kere to Country entrepreneurs Jessica Wishart, Jordan Wishart, Tommy Hicks

Kere to Country entrepreneurs Jessica Wishart, Jordan Wishart, Tommy Hicks. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Palkyu descendent 2020 Australia Mental Health prize finalist

Professor Helen Milroy is one of seven finalists in the running for the 2020 Australia Mental Health prize. The Prize, now in its fifth year, recognises Australians who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of mental health or the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

Professor Milroy is recognised as the first Indigenous Australian to become a medical doctor, completing medical studies and specialist training in child and adolescent psychiatry. She is passionate about combining Aboriginal and western knowledge systems to improve outcomes. Her work and research in the areas of holistic medicine, child mental health, recovery from trauma and grief, application of Indigenous knowledge, and cultural models of care have made a significant difference to the lives of children and young people, particularly those with a trauma background. Her efforts in developing and supporting the Aboriginal medical workforce and cultural safety in health and mental health through curriculum development, education and training, implementation and evaluation, has had a lasting impact on Aboriginal health and mental health across Australia.

To view the full article about the 2020 Australia Mental Health prize finalists click here.

portrait of Professor Helen Milroy

Professor Helen Milroy. Image source: AusDoc website.

Breast cancer survivor fears many others won’t

Breast cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, but what’s more concerning is that not a lot of these women survive. It’s a hidden disease that shows no symptoms until it has developed into a lump some time down the track.

Aunty Joy was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 48. She had a single mastectomy and says “I am a survivor and still a sufferer. Around the time of my diagnosis, there were no radiographers where I was. But if I had waited, who knows what the end result would’ve been? I went through the experience alone and it was traumatic, something that I don’t want to see other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women go through. Every two weeks I would take myself to chemotherapy, the most grueling and horrible experience with side effects that were harrowing.”

portrait photo of Aunty Joy

Aunty Joy. Image source: MamaMia website.

To read the full article about Aunty Joy’s breast cancer journey click here.

ACT – Canberra

Social Media Communications Coordinator

NACCHO is seeking a Social Media Communication Coordinator to manage and maintain NACCHO’s social media presence and daily blog. The position requires working cohesively with the NACCHO Communications team towards the creation and delivery of social media campaigns and driving key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector new content across channels. To view details of the position click here.

Applications close at 9.00 am Friday 16 October 2020.

AFL Indigenous All Stars coach Michael O'Loughlin with the “Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” app

AFL Indigenous All Stars coach Michael O’Loughlin with the “Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” app. Image source: Australian Government NIAA website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ElderCare funding up to $46 million : Applications close on 26 Nov 2018: Donna Ah Chee CEO @CAACongress welcomes @KenWyattMP announcement of increased funding to assist Aboriginal people growing old with their families in their own communities

Improvements in Aboriginal health have more of our people living into old age than there were even a decade ago and necessitates a need to meet the increasing demand for these types of services.

Being on country as you grow old is a very strong cultural obligation for Aboriginal people and for too long our people have had to move into population centres to access services.

We now have two major recent initiatives that will help our older people stay on country. Firstly, the announcement of the new Medicare item for nurse assisted dialysis on country and now this announcement from Minister Wyatt.

This continuing connection to country is vital for the spiritual foundation and quality of life of Aboriginal people.

It is a key part of keeping our older people healthy and happy.

Our people have a very strong desire to be on country when they die and announcements like this will help to make sure that people grow old and die on country and with family. We know that social isolation is very damaging to older people’s health and this will ensure people remain socially and culturally connected.

While keeping people at home with aged care packages is a key goal there are some very successful aged care facilities on country at places like Mutitjulu. This also is important for people who need this level of care

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress) Chief Executive Officer, Donna Ah Chee, welcomes the announcement of increased funding to assist Aboriginal people growing old in a well-supported way, with their families in their own communities

Originally published Talking Aged Care 

Photos above Ken Wyatt meeting with the elders from the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation in Roebourne WA 2017

Read NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Elder Care Articles HERE

Ageing First Australians living remotely will now have increased access to residential and home aged care services close to family, home or country following an announcement by Federal Government to expand their Budget initiative – the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care (NATSIFAC) program

The $105.7 million Government commitment, which will benefit more than 900 additional First Australians, is set to be expanded progressively over the next four years.

Federal Minister for Senior Australians, Aged Care and Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt announced the first round of expansion funding under the program – up to $46 million – to increase the number of home care places delivered through NATSIFAC program in remote and very remote areas.

“Aged care providers are invited to apply for funding under the expanded NATSIFAC program’s first grants round, which is designed to improve access to culturally-safe aged services in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” the Minister explains.

“The program funds service providers to provide flexible, culturally-appropriate aged care to older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people close to home and community.

“Service providers can deliver a mix of residential and home care services in accordance with the needs of the community.”

Minister Wyatt reiterates the importance of home care in enabling senior Australians to receive aged care to live independently in their own homes and familiar surroundings for as long as possible, and says the initiative is all about “flexibility and stability”.

“It is improving access to aged care for older people living in remote and very remote locations, and enables more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to receive culturally-safe aged  care services close to family, home or country, rather than having to relocate hundreds of kilometres away,” he says.

“At the same time, it helps build the viability of remote aged care providers through funding certainty.”

Applicants can apply for new or additional home care places under the NATSIFAC program or approved providers can apply to convert their existing Home Care Packages, administered under the Aged Care Act 1997, to home care places under the NATSIFAC program.

Applications close on 26 November 2018 with more details about the expansion round available online.

GO ID: GO1606
Agency:Department of Health

Close Date & Time:

26-Nov-2018 2:00 pm (ACT Local Time)
Primary Category:
101001 – Aged Care

Publish Date:




Selection Process:

Targeted or Restricted Competitive


This Grant Opportunity is to increase the number of home care places under the NATSIFAC Program in remote and very remote Australia (geographical locations defined as Modified Monash Model (MMM) 6 and 7).


To be eligible you must be one of the following:

Type A:

Existing NATSIFAC Program providers delivering services in geographical locations MMM 6-7

Type B:

Approved providers currently delivering Commonwealth funded home care services (administered under the Aged Care Act 1997) to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in geographical locations MMM 6-7, with up to 50 home care recipients per service, for conversion to the NATSIFAC Program

Type C:

Organisations not currently delivering aged care services in geographical locations MMM 6-7, however but existing infrastructure and the capability to deliver aged care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Total Amount Available (AUD):


Instructions for Lodgement:

Applications must be submitted to the Department of Health by the closing date and time.

Other Instructions:

$46 million (GST exclusive) over 4 years, 2018-2022.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Palliative Care Week @Pall_Care_Aus @RuralDoctorsAus @KenWyattMP #NPCW18 NEWS ; 1. Updated culturally appropriate version of the Dying to Talk Discussion Starter. 2. My Health Record improving outcomes for people in palliative care


“Death is hard. It brings us grief. But I think the other side of grief is when we know that we’ve met the wishes of a loved one.

I’m impressed with the quality of thought underpinning the Dying to Talk resources, which would ease people gently into the discussions that we need to have . The resource is helpful, constructive and compassionate”.

Such was the wisdom offered by Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt, when he launched in 2017 resources designed to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people discuss end-of-life care wishes with their families or health care teams. See Part 1 Below

Read all NACCHO Articles about Aboriginal Health and Palliative Care

Picture above : The Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt with Palliative Care Australia CEO Liz Callaghan (left) and Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives CEO Janine Mohamed. Originally published 2017


 ” Australians are being encouraged to include My Health Record in the discussion of ‘What Matters Most?’ during National Palliative Care Week for 20 -26 May 2018

What matters most for a lot of people is being able to take control of their own health and their digital health information.

My Health Record is an online summary of your key health information, which is controlled by the individual, allowing health care providers involved in a person’s care to securely share health information. For people who require palliative care, this takes a lot of the pressure off. ”

See Part 2 Below

“Many rural and remote patients want to be able to spend the last months and weeks of their life in their own community, and ideally on their own farm or in their own home, rather than at a major hospital in a distant city” he said.

While improving access to palliative care remains a critical need in rural and remote communities, rural doctors and other rural health professionals do a great job in providing quality end-of-life care in a patient’s own community, wherever that is possible.

This whole team approach can include palliative care nurses, Aboriginal Health Workers, community nurses and others, with support from the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Rural doctors are frequently on the front-line of palliative care provision in rural and remote communities”

Rural Doctors Assoc. of Aust. See Part 4 below

The resources include a set of cards, each printed with a statement, which healthcare workers can use to facilitate discussion with individuals or groups.

Also launched was a culturally appropriate version of the Dying to Talk Discussion Starter.

Among questions about family, possessions and health care, it asks about the importance of visiting country if you were sick and not going to get better, or being on country when you die.

Download Aboriginal-and-Torres-Strait-Islander-Discussion-Starter

Mr Wyatt congratulated the organisations that collaborated to develop the “invaluable” resources: Palliative Care Australia, the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives, The Indigenous Allied Health Australia and the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association.

“Your step-by-step guide will make those difficult discussions about death a little bit easier. It is structured, it’s succinct and it’s clear.”

During the launch, Dr Wyatt reflected on what he had learned while working as an undertaker and talking with relatives of people who had died. Often they said they had never discussed death and so didn’t know what their loved one had wanted. They wished they had had this important discussion, or taken the time to listen when their loved one had asked to talk about death.

“It was a salient experience and taught me to live life fully on a day-by-day basis, but to also have a long term plan as to where I wanted to go to. And that is why talking about death is important. Because you can signal your intentions but at the same time prepare your family for the event whenever it does occur, because we are all mortal.”

PCA CEO Liz Callaghan said the original Dying to Talk Discussion Starter was launched in 2016. The new culturally appropriate resources were developed after consultations with Indigenous health organisations that identified the need for a specific resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific resources have been developed to support advance care planning and end-of-life discussions,” Ms Callaghan said.

“Focus groups were held with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to understand what barriers they had in discussing their end-of-life care wishes and planning for death. Those focus groups informed the design and content of the Discussion Starter and the Dying to Talk Cards to ensure they were culturally safe and useful.”

Development of the new resources was funded by the Australian Government. They will be distributed across Australia, to Aboriginal Health Services and Aboriginal Medical Services.

The Discussion Starter can be downloaded from

The resources feature artwork by Indigenous artist, Allan Sumner. The artwork conveys the journey of palliative care patients over the course of their lives, reflecting memories, loved ones, what is important, and what they have done and achieved.

 Part 2 My Health Record improving outcomes for people in palliative care

Australians are being encouraged to include My Health Record in the discussion of ‘What Matters Most?’ during National Palliative Care Week for 20 -26 May.

What matters most for a lot of people is being able to take control of their own health and their digital health information. My Health Record is an online summary of your key health information, which is controlled by the individual, allowing health care providers involved in a person’s care to securely share health information. For people who require palliative care, this takes a lot of the pressure off.

While most people think palliative care to be just for those in their last days of their illness, Palliative Care Australia CEO Liz Callaghan said that palliative care is not just care provided in the final stages of life, but helps those affected to live well with a terminal illness.

“People accessing palliative care services often have complex needs and their care team includes many health professionals including pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals. My Health Record makes it easier for those professionals to share information about medications, test results, and care plans.

“Australians can also share their advance care planning documents through their My Health record, ensuring all health professionals know what their wishes for their future care are,” Ms Callaghan said.

Agency Chief Clinical Information Officer and Executive General Manager Dr Monica Trujillo said palliative care is for people of any age who have been told that they have a serious illness that cannot be cured; it’s about assisting in managing symptoms and improving quality of life.

“For some people, palliative care may be beneficial from the time of diagnosis with a serious life-limiting illness. Palliative care can be given alongside treatments given by doctors and members of the treating team. Having a My Health Record means all medical practitioners and treating team can be kept up to date.

My Health Record can enable important health information including allergies, medical conditions, medicines, pathology and imaging reports to be accessed through one system. The benefits could include reduced hospital admissions, reduced duplication of tests, better coordination of care for people with chronic and complex conditions, and better informed treatment decisions,” Dr Trujillo said.

Carers Australia CEO Ara Cresswell said My Health Record can also assist with carers or loved ones who want to assist the patient going through palliative care.

“My Health Record can lessen the stress of having to remember details of the diagnoses and treatments of others, and help prevent adverse medication events. The ability to upload the patient’s end-of-life preferences can also lessen the distress of those forced into making very difficult decisions on behalf of a family member not able to communicate their own wishes.”

A My Health Record will be created for every Australian, unless they choose not to have one. The opt out period will run from 16 July to 15 October 2018. Records will then be created for interested Australians by the end of the year.

For further information visit or call 1800 723 471

Part 3 Dying on Country

 Part 4 Rural Aussies urged to talk end-of-life care
with their doctor and families
National Palliative Care Week – 20-26 May 2018


While it may seem like a confronting conversation to have, the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) is urging rural and remote Australians to take the time to discuss with their local doctor and family how they want to be looked after towards the end of their life.

Speaking during National Palliative Care Week 2018, RDAA President, Dr Adam Coltzau, said talking about end-of-life care now can help ensure patients are better able to have the palliative care journey they choose, rather than have it decided by others.

“Many rural and remote patients want to be able to spend the last months and weeks of their life in their own community, and ideally on their own farm or in their own home, rather than at a major hospital in a distant city” he said.

“While improving access to palliative care remains a critical need in rural and remote communities, rural doctors and other rural health professionals do a great job in providing quality end-of-life care in a patient’s own community, wherever that is possible.

“This whole team approach can include palliative care nurses, Aboriginal Health Workers, community nurses and others, with support from the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

“Rural doctors are frequently on the front-line of palliative care provision in rural and remote communities. They provide care for patients throughout the trajectory of their disease and then, as the doctor at the local hospital, aged care facility or hospice, they often also provide care right through to the end of life.

“A number of welcome new initiatives will make it even easier for rural patients to stay in their community towards the end of their life.

“The increased use of telehealth – where a rural patient and their GP can consult via videolink with relevant specialists, who may be in a distant city location – can greatly reduce the need for seriously ill rural patients to travel from their community for medical care.

“For patients with life-limiting conditions, often the last thing they want to be doing is commuting back and forth to a distant city for medical appointments, which can affect both their physical and mental well-being.

“The other important step forward is the development of the National Rural Generalist Pathway, which will deliver more of the next generation of rural doctors with advanced skills training in a wide range of areas including palliative care.

“Dealing with death and dying is difficult, but it is an important conversation to have with your family and your doctor if you are suffering from a life-limiting condition.

“Palliative care patients deserve to have a high level of care available to them within their local community, and planning for this can reduce stress on both the patient and their loved ones as their condition progresses.

“Talk to your doctor about the options available to you, and put a plan in place early to ensure your needs will be met.”

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #CarersGateway : Free online resources to support #Aboriginal #carers

It’s rewarding work, but without help Dolly finds herself emotionally and physically drained. Dolly reached out and found that she could get services to help her.

Like Dolly, millions of people in Australia care for others who need help with their everyday lives.

A carer may be someone who looks after their husband or wife, partner, grandparent, uncle, aunty, cousin, child, grandchild or any other family member, a neighbour, a friend or someone in their community who needs help.

Everyone’s situation is different. Some carers look after someone who is an older person or who is unwell or has difficulties getting around. Some carers may look after someone who has a disability, a mental illness or dementia, a chronic condition or a long-term illness or drug and alcohol problems.

Many people looking after someone else don’t think of themselves as carers. They just see caring as what they do to help their families or friends or people in their communities.

Carers need help too – someone they can talk to and find out about services that can help. Carer Gateway is a free, Australian Government funded service that provides information for carers and helps people get in touch with their local services. People can ring up and have a private chat or go online and find out about support in their area, free financial and legal help and what to do in emergencies.  They can also get tips on how to look after themselves so they don’t get burnt out while caring for someone else.

Carer Gateway has short videos about real-life carers in the community – showing how they cope and deal with problems – and how they make the most of the time they spend caring for someone in need.

The videos include Dolly’s story. Dolly is a mother and full-time carer for her two adult daughters, who both need support with their everyday needs.

“It’s pretty much 24/7 around the clock. Four years ago, I realised I was doing a care role and I was also a working mum so quite busy. I thought you know what, it’s time for me to step back and start looking after my own,” she said.

There are free online resources to support Aboriginal carers, including a guided relaxation audio recording and information brochures and posters for use by health and community groups  which can also be ordered from the Carer Gateway ordering form and a Carer Gateway Facebook page to keep up to date on services and supports for carers.

To find out more, Carer Gateway can be contacted on 1800 422 737, Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm,

or by visiting

You can join the Carer Gateway Facebook community by visiting




NACCHO Aboriginal Health #PalliativeCare : Supporting Indigenous people to talk about their end-of-life care


The end of someone’s life is a very special time in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. To ensure people have the care they want, in the place they want, it is important to be able to plan and discuss their wishes,

For example, returning to country at the end of life and having a traditional burial are often important for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Being able to discuss these wishes with family and their health care team means they are more likely to have the best death possible.”

CATSINaM CEO Janine Mohamed ( Pictured above with the on Ken Wyatt ) says these resources will help health care workers open conversations around end-of-life care in a culturally safe way.

See Ministers Press Release below

New resources launched today by the Hon Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Health, will help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people discuss their end-of-life care wishes with their families and health care teams.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dying to Talk resources were developed in partnership by Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM).

PCA CEO Liz Callaghan says the resources were developed after consultations with Indigenous health organisations that identified the need for a specific resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specific resources have been developed to support advance care planning and end-of-life discussions,” Ms Callaghan said.

“Focus groups were held with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to understand what barriers they had in discussing their end-of-life care wishes and planning for death. Those focus groups informed the design and content of the Discussion Starter and the Dying to Talk Cards to ensure they were culturally safe and useful.

“I also thank the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and Indigenous Allied Health Australia for their input on this project.”

The resources can be accessed at printed resources can be provided by request

Palliative Care Australia is funded by the Australian Government.

New resources to help Indigenous Australians broach end of life discussions

A discussion starter about end of life care, specifically developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, was launched at Parliament House by the Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt.

Page last updated: 28 March 2017 8.15 pm

PDF printable version of New resources to help Indigenous Australians broach end of life discussions – PDF 311 KB

A discussion starter about end of life care, specifically developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, was launched today at Parliament House by the Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt.

Launching the Dying toTalk resources, Minister Wyatt said that starting a discussion about dying is never easy and can be hard when we want to talk to our families and friends about dying but they don’t want to listen.

“Sometimes, we put these discussions off because its confronting and we don’t want to face our own mortality,” he said.

“No matter what the reasons, I am very grateful to live in a country that has such a strong palliative care system in place and palliative care health professionals who help us tackle these discussions.

“I hope that today, with the launch of these new resources, we edge a little closer to making these conversations less difficult and more open.”

The Dying toTalk resources include a culturally appropriate step-by-step guide to make those difficult discussions about death that bit easier and a set of cards that can be used as a tool to start the conversations.

“Throughout the pages of the discussion paper and on the cards it asks us to consider a number of critical questions,” Minister Wyatt said.

“It’s structured. It’s succinct. It’s clear. It helps start the discussion about what would happen if you or a loved one were sick.”

“When you are sick, what would happen to your family? What would happen to your belongings? What sort of health care do you want? How important is it to visit country? How important is it to be on country when you die?

“These are all questions that need to be asked, and answered when we are still able to make our wishes known to the people we care about.”

The Australian Government provided $95,000 to Palliative Care Australia to develop the Dying toTalk resources which has been co-designed with the support of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives, Indigenous Allied Health Australia and the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association.

“The resources will be distributed across Australia to Aboriginal Medical Services and Aboriginal Health Services which will in turn help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people start a discussion about dying in a way that is helpful, constructive and compassionate,” Minister Wyatt said.

“It will help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the most difficult of discussions, with respect and dignity.”

The resources can be accessed at the Dying toTalk website.


NACCHO Aboriginal Elder’s Health : Apunipima #ACCHO signs palliative care MOU for 5 remote Cape York communities


It is great to see that St Vincent’s Health Australia is not only willing to fund this project, but is willing to walk alongside Apunipima and NPAFACS on how we can best help these communities,”

Mrs Patricia Yusia, a Board Member of Apunipima Cape York Health Council, voiced a sigh of relief about the project.

“It’s going to be a learning exercise and an exercise in trust-building. We need to listen to the people in community, and understand what they want from their palliative care service, so that it will cater to the requirements of those who will access it,”

“From there, an appropriate service model can be developed, and then local stories will spread about how members of the communities will die respectfully, at home, on country and with family.”

Associate Prof Mark Boughey, Deputy Director of St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s Centre for Palliative Care, said – first and foremost – he and his colleagues would listen to the communities about their palliative care needs

St Vincent’s Health Australia (SVHA) has committed $450,000 to bring culturally appropriate palliative care services to five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) of Cape York as part of an MOU with Northern Peninsula Area Family and Community Services (NPAFACS) and Apunipima Cape York Health Council (Apunipima).

People living in remote Cape York communities – in particular the five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities of Bamaga, Seisia, Injinoo, Umagico and New Mapoon – experience some of the highest levels of chronic disease and poorest health outcomes in Australia yet don’t have access to local palliative care. The nearest palliative care is more than 1000 kms away in Cairns.

St Vincent’s Health Australia – the nation’s largest not-for-profit health and aged care provider and a provider of palliative care services for more than 125 years – said it responded to a need, raised by NPAFACS through Apunipima, for expert guidance to develop a high-quality, culturally appropriate palliative care service tailored and accessible to the communities of the Cape.

The MOU outlines SVHA’s commitment over five years to achieve in partnership with NPAFACS, Apunipima and the communities of the NPA, including:

  • Participation in the Commonwealth Government’s palliative care education program (Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach or PEPA) which includes capacity for palliative care specialists to visit Aboriginal health services to facilitate palliative care learning.
  • provision of advanced palliative care training for local staff;
  • community capacity building through ongoing clinical support;
  • development of a culturally appropriate model of care and a business plan to establish a permanent palliative care service, and;
  • provision of specialist care and support of palliative care clients via telehealth.

The NPA palliative care project is an extension of an ongoing partnership between St Vincent’s and Apunipima that already provides primary healthcare services to 11 Cape York communities and advocates for 17 others, including those of the Northern Peninsula Area.

“With the highest levels of chronic disease in the country and an average life expectancy of 58 years, there’s considerable need for high-quality and culturally appropriate end of life care in our region,” said Ms Ugari Nona, President, NPAFACS.

“There are currently no palliative care services north of Cairns, some 1000kms away, and certainly no end of life care services appropriate to the cultural requirements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Cape York.”

For the people of NPA’s five communities who have a life-limiting illness, accessing end of life care means leaving the community, leaving family and country to travel to Cairns.

“It’s hard enough for those who are dying to move away to Cairns, but it’s also very hard for the family who can’t be with them,” said Councillor Edward Newman, Mayor of the Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council.

“In most cases, our elders go down to Cairns for palliative care, close to death, and often don’t return – and it’s their family, the community that suffers the burden of them dying away.”

Cllr Newman said St Vincent’s commitment to help address NPA’s end of life service needs has been a welcome step, however sustained commitment, for not just the current Elders but the young people who will one day be Elders and Leaders of the communities, it’s an essential requirement for long-term success.

“This five year plan is a good start, and I’m thankful to have the support of St Vincent’s and Apunipima. However to build community capacity to provide culturally appropriate palliative care across NPA in the long-term, we’ll need at least a 20-year plan – a real long-term vision for the future.”

Project oversight will be undertaken by a steering group comprising representatives from Northern Peninsula Area Family and Community Services, Apunipima Cape York Health Council, St Vincent’s Health Australia and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s Centre for Palliative Care.

NACCHO Aboriginal health : #AIHW #AustraliasHealth2016 : What are the health experts saying about the report ?


” The report has also pointed out ongoing areas of health inequality in Australia, driven by socioeconomic factors and social determinants.

Communities suffering socioeconomic disadvantage continued to have systematically poorer health including lower life expectancy, higher rates of chronic disease and higher smoking rates.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples recorded improved health indicators in some areas, including lower rates for smoking and infant mortality.

However, the report found life expectancy was shorter by 10 years than for non-Indigenous Australians, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continued to suffer higher rates of diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and end-stage kidney disease.

The impact of risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and harmful alcohol use have been emphasised as significant contributors to Australia’s rising rates of chronic disease.

This is an opportunity for health leaders and the Commonwealth Government to heed the report’s message that lifestyle factors and social determinants are significant contributors to ill-health, and to address the issues of health inequality and the importance of reform across all of our care systems “

AHHA Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven

Download the report here australias-health-2016

 #AIHW and Minister Sussan Ley press releases from launch #AustraliasHealth2016 report

Life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains about one decade

The life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remains about one decade, according to new statistics.

The latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) said that while health outcomes had improved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, they still remain below those of non-Indigenous Australians.

The biennial report, published today, shows Indigenous males born between 2010 and 2012 have a life expectancy of 69.1 years, a decade less than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

The gap for women was slightly lower at 9.5 years.

Between 2009 and 2013, 81 per cent of all Indigenous deaths were of people under 75. This is more than twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians, which stands at 34 per cent.

The latest statistics come 10 years after the establishment of the Closing the Gap campaign, which aims to end the disparity on life expectancies.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged that the Government would better engage with Indigenous people in “hope and optimism rather than entrenched despair”.

Indigenous sobriety rate higher than non-Indigenous Australians

While smoking rates have been falling nationally, they remain high among Indigenous Australians, with 44 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and over describing themselves as a current smoker.

The report states that 42 per cent smoke daily, 2.6 times the rate of their non-Indigenous counterparts.

However, Indigenous Australians drink less alcohol than non-Indigenous counterparts — 26 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and over had not consumed alcohol in past 12 months.

This equates to a sobriety rate 1.6 times that of non-Indigenous Australians.

Potentially avoidable deaths — categorised as deaths that could have been avoided given timely and effective health care — accounted for 61 per cent of deaths of Indigenous Australians aged up to 74 years between 2009 to 2013.

This was 10 per cent more than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Australians are living longer than ever but with higher rates of chronic disease, the latest national report card shows.

Reports below from the Conversation

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Australia’s Health 2016 report, released today, Australian boys can now expect to live into their 80s (80.3), while the life expectancy for girls has reached the mid-80s (84.4).

A boy born and girl born in 1890 could only expect to live to 47.2 and 50.8 years respectively. AIHW

The single leading cause of death in Australia is coronary heart disease, followed by:

Grouped together, cancer has overtaken cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) as Australia’s biggest killer. Cancer is also the largest cause of illness, followed by cardiovascular disease:

Burden of disease, by disease group, Australia, 2011 AIHW

Chronic diseases are becoming more common, due to population growth and ageing. Half of Australians (more than 11 million) have at least one chronic disease. One quarter have two or more.

The most common combination of chronic diseases is arthritis with cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke):


Australians have high rates of the biomedical risk factors that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Almost a quarter (23%) of Australian adults have high blood pressure and 63% have abnormal levels of cholesterol.

Lifestyle choices

Fron Jackson-Webb, Health + Medicine Editor, The Conversation

The good news is Australians are less likely to smoke and drink at risky levels than in the past.

Australia now has the fourth-lowest smoking rate among 34 OECD countries, at 13% in 2013. This is almost half that of 1991 (24%).


The volume of alcohol Australians consume fell from 10.8 litres per person in 2007–08 to 9.7 litres in 2013–14. This is the lowest level since 1962–63. But 16% of Australians are still drinking to very risky levels: consuming 11 or more standard drinks on one occasion in the past 12 months.


Around eight million Australians have tried illicit drugs in their lifetime, including 2.9 million in the last 12 months. The most commonly used illicit drugs are cannabis (10%), ecstasy (2.5%), methamphetamine (2.1%) and cocaine (2.1%).

Use of methamphetamine has remained stable in recent years. However, more methamphetamine users are opting for crystal (ice) rather than powder (speed).

The bad news is Australians are still struggling with their weight. Around 63% are overweight or obese, up from 56% in 1995. This equates to an average increase of 4.4kg for men and women. One in four children are overweight or obese.

Junk foods high in salt, fat and sugar account for around 35% of adults’ energy intake and around 39% of the energy intake for children and young people.

Most Australians (93%) don’t consume the recommended five serves of vegetables a day and only half eat the recommended two serves of fruit. Just 3% of children eat enough vegetables, though 70% consume the recommended amount of fruit.

Almost half (45%) of adults aged 18 to 64 and 23% of children aren’t meeting the national physical activity recommendations. These are for adults to accumulative 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity each week. Children are advised to accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

Lifestyle choices have a huge impact on the risk of chronic disease; an estimated 31% of the burden of disease in Australia could have been prevented by reducing risk factors such as smoking, excess weight, risky drinking, physical inactivity and high blood pressure.

Proportion of the burden attributable to the top five risk factors


Preventing chronic disease

Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health, University of Melbourne

This report outlines a number of positives in Australia’s health – our life expectancy, the health services at our beck and call, major declines in tobacco and road deaths. We’re doing well, it says, but we could do better.

If we took prevention and health promotion far more seriously, we could do a lot better.

The report nominates tobacco use, alcohol, high body mass and physical inactivity as the chief causes of preventable illness and the chief causes of our increasing level of chronic illnesses. Yet national investment in prevention is declining.

Further reading: Focus on prevention to control the growing health budget

Tobacco use is rapidly declining because of really effective measures (plain packaging, advertising bans and increasing price through taxes) that save lives and enormous amounts of money over a lifetime for people who used to smoke.

However, we can’t seem to make any major dent in the commercial, industrial and lifestyle diseases related to junk food and drinks, harmful consumption of alcohol and car dependency.

We’ve known what will work for many years but the power of some of these unhealthy industries is still overwhelming – a situation in which our politicians fear these industries and their associations more than they fear the voters.

Our collective health would have been much better if we’d been able to follow the guidance of our own national task forces and learnt from other countries. The report card should read, “Doing well, but could have done a lot better”.


Fran Baum, Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor and Foundation Director at the Southgate Institute for Health, Society & Equity, Flinders University

Australia’s Health 2016 shows many Australians are not getting a fair go at health. There is a gradient across society whereby the richer the area you live in, the longer you can expect to live. The difference between the highest and lowest is four years.

Deaths by socioeconomic group: 1 = lowest; 5 = highest


The gradient is evident from early life. Children most at risk of exclusion – those from poor areas who experience problems with education, housing and connectedness – are most likely to die before they reach 15 years from potentially preventable or treatable causes.

Further reading: Want to improve the nation’s health? Start by reducing inequalities and improving living conditions

Our most glaring inequity is the ten-year life gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and others. Indigenous life expectancy is 69.1 years for males and 73.7 years for females.

Compared with the non-Indigenous population, Indigenous Australians are:

  • 3.5 times as likely to have diabetes and four times as likely to be hospitalised with it or to die from it
  • five times as likely to have end-stage kidney disease
  • twice as likely to die from an injury
  • twice as likely to have heart disease.

Australians living outside major cities have higher rates of disease and injury. They also live in environments that make healthy lifestyles choices harder (such as more difficulties buying fresh fruit and vegetables) and so their risk of chronic diseases is increased.


The data on who has private health insurance coverage points to the emergence of a two-tiered health system, where those who can afford to pay receive better access and quality of care. Just 26% of those in the lowest socioeconomic group have cover compared to about 80% of the top group.

Coverage with private health insurance and government health-care cards


Cost of care

Professor Stephen Duckett, Director of the Health Program at Grattan Institute

Over the last decade, health expenditure grew about 5% each year, above the 2.8% average growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As a result, health took up an increasing share of GDP.

Spending more on health means Australia spent less on other things. This is not necessarily bad, as long as the benefits from that increased expenditure – such as increasing life expectancy or increased quality of life – are worth the increased costs.

But spending above GDP growth cannot continue indefinitely. And the last few years saw an increase in rhetoric about health spending increases being “unsustainable” from so-called “futurists” and politicians.

Informed commentators have generally rejected the unsustainability claim, some labelling it a “myth”, while others take a more nuanced view.

Australia’s Health 2016 shows a slowing of the real growth rate in the most recent two years to about half that of the previous decade – 1.1% from 2011-12 to 2012-13 and 3.1% from 2012–13 to 2013–14.

Annual growth rates in health expenditure AIHW

This suggests the “unsustainability” rhetoric is at least overblown and potentially prompting budget decisions which are counter-productive, such as introducing a co-payment for general practice.

Commonwealth government expenditure was more or less stable over these most recent two years, declining 2.5% initially then increasing 2.4% in the last year.

Health expenditure by area (adjusted for inflation)


Savings to the government came from shifting costs to consumers, by slowing the growth in government subsidies to private health insurers, and also by slowing spending on pharmaceuticals.

This latter slowdown was achieved through tighter controls on payments to drug manufacturers and because some big-selling drugs came off patent, resulting in falls in prices.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper Next AGM Edition


NACCHO Welcomes Advertising and Articles

NACCHO #HealthElection16 : How Australians die : No1 Heart diseases/stroke


This is the first in the How Australians Die series that focuses on the country’s top five causes of death and how we can drive down rates of these illnesses. Tomorrow’s piece will explore the second leading cause of death: cancers.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Causes of Death

( NACCHO post)

The top three WHO leading causes of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in 2014 were Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25), Diabetes (E10-E14) and Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47).

Compared to the non-Indigenous population, death rates were 1.7 times higher for Ischaemic heart diseases (I20-I25), 5.9 times higher for Diabetes (E10-E14) and 3.0 times higher for Chronic lower respiratory diseases (J40-J47) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Further information can be found in the Deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander section of this publication.

There were 2,914 deaths registered across Australia in 2014 where the deceased person was identified as being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin. This represents 1.9% of all deaths registered.

Diseases of the heart and the vessels running to and from it are the number one reason people die in Australia, and we’re not alone. They are the number one cause of death in the world.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ischaemic heart disease (IHD) is the leading cause of death in Australia. In 2014, 20,173 people died from it.

But ischaemic heart disease is not really the disease itself. Rather, it is the term used to cover the clinical manifestations of coronary heart disease such as heart attacks and angina.

Pic 1

The How Australians Die series has combined all cancer deaths to make them the second leading cause of death after heart diseases and stroke. Alzheimer’s is third, respiratory diseases fourth and diabetes fifth.

Coronary heart disease

Coronary heart disease is almost always a consequence of atherosclerosis. This is a build-up of cholesterol and other material in the walls of our arteries (tubes that carry blood and oxygen to the heart). The build-up can cause heart attack and block access to the brain, leading to stroke – another of Australia’s top killers.

Ischemia describes insufficient oxygen supply to the heart muscle. Lack of oxygen can cause discomfort in the chest, such as a tightness or squeezing known as angina. This is most often brought on by exercise but is more serious when it happens at rest.

Persistence of angina over time, particularly at rest, can lead to death of some heart muscle. This is called an acute coronary syndrome, or colloquially, a heart attack. We used to call this myocardial infarction. No wonder people find the terminology confusing.

Pic 2

The Australian Bureau of Statistics classifies ischaemic heart disease as the leading cause of death in Australia. Cerebrovascular diseases (stroke) are the third, heart failure is at number seven; hypertensive diseases are at 13, and cardiac arrythmias at 19.

But there is considerable overlap among these, which is why this article has combined them under one umbrella. Hypertension (high blood pressure), for instance, is a major cause of stroke and a risk factor for coronary disease. At least half of heart failure is due to coronary heart disease, while the most common cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), atrial fibrillation, is often caused by hypertension, heart failure or coronary heart disease. Further, atrial fibrillation is the cause of about one-third of strokes.

Although ischaemic heart disease is responsible for 20,173 deaths in 2014, the number of deaths due to the above circulatory diseases in 2014 was 38,741.

History of heart disease

Heart disease is not new. CT scans of Egyptian mummies who lived 3,500 years ago show they had narrowings in their arteries, which means they had coronary heart disease. Pharaoh Merneptah, for instance, who died in 1203 BC, had severe coronary disease.

CT scans show Pharaoh Merneptah had atherosclerosis. G. Elliot Smith/Wikimedia Commons

The real and documented epidemic of heart disease occurred after the second world war. This could in part be explained by higher rates of smoking, blood pressure and poor diets after and during the war. Rates increased for three decades at this time.

Then they fell; first in Australia and the United States, and then in other developed countries. Half of this fall could be attributed to public health measures such as tobacco control and availability of blood pressure and cholesterol treatments; the other half to better treatment of people with heart disease.

A province of Finland, North Karelia, initially held the dubious record for the highest rates of heart disease in the world. In the early 1970s, the region had around 672 per 100,000 people dying from heart disease. The mantle then passed to Eastern Europe and Russia where rates are currently 320 per 100,000 people. This is astounding compared to Australia where the rate is 54 per 100,000.

In 1990, heart disease was the third-highest cause of death in developing countries, but by 2013 it was number one. The rates rose from 70 per 100,000 people to 91 per 100,000 people in those years respectively. This is because the developing world acquired the habits of the developed world. There are now more people in the world who are overweight than underweight.

Hypertensive diseases are rising in most developing countries, together with diabetes, while smoking remains common. Infections and trauma used to cause death in people too young to have heart disease, but that is no longer the case due to antibiotics, immunisations and better safety standards.

In 1990, there were 12.3 million deaths globally from heart disease. By 2013, this had risen to 17.3 million. Most of this 40.8% increase occurred in developing countries and in disadvantaged people in developed countries like Australia.

ABS Causes of Death, Australia, 2014, CC BY-SA

Every country in the world is at some point in the transition from low to high to medium rates of heart disease related to their stage of development. There is nothing inevitable about heart disease being the number one cause of death in Australia or the world as a whole.

The stereotype of a harassed executive having a heart attack no longer applies. Heart disease has become a blue-collar disease or one seen initially in urban populations in developing countries.

Where to from here?

The documented epidemic of heart disease occurred after the second world war. AV Dezign |, CC BY

Today (and for the foreseeable future) global rates of heart disease are driven by development, inequality and prosperity. The rate of heart disease deaths was almost double for Australians in the lowest socioeconomic group compared to the highest socioeconomic group, and 20% more for those living in remote to very remote regions compared to those in major cities. They were 40% higher for Indigenous Australians compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.

For years, we have been comforted by falling rates of heart disease deaths in Australia. But as the population increases, ages and people survive diseases such as cancer earlier in life, the burden on the health system has not been falling to the extent that rates would suggest.

Alarmingly, in people aged 55-69 both rates and the absolute number of people dying from heart disease have increased, according to the latest data.

As Australia has become one of the fattest nations in the world, with rates of diabetes increasing and other metabolic consequences leading to heart disease, overweight and sedentary men and women with multiple risk factors have replaced the thin male smokers who died of heart disease in the 50s.

Opportunity to support a special edition #HealthElection16 NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper PUBLISH DATE June 29



    Opportunity to send your Aboriginal Health issue message to Canberra for



Advertising and editorial is invited from

  • All political parties
  • NACCHO 150 Members and Affiliates
  • Stakeholders/ Aboriginal organisations
  • Peak Health bodies

Closing 17 June for publishing election week 29 June



Response to our NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper from our members, community, stakeholders and Government  has been nothing short of sensational over the past 3 years , with feedback from around the country suggesting we really kicked a few positive goals for Aboriginal health.

NACCHO is the national peak body for Aboriginal health. It is entrusted to represent the needs and interests of Aboriginal health on behalf of its members in the national arena.

NACCHO has and continues to be a living embodiment of the aspirations of Aboriginal people

10 good reasons to advertise in the NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper :

  1. Highly targeted health sector from CEO’s to all staff audience
  2. Quality production and guaranteed national distribution in partnership with the award-winning Koori Mail 14,000 printed copies
  3. Spend any surplus dollars before the end of the financial year
  4. Article space offered with ad bookings
  5. Newspaper also distributed at NACCHO events and workshops
  6. 1500 copies posted to the CEO’s of Australia’s top Aboriginal health organisations and NGO’s and Government departments
  7. Thank you ‘burst’ through NACCHO’s social media network naming all advertisers
  8. Over 100,000 audited readers
  9. Targeted at Aboriginal consumer / clients
  10. Support NACCHO vision to Close the Gap

Our media partner Koori Mail Turns 25 this week

The Koori Mail is an Australian media institution, 100% owned and controlled by Aboriginal people. The fortnightly newspaper circulates all states and covers the issues that matter the most to black Australians. 25 years since its first print, the Indigenous paper is still breaking ground for Indigenous journalism.




Editorial Proposals  10 June 2016
Final Ads artwork 17 June 2016
Publication date 29 June 2016

Editorial Opportunities

New Microsoft Word Document (2)

We are now looking to all our members, programs and sector stakeholders for advertising, compelling articles, eye-catching images and commentary for inclusion in our next edition.

Maximum 600 words (word file only) with image

Please Note: All submitted advertising and editorial content is subject to space availability and review by the NACCHO Newspaper editorial committee

Advertising opportunities

NEW VERSION A3poster_Aboriginal_2_nocropsExample full Page Ad April and June edition

This 24-page newspaper is produced and distributed as an insert in the Koori Mail, circulating 14,000 full-colour print copies nationally via newsagents and subscriptions.

Our audited readership (Audit Bureau of Circulations) is 100,000 readers!

Our target audience also includes over 1,500 NACCHO member and affiliate health organisations, relevant government departments, subsidiary indigenous health services and suppliers, as well as the end-users of Australian Indigenous health services nationally.

Your advertising support means we can build this newspaper to a cost-neutral endeavour, thereby guaranteeing its future.

Rate Card

Note: the earlier you book your ad or submit an article for consideration, the better placement we can offer in the printed newspaper. All prices are GST inclusive. Discounts are available to not-for-profits, NACCHO member organisations and industry stakeholders. All prices include artwork if required.

1/8 PAGE
Public $19.80 $5,266.80 $2,633.40 $1,316.70 $658.35
Member $11.00 $2,926.00 $1,463.00 $731.50 $365.75
Stakeholder $15.40 $4,096.40 $2,048.20 $1,024.10 $512.05

Download Rate Card

For further information contact:

Colin Cowell – 0401 331 251
Communications and Marketing Consultant


Download the April 6th Edition of the NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper – click here!

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