NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 2023 National COVID-19 Health Management Plan

The image in the feature tile is from the cover of the Australian Government’s 16 page National COVID-19 Health Management Plan for 2023.

2023 National COVID-19 Health Management Plan

A National COVID-19 Health Management Plan (the National Plan) has been developed to outline the Australian Government health supports to manage COVID-19 over the next 12 months. These health supports have been informed by the likely 2023 Australian epidemiological outlook and advice from the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Paul Kelly.

Over 2023, Australia will transition to managing COVID-19 in a similar way to other respiratory viruses, moving away from COVID exceptionalism and bespoke arrangements. While we are learning more about the virus and its impacts on the community and health systems all the time, we are not yet at a “steady state” where we can predict and manage it within normal systems. This means health response measures are still required.

The National Plan summarises the interconnecting whole-of-system measures to transition our management of COVID-19, while maintaining a state of readiness and capacity to respond as the pandemic continues to evolve.

You can access the Australian Government’s 16 page National COVID-19 Health Management Plan for 2023 in full here.

NACCHO affiliates doing us proud

The Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA) Sexual Health Team has won the People’s Choice Awards Sexual Health Poster! The AHCSA Sexual Health team beat 150 other entrants to claim top prize for this incredible piece of work that we are so proud of.

Have a read below of the significance of the work and how the group achieved the unbelievable outcome in the link here.

AHCSA Sexual Health Team’s winning People’s Choice Award Sexual Health Poster.

Meanwhile last week VACCHO co-hosted a workshop with the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA), bringing together representatives of 12 Specialist Medical Colleges.

The workshop centred on improving the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors in Specialist training. Whether it’s radiology, dermatology, surgery, or any other specialty, colleges need to develop culturally safe and supportive training pathways to help grow the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Specialists in our health services.

VACCHO acknowledged the deadly work AIDA is doing to build strong partnerships across the health workforce, to develop future generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors.

Participants of the VACCHO and AIDA workshop.

Governments must act to raise the age

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, health, legal and human rights organisations have welcomed the release of a government report and called on Attorneys-General to immediately act on its recommendation to raise the age of criminal responsibility with no exceptions. The report was prepared by a Working Group chaired by the WA Department of Justice, and included representation from justice departments from each state, territory and the Commonwealth government.

The Council of Attorneys-General Age of Criminal Responsibility Working Group report lists recommendations based on the findings of the review stating: “A primary recommendation to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years without exceptions.” The report, prepared in 2020, was informed by over 90 public submissions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, health, legal and human rights organisations and experts. The Human Rights Law Centre previously made repeated Freedom of Information requests to obtain a copy of the report, with all requests refused.

The current low age of criminal responsibility disproportionately impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and is a key driver of contact with police and the criminal legal system. Raising the age would reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in prisons and help governments meet their Closing The Gap targets. The report noted that to turn “the tide on First Nations incarceration rates requires Commonwealth, state and territory governments to work in partnership with First Nations people and organisations.”

To view the Human Rights Law Centre article Governments must act on justice department advice to #RaiseTheAge to at least 14 in full click here.

Improving lives and mental health of youth

Each year the achievements and contributions of eminent Australians are celebrated through the Australian of the Year Awards by profiling leading citizens who are role models for us all. They inspire us through their achievements and challenge us to make our own contribution to creating a better Australia. The Awards honour an exceptional group of highly respected Australians who ignite discussion and change on issues of national importance. The Australian of the Year Awards provides everyone with the opportunity to recognise any Australian who makes them proud. The four Australian of the Year categories are:

  • Australian of the Year
  • Senior Australian of the Year (those aged 65 years or over)
  • Young Australian of the Year (ages 16 to 30)
  • Australia’s Local Hero

Jahdai Vigona has received the 2023 NT Young Australian of the Year award. Jahdai Vigona is at the forefront of mental health programs educating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. A proud Tiwi Islands man, he is passionate about improving the lives of Indigenous people.

WellMob: An Introduction

WellMob have produced a short, animated video WellMob: An Introduction describing the WellMob website. WellMob is a digital library of wellbeing resources made by and for our mob. These resources include apps, podcasts, websites, videos, social media and printable wellbeing materials. There are also training resources to support workers.

The WellMob: An Introduction video is for anyone interested in digital wellbeing resources, including health and wellbeing workers – it is from e-Mental Health in Practice and hosted by the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet.

You can access more information and training resources from the WellMob website here.

Trailblazing Indigenous doctor

Trailblazing Indigenous doctor Dr Mark Wenitong has received an honorary Doctorate from Central Queensland University Australia, celebrating almost three decades of work to improve the health and wellbeing of First Nations peoples. Dr Wenitong, who is also board deputy chair of Community Enterprise Queensland, is one of Australia’s first Indigenous doctors and a leader and mentor in driving better First Nations healthcare.

Since graduating from Newcastle University Medical School in 1995, Dr Wenitong has practiced across central Australia and now in Far North Queensland, and was a founding member of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA). Dr Wenitong has been the Public Health Medical Advisor at Apunipima Cape York Health Council since 2008, where he continues to practice clinical medicine and remote health service systems and program delivery.

In addition to being an adjunct professor at the Queensland University of Technology, Dr Wenitong is the strategic advisor for the Lowitja Institute, Research Knowledge Translation and the inaugural Co-Chair of the Queensland Health Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statewide Clinical Network. Dr Wenitong was previously appointed as the Aboriginal Public Health Medical Officer, and the acting chief executive at the NACCHO in 2012. It has been a long and remarkable journey.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Trailblazing Indigenous doctor honoured for outstanding career and contribution to First Nations health in full click here.

Dr Mark Wenitong. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

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: RACGP calls for QLD government to come clean

The image in the feature tile is from an RACGP newsGP article ‘Very disappointing’: UTI pharmacy prescribing pilot extended indefinitely published on 4 July 2022.

RACGP calls for QLD government to come clean

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called on the Queensland Government to come clean on the North Queensland Retail Pharmacy Scope of Practice Pilot. It comes following the RACGP lodging a Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) request to the Queensland Health Department on 28 March this year – 256 days ago. So far, no information has been forthcoming. The application sought access to meeting agendas, meeting papers (including notes and briefing papers), minutes, correspondence, budget documents and briefings relating to the pilot.

The college has previously cautioned that the pilot will fragment care and put patient safety and wellbeing at risk. In October this year, the RACGP doubled down on warnings that the experiment will result in poorer health outcomes for patients and much higher healthcare costs. Since then, several jurisdictions including Victoria and NSW, have forged ahead with their own pharmacy prescribing plans.

RACGP President and Mackay-based GP Dr Nicole Higgins said that scrutiny of the pilot was needed more than ever. “This is not rocket science, if due process has been followed then these documents exist, and it is in the public’s interest to know what they contain, especially as this pilot is the product of an election promise rather than responding to a demonstrable public need,” she said.

To view the RACGP media release What is the Queensland Government hiding on the controversial pharmacy prescribing pilot? in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Concerns mob missing out on eating disorder treatment

To view the ABC News article Concerns Indigenous Australians missing out on eating disorder treatment in full click here.

Wiradjuri and Wotjobulak man AJ Williams battled bulimia for three years. Image source: ABC News.

Remote housing: holding government to account

Royal Darwin Hospital’s Dr Nerida Moore and paediatric registrar Dr Tasmyn Soller have co-authored an article about how overcrowding and poor-quality housing are significant driving forces of death and disease in remote communities of the NT, saying “As health care workers, we bear witness to the devastating impact that overcrowding and grossly substandard infrastructure brings. We see mothers who are desperate to find solutions to enable them to wash their children’s clothes, limited by access to washing machines, power and water. Likewise, we see families advocating to reduce overcrowding in their community who are told to wait patiently for nearly a decade for a new house to be built.”

Inadequate housing and overcrowding are at crisis level in many parts of the NT – a fact that has been established over many decades. In Australia, the highest levels of overcrowding occur in very remote communities. In 2019, it was estimated that 51% of Indigenous Australians living in very remote communities resided in overcrowded homes. Estimates suggest an extra 5,000 homes are needed by 2028 to reduce levels of overcrowding to an acceptable level.

It is therefore unsurprising that remote communities experience some of the highest rates of devastating and preventable diseases such as acute rheumatic fever (ARF), rheumatic heart disease (RHD), acute post streptococcal glomerulonephritis, chronic suppurative lung disease, skin infections and otitis media. These diseases, even though they have different pathophysiology, all have common links to the social determinants of health. This is further highlighted by the steep decline of these diseases globally as living conditions have gradually improved across the world.

To view the InSight article Remote community housing: holding government to account in full click here.

Gloria Chula lives in a three-bedroom house of 16 people in Wadeye, one of the Northern Territory’s poorest and most troubled Indigenous communities. Image source: The Islander.

Nine-year-old ‘doctors’ set to graduate

A group of primary school-aged “doctors” are set to graduate in Melbourne’s north and become life-long health ambassadors for themselves and their communities. The 30-odd students in grades three and four at Reservoir East Primary School are graduating from the 15-week Malpa Young Doctors for Life program this week.

The program is culturally derived and teaches both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children traditional ways of healing, along with modern ways of keeping communities healthy. Interstate, nine South Australian schools signed up in 2022, and three schools are also part of the program in NSW in Dubbo South, and in Smithtown and Kempsey West in the Mid North Coast region.

The program “equips them with Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge which they end up sharing with others – I believe they are closing the gap for themselves,” Malpa leader Mel Harrison said. “At Reservoir, one of the main benefits is that it has dramatically improved school attendance. “The way the program is designed means that every child feels some form of success in Malpa.”

To view the Milton Ulladulla Times article Nine-year-old ‘doctors’ set to graduate in full click here.

Students from a primary school in Melbourne took part in the Malpa Young Doctors for Life program. Image source: Milton Ulladulla Times.

NT facing COVID-19 spike

COVID-19 cases have doubled in the NT in the past week, rising faster than anywhere else in the country. The NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles says the NT has moved out of the COVID-19 emergency phase but Aboriginal health care providers say that call is premature. Angus Randall reports that health services are very worried about a Christmas peak. The NT recently recorded a worrying COVID milestone, 100,000 cases since the start of the pandemic. Experts say that is likely an undercount, but the trend in the official numbers shows a steeper rise in the NT right now than anywhere else in Australia.

John Paterson the CEO, of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) said “Up until this year we’ve had 40 Aboriginal deaths in the NT, it’s killing Aboriginal people at younger ages, with the highest numbers of deaths in the 60-69 age group then the 50-59 age group compared to over 80 for the non-Aboriginal population, so you can see the Aboriginal population is at most risk.”

Mr Paterson is concerned about what will happen over the coming weeks as those in remote communities travel to the more populated centres during the Christmas season. “It is unfortunate and I think premature that governments are taking their foot off the pedal and not giving this issue the attention it deserves given we are now seeing a rise in COVID-19 numbers again. Our advice would have been to wait until after the Christmas New Year period to see what the numbers are like and reconsider any other public measures we might need to take during that period.”

You can listen to The World Today ABC broadcast NT facing COVID-19 spike in full here.

Photo: Steven Schubert, ABC News. Image source: ABC News – The World Today.

Australia’s annual sexual health check up

New data released last week by the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney reveals how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted testing and diagnoses of sexually transmissible infections (STI) in Australia. The report titled HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual surveillance report shows that in 2021 there were 86,916 diagnoses* of chlamydia, 26,577 of gonorrhoea and 5,570 of infectious syphilis in Australia.

“Prior to the pandemic we were seeing increases in chlamydia and gonorrhoea, but in 2021 we recorded a small decline. We believe this reduction is a consequence of both reduced testing and reduced sexual activity with new or casual partners, due to social restrictions and lockdowns during 2020 and 2021,” says Dr Skye McGregor from the Kirby Institute, one of the report’s authors. “On the other hand, syphilis has been steadily increasing among women of reproductive age, gay and bisexual men and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This reflects sustained and ongoing transmission across Australia, which is extremely concerning.”

To view the scimex article Australia’s Annual Sexual Health Check Up: STIs are mostly down, but reductions in testing could be the cause in full click here.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) webpage of 1800 My Options 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: NACCHO Deputy CEO talks about HIV

The image in the feature tile is of NACCHO Deputy CEO Dr Dawn Casey PSM.

NACCHO Deputy CEO talks about HIV

Yesterday NACCHO Deputy CEO Dr Dawn Casey spoke to Lola Forester on Blackchat, Koori Radio 93.7 FM about positive actions being taken to get the right information out to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities about HIV. Dr Casey said the community is tracking pretty well in terms of the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people contracting HIV and cases being reported. She said there’s been a massive program, funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, over the last couple of years where many of the ACCHOs are involved in running programs for overall blood borne viruses (BBV) and STIs. Communities have made significant headway in terms of creating awareness about BBVs and STIs and prevention. Stigma and shame around HIV however continues to be a problem.

Dr Casey said so much more awareness needs to happen so people understand HIV is not threatening like it was many years ago. An issue that needs to be improved considerably is partner notification and contract tracing. ACCHOs are doing an incredible job with prevention programs and awareness campaigns, in language where required, around BBVs, STIs and HIV. Dr Casey and Lola reflected on the very inventive and funny ways ACCHOs have been getting the message out about safe sex, including condom trees.

You can listen to the 10-minute Koori Radio Blackchat radio interview in full by clicking here.

Koori Radio 93.7 FM Blackchat presenter Lola Forester.

Calls to stop ‘pipeline’ of shattered children

The Yoorrook Justice Commission has called for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to at least 14, to help stop vulnerable Indigenous children getting “lost in the pipeline” of child protection and criminal justice systems. The Standing Council of Attorneys-General – a group of attorneys-general from federal, state and territory governments that focuses on best practices in law reform – will review the age of criminal responsibility when it meets later this week.

Counsel assisting the Yoorrook Justice Commission Fiona McLeod, SC, urged the council to consider First Nations people, “the many, many reports into this issue” and the testimonies that would be heard at the commission’s public hearings this week. McLeod said the number of First Nations children in out-of-home care in Victoria was “heading in the wrong direction” and contributing to a high incarceration rate among First Nations people. “It appears the current system is failing in its fundamental object of child protection,” she said. “It appears it is broken. It is fuelling a pipeline of shattered children straight to our health services and our criminal justice system.”

To view the WAtoday article Call to raise age of criminal responsibility and stop ‘pipeline of shattered Indigenous children’ in full click here.

Kutcha Edwards and niece Eva Jo Edwards are survivors of the stolen generations. Photo: Simon Schluter. Image source: WAtoday.

Kids face higher rates of skin infections

Bacterial skin infections and atopic dermatitis may be underdiagnosed among urban Indigenous children, says a WA dermatologist and researcher. A systematic review, published in Pediatric Dermatology, assessed the burden of atopic dermatitis and bacterial skin conditions in Indigenous children and young people living in urban environments in high-income countries.

Researchers included 16 papers from Australia, NZ, Canada and Greenland spanning 26 years. “Atopic dermatitis is common among urban-living Indigenous children in high-income countries with current symptoms and current severe symptoms higher than their non-Indigenous peers,” the researchers wrote. “This may suggest under-treatment of atopic dermatitis, reflecting the socioeconomic disadvantage that disproportionately affects Indigenous people, creating financial barriers to primary and dermatologic care, prescription treatments, and costly skin care regimens.”

The researchers said S.aureus colonised the skin in atopic dermatitis, exacerbating the disease and increasing the risk of bacterial skin infections. “Untreated bacterial skin infections can lead to serious complications including sepsis, post-infectious glomerulonephritis, and rheumatic heart disease,” they wrote. Urban-living Indigenous children in Australia and other high-income countries shared a history of colonisation, displacement and negative impacts on health, said lead author and dermatologist, Dr Bernadette Ricciardo from the University of WA and the Telethon Kids Institute.

To read the Medical Republic article Kids face higher rates of infections click here.

Image source: Medical Republic.

Healthy Skin Week in Maningrida

Mala’la Health Service recently coordinated Healthy Skin Week to promote early identification and treatment of skin infections in a bid to lower long term health conditions such as Acute Rheumatic Fever, Rheumatic Heart and Kidney Disease. Over five days, the dedicated crew of Aboriginal Community Health Workers, Nurses and Volunteer Doctors assessed and treated more than 1,200 people in Maningrida and outstations. Outreach clinics through late night shops, child and family centre and public spaces around the community provided extra points of access for the community.

Natasha Bond was involved in leading the community response with home-to-home visits and workshops to provide health information and support. “Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is a huge concern for our mob, we have the highest rates of RHD in the world. We want to encourage everyone to work on this together, get treatment straight away and stop further health complications”.

In the lead up to Healthy Skin Week, West Arnhem Regional Council coordinated hard-rubbish collections with Stedman’s also coming on board to provide Skip Bins at various sites. Maningrida College hosted multiple workshops with the school students from kindy to seniors’ cohorts. These Workshops were delivered by the Mala’la team of Aboriginal Health Workers in-training, Natasha Bond and Eileen Gunabarra alongside Jennifer Damsey in Burarra and English languages.

To view the West Arnhem Regional Council article Healthy Skin Week in Maningrida in full click here.

Image source: West Arnhem Land Regional Council website.

Informing National Health and Climate Strategy

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and leadership will inform climate health policy and action at all levels under a discussion paper that is being circulated for feedback to inform development of a National Health and Climate Strategy. This is the first of six principles informing the paper, and “recognises the role of First Nations people in protecting and caring for Country, that Indigenous ecological knowledge should be considered in policy development, and that First Nations’ engagement will lead to better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

Other principles informing the paper are that:

  • a more sustainable healthcare system will improve public health outcomes
  • all Australians have equal access to a strong and climate-resilient health system, both now and in the future
  • evidence underpins strategies and actions
  • all levels of government and stakeholders work in partnership to implement agreed focus areas and actions
  • a health lens is applied to climate change policy.

The paper asks readers to consider whether other principles should be considered. “For example, should transparency, reporting and accountability also be included as a key principle underpinning the Strategy?” While the paper “acknowledges that some populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, rural and remote communities, elderly Australians and Australians from lower socio-economic backgrounds, are more vulnerable to poorer health outcomes from the impacts of climate change”, it does not mention the term ‘health equity’. Nor does ‘climate justice’ rate a mention.

To read the Croakey Health Media article On the National Health and Climate Strategy, how’s it shaping up? in full click here.

Raylene Lenmardi and Sumayah Surprise, Ngurrara Rangers. Image source: WWF Australia.

Winnunga Nimmityjah health centre opens

The Winnunga Nimmityjah health centre opened in a formal ceremony on Saturday 3 December 2022 is the first purpose-built facility of its type in the ACT. CEO Julie Tongs said “This building is a huge game-changer in many ways and is a true testament to Aboriginal self-determination.” She said it was needed because the life expectancy of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait islanders was still far behind that of the wider community.

The elegant purpose-built building in Narrabundah will serve about 5,000 people a year in about 60,000 visits. “We’ve got so many people who are vulnerable,” she said. “Here, in Canberra, people think it’s the land of milk and honey but it’s not for a lot of people.”

At a cost of $20 million, it will provide a wide range of medical facilities for Aboriginal people in the territory. There are six GPs, three nurse practitioners and 14 nurses. Physical and mental health will be dealt with at the centre. Julie Tongs is clearly very proud. “This is a huge deal because it’s what our community deserves,” she said.

To read The Canberra Times article Winnunga Nimmityjah health centre, the ACT’s first Aboriginal-run health centre, to open in full click here.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services chief executive Julie Tongs at the new centre. Photo: Keegan Carroll. Image source: The Canberra Times.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Pharmacist Scholarship recipient Bryony Forrest

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

Pharmacist Scholarship recipient Bryony Forrest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winnunga Health and Wellbeing Service at AMC

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

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

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

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

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

HIV and sexual health webinar this WEDNESDAY

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

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

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

ACCO literacy campaign linked to crime reduction

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

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

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

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

Image source: Literacy for Life Foundation website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NDIS Ready videos and social media tiles

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

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

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

AHCWA

AH&MRC

AHCSA (no videos)

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: U and Me Can Stop HIV video launch

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

U and Me Can Stop HIV video launch

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

Warra could change face of Indigenous leadership

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

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

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

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

Carlyn Waters. Image source: Women’s Agenda.

Questions must be answered on pharmacy trials

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

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

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

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

Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Exhibition showcases art’s healing power

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

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

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

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

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

Improving transplantation access for mob

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

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

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

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

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

Sector Jobs

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

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

International Day of People with Disability

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

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

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

You can find more information about IDPwD here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Big believer in ACCHO model of health care

The image in the feature tile is of Dr David Scrimgeour who has published a book about his experiences working in the Western Desert. Photo: Giulia Bertoglio, ABC Goldfields. Image source: ABC News article Reflections on Australia’s last desert nomads, Pintupi Nine and Richters, and the homelands movement published on Sunday 27 November 2022.

Big believer in ACCHO model of health care

When Australia’s last groups of nomads walked out of the desert, David Scrimgeour was the first doctor to examine them. Dr Scrimgeour recounts this experience as well as two defining moments in Aboriginal history: the homelands movement and the push for Aboriginal-controlled health care in his book Remote As Ever: The Aboriginal struggle for autonomy in the Western Desert.

Dr Scrimgeour is a big believer in the Aboriginal community-controlled model of health care and hopes his book will show how important autonomy is for Aboriginal communities — particularly, he said, as government policies have ebbed away at the pride people felt when the communities were first established. “I think it’s important that that the Australian public generally are aware of how people did get out here to these communities,” he said. “And how important taking control of your own life is for people’s health.”

Dr Scrimgeour said there was now another social movement taking place in remote Aboriginal communities that gave him hope for the future. He described it as the “caring for country movement”, which was underpinned by ranger programs. He believes funding local people to undertake ecological and cultural work on country not only helps the environment but also people’s physical and spiritual health. “Caring for country is good for the health of the people,” he said. “It’s good for the health of the country. It’s good for the health of the whole country of Australia.”

To read the ABC News article Reflections on Australia’s last desert nomads, Pintupi Nine and Richters, and the homelands movement in full click here.

Aboriginal health practitioner Tyson Stevens, remote area nurse Simon Gabrynowicz, Dr Scrimgeour and Aboriginal health worker Winmati Roberts all worked at the Spinifex Health Service. Photo: Paul Bulley. Image source: ABC News.

Researchers need to invest time to build trust

Historically in Australia, research has been a dirty word among First Nations communities, some of the most ‘researched on’ people in the country. They got no ownership of the data obtained from their participation, no recognition of their sovereignty and no help in building their own research capacity. But there’s been a national push to try to ensure that research is driven, and co-designed, by Indigenous Australians themselves. Increasingly, national funders, including the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), require grant applicants to provide evidence of Indigenous partnerships, including Indigenous leadership.

As part of short series of articles about decolonizing the biosciences, paediatric lung researcher Pamela Laird has outlined the steps that clinical researchers must take to establish and maintain trusting relationships with Indigenous communities that they serve. Based at the University of WA and at Telethon Kids Institute, both in Perth, Laird’s team has spent years laying the foundation to study respiratory disease in Indigenous Australian children.

To view the nature article Invest the time to build trust among marginalized research participants in full click here.

Pamela Laird (right) and her team have spent years earning the trust of Indigenous Australian mothers whose children participate in respiratory research. Image source: nature.

NT set to raise age of criminal responsibility

The NT is this week set to become the first Australian jurisdiction to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years old. The move has been praised by health organisations and Indigenous groups, who say it will prevent children from becoming trapped in the criminal justice system. But the plan has also come under fire from the territory’s opposition, who say it risks encouraging youth offenders, and from paediatricians who say the age should be raised even higher.

In all Australian states and territories, the current minimum age of criminal responsibility is 10 — much younger than most other developed nations. Governments on both sides of politics have been under growing pressure to radically overhaul how they deal with youth offending since a Four Corners investigation into youth detention made global headlines in 2016.

At the centre of the investigation was the treatment of detainees inside Don Dale Youth Detention Centre near Darwin. The shocking vision included in the episode led to a royal commission which, among other things, recommended raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12. This is below the United Nations’ recommended minimum age of criminal responsibility, which was set at 14 by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2019.  Last year, in an escalation of international pressure, 31 UN member states called on Australia to raise the age as part of the Universal Periodic Review. But so far, only the NT and the ACT have announced plans to legislate the change.

To view the ABC News article Northern Territory set to become first Australian jurisdiction to raise age of criminal responsibility. Here’s what that means in full click here.

The NT’s minimum age of criminal responsibility is set to to be raised from 10 to 12. Photo: Tristan Hooft, ABC News.

WA Premier needs to “take notice” of evidence

Mark McGowan says “activists” like former Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley, who are campaigning for major reform of WA’s youth justice system, are not “dealing with the real world”. Professor Stanley, at the weekend described WA as the “worst” State for the development health of children. She called for the age of criminality to increase from 10 to 14, for the juvenile Unit 18 at Casuarina Prison to close by Christmas and for the McGowan Government to adopt Aboriginal service-led solutions.

The highly-respected child health advocate also publicly urged Mr McGowan to “take notice” of research and evidence that showed early intervention could prevent children from being locked-up. “We know from our studies, in our Telethon Kids Institute, that nearly 90 per cent of the children who have gone into Banksia and have been transferred into Casuarina have a major developmental disorder, either FASD (fetal alcohol syndrome) or ADHD or an intellectual disability. It’s not just FASD — it’s early life trauma, it’s actually intergenerational trauma.” Prof Stanley said. “Now, if you know that and understand it — and we have briefed every minister about that — how could you then do what’s happening to children in Banksia and Casuarina … it beggars belief.”

Former Labor premier Dr Carmen Lawrence joined forces with Prof Stanley to criticise the current Labor Government’s approach to youth detention, saying “it was a “disgrace” that so many young people were still being incarcerated in WA and that it was a “breach of any decent standards” to detain children at an adult prison. If you think of your own children or grandchildren, you’ll know that if they were kept in solitary confinement, even for an hour, they would start to climb up the walls. It’s inevitable that children will not behave well in those circumstances, so those practices have to stop,” she said.

To read the Kalgoolie Miner article Banksia Hill: Premier Mark McGowan slams activists’ ‘fanciful’ ideas regarding WA’s youth justice system in full click here.

On Sunday, Professor Stanley endorsed a suggestion that because 80% of the children in detention were Aboriginal, the aim should be for 80% of the facility’s staff to be Aboriginal. Photo: Andrew Ritchie, The West Australian.

AEC launches First Nations enrolment drive

The Australian Electoral Commission has launched a month-long advertising and communication campaign aimed at empowering First Nations Australians to have their say at electoral events. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers says the campaign is aimed at the estimated 101,000 Indigenous Australians who are not enrolled to vote.

“Australia’s estimated Indigenous enrolment rate of 81.7% is the highest it’s ever been, but we’re not going to be satisfied until we’ve closed the gap with the broader national enrolment rate,” Mr Rogers said. “There is clearly the likelihood of a referendum soon with a topic specific to First Nations Australians, making high levels of enrolment and engagement even more important.”

To read the AEC media release Vote Loud. Vote Proud. AEC launches First Nations enrolment drive in full here.

CSIRO postgraduate scholarships available

The CSIRO has Master and PhD scholarships available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are enrolled in an Australian university and wish to undertake a postgraduate research degree.

If you have studied in any of the following disciplines, the CSIRO is especially keen to hear from you:

  • science
  • technology
  • engineering
  • maths.

The CSIRO postgraduate scholarships provide additional funding to a research training program (RTP) Scholarship, Centrelink education scheme payment or equivalent scholarship. Applicants must be of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent and enrolled in an Australian university.

Students can apply at any time of the year!!

You can find more information about the CSIRO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Scholarships by clicking 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: Youth justice funding response to rising public alarm

The image in the feature tile is from an article WA government announces funding boost for youth justice reforms in the face of growing pressure published in the National Indigenous Times on 27 November 2022. Photo: Govanni Torre.

Youth justice funding response to rising public alarm

After a long-running campaign and in the face of rising public alarm, the WA government has announced a $63m package it says will address the crisis in youth detention. The funding and reform plan is intended to deliver expanded mental health care, improved conditions and more education and vocational training in youth detention.

This comes in addition to funding announced earlier for building upgrades and to tackle the long-running dire staff shortages that saw the excessive use of lockdowns in the system. “The public rightfully expects that community safety is paramount. It is also vital to break the cycle of crime for young people,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

Former Inspector of Custodial Services, Professor Neil Morgan, has noted repeatedly that the high rate of re-offending among former Banksia Hill detainees, around 70%, indicated the failure of the system. Indigenous youth are radically overrepresentated in the children detained at Banksia Hill and Casuarina Prison’s Unit 18.

Premier McGowan recently met with a small group of advocates at a summit called in the wake of disturbing footage from within Banksia Hill being broadcast by state and national media. Human rights advocate Megan Krakouer, who has worked with hundreds of current and former Banksia Hill detainees building a class action case, said that “more than half of the newly announced spend is on upgrading cells”.

To view the National Indigenous Times article WA government announces funding boost for youth justice reforms in the face of growing pressure in full click here.

A related article Fiona Stanley and advocates urge for inquiry, greater Indigenous involvement in rehabilitation in juvenile detention was published earlier today by ABC News and is available here.

Fiona Stanley says Indigenous people have answers to problems facing the youth justice system. Photo: Cason Ho, ABC News.

SCMSAC celebrates 40 years

The Nowra Showground came alive as mob celebrated four decades of the South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation (SCMSAC) on Friday. Elders and school students united in song and dance to champion and reflect on the incredible work done by so many part of the organisation.

In 1982, Jane Ardler along with a number of local leaders formed the corporation, with the aim of achieving accessible and effective health care for Aboriginal communities with a focus on prevention and self-determination. The service started with just a single doctor working one day in a small meeting room at the cultural centre in Nowra.

Now 40 years on, the corporation has a proud team of over 120 employees, spread across eight locations, spanning from the head office in Nowra down to the Victorian border.

To read the Illawarra Mercury article South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation celebrates four decades of self-determination in full click here.

The Nowra Showground came alive as mob celebrated four decades of the South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation on Friday 25 November 2022.

Supporting students into tertiary studies

The vital knowledge of First Nations people will be harnessed in a new program to support students into tertiary studies in health, education, and arts. In January 2023, Charles Darwin University (CDU) will launch the First Nations Introduction to University for Health, Education, and Arts students, a taste of university for students interested in a career in health, education or arts.

Split into two interlinked units, the program will give foundational academic skills and knowledge in the students proposed future study area. The program was co-designed with First Nation and non-First Nation educators and professionals and will include guest speakers from local organisations.

Co-developer and Gudanji and Wakaja woman Dr Debra Dank said the inclusive program aimed to empower students and give them confidence to use and expand their knowledge.

To view the Charles Darwin University article New program to guide First Nations students into health, education and arts in full click here.

Image source: Charles Darwin University website.

Early Childhood Voice Conference 2022

Charles Sturt University is hosting a major early childhood education and research conference online from Monday 5 to Friday 9 December 2022 featuring international experts from Luxembourg, Canada, the USA and Australia as keynote speakers.

One of the keynote speakers will be Dr Hontel Givson  by Dr Chontel Gibson, a Kamilaroi woman from north-western NSW, who presentation is titled ‘Valuing Indigenous peoples and their health and wellbeing in early childcare services’. Dr Gibson graduated as an occupational therapist in 2000, was awarded a Master of Public Health in 2010, and a Doctorate of Philosophy relating to Aboriginal health and wellbeing in 2018. She has worked as an occupational therapist, policy officer and academic, and has held many leadership roles, including Board Director of Occupational Therapy Australia and the inaugural Deputy Chairperson for Indigenous Allied Health Australia.

Dr Gibson co-developed and continues co-chairing the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Occupational Therapy Network, which provides strategic advice on occupational therapy. She is currently managing the ‘Good for Kids. Good for Life’ team that supports early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in the NSW Hunter-New England region to implement health promoting practices in-line with ‘Munch and Move’.

To view the Charles Sturt University article Leading experts to speak at online Early Childhood Voices 2022 Conference in full click here.

iSISTAQUIT – change starts with a chat

For centuries, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have been yarning with each other, utilising collective knowledge to solve complex problems. Through the iSISTAQUIT (implementing Supporting Indigenous Smokers to Assist Quitting) program, health providers are being trained and empowered to start a chat with pregnant women who smoke tobacco to encourage them to quit smoking, and empower Indigenous women to connect with health services that are trained and ready to assist.

All health providers understand the importance of quitting smoking, especially during pregnancy. Quitting smoking in pregnancy not only improves infant health outcomes such as birth weight and gestational age it also improves the health and wellbeing of the woman, her family and the entire community. Most Indigenous pregnant women want to quit smoking but may not get enough culturally appropriate guidance, resourcs and support from health providers.

It is not that health providers lack motivation to provide smoking cessation assistance. The issue is that Australian GPs and other health care workers who provide care to pregnant women often find themselves ill-equipped to provide smoking cessation care to Indigenous pregnant mums. In a study of 378 GPs and obstetricians, more than 75% agreed that training would help them provide better smoking cessation care in pregnancy.

To view the Insight Plus article Change starts with a chat – connecting through iSISTAQUIT in full click here.

Massive GP problems in coming years

The more than 1,500 RACGP members attending the GP22 conference were left in no doubt about the scale of the problems facing general practice in the coming years. Continued underinvestment, current and projected workforce shortages, and the erosion of their place in the healthcare system were at the top of the agenda. However, attendees also received insights into the amount of behind-the-scenes work the college has been doing to reverse this burgeoning crisis, as well as a path towards a brighter, more sustainable future.

Outgoing President Adjunct Professor Karen Price spoke about the challenges of her two-year term and thanked members for their tireless and much needed efforts. But she also warned about the need to redouble efforts to combat the coming headwinds. “We have endured another exhausting 12 months; however, you should all hold your heads high,” she said. “You have to delivered millions of COVID vaccines and boosters, flu vaccines, cared for patients who delayed or avoided screenings and consults during the pandemic, [and] we’ve helped those with mental health [concerns] and will continue to do so.”

“We achieved all of this despite many of the nation’s leaders and media commentators not fully appreciating the immense challenges and the complexity that we face every day – nor do they understand the value of our work. As professionals we must actively and rebelliously resist. We must declare that we are the experts in complexity and in general practice. We need meaningful reform backed by real investment. And as I’m fond of saying … reform without reinvestment is just red tape. We must draw more future GPs to the profession. We must keep the GPs we have. We must ensure high quality care is available to all patients in all corners of Australia. And we must secure the future of general practice care for years to come.”

To view the newsGP article Message of hope kicks off GP22 click here.


More than 1500 people have travelled to Melbourne to attend GP22 in-person. Photo: Adam Thomas, Image source: newsGP.

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: Connected Beginnings national gathering hosted by SNAICC

The image in the feature tile is from the SNAICC website on the event.

Connected Beginnings national gathering hosted by SNAICC 

“We all want the best for our children, and it’s incredibly important that all kids thrive in their early years to get the best start to life,” said Senator Malarndirri McCarthy – NT as she shared pictures in a post on the Connected Beginnings national gathering earlier this week in Brisbane.

Powerful stories, sharing and experiences as day one of the Connected Beginnings event. This is the first time services have been able to get together for a few years, and the first with SNAICC as Community Partner.

NACCHO along with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) are happy to work in partnership with the Australian Government and SNAICC-National Voice for our Children to deliver the health component of this program which makes a real difference towards improving the lives of our kids and building better outcomes for them.

Background Information

The Connected Beginnings program forms part of the first Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation Plan.. It aims are to contribute to achieving Outcome 4, that children thrive in their early years, under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Connected Beginnings currently fund 14 ACCHOs and Aboriginal Medical Services across Australia. In 2021, the Australian Government provided additional funding to expand the Connected Beginnings Program to a minimum of 50 sites by 2025 and are working in partnership with NACCHO on the delivery of the health component of the Connected Beginnings program.

The program demonstrates how change can be made within the new Closing the Gap partnership arrangements and how transformation can happen if everyone has a shared vision, trust, and commitment.

You can find more information about Connected Beginnings on the Australian Government Department of Education and the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations joint website page here.

To read a previous article on a Connected Beginnings program run by one of our affiliates, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), an ACCHO for the Tasmanian Aboriginal community click here.

Image source: Senator Malarndirri McCarthy – Northern Territory Facebook page

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Scholarships

CSIRO offer opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students to undertake postgraduate research degrees. Master and PhD scholarships are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are enrolled in an Australian university and wish to undertake a postgraduate research degree.

The CSIRO postgraduate scholarships provide additional funding to a research training program (RTP) Scholarship, Centrelink education scheme payment or equivalent scholarship.

Applicants must be of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent and enrolled in an Australian university.

If you have studied in any of the following disciplines, the CSIRO team are happy to hear from you:

  • science
  • technology
  • engineering
  • maths.

For more information click here.

Dr Veronica Matthews work recognised as top 10 First Nations health author

Matthews’ work focuses on improving holistic health care systems, the model of comprehensive care embodied by community-controlled primary health services that care for body, mind and spirit for first nations patients. Dr Veronica Matthews is a health systems researcher from the Quandamooka community of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island). She is based at the University Centre for Rural Health (UCRH) on Widjabul/Wyabul Country in Lismore.

Last month Matthews was acknowledged as top 10 First Nations health author by scholarly output in the world along with two other University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health colleagues FMH researchers.

Early influences – as a saltwater Murri, Matthews’ early experiences – the saltwater country around Minjerribah aka North Stradbroke Island – were the initial inspiration for her studies in ecology and environmental toxicology. Her PhD involved assessing persistent organic pollutants in Moreton Bay seafood for consumption advisories and health risk assessments for surrounding communities. This took Matthews to work for more than 20 years in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector across government and research roles. And always, from the get-go, Matthews’ work focused on improving holistic health care systems, the model of comprehensive care embodied by community-controlled primary health services that care for body, mind and spirit.

To read the full story click here.

Image source: University of Sydney website

Grant to research shortage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives

A Charles Sturt University nursing educator is part of a multi-organisation research team to be awarded a large grant to investigate why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are under-represented in the ranks of nurses and midwives.

  • $1.1 million ARC Discovery Indigenous Grant awarded to a consortium team of nursing and midwifery education researchers
  • A leading Charles Sturt University nursing educator is a member of the research team
  • The researchers aim to strengthen anti-racism and cultural safety in healthcare education

A Charles Sturt University nursing educator is part of a multi-organisation research team to be awarded a large grant to investigate why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are under-represented in the ranks of nurses and midwives.

Head of the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences Associate Professor Linda Deravin is a member of the research team led by Professor Karen Adams, Director of the Gukwonderuk Indigenous Unit in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Science at Monash University.

To read the full story click here.

Aboriginal lady on dialysis and Aboriginal nurse

Image source: Queensland Health.

RACGP announces GP training leadership appointments

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the appointment of senior leaders to support its Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program delivery in 2023. The RACGP has been recruiting the people required to deliver its profession-led AGPT program across Australia from 1 February 2023.

RACGP Chief GP Training Officer Ms Georgina van de Water joined the RACGP in February 2022, and previously led GP Synergy in NSW and the ACT. Ms van de Water said she knows from 14 years of leadership experience in the sector that regional training organisations have provided a great service to GP training, and the RACGP’s new appointments will enable the college to build on that success. “Our new national and regional leadership appointments come with extensive experience in managing general practice education, to meet the current and future needs of the profession and managing the systems that support trainers and GPs in training,” she said.

One of the RACGP’s key priorities is ensuring a smooth transition for GPs in training, supervisors and practices, and minimising disruption. To this end, the College is recruiting local and regional staff who know the local operations, training practices and participants in each state and territory, and can ensure a seamless transition.

Ms van de Water said, “We continue to work closely with stakeholders to ensure a transition with as little disruption to the delivery of GP training as possible, including the Department of Health, peak bodies representing GP supervisors and registrars, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, rural workforce agencies and clinical schools, primary health networks, state health organisations, local hospitals and community health services.”

To read the full story click here.

torso of doctor in white coat hand on stethoscope around neck

Image source: Armidale Express.

Australian-first cervical cancer screening program aims to reduce high mortality rates among Aboriginal women

Reducing the unacceptably high rates of cervical cancer in women from remote Aboriginal communities is the aim of an Australian-first cervical screening program being trialled in WA’s Kimberley region.

The program, developed by the University of Notre Dame Australia in collaboration with health providers and other research partners, enables specialist medical staff to travel to remote communities with the latest portable testing equipment, which can determine within 45 minutes whether a patient is carrying the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV).

The initiative is only possible through existing partnerships with the WA Country Health Service (WACHS), WA Cervical Cancer Prevention Program, King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service, Australian Centre for the Prevention of Cervical Cancer, Australian National University, University of Queensland, and the University of Sydney.

UNDA post-doctoral researcher Dr Aime Powell said Aboriginal women were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and three times more likely to die from the disease, mainly due to a lack of testing.

She said cervical cancer was one of the most preventable and treatable cancers and cervical screening was the most effective way to detect precancerous cells. Those cells can then be removed before they develop into cancer. However, less than 50% of all eligible Kimberley women participate in routine screening at the recommended interval.

“Given the existing inequitable health outcomes, it was clear that an innovative approach was needed to improve women’s access to participate in cervical screening.” Dr Powell said.

Read the full story here.

Image source: Menshalena, Getty Images.

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: Unique helpline 13YARN officially launched

The image in the feature tile is from

Unique helpline 13YARN officially launched

This morning, Federal Member for Indigenous Affairs, the Honourable Linda Burney MP, was joined by Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, the Hon Emma McBride MP to officially launch Australia’s first – and only – national Indigenous-led crisis hotline, 13YARN. Funded by the Australian Government (through the Department of Health), the purpose-built, 24/7 national telephone helpline was co-designed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is run with the support of Lifeline.

More than 2,500 calls to 13YARN were answered in October 2022, which is an increase of 500 on the previous month. In the first 10 days of November, the service answered over 1,000 calls and is on track for its biggest month to date. “The more we have gone out into the community, the more trust we have been able to build – by showing mob that we are listening to their needs and yarning about the ways in which we can help them when they are feeling overwhelmed or doing it tough.”

“On average, our First Nations Crisis Supporters are helping keep over 100 people safe a day – and this call volume is growing week on week. We believe there is always hope at the end of a yarn. We know how to listen without judgement or shame, and we believe in the power of storytelling to heal.” Mrs Anderson said that the service filled a gap that had existed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for too long, “This one-of-a-kind service has been designed from day one to be culturally appropriate and is there to make sure any mob who are having difficulty coping have their own place where they can connect and get help from a trained Crisis Supporter who understands what they might be experiencing.”

To view the Mirage article Unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander helpline officially launched in Sydney in full click here.

Image source: 13YARN tweet 28 October 2022.

Plan to cut mob’s hearing loss by half

Hearing Australia has set itself an ambitious target, launching a plan to halve the rate of hearing loss among Indigenous children by 2029. It’s a widespread and chronic problem across Australia, with one in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experiencing otitis media, inflammation and infection of the middle ear. Local diagnosis and treatment are not always available. These infections cause temporary hearing loss, making it hard for children to hear, learn, and yarn. The Hearing Australia action plan is an all-out effort to improve ear health and hearing outcomes for Indigenous children. It calls for earlier diagnosis, better access to treatment, and building workforce capabilities in primary health care services across Australia.

One of the people leading the effort is Denise Newman, who was born on Thursday Island and grew up in Bamaga on Cape York Peninsula. Early detection of ear infection is vital to prevent hearing loss Denise is a strong advocate for better ear health and hearing, who understands the challenges better than most. “I’m profoundly deaf in one ear, but I’m moderate in the right. I can really feel for the children. I know what it feels like not to hear.”

Otitis media can be a product of socio-economic factors in remote communities like overcrowding, poor nutrition, lack of sleep, poor access to services, and low immunisation rates. Since the introduction of the Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears (HAPEE), there has already been a reduction in hearing loss because children are coming in early, and they’re being detected early and being treated early.

To view the Tropic Now article Bold plan to cut Indigenous hearing loss by 50 per cent in full click here.

Hearing Australia’s Denise Newman was born on Thursday Island and grew up in Bamaga. Image source: Tropic Now.

Nurse and midwife shortage research

A Charles Sturt University nursing educator is part of a multi-organisation research team to be awarded a large grant to investigate why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are under-represented in the ranks of nurses and midwives. Head of the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences Associate Professor Linda Deravin is a member of the research team led by Professor Karen Adams, Director of the Gukwonderuk Indigenous Unit in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Science at Monash University.

The $1.1 million ARC Discovery Indigenous Grant was awarded to the team of researchers from Muliyan, a consortium of nurse and midwifery education researchers and hosted by the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) that Associate Professor Deravin is part of.

Associate Professor Deravin said the $1.1 million ARC Discovery Indigenous Grant is the largest-ever funded ARC Indigenous grant and represents approximately 10% of the total Indigenous Discovery grant allocation of $10,688,702. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are only 1.3% of the nursing and midwifery professions in Australia, far below the 3.8% of the nation’s First Nations population (as of June 2021).

To read the Charles Sturt University article $1.1 million grant to research shortage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives in full click here.

Image source: Charles Sturt University Latest News webpage.

Centre for Disease Control consultation paper

The Department of Health and Aged Care has released a consultation paper Role and Functions of an Australian Centre for Disease Control: Prevention-Promotion-Protection outlining plans for the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), including 28 questions to guide further consultations about the initiative. The document reveals that the CDC is likely to be established from early 2024. The new document is an excellent discussion paper which clearly seeks to walk the tightrope between high aspirations for the new agency, and the pragmatism of working with a government with many competing priorities and resource constraints. We will of course be pushing those aspirations.

The paper provides a Draft Mission Statement and a set of Draft Purposes for the agency. The purposes are that the CDC will Protect, Gather and Analyse, Guide and Communicate, Lead, Cooperate, Prioritise and Develop. Themes highlighted in the consultation paper include climate and health, One Health, the importance of prioritising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, equity, diversity and the wider determinants of health.

To view the Role and Functions of an Australian Centre for Disease Control: Prevention-Promotion-Protection consultation paper click here and to read the Croakey Health Media article On the new Centre for Disease Control, here are 28 questions requiring your attention in full click here.

Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Inequities in cancer care can be overcome

Cancer care is suboptimal for some groups in Australia, but according to experts, the disparities can be overcome. While cancer instances went down by 16% between 1998 and 2015 for Australians as a whole, the numbers increased for Indigenous Australians by 26%. Rural Australians were 1.3 times more likely to die from cancer in 2021 and members of the LGBTIQA+ community were also disproportionately affected by certain cancers, including breast and ovarian cancers.

In addition to the heightened physical challenges, family stress and financial and employment difficulties that come with a cancer diagnosis, patients from rural areas are commonly faced with extensive travel to access medical services unavailable closer to home, she said.

Dr Kalinda Griffiths, an epidemiologist at the Centre for Big Data Research in Health at the University of New South Wales, works on empirically addressing complex health disparities through existing data, particularly by using Indigenous data for research and reporting purposes. Addressing inequity and the needs and aspirations of Indigenous people begins with the application of human rights and the appropriate and effective use of Indigenous data, said Dr Griffiths. She emphasised that supporting Indigenous worldviews, values, understandings and practices within Western structures plays a crucial role in the rights and interests of Indigenous people being met.

To view the Oncology Republic article Inequity in cancer care: instances of change in full click here. In the below video Professor Alex Brown from the Aboriginal Health Research Adelaide Medical School, The University Adelaide talks about the health disparities in Aboriginal communities.

Lowitja Institute funding round CLOSES Monday!

Applications for the Lowitja Institute’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Major Grant Round 2022-23 close on Monday next week.

The purpose of the Major Grants is to support innovative and responsive community research led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The aim is for research to influence policy and practice through the rapid translation of community priorities for improved outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. It will also support the capability and capacity building of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to do their own research, their way.

Applications close on Monday 21 November 2022. More information can be found on the Lowitja Institute website here.

Puzzle piece image from Bond University 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.

World Prematurity Day

November 17 is World Prematurity Day, a globally celebrated awareness day to increase awareness of preterm births as well as the deaths and disabilities due to prematurity and the simple, proven, cost-effective measures that could prevent them.

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 World Prematurity Day 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. The image below is from a Solid Mob – Tackling Indigenous Smoking Facebook post on World Prematurity Day last year. Accompanying the image is the following information: If Smoking during pregnancy was eliminated among Indigenous women, 1 in 6 preterm births could be prevented. Among babies born to Indigenous Women, 14% were born preterm, which is one of the biggest risk factors to bub dying by 1 month old.

Image source: Solid Mob – Tackling Indigenous Smoking Facebook page – 17 November 2021.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NAAJA responds to 4 Corners Locking Up Kids episode

The image in the feature tile is from an article Locking up kids damages their mental health and leads to more disadvantage. Is this what we want? published on the UNSW Sydney Newsroom webpage on 21 June 2019.

NAAJA responds to 4 Corners Locking Up Kids episode

As one of the leading legal services representing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Aboriginal) community in the NT, the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) has been witnessing the steady decline of the youth justice system failing our kids and families. NAAJA supports Acting Children’s Commissioner Nicole Hucks concerns raised on Monday night’s 4 Corner’s and calls on the NT Government to do more to protect the safety of our vulnerable young people.

NAAJA CEO, Priscilla Atkins “welcomes the steps Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Chansey Paech has taken towards tackling some of our concerns by introducing raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and other important legislative reform but there is still more we can be doing.” Five years since the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT we still have children as young as 10 detained in a condemned facility.

To view the NAAJA media release Youth Detention in Australia is an abuse of human rights in full click here.

The Law Council of Australia and the Law Society of WA are deeply concerned by the revelations in last night’s Four Corners report of the excessive use of force and restraints directed at children at Banksia Hill Detention Centre. “These events further demonstrate the urgent need for all governments to take meaningful and urgent actions to ensure youth detention facilities are managed in accordance with Australia’s international obligations,” Law Council of Australia President, Mr Tass Liveris said. “It also highlights once more the need to address the alarming overrepresentation of First Nations children in the youth justice system. Recent figures suggest that First Nations children make-up around half of young people in detention and just 6% of the population.”

You can read the Law Council of Australia and the Law Society of WA’s joint media release Excessive use of force on children unconscionable in full here.

You can watch the ABC Four Corners episode Locking Up Kids: Australia’s failure to protect children in detention in full by clicking this link.

Aspiring health workers’ Kimberley immersion

Liesl Dowling, an experienced nurse and midwife is a clinical facilitator at the Majarlin Kimberley Centre for Remote Health, one of 16 Commonwealth-funded university departments nationwide that gives aspiring health workers a taste of working in a rural or remote location.

Ms Dowling said on-the-ground experience was crucial for the students’ development. “When you come into a remote region and can actually see that there is poverty, it becomes a part of your lived experience and it becomes a concern to you,” she said. “It’s okay to read about the barriers to uptake in health care and the gap in outcomes between Aboriginal and mainstream Australians, but it’s all really words on paper until you really see it.”

Research published earlier this year found doctors who spent extended time in a rural placement were more likely to work there into the future. The Kimberley especially has long cried out for more permanent health workers and has suffered crippling staff shortages in recent years, especially for nurses. In its most recent annual report, the WA Country Health Service said an increasing reliance on expensive, transient locum and agency staff was partly to blame for higher health care costs.

Ms Dowling said the “immersion” of young health workers in a remote setting would help address the issue. “Transience is problematic. It poses barriers and some risks in delivering health care, because you don’t have that knowledge at the ground level,” she said.

To view the ABC News article Aspiring health workers get taste of outback in ‘eye-opening’ Kimberley immersion in full click here.

Sahar Abbasi said she enjoyed visiting Kalumburu to provide renal disease education. Photo: Liesl Dowling. Image source: ABC News.

PIP Indigenous Health Incentive guidelines updated

The Practice Incentives Program – Indigenous Health Incentive (PIP IHI) guidelines have been updated.

Important changes, including those below, will become effective on 1 January 2023.

  • People with mental health conditions are eligible for registration payments and completing GP Mental Health Treatment Plans and reviews will trigger Tier 1 outcome payments.
  • Children under 15 with chronic disease can be registered and are eligible for outcome payments.

Registering patients from November will mean they are eligible for these new payments in 2023.

You can access the PIP IHI guidelines here.

Water undrinkable in 500 remote communities

Tap water in more than 500 remote Indigenous communities isn’t regularly tested and often isn’t safe to drink, according to a water industry report released last week. In some communities, drinking water contained unacceptable levels of uranium, arsenic, fluoride and nitrate.

While these findings are dire, they aren’t news to us. There have been myriad reports over the years on the poor status of safe drinking water in Australia’s remote communities all pointing to inequity of essential services with implications for health. But little has been done to rectify this.

Safe drinking water is a basic human right, no matter where people live. First Nations communities have campaigned for decades for clean water on their Country. As Alyawarre Elders, Jackie Mahoney and Pam Corbett, from Alpurrurulam community in the NT explained during the report’s launch: “That’s why we’re fighting for this water. It’s not only for us, it’s for them too […] For our old people who fought before us and our kids’ future.”

Importantly, all remote essential service delivery and management actions, including water, need to be undertaken collaboratively. They should be led and authored by First Nations researchers, and draw from community strengths and knowledge wherever possible. This shifts water service efforts being for communities, to being with communities. Indeed, cultural sensitivity ad guidance is essential to ensure mutual respect and learning forms the basis of all supply delivery.

To view The Conversation article Countless reports show water is undrinkable in many Indigenous communities. Why has nothing changed? in full click here.

A related article Total restructure needed to tackle “immeasurable” water crisis in Indigenous communities published in the National Indigenous Times can be accessed here.

Beswick’s water is very high in calcium. Photo: Isaac Nowroozi, ABC News.

Mentoring workforce must be for right reasons

Candace Angelo’s thesis The lived experience of mentoring in the health and wellbeing workforce in NSW explores the experiences of mentoring in the working lives of a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing professionals. Ms Angelo’a work seeks to understand the barriers and enablers of developing a sustainable skilled health workforce, and examines what impact mentoring has on both mentors and mentees.

Ms Angelo has identified three main themes, the being that mentoring works when done for the right reasons and in the right way, with an authentic workplace commitment. It is important to select the ‘right’ people as mentors, with the ‘right reasons’, ‘right way’, and ‘right people’ defined as being culturally safe, appropriate and accessible. Achieving this status must start with recruitment policies, strategies and practices. Her findings indicate that these practises need a fundamental shift.

Angelo’s second emerging theme centres on what mentoring can achieve.  With increased cultural safety and job satisfaction, a retained workforce can use mentoring to ultimately improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Her final theme considers the challenges in mentoring. These include being able to centre Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander core values in mainstream health services. To do so requires changing the so-called ‘ideal worker theory’ and importantly, addressing endemic institutional racism.

To view the University of Sydney article Mentoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce in full click here.

Candace Angelo. Image source: The University of Sydney News webpage.

Alarming NSW Central West health inequities

The Charles Sturt University Rural Health and Medical Research Institute (the Institute) has presented alarming statistics on health inequalities across five NSW Central West communities during a workshop yesterday. The workshop aimed to shine the light on health disparities between First Nations and non-First Nations people, along with the rate of disease and chronic health conditions experienced by people within the communities of Orange, Dubbo, Gilgandra, Coonamble, and Wellington.

Executive Director of the Institute Professor Allen Ross and his team visited these regions to consult with local people on the areas of greatest need when it comes to tackling chronic health conditions within First Nations communities. Professor Ross said the Institute’s approach was to remain open to the health needs of the community including their social determinants of health. The Institute is applying a fresh approach to examine and address the health gap between First Nations peoples and the greater Australian population. Partnering with the Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs) at the onset will make this possible,” Professor Ross said. “Our researchers bring extensive experience from all over the world, yet we are working with the communities with no pre-determined agenda, and instead partnering with them via a grassroots approach to develop strategies that target their specific needs.”

To view the Charles Sturt University article Institute takes a grass roots approach to address the First Nations health gap in full click here.

Executive Director of the Charles Sturt University Rural Health and Medical Research Institute Professor Allen Ross, Mr Taylor Clark and Ms Anne-Marie Mepham from Orange Aboriginal Medical Services, and Ms Cherie Forgione from Gilgandra Local Aboriginal Medical Service. Image source: Charles Sturt University Latest News webpage.

Sector Jobs

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

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