NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Community investment key to reducing diabetes

feature tile Central Australia dialysis patients Selina & Rhonda Bob exercising; text ' ACCHO sector has shown what can be achieved through investment in community driven solutions'

The image in the feature tile is of Selina and Rhonda Bob (who spend 16 hours a week on dialysis, but are doing everything in their power to live a healthy lifestyle) as they appeared an article Diabetes rates in Central Australia among highest in the world, new research shows published by ABC News on 6 August 2022. Photo: Xavier Martin.

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

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

Community investment key to reducing diabetes

Climate action must be accelerated

This week, leaders from around the world are in New York for the United Nations (UN) Climate Ambition Summit. To coincide with the summit, The Australian Institute has coordinated an open letter, signed by over 220 leading climate scientists and eminent experts, calling on the Australian Government to follow the science and stop new fossil fuel projects. The letter with the title ‘Australia Must Accelerate Climate Action, Not Climate Annihilation’ will appear as a full-page ad in the The New York Times.

The letter opens with “World leaders convene this week at the UN Climate Ambition Summit in recognition that the global community must accelerate efforts to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate change.” The letter continues “The UN Secretary General, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), International Energy Agency (IEA), and scientists from all over the world have made it clear there is no room for new gas, coal and oil projects in the global carbon budget. Yet, in Australia, over 10,000 miles from where leaders will meet to demonstrate their commitment to climate action, vast areas of the continent are covered by coal, gas and oil production and licenses.”

“In this – the ‘decisive decade’ for climate – there are over 100 new coal and gas projects in development in Australia according to official data. If all these projects proceed, research by The Australia Institute shows they would add a further 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to the atmosphere every year – roughly the equivalent emissions of the entire Russian Federation, the world’s forth-largest polluter. Accelerating the pace and scale of climate action means an end to new fossil fuel approvals and subsidies. As the world’s third largest exporter of fossil fuels, Australia has a special responsibility to stop fueling the increase in global emissions caused by Australian fossil fuel production, both in Australia and overseas.”

For more information about The Australia Institute’s open letter you can visit their website here.

banner text 'The Australia Institute Research that matters. Australia Must Accelerate Climate Action, Not Climate Annihilation'

MyMedicare webinar for GPs and Practice Managers

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care (DHAC) is hosting webinar tomorrow Thursday 21 September 2023 from 12.30pm–1.30pm about the MyMedicare practice and patient registration processes. The webinar aims to help organisations prepare for patient registration from 1 October 2023.

If you’re interested you can register for the webinar using this link.

If you can’t attend the webinar live, you can watch the recording whenever it suits you best at this link. The recording will be available within the week following the live webinar.

Panellists will include:

  • Simon Cotterell PSM – First Assistant Secretary, Primary Care Division, DHAC; and
  • Tara Welsh -Practice Manager, Australian Association of Practice Management (AAPM).

Representatives from Services Australia will facilitate a system demonstration.

If you have any questions feel free to ask them during the webinar and share your thoughts in the comments.

You can invite friends to the webinar using this link.

tile text 'MyMedicare - session for GPs and Practice Managers'

Common dermatological conditions webinar

The AH&MRC Public Health Team are hosting a webinar Identification and Management of common dermatological conditions in primary care. The webinar, being held from 3.30pm–4.30pm on Wednesday 27 September 2023, will provide valuable knowledge and insights into common dermatological presentations in primary care and clinical management of these presentations, for anyone working in ACCHOs. Topics of focus include identifying and managing cutaneous fungal infections, eczema and its common complications, and rare entities not to be missed.

The webinar will feature a panel of fantastic presenters including Dr Dana Slape, Dr Rhiannon Russell and Dr Victoria Snaidr.

  • Dr Dana Slape is a Larrakia Dermatologist, who works in a variety of settings across priority communities in urban and rural areas including the local Aboriginal Medical Service at Tharawal, Campbelltown Hospital, Darwin Hospital, and custodial facilities for children, women, and men across NSW and the NT.  Dana is the first Aboriginal dermatologist and is deeply committed to growing the First Nations specialist health workforce.
  • Dr Rhiannon Russell is a Dermatology Registrar and proud Worimi woman. She currently works in the Western Sydney region at Liverpool hospital. She hopes to return to the NSW South Coast where she is connected to the community through her training as a medical student and junior doctor. She is committed to growing the First Nations medical graduates through her mentorship at Wollongong University.
  • Dr Victoria Snaidr is a dermatologist with a special interest in rural and remote medicine. Prior to gaining her Fellowship of the Australasian College of Dermatologists (FACD), Victoria was a GP whose interest and experience specifically in Aboriginal health was founded after working as a GP in remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia, and further cemented during her years working at Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service. Victoria is currently working as a dermatologist in the central Sydney area and Gosford.

Audience input is welcome, including asking questions and/or offering examples of how things may be working in your ACCHO.

To participate in this webinar, you can register here. Upon registration, you will receive a confirmation email with the webinar details and instructions on how to join – please check your spam/junk mail for the confirmation email.

If you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to contact the AH&MRC Public Health team by email here.

tile Aboriginal dot art; text 'AH&MRC Dermatology Webinar'

High blood pressure risk for NT mob

In a first-of-its-kind study, screening has detected concerning levels of a major hypertension risk among young people in Australia’s Top End. Associate Professor Jun Yang has previously confirmed that primary aldosteronism (PA), a hormonal condition, is a significant yet often undetected contributor to high blood pressure (hypertension). However, there is currently no available data on the prevalence of PA within Australian First Nations communities.

Through a partnership with Professor Gurmeet Singh from the Menzies School of Health Research, Dr Yang and her team successfully conducted PA testing in pre-existing groups of young individuals, Australian First Nations communities, and non-Indigenous residents residing in the NT.  A/Prof Yang believes the results are concerning in themselves, but also potentially open a window into broader issues of public health for Indigenous people. “We found positive tests for PA in over a quarter of the urban-residing participants of the Cohort studies who were tested,” she said. “Australian First Nations people are known to have high rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, but this is the first time this type of testing has been done in these communities. PA is a highly modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and correct identification will enable appropriate targeted treatment.”

Lead author and PhD candidate Dr Elisabeth Ng said the “timely detection of primary aldosteronism is particularly important for Australian First Nations people due to their high rates of heart and kidney diseases, both of which may be associated with having too much aldosterone”. “Targeted treatment to block aldosterone action or remove aldosterone excess may be a lifesaver.” The next steps are to establish a process of appropriate screening process across the Top End.

To view the National Indigenous Times article High blood pressure risk revealed in Top End First Nations communities in full click 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.

Key Date – Dementia Action Week 18–24 September 2023

Each day during this year’s Dementia Action Week – 18–24 September 2023 NACCHO has been sharing a range of information and resources that may be of use to the ACCHO sector.

In September last year an article, available here, about a study into the high prevalence of dementia among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, was published in The Lancet. The authors of the study said it is likely that historically recent exposure to modifiable risk factors underlie the high dementia rates, and a large proportion of dementia may be potentially preventable.

The researchers said dementia is, and will remain, a major challenge for First Nations populations. Their largely theoretical study estimated that half the burden of dementia in First Nations residents of the Torres Strait and NPA may be due to 11 potentially modifiable risk factors. They said the results make a clear case for governments to invest in preventative health, health promotion, and education, to reduce the largest contributing factors while fostering protective factors already present. The protective factors include good levels of social contact, low alcohol abuse, and levels of education that are improving across generations.

You can find out more information about Dementia Action Week 2023 on the Dementia Australia website here. You can also watch the below video The Fading Moon – it is one of a series of videos and other resources, available here, developed by Dementia Australia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Dr king sees colonisation’s impact every day

feature tile image of Dr Jason King against tree trunk; text '“I see and feel every day the impact of colonisation.” Yued Noongar man Dr Jason King'

The image in the feature tile is of Dr Jason King, a Yued Noongar man who says the impact of colonisalism is far-reaching. The image appears in the article First Nations health professionals ‘deeply saddened’ following Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s colonisation claims published by ABC News on Saturday 16 September 2023.

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

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

Dr King sees colonisation’s impact every day

First Nations health professionals and those living with chronic health issues say they are “disappointed” and “deeply saddened” following Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s claims First Nations Australians are not living with ongoing negative impacts of colonisation. On Thursday last week (14 September 2023), the shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, gave an address to the National Press Club. When asked if she felt there were any ongoing, negative impacts of colonisation on Indigenous Australians, Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price responded, “No, there’s no ongoing negative impacts of colonisation.”

Yued Noongar man Dr Jason King, who is the director of Clinical Services at the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation in Yarrabah, far north QLD disagrees, “In my day-to-day job and through my lived experience I see and feel every day the impact of colonisation.” Dr King said he was “deeply saddened and disappointed” to hear an Aboriginal politician with a high profile making statements that, he says, “blatantly deny the existence, history, lived experience of so many Australians”.

“The community I work for sits no more than an hour out of Cairns and yet there’s 4,000 people there that live in 350 houses,” Dr King said. “We have a Rheumatic Heart Disease rate, a medical condition which has been eliminated from the broader Australian population to a larger extent, that is 100 times the average in this country.” Dr King linked Yarrabah’s high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and suicides to “policies of the past and the future”, rather than the choices of Yarrabah residents.

To view the ABC News article First Nations health professionals ‘deeply saddened’ following Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s colonisation claims in full click here.

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney with creek in background

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney described Jacinta Price’s comments as “offensive”. Photo: ABC News.

Cathy Freeman: a ‘Just One Breath’ ambassador

Seven million Australians, the equivalent to one in four of us, have a chronic respiratory disease. Sporting hero Cathy Freeman discovered she had asthma at age 18 and she says it has worsened since. Cathy was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma, triggered by vigorous physical exertion and prescribed preventative puffers and Ventolin. Even after Cathy won the 400m gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics she was breathing quite heavily, trying to gulp in as much air as possible. Then, over a decade ago, Cathy was diagnosed with full blown asthma.

It was only a few years ago that Cathy said she finally came to terms with her condition, “Up until then, I just didn’t want to admit I had asthma. As a former professional athlete it didn’t sit well with me, and I was only able to fully accept the condition earlier this year.” Cathy said that when she was asked by Lung Foundation Australia to become an ambassador for their ‘Just One Breath’ initiative, she didn’t hesitate. The campaign aims to inspire conversations about lung health and Cathy said she is passionate about helping others because she sees herself in other people.

To cope with her lung disease Cathy strengthens her lungs through exercise, healthy living and avoiding asthma triggers. Cathy also makes sure she gets plenty of rest and keeps up her water intake. Cathy said people commonly think of lung disease as a smoker’s disease, however lung disease doesn’t discriminate – it affects the young, old, male, female, smokers, former-smokers, and non-smokers. Indigenous people die of lung disease at a rate three times higher than non-Indigenous Australians.

You can check how healthy your lungs are by taking the Lung Foundation’s interactive Lung Health Checklist here and view The Carousel article Lung Disease: Cathy Freeman Reveals Her Secret Battle in full click here.

Cathy Freeman in jeans & white t-shirt standing in white empty room with blue circle with words 'just one breath'

Cathy Freeman. Image source: The Carousel.

Bed bugs, a potentially serious public health issue

Norman Frank Jupurrurla, a Warumungu Elder and traditional owner is living in public housing that’s been stripped bare after bed bugs ripped through his three bedroom home. The contents of his house are at the local tip. It’s the second time in six months that bed bugs have spread throughout his home in Village Camp, a community living area on the outskirts of Tennant Creek. The parasitic insects feed on the blood of humans and animals and have wrongly been associated with poor hygiene. “It’s like hell, mate,” Mr Frank said. “You will be scratching and itching all night and you won’t be able to sleep because of the bugs.”

Dr Simon Quilty, who has lived and worked as a specialist physician in remote NT for most of the past two decades, personally contacted several people in the NT Health Department to sound the alarm. “It’s just astounding that the department doesn’t see the need for early identification of a potentially serious public health, infectious disease,” he said. “Mr Frank has very serious health issues, he’s immunocompromised and the bed bugs can cause sores that eventually can become infected. For people that have chronic disease, bed bugs pose a real threat to their health — more importantly, it’s their psychological wellbeing.”

Dr Quilty has been collaborating with Mr Frank to develop culturally safe, and climate appropriate housing for Aboriginal communities through their organisation, Wilya Janta. Together they hope to solve some of the complex public housing issues places like Tennant Creek face. “Different agencies like housing and health need to be truly collaborative,” Dr Quilty said. “To solve complex problems, the community needs to be in the driving seat and needs easy ways to be heard.”

To view the ABC News article ‘It beggars belief’: Bed bug outbreaks highlight Tennant Creek public housing issues in full click here.

Norman Frank at front of Tennant Creek House with small child

Norman Frank, Tennant Creek, NT. Image source: SBS News

Nurse practitioners can help address workforce shortages

The persistent challenges arising from nationwide shortages of general practitioners in regional, rural and remote Australia are well known. Recent calls for new approaches incorporating effective team-based care and improved coordination combined with funding models specific to rural health care reflect demands for a shift from business as usual. More recently, the Australian Government has turned its attention to strategies to improve availability and access to primary health care (PHC). One of the many strategies includes a debt waiver for Higher Education Loans for doctors and nurse practitioners who meet the eligibility criteria and will work in rural, remote or very remote areas. Nurse practitioners are not a replacement for doctors but can be an important part of the solution.

The nurse practitioner role was first introduced in Australian more than 20 years ago with an intention that nurse practitioners would support the delivery of PHC in rural and remote Australia; however, uptake in primary health care has been slow. The 2022 workforce data report that 69% of nurse practitioners are in metropolitan areas, while in 2019 the Australian Department of Health reported that only 4.4% of all nurse practitioners worked in general practice nursing.

One factor integral to success was both community and medical practitioner acceptance of the nurse practitioner role. Where collaborative arrangements across services are in place, the nurse practitioner is able to work across hospital, residential aged care and general practice, resulting in improved continuity of care. Reports continue to describe uncertainty about the role of the nurse practitioner combined with limited understanding of the scope of practice of the role.

To view the InSight Plus article How nurse practitioners can help address rural health workforce shortages in full click here.

Australia's first Aboriginal Nurse Practitioner Lesley Salem

Australia’s first Aboriginal Nurse Practitioner was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia in 2022 for her significant service to nursing and Indigenous health. Image source: The Northern Daily Leader.

AI revolutionising diabetes treatment

Artificial intelligence (AI) has begun revolutionising the way people with diabetes receive life-saving medicines. Speaking at a parliamentary inquiry into diabetes, endocrinologist Associate Professor Roger Chen said AI had been developed that enabled continuous glucose monitors to interact with insulin pumps. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a wearable device that tracks blood glucose (sugar) every few minutes, throughout the day and night. The readings are relayed in real time to a device that can be read by the patient, caregiver or healthcare provider, even remotely.

A/Proff Chen told a public hearing in Canberra last Friday (15 September 2023) “that from an emotional, face-to-face at the coal face and also from a publication and research perspective that this really has revolutionised type 1 diabetes, it has changed people’s lives and management.” Diabetes Australia says only around 24% of people living with type 1 diabetes are currently able to access the technology. The number of Australians living with diabetes has more than doubled since 2000 to reach more than 1.5m, and the country is on track to reach 3.1m by 2050.

The disease disproportionately affects people in Indigenous communities, and the inquiry heard from one health expert calling for a fresh approach to tackle the problem, led by First Nations people. “The impact of diabetes in Indigenous communities cannot be overstated with around one in 10 adults living with diabetes,” said NACCHO’s senior medical adviser Dr Jason Agostino. Dr Agostino, who practises as a GP in Yarrabah, far north Queensland, and whose son has type 1 diabetes, said there is a high degree of overlap between diabetes, cardiovascular disease and renal disease, “This leads to early heart attacks, people ending up with kidney failure on dialysis, to blindness and amputations. In Yarrabah I suspect every family has been affected by the loss of someone early to the consequences of diabetes.”

You can view the HealthTimes article AI is revolutionishing diabetes treatment, inquiry told in full here.
DailyDose app being displayed on a smartphone and the related diabetes tools with which it works: a glucose sensor transmitter and a smart insulin pen

DailyDose app being displayed on a smartphone and the related diabetes tools with which it works: a glucose sensor transmitter and a smart insulin pen. Photo: Christine Torres Hicks. Image source: OHSU website.

Restoring Smiles of Yarrabah Shire

Monthly shuttle buses from Yarrabah to the James Cook University (JCU) Dental Clinic started last week as part of a new initiative bringing free dental care to the community after claims that only 100 of the 4,000 residents have seen a dentist all year. JCU’s initiative ‘Restoring the Smiles of Yarrabah Shire’ will provide free basic treatments for all Queensland Government issued concession card holders in Yarrabah, running monthly shuttle buses until May 2024.

JCU’s Professor John Abbott is leading the project and said JCU Dentistry staff and students visited Yarrabah for three days in early September to run education workshops, promote health and provide free dental examinations. “Senior dentistry students will be providing a range of dental treatments, under the supervision of experienced clinicians,” Professor Abbott said. He said the project has been made possible by grants from the Australian Dental Health Foundation and the Mars Wrigley Foundation and is being run in partnership with the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Aboriginal Corporation.

“The oral health Queensland Government statistics show that only 100 members of the community have received treatment since January at the Yarrabah clinic, with another 100 persons on a waiting list for non-urgent treatments,” Professor Abbott said. “Delayed treatments have caused this already undeserved ‘at-risk’ community to have poorer health outcomes, increased incidence of dental cavities, tooth loss or hospitalisations.

The above story is an extract from an article JCU will start free monthly shuttle buses from Yarrabah to offer basic dental care published in the Herald Sun earlier today.

Kayleen Jackson from Yarrabah being attended by 4th year dentistry student Olivia Gables at JCU Dental Clinic

Kayleen Jackson from Yarrabah being attended by 4th year dentistry student Olivia Gables at the JCU Dental Clinic. Image source: Herald Sun.

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.

Key Date – Dementia Action Week – 18–24 September 2023

Dementia Action Week is a major leadership, awareness and advocacy campaign led by Dementia Australia as the peak body for people living with dementia, their families and carers. Dementia Action Week 2023 is from 18–24 September, which includes World Alzheimer’s Day on Thursday 21 September.

Around two-thirds of people with dementia live in the community. A lack of knowledge and understanding of dementia may lead to people living with dementia experiencing stigma and discrimination in the community.

Dementia Australia research shows 81% of those with a loved one living with dementia felt that people in shops, cafes and restaurants treated people with dementia differently. That’s why this Dementia Action Week, Dementia Australia is encouraging everyone to take a few simple actions to create a dementia-friendly future for all Australians, a future that is better for everyone in the community.

You can find out more information about Dementia Action Week 2023 on the Dementia Australia website here. You can also watch the below video You’re Not Alone: Discussing Dementia – it is one of a series of videos and other resources, available here, developed by Dementia Australia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Community-led approach to suicide prevention

feature tile, NACCHO tile Culture Care Connect on blue aqua Aboriginal art; text 'Innovative, community-led approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention'

The artwork in the feature tile was created by then NACCHO staff member Jodi Knight. It is a visual representation of the Culture Care Connect program, symbolising the three levels of program implementation, advocacy and knowledge sharing across the changing landscape of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention, mental health and social and emotional wellbeing nationally. The colours evoke feelings of calm. The gatherings represent coordination, advocacy and governance structures at a national, affiliate and local level. At the local level, the artwork depicts the three different aspects of the Culture Care Connect program: community-controlled suicide prevention planning and coordination; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led program delivery; and strong and supported program workforce.

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

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

Community-led approach to suicide prevention

The first of its kind, the NACCHO Culture Care Connect (CCC) program is an innovative, community-led approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience rates of suicide 2.4 times higher than other Australians. In 2021, suicide accounted for 5.3% of all deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, while the comparable proportion for non-Indigenous Australians was 1.8%, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially those living in remote and regional areas, there are significant barriers that reduce access and utilisation of mental health services, including experiencing culturally unsafe practices.

While reported statistics for suicide are particularly concerning, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have shown remarkable resilience in the face of the ongoing impacts of colonisation, racism, discrimination and intergenerational trauma. CCC seeks to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through self-determination and community-controlled development of suicide prevention networks and plans, co-designed aftercare services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health first-aid training. It is committed to overcoming the inequality experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and reducing the prevalence of suicide and self-harm.

NACCHO has been funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care until June 2025 to rollout the program. This funding supports the:

  • establishment of 31 Community-Controlled Suicide Prevention Networks
  • establishment of Community-Controlled Aftercare Services
  • coordination and delivery of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid Training

To view the National Rural Health Alliance’s Partyline e-magazine article A community-led approach to suicide prevention in full click here.

group of Culture Care Connect onboarding participants on internal stairs of Nishi building

Culutre Care Connect Aftercare Onboarding, Canberra, June 2023. Image source: NACCHO.

Culturally safe stillbirth prevention and care

Prevention of stillbirth in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and responsive care when such losses occur, are key aims of the Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence (CRE). Understanding Indigenous communities’ experiences, perceptions and priorities around stillbirth, or Sorry Business Babies, is needed to implement prevention strategies and culturally safe practices in Australian maternity health services.

A collaborative consultation process with Indigenous communities around Australia identified stillbirth prevention and care needs. Researchers were led by the community, who shared their lived experiences and stories of their own communities through yarning. Yarning sessions provided a comfortable, safe space for community members to share stories, ask questions and feel heard. Consultations were held in 18 communities – involving 93 community members and 221 healthcare providers, many of whom were also Indigenous community members – across remote, regional and urban areas in QLD, WA, VIC, SA and the NT. Consultations were face to face or online, using yarning interviews, discussion groups and workshops, with some participants having lived experience of Sorry Business Babies.

Findings included the need for better health service engagement and support of families and communities, as well as improved education and resources for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous healthcare providers. Lack of continuity of care was identified as the main barrier in effective prevention, investigation of causes and care for families following stillbirth. This highlights the importance of continuous care for families during the perinatal period, including when a baby does not survive.

To view the National Rural Health Alliance’s Partyline e-magazine article Culturally safe stillbirth prevention and care in full click here. You can also watch the Stronger Bubba Born video about stillbirth below.

Pilbara GP says more help is needed

Pilbara GP Sonia Henry has seen young people die of strokes, teenagers with heart disease, and children who have lost their hearing after untreated ear infections. “We need to do so much better in giving remote Australians back what they give to us,” Henry told the Regional Australia Institute’s national summit in Canberra on Thursday this week.

“Particularly in WA, the mining companies’ profits are huge, but the people who live there aren’t seeing that.” Henry, who has spent years working in remote WA and western NSW, said city-based specialists should serve up to four weeks in the bush every year, easing the burden on young rural doctors and medical students. “Once I saw the things I saw out there, I could never unsee them and I could never just go back to work in Sydney with my eyes closed,” the doctor and author said. “You see this great beauty and you see this enormous suffering and that has changed my life.”

The regional think tank’s annual national conference heard from leaders across politics, business, local government and technology exploring ways to help growing country areas prosper. The organisation this week released a progress report on its policy ambitions to support a regional population of 11 million by 2032. National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) CEO Susi Tegen said there were promising moves in the sector, like greater collaboration between state and federal governments. But research by the NRHA found there was a $6.5b annual spending shortfall in rural health. “That means that population of seven million people is not receiving the health care they deserve,” Tegen said.

To view the SBS News article This GP has spent years working in remote Australia. She says more help is needed in full click here. You can also read a related article ‘If the plane breaks down, it’s just you’: the pressure and awakening of one city GP in the outback published in The Guardian on 3 June 2023 here.
Dr Sonia Henry at the Robe River Rodeo sign in desert Australia

Dr Sonia Henry at the Robe River Rodeo sign in desert Australia. Image source: The Guardian.

Impact of parasites a national shame

Many Australians likely read the coverage of the live roundworm found in the brain of a NSW woman with morbid curiosity. If you missed it, a wriggling, 8cm-long parasitic roundworm was removed from the head of a 64-year-old woman complaining of headaches, depression and forgetfulness. The patient likely picked up the parasite through eating foraged vegetables contaminated by python poo.

You may find it gross, but for researchers of parasites and infectious diseases – who recently met in Darwin for the Annual Meeting for Australian Society for Parasitology – stories like this are fascinating but not particularly gross. What we do find gross is the persistence of awful infectious diseases in situations where they are eminently preventable, and in countries that are rich enough to have eliminated them.

Particularly gross is the prevalence of infectious diseases in First Nations communities despite those same infections being unknown or eradicated among non-Indigenous Australians. In fact, as we heard at the conference, for some Indigenous and remote communities in Australia the problem of worms and other parasites is not only not improving – it’s potentially worsening. Indigenous Australians bear a disproportionate health burden for a swathe of infectious diseases that are otherwise only a problem in the world’s poorest countries. It is an enduring discredit to our country that roundworm infections of humans are newsworthy and enthralling when reported in a Canberra hospital, but are widely ignored when they proliferate in Indigenous communities.

To view the University of Melbourne Pursuit article Parasites may be gross, but so is Australia’s attitude to Indigenous health in full click here.

human threadworm – Strongyloides stercoralis under microscope

The human threadworm – Strongyloides stercoralis – is serious and potentially deadly. Photo: Shutterstock. Image source: University of Melbourne Pursuit.

Summit to address rural medical workforce dilemma

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) will bring together leading doctors and experts in rural medicine to unearth much needed solutions to some of the most pressing issues affecting Australia’s regional medical workforce. In response to crippling rural workforce shortages and a lack of specialist training opportunities throughout regional Australia, the AMA is holding a Rural Medical Training Summit in Canberra today.

The event coincides with the launch of the AMA’s Plan for improving access to rural general practice, which proposes a range of measures to improve access to primary healthcare for rural communities. Proposed measures outlined in the plan include the establishment of a National Rural Health and Workforce Strategy — with funding for an independent workforce planning agency — and expanded training pathways for doctors in rural areas.

The Rural Medical Training Summit will help the AMA and other key health stakeholders develop priorities for advocacy and reform in rural specialist training. AMA President Professor Stephen Robson said the expertise of participants, including one of the world’s foremost authorities in rural medical education — Professor Roger Strasser AM — would be a key part of collaborative efforts in rural medical training reform. “Medical workforce shortages are among the biggest threats to rural health in Australia,” Professor Robson said.

You can read the AMA’s media release AMA summit to address Australia’s rural medical workforce dilemma in full here and the AMA Plan for Improving Access to Rural General Practice 2023 here.

cover of AMA plan for improving access to rural general practice 2023

Strong Born campaign support mob

The Strong Born campaign has been developed by NACCHO and is supported by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE). Led by NACCHO, along with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) clinical and cultural experts across Australia, the Strong Born campaign raises awareness of the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, as well as the importance of safe breastfeeding practices.

Raising awareness about FASD has long been a priority for the ACCHO sector. The Strong Born campaign includes resources designed in collaboration with representatives from various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to make yarning about this complex topic easier. The resources have been designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and health professionals working in an ACCHO setting. Resources are available via the NACCHO website for anyone seeking to support individuals and families, in a culturally safe way, through issues related to FASD.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner said, “The Strong Born campaign is about raising awareness and understanding of FASD and reducing stigma and shame. The campaign includes culturally appropriate health information for women and families, educational materials for our Aboriginal healthcare workers and guidance for healthcare providers that work with Aboriginal communities. In collaboration with our member organisations, we’ll also support opportunities to bring our communities together to create safe places for yarning about the impacts of alcohol on pregnancy. Growing strong healthy mums and bubs leads to healthy communities. Our communities need to understand the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, and where to go for support, so they can ask for help if they need it.”

To find out more about the Strong Born campaign and to access the campaign resources, visit the NACCHO website here and view the National Rural Health Alliance’s Partyline e-magazine article Strong Born campaign supports First Nations communities in full click 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: Don’t miss out – HUGE PRIZES to be won

feature tile text 'HUGE PRIZES to be won - DON'T MISS OUT on the COVID-19 Vaccination Promotion Competition'

The red and yellow dots in the feature tile are from the National NAIDOC Secretariat website.

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

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

Don’t miss out – HUGE PRIZES to be won

Enter the COVID-19 Vaccination promotion competition by submitting a deadly video advertisement/promotion that represents the theme: Getting a COVID-19 vaccination is looking after yourself, for your chance to win! Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Relevance to the theme: Getting a COIVD-19vaccination is looking after yourself
  • Composition
  • Creativity
  • Originality
  • Appropriateness for the target age group: Category 1 – kids 5–12 years (in the ACCHO community), Category 2 – teens and adults 13–49 years (in the ACCHO community), Category 3 – older adults 50+ (in the ACCHO community).

There are 3 amazing prizes up for grabs:

Category 1

  • First Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

Category 2

  • First Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

Category 3

  • First Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

This is an opportunity for you to really show who and what your community is like, and the best ways to communicate with them.

We encourage teams to be creative with the theme. Is the best way to get your mob interested, through humour? Being strong and serious? Telling a story? Addressing negative stereotypes?

Be open to the possibilities of what ‘self-care’ looks like. Self-care could be 30-year-olds discussing the importance of getting the vaccination; or 70-year-olds spinning around the basketball courts because they’re fit and healthy and vaccinated; or tie your promotion to building community strength and vitality.

The more original and community-oriented, the better.

You can access a competition Entry Form here. All entries must be submitted by Thursday 28 September 2023.

The Terms and Conditions for the competition are available here.

NACCHO tile text 'NACCHO Members' Conference 2023 - 23-26 October, Noongar Boodjar (Perth) MAY THE BEST ACCHOs WIN... - Return Flights; Tickets to NACCHO's Conference for 3 staff members; Accommodation; images of plane, city of Perth at night & motel bedroom

Elders say aged care system needs to change

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recognised the aged care system has failed to provide culturally safe care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as they age. It recommended major reforms, including active partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Australian government has also committed more funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aged care services, with a focus on boosting the role of ACCOs.

So what do older Aboriginal people need to age well? And how can aged care funding and systems enable that? This was at the centre of a study, led by the Dharriwaa Elders Group in its long-term partnership with the University of NSW, known as Yuwaya Ngarra-li. The study involved speaking with 22 Elders in the remote NSW town of Walgett about what ageing well means to them.

Aboriginal Elders play an important role as community leaders and protectors of cultural heritage. This involves passing down knowledge and stories, leadership, care-giving and safeguarding family, community and intergenerational wellbeing. Supporting this aspect of ageing well is crucial. As one Elder explained: “Talking about our stories and storylines, and telling those stories […] It’s Aboriginal culture – it’s an oral system of educating people and giving people information. It’s part and parcel of Aboriginal life […] you know your stories, you know where you come from. For Elders who have worked away from Walgett in various careers, this means a kind of “active retirement” – returning to Country to bring back knowledge and continue a legacy for future generations.

To view The Conversation article The aged care system has failed Aboriginal people. Here’s what Elders say needs to change in full click here. You can also access information about NACCHO’s Elder Care Support Program here.

Dharriwaa Elders Group members sitting at table in staff room - 1 woman, 3 men

Dharriwaa Elders Group. Image source: The Conversation.

Noongar mob encouraged to reach out

Content warning: This article contains reference to suicide. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.

This year’s theme of World Suicide Prevention Day (Sunday 10 September 2023) was “Creating hope through action” and South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council (SWALSC) chairperson Megan Krakouer, who has worked for a decade in suicide postvention and prevention, is leading a push to raise awareness in Indigenous communities.

Suicide is the leading cause of death of First Nations people under 40 and almost all First Nation deaths by suicide involve individuals who were living below the poverty line. SWALSC encourages the Noongar community, and all First Nations people, to reach out to those around us and offer love and support to people who are struggling.

Ms Krakouer, who is also the Director of the National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project, said suicide is “the most pressing issue that affects our people. This needs to be prioritised by this nation, by every government in this country, before all other issues,” she said. According to the Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention website, available here, data from 2017–2021 shows the rate for suicide among Indigenous Australians is twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.

An important step towards suicide prevention and mental wellbeing is connection to community and it’s one of the seven domains of social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Social and emotional wellbeing is a holistic way of looking at relationships between individuals, family, kin and community in the context of land, culture, spirituality and ancestry.

To read the National Indigenous Times article SWALSC encourages Noongar community to reach out on World Suicide Prevention Day in full click here. You can also access information about a recent documentary, Keeping Hope, presented and co-produced by actor and proud Nyikina man Mark Coles Smith (below) here.

Mark Coles Smith at Hovercraft Bay, Broome, WA

Presenter and Co-producer of documentary Keeping Hope, Mark Coles Smith at Hovercraft Bay, Broome, WA. Photo: Torstein Dyrting. Image source: SBS.

If this article brought up anything for you or someone you love, please reach out to, call or visit the online resources listed below for support:

13YARN – 13 92 76, 13yarn.org.au

Lifeline – 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, beyondblue.org.au/forums

MensLine – 1300 789 978

National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project, click here

Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

Voice is a chance to close economic gap

The Liberal MP Julian Leeser, esigned in April as the shadow attorney general and shadow minister for Indigenous Australians after the Coalition decided to oppose an Indigenous voice in the constitution, says a voice to parliament is not about “special treatment or privileges” but about getting Indigenous Australians “to the same starting line that other Australians are at”. Amid rising partisan rancour in the referendum debate, with his own side leading the charge for the no campaign, Leeser told parliament he supported the voice because it was a manifestation of “deeply Liberal and conservative ideas”.

Leeser said he is supporting the voice to parliament because “my concern, as a Liberal, is that Indigenous Australians are not sharing in this country’s opportunities”. Leeser said establishing a constitutionally enshrined advisory body was about “Indigenous children, their lives and their future; and trying to create the conditions so that Indigenous children can walk confidently in two worlds”. It was also about “empowerment, respect and the strengthening of Indigenous civic infrastructure, all within our democratic system”. He said the disconnect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia was “the root cause of the economic disconnection in Indigenous communities and lives”.

“In our country, the Indigenous employment rate is around 49% – this compares with 75% for non-Indigenous Australians,” he said. “In terms of household income, the latest data of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found that 43% of Indigenous adults receive a total weekly pre-tax income of $500 a week or less. The poverty line in Australia is $489 a week for a single person. Almost one in two Indigenous adults live on the poverty line.” He said closing the gap meant creating opportunity. It meant “jobs, not welfare. It’s about universities not prisons.” Leeser invited “all Australians to lift up their eyes, and despite their own challenges, to see the gap that does not close.”

To view The Guardian article Voice can close economic gap for Indigenous Australians, says Julian Leeser in full click here.

Liberal MP Julian Leeser holding papers, facing press

Julian Leeser says closing the gap is about ‘jobs, not welfare. It’s about universities not prisons.’ Photo: Bianca de Marchi, AAP. Image source: The Guardian.

Prenatal program helps mums and bubs thrive

When Natalie Page went into labour suddenly with her first baby she was quite frightened. Ms Page’s mother drove her to the nearest hospital to give birth to her oldest daughter Emariah. “I was so scared, my mother had a very traumatic time giving birth and I kept thinking, ‘What if this is me? What if I don’t make it?’,” Ms Page said. But by the time she had her third daughter Unarra at the Mater Mothers’ Hospital she benefited from having a midwife by her side who made her feel at ease. Birthing in Our Community (BiOC) is a partnership program between Mater Hospital, the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service Brisbane (ATSICHS).

The prenatal health care program, now in its 10th year, is promoting a self-determination model that prioritises Indigenous mums’ physical and mental wellbeing. Ms Page said she benefited and wished she had been able to access the BiOC program with her first pregnancy. “They have provided so many services, including transport to medical appointments and have been there to provide milk and bread if needed,” she said.

ATSICHS Brisbane CEO Renee Blackman said the success of the birthing program showed what could be achieved when partners worked together with a shared vision and commitment to Aboriginal-led models of care and IUIH CEO Adrian Carson said improved outcomes demonstrated the success of ACCHOs leading reform with mainstream maternity services, such as Mater Mothers’ Hospital. “The ACCHS sector has long advocated that models of care specifically designed for First Nations people and delivered by ACCHSs can achieve better outcomes for our people and be more cost-effective,” Mr Carson said.

To view The West Australian article Prenatal program helps Indigenous mums and bubs thrive in full click here.

Natalie Page sitting on beach with children: baby, toddler & older girl

Natalie Page and her children were helped by a birthing program for Indigenous mums and babies. Photo: from PR handout, AAP. Image source: The West Australian.

Mornington Island store engages Outback Stores

Mornington Island’s only grocery store and takeaway outlet are under new management. Gununamanda Limited Deputy Chairperson Roxanne Thomas says Outback Stores had been awarded a three-year management agreement to manage the store and lift standards after a select tender process was conducted. “We have undertaken a major restructure in the last 12 months, and Outback Stores have agreed to work with the directors to improve our store and we welcome them to Mornington Island,” Ms Thomas said.

The store is in the town of Gununa on Mornington Island, the largest of the North Wellesley Islands in the Gulf of Carpentaria, 125kms north-west of Burke and 444 kms from Mt Isa. The community of about 1,000, about 80% are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, is serviced by five weekly flights from Mount Isa and Cairns and a weekly barge freight service. “Outback Stores was selected as the successful tenderer due to its retail expertise and successful track record over the last 15 years in assisting remote communities,” Ms Thomas said. “They operate as a not‑for-profit, provide a range of support services and return all profits to the community.”

CEO Michael Borg says Outback Stores was founded in 2006 to improve the health of Indigenous Australians living in remote Australia by addressing nutrition-related health problems, unreliable food supplies and poor management practices associated with many remote stores. The company operates 52 stores in the NT, SA, WA, NSW and now QLD. “Our priority will be to get the Mornington Island store back on its feet, ensure people have access to healthy food and provide a good range of produce at affordable prices. In particular, we will look at reducing prices on staples such as milk, bread, potatoes and carrots,” he said.

To read the RetailWorld article Mornington Island store engages Outback Stores in full click here.

Gununamanda Limited Deputy Chairperson Roxanne Thomas with Store Manager Tyler Sandercock

Gununamanda Limited Deputy Chairperson Roxanne Thomas with Store Manager Tyler Sandercock. Image source: RetailWorld.

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: ‘Indigenous paradigm’ to tackle RHD

feature tile image of Dr Jessica O'Brien & text 'Applying an 'Indigenous Paradigm' to tackle RHD'

The image in the feature tile is of Dr Jessica O’Brien from an article Q&A with Dr Jessica O’Brien published on the Heart Foundation website.

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

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

‘Indigenous Paradigm’ to tackle RHD

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) tells us that the median age at death for Indigenous Australians with RHD is 43, with half of those who died aged under 45. Three years ago, cardiologist and Monash PhD student Jessica O’Brien began an important heart research project looking at ways to understand a potentially fatal but preventable disease affecting mainly young Indigenous Australians – rheumatic heart disease (RHD).

Then, two-thirds of the way into it, everything changed. After all her clinical and research training in a biomedical system, O’Brien underwent a kind of academic and cultural awakening in terms of Indigenous health and the problems with what the researchers describe as an overwhelmingly “colonial” health system.

Dr O’Brien said she began talking with Professor Karen Adams, Director of Gukwonderuk, the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences’ Indigenous engagement unit at Monash University, about the paradigmatic clash between biomedicine and Indigenous health. “What I needed to learn is, how do we make our very colonial hospital and medical systems appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I’m Aboriginal myself, but I’m new to Indigenous research. I’m only now learning and trying to apply new ideas in an Indigenous research paradigm.”

To read the Monash University Lens article Applying an ‘Indigenous paradigm’ to tackle rheumatic heart disease in full click here.

young Aboriginal boy having RHD heart check

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Nyikina woman wins Human Rights Award

Today, Janine Dureau was announced as the 2023 Bill Armstrong AO Human Rights Award winner at an online event livestreamed from Vancouver, Canada. Hosted by Community First Development, an Aboriginal community development and research organisation, the Award provides an opportunity to identify and honour those who are doing outstanding work with First Nations’ people and communities, exemplifying self-determination in practice.

This year, the fourth year of this Award, Community First Development received many strong and worthy nominations, including for several inspiring First Nations’ leaders. “The Bill Armstrong AO Award has gone global. As well as our presenting team coming from different continents this year, this extended reach was also reflected in the range of nominations of people working in support of the human rights of First Nations Peoples across different countries and continents… including for several inspiring First Nations’ leaders.”

Following the Panel’s deliberations, Janine Dureau, a Derby born Nyikina woman, was announced as the 2023 Award winner in recognition of her passion and dedication to empowering and strengthening the capacity of Aboriginal people, families and communities to improve their quality of life. Over a 30-year period, Janine has led several campaigns and initiatives focused on culture and leadership for and on behalf of the Aboriginal community. She is currently the Chair of the Kimberley Aboriginal Women’s Council which she established with the support of 100 Aboriginal women.

To view the Community First Development media release Tireless efforts of two inspiring First Nations women recognised at Human Rights Award click here.

L-R: Janine Dureau, Chairperson at the Kimberley Aboriginal Women’s Council; Jacqueline McGowan-Jones, Commissioner for Children and Young People; June Oscar, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; Mary O’Reeri, Former Local Hero Award Winner

L-R: Janine Dureau, Chairperson at the Kimberley Aboriginal Women’s Council; Jacqueline McGowan-Jones, Commissioner for Children and Young People; June Oscar, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; Mary O’Reeri, Former Local Hero Award Winner. Photo: Commissioner for Children and Young People WA. Image source: Community First Development.

FASD Awareness Month

To mark Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Day, Saturday 9 September 2023, the Australian Government National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) produced a video explaining FASD. In the video Katerina Giorgi, CEO of the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE), says that during September – International FASD Awareness Month, we need to draw attention to this often invisible disability by:

  • asking what FASD it means
  • asking what the guidelines say around alcohol and pregnancy
  • hearing the stories of people who are impacted by FASD

NACCHO Executive Director Monica Barolits-McCabe, also featured in the video, said FASD is a fully preventable disability, and “if we have more awareness out there, we take the stigma out of FASD and alcohol consumption.” More conversations about FASD, she said, will result in prevention, earlier screening, early detection and more support.

The third speaker in the video, NOFASD Chief Operating Officer Sophie Harrington, said FASD is often a diagnosis that is misdiagnosed. It can often be seen as other disabilities, and other disorders like autism or ADHD or can masquerade as developmental trauma. Ms Harrington said FASD is preventable only if we understand from the very first time someone decides they want to start trying for a baby, they actually stop drinking.

You view the video below or by clicking on this link.

Dr Demmery: 2023 ACT Woman of Spirit

Dr Karen Demmery, Wiradjuri from Dubbo and Barkindji from Bourke, was kicked out of school in year nine, “My parents had divorced, I wasn’t sure where I was going or what I was doing, so then I got into trouble with the police, drugs and alcohol, and my life began spiralling out of control.”

Many years later Dr Demmery is celebrating her win as the 2023 ACT Woman of Spirit. “It’s the first award I’ve ever won,” she says. “I’m so passionate about what I do now, because I know the impact that it can have and obviously there are more people who are needing help.

“Winning, for me, was the coolest thing, next to so many other brilliant women. We don’t do what we do for recognition, but it’s great when we get it. When they read out my name I started laughing, I was not expecting it and I had no speech written.”

When Karen first started her business, it was called the Trauma, Leadership, Mental Health and Coaching Institute. “I know that when you’re in the midst of it, you don’t realise how bad it is,” she says. “These options for help now, what I am doing, is for my grandkids that aren’t even here yet.”

To view the CBR City News article Dr Karen knows trouble, setbacks and success in full click here.

Woman of Spirit Dr Karen Demmery - 4 different poses collage

Woman of Spirit Dr Karen Demmery… “What I do now is really about helping people to figure out why they do what they do, because once you know, then you can change it.” Photos: Andrew Campbell. Image source: CBR City News.

VIC Aboriginal Aged Care Summit

A 2-day Victorian Aboriginal Aged Care Summit to be held in Melbourne from 3–4 October 2023 will commemorate and celebrate the vital role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders play as the heart and soul of their Communities. The summit will be co-convened by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Victorian Committee Aboriginal for Aged Care & Disability (VCAACD).

Abe Ropitini VACCHO’s Executive Director of Population health said at the summit “We’ll be hearing from them (the Elders) about the changes that they have witnessed over their lives and their aspirations for the future of their communities and the quality of life that we need to ensure we maintain for all of our Elders, both Elders that we have now and our emerging Elders as well.”

You can listen to the NITV Radio interview here and find more information about the summit on VACCHO’s website here.

NITV Radio logo banner text ' Victorian Aboriginal Aged Care Summit to discuss what it's like to be an Aboriginal Elder today' & portrait image of Abe Ropitini VACCHO's Executive Director of Population Health

VACCHO’s Executive Director of Population Health, Abe Ropitini. Image source: NITV Radio.

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.

Anniversary of UNDRIP

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the General Assembly on Thursday 13 September 2007. The Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to Indigenous peoples.

The Declaration is particularly significant because Indigenous peoples, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, were involved in its drafting.

You can access more information on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Calls to integrate pharmacists within ACCHOs

Feature tile: Pharmacist Kylie van Rooijen (R) with RN Neil Dunning, discussing how to use a MediSachet roll, Port Lincoln AHS; text 'Calls to integrate PHARMACISTS WITHIN ACCHOs to fight chronic disease'

The image in the feature tile is of GP pharmacist Kylie van Rooijen (R) with RN Neil Dunning, at the Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service, discussing how to use a MediSachet roll. The image appeared in the article Why this Aboriginal health service values its GP pharmacist published in the Australian Pharmacist on 2 June 2021.

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

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

Calls to integrate pharmacists within ACCHOs

The Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) submission to the recent House of Representatives Inquiry into Diabetes centers on the impact of social, environmental, and health system factors that create additional challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in preventing the illness and its associated complications. QAIHC’s Public Health Physician Associate  Professor Sophia Couzos said diabetes can be a complex condition for patients to manage and it can be difficult for patients to adhere to treatment, especially medications. “And medications can’t work if patients don’t take them,” she said.

A/Prof. Couzos played a pivotal role as the lead researcher in the Integrating Pharmacists within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to Improve Chronic Disease Management (IPAC Project). This nationwide trial aimed to integrate non-dispensing pharmacists into the clinical teams of 18 ACCHOs in QLD, NT, and Victoria.

This comprehensive approach led to improvements in diabetes management, a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk factors, a decrease in medication errors, and enhanced medication understanding, ultimately resulting in improved medication adherence among the patients. QAIHC CEO Cleveland Fagan said pharmacists working in ACCHOs made a significant difference, “There were improvements in diabetes, blood pressure, and kidney function, more medicine reviews by doctors, far fewer medication prescribing errors, more patients took their medicines as they needed to, and patients felt healthier as a result.”

The Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC), an independent body established by the Australian government, supports the value of the IPAC Project. In June this year MSAC advised funding to expand the integration of non-dispensing pharmacists into ACCHOs more widely, reflecting the positive impact observed in the project’s outcomes.

To read the National Indigenous Times article Call to integrate pharmacists within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to fight chronic disease in full click here. You can also watch a short video below on the benefits of an ACCHO Pharmacist.

VtP and Indigenous LGBTIQA+SB research

In the latest episode of the podcast Well, Well, Well educator and researcher Professor Braden Hill talked about his extensive work on Indigenous LGBTIQA+SB health, student equity and access, and his recent advocacy videos about the Voice to Parliament (VtP) Referendum.

Professor Braden Hill is a Nyungar Wardandi man from the SW of WA and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equity and Indigenous portfolio Edith Cowan University, and is the Head of Kurongkurl Katitjin, ECU’s Centre for Indigenous Australian Education and Research. Braden has significant experience in Aboriginal education, and leading equity work in universities, and has lead significant research about LGBTIQA+SB Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, most recently being involved in the Walkern Katatdjin report about mental health for Indigenous LGBTIQA+ youth.

To listen to the Joy 94.9 Radio Well Well Well podcast episode Braden Hill on the Voice to Parliament and Indigenous LGBTIQA+SB research click here. You can view a video of Prof Hill talking about his work below.

Tjuntjuntjara calls for better TB screening

Authorities in one of Australia’s most remote communities are calling for help to screen its residents for tuberculosis, after a 19-year-old woman who spent time there died from the contagious disease in Kalgoorlie. Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation CEO Jon Lark said the young woman died in November last year was a transient resident of Tjuntjuntjara.

Mr Lark said she spent a lot of time in the remote community, where she had many close contacts, but also travelled to Kalgoorlie and the APY Lands in SA. Mr Lark said the WA government had known about the woman’s death since the end of January. But more than six months later, screening of the woman’s contacts in Tjuntjuntjara is yet to be completed.

103 cases of tuberculosis have been recorded in WA this year, with at least two cases involving Indigenous people, according to Department of Health data last updated on 9 September. Mr Lark said he wanted WA Health staff to travel to Tjuntjuntjara to conduct community-wide screening, to help to determine whether tuberculosis was spreading locally. “It’s so disappointing to be so far removed, so far forgotten, so far from everything and having such limited resources for our health service to be able to deal with a situation like this,” he said.=

To read the ABC News article Tjuntjuntjara community calls for better tuberculosis screening after woman’s death in full click here.

map of Australia with pin for Tjuntjuntjara WA

Tjuntjuntjara is one of Australia’s most remote communities. Photo: Sharon Gordon, ABC News.

Black Comedy star on body image

Australian actress and comedian Nakkiah Lui can remember when she realised her relationship with food was wrong. “I had started getting comments about my weight and being bullied for being fat,” she said. “It’s been a huge defining part of my life, because food was always the enemy.”

The Black Comedy star knows the importance of understanding body image, saying, “When it comes to the discussion of food and body image, the more intersectional we can be in discourses around these the better. We need lots of different perspectives around things like food and especially body image, because for a long time they’ve both been used as ways to include and exclude people,” Lui says. “Our idea of what a beautiful person looks like, what an acceptable body looks like and what a ‘healthy’ body looks like has very much been defined by race, sex and gender.”

The radio host noted that adding an Indigenous lens to discussions of body image may allow people understand the true extent of its impact. “I think when you start adding in conversations around Indigeneity to that, then you’re going to be talking about things like colonisation, like white supremacy, and you’re going to start unpicking things that get to usually go invisible,” she says.

To view the 9Honey article ‘Food was the enemy’: Australia actress Nakkiah Lui’s body image admission in full click here.

portrait image of Nakkiah Lui, host and co-producer of podcast First Eat with Nakkiah Lui

Nakkiah Lui, host and co-producer of podcast First Eat with Nakkiah Lui, which explores First Nations’ food cultures in Australia and abroad. Image source: The Guardian.

Broome home to Australia’s worst prison

In the heart of picture-postcard Broome stands WA’s oldest operating prison, a crumbling vestige of the state’s earlier colonial days. Last month the WA Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services (OICS) released a damning report denouncing the prison as “dilapidated” and “poorly maintained” to the point of being a health and safety hazard with foul-smelling, open drains, persistent mould, water damage, and garden crates used as furniture. Disturbingly, the report found an underlying, unacceptably racist element to the conditions.

It said, “With 80% of the [prison] population Aboriginal, the sub-standard services and conditions would not have been acceptable in a metropolitan prison where Aboriginal people were in the minority.” Since 2001, the WA inspector of prisons has published no fewer than seven reports declaring the prison unfit for its purpose in terms varying from “decrepit” to “inhumane.” Yet hundreds of people spend time in Broome prison each year, with devastating consequences for their physical and mental health.

This situation compounds an already serious mental health crisis in WA prisons. A 2020 study of men who entered the prison system in WA found that over 50% of Aboriginal prisoners had experienced the death of a close family member in the previous 12 months, increasing the risk of depression, self-harm, and suicide.

To read The West Australian article Kriti Sharma and Daniela Gavshon: Picture-postcard Broome is home to Australia’s ‘worst prison’ in full click here.

collage 3 images Broome prison exterior, kitchen, storeroom

In the heart of picture-postcard Broome stands Western Australia’s oldest operating prison, a crumbling vestige of the state’s earlier colonial days. Image source: The West Australian.

Outlet to craft has mental health benefits

Aunty Cheryl Norris can be found most days sitting behind a table at a craft store in SA’s Riverland. Her hands weave tiny beads onto even thinner threads, crafting jewellery to be worn across wrists and ears. “I was like a prisoner at home,” the Indigenous Erawirung woman says. “But now I can come down here to the shop every day. “I’m out and about, I’m seeing people, I’m doing things here.

Joining her at the table, strewn with wool, is Marian Reeves and Darren Ellis. The couple runs the store, nestled in the streets of Berri, having moved from Victoria after their Shepparton rental was devasted by flooding. “We weren’t sure whether we wanted to reopen the shop,” Ms Reeves said.

“But with Cheryl nagging us saying that the community here needs something, we decided to reopen.” The couple had offered a similar space in Shepparton, and knew it could provide a spot for people from the community to craft or even just have a chat.

Ms Reeves said some of the people who came into the shop didn’t have a project, but they just wanted to sit. “It makes us feel good because we’ve made somebody else happy,” she said.

To view the ABC News article Riverland community space provides outlet to craft, along with mental health benefits in full click here.

Aunty Cheryl Norris beading at craft group

Aunty Cheryl Norris says having a place to craft offers her ways to socialise and get out of the house. Photo: Sophie Holder, ABC Riverland.

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: Lung cancer screening chance to have impact

feature tile: vector image of pink lungs, magnifying glass & black dot on one lung; text 'Lung cancer screening: a significant opportunity to address intractable health problem for mob'

The image in the feature tile is from the Lung Cancer Screening Program Saves Lives webpage of the the Lexington Medical Center Blog published on 30 June 2021.

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

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

Lung Cancer screening: chance to have an impact

The recently announced National Lung Cancer Screening Program (NLCSP) has the potential to deliver significant health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but only if the program is codesigned by the communities who need it most, according to an article published today in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA). The NLCSP, announced by the Australian Government in May 2023 and due to begin in July 2025, will refer individuals aged 50–70 years with a significant history of cigarette smoking for a low dose computed tomography (LDCT) to help identify lung cancer at an early stage where survival rates are improved.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a disproportionate burden of lung cancer in Australia, experiencing double the rates of lung cancer compared with non-Indigenous populations. Lung cancer mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are increasing, in contrast to falling rates in non‐Indigenous Australians. These diverging trends are expected to increase disparities for many years to come and clearly demonstrate the health system is failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The disproportionate lung cancer burden means that an NLCSP could deliver greater benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and reduce the disparity with non‐Indigenous Australians.

Senior article author, Associate Professor Lisa Whop, believes the new program could deliver improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, but a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. “We know existing cancer screening programs have struggled to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and this is reflected in low participation rates, and ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders and organisations and those with lived experience are key architects in designing this program will help address some of these participation barriers” A/Prof Whop said.

You can read the MJA article Lung cancer screening for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: an opportunity to address health inequities in full here and the Insight Plus article Lung Cancer Screening Program must be codesigned with Indigenous Australians in full here. You can also find more information about the NLCSP on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care website here.

x-ray of lungs on computer screen & rack of medical files

Image source: Oncology News.

The Deadly Physios: taking action as an ally

Actions speak louder than words in allyship and it’s better to make mistakes than not to try at all. But how do you know when to speak up, when to step up and when to shut up? These questions are explored in Episode 5 of The Deadly Physios podcast where Dr Rachel Toovey and Associate Professor Shawana Andrews talk about listening and learning, the keys to building allyship skills and reciprocal relationships.

Associate Professor Shawana Andrews is a Palawa Trawlwoolway woman with a background in social work and public health. She worked in Aboriginal paediatric health and mental health for 13 years prior to moving into higher education. Shawana has been a Senior Lecturer and Academic Specialist in Indigenous Health for many years and is currently the Director of the Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Her research interests include Indigenous doctoral pathways, Aboriginal women’s experiences of family violence and cultural revitalisation.

Dr Rachel Toovey is a non-Indigenous woman living and working on Bunurong and Wurundjeri land in Naarm (Melbourne). Rachel is a lecturer in Physiotherapy at the University of Melbourne, and the co-lead of the First Nations, Health Promotion and Equity Teaching Team in the Department of Physiotherapy. She was a member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee from 2012–2020 and is current Vice-President of the Victorian Branch of the APA.

You can listen to Episode 5 of The Deadly Physios podcast – Taking action as an ally – Dr. Shawana Andrews and Rachel Toovey in full click here.

tile for The Deadly Physios podcast; logo Australian Physiotherapy Association; L-R Associate Professor Shawana Andrews & Dr Rachel Toovey.

L-R Associate Professor Shawana Andrews & Dr Rachel Toovey. Image source: Australian Physiotherapy Association.

Moves to control APY Lands TB outbreak

The SA government has bolstered efforts to counter a rising tuberculosis outbreak on the state’s Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. More than 700 people have been screened for the potentially life-threatening disease, which was first declared as an outbreak within the Aṉangu community in March this year. Ongoing community-wide screening has focused on those most at-risk including close contacts and school children.

SA Minister for Health Chris Picton said he has been visiting the APY Lands this week to see the first-hand impact of SA Health’s response. “Tuberculosis is preventable and curable and we are committed to doing all we can to stop this cluster from growing. We are promoting awareness and facilitating quick testing and treatment,” Mr Picton said.

The Aboriginal Public Health team from the Department for Health and Wellbeing, SA TB Services within the Central Adelaide Local Health Network, SA Pathology and South Australia Medical Imaging (SAMI) have been working closely with the Nganampa Health Council (NHC) and local Anangu community leaders to coordinate testing, screening, contact tracing and treatment for those who require it.

To read the National Indigenous Times article SA government moves to control tuberculosis outbreak on APY Lands in full click here.

boxes of Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccines given to infants in TB endemic regions of the world

Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccines are given to infants in TB endemic regions of the world. Photo: Mick Tsikas, AAP. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Kununurra: new Elders residential complex

In a significant boost for Aboriginal Elders and seniors in Kununurra, the WA Government this week announced the completion of a 16-unit Aboriginal Elders Residential Complex. The project aims to cultivate cultural connection, reduce isolation, and furnish culturally appropriate housing for First Nations people in the East Kimberley region.

In addition to residential units, the complex includes an indoor community room and an outdoor meeting space. Joining with Kimberley MP Divina D’Anna and community members in officially opening the new facility Housing Minister John Carey spoke to the importance of co-designing and having a genuine partnership with the Aboriginal community. “Co-design and genuine partnership are essential to ensuring that this new housing development is a successful and vibrant place for community members.”

State Member for Kimberley, Divina D’Anna, celebrated the project as a “great outcome for the Kununurra community.” D’Anna highlighted the multi-pronged impact of the project, “These homes will provide new, culturally appropriate accommodation for our Aboriginal elders.” She also remarked that the facility will address health and well-being issues, including overcrowding, among Aboriginal people over 50 in Kununurra.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Carey & D’Anna open new Aboriginal Elders residential complex in Kununurra in full click here.

L-R Kununurra community member Teddy, Housing Minister John Carey & Kemberley MLA Divina D'Anna cutting ribbon at opening of Aboriginal Elders Residential Complex, Kununurra

L-R Kununurra community member Teddy, Housing Minister John Carey and Kimbeley MLA Divina D’Anna at opening of 16-bed unit Aboriginal Elders Residential Complex. Image credit: John Carey. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

TAMS: supporting women’s health decisions

Women’s health, and supporting women to make informed decisions about their health, was the focus of an informative morning tea and lunch hosted by Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service (TAMS) and the Bumbira Arts and Culture Program, last Thursday during Women’s Health Week 2023 (4–8 September).

About 50 to 60 women took part in the TAMS event, held at Tamworth Botanic Gardens, which started with a smoking ceremony performed by Bumbira Arts and Culture’s Kaliela Thornton. Ms Thornton then kicked off the guest speaker program with a discussion about bush medicine, which was followed by sessions from TAMS women’s health nurse, Alicia Bonomo and diabetes educator Sally Endacott.

Tamworth Family Support Service and HealthWISE also took part in the day, which included a meditation session with Charlie Abra, from Tathra Collective and Bumbira. The day was organised by TAMS Aboriginal health practitioner Kathie Williamson.

The above is an extract from the article Women’s Health week supports women to make informed decisions published in The Northern Daily Leader on 8 September 2023.

TAMs Women's Health Week event, 7.9.23 at Tamworth Botanic Gardens, 3 TAMS staff & guest speaker on bush medicine

The TAMS Women’s Health Week event, held on 7 September 2023 at the Tamworth Botanic Gardens, featured guest speakers who discussed bush medicine, women’s health and diabetes. Photo: Peter Hardin. Image source: The Northern Daily Leader.

Medical community has a role to play in Yes vote

Professor Kelvin Kong, a prominent otolaryngology, head and neck surgeon and a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, believes the majority of Australians would vote Yes to the Voice to Parliament if given the right information, and that the medical community has a role to play. Professor Kong is a Worimi man, working on Awabakal and Worimi Country at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital and John Hunter Children’s Hospital.

Earlier this year, Professor Kong was named NAIDOC Person of the Year for his work with Indigenous children at risk of hearing loss due to otitis media. “Unfortunately, Australia still has the worst ear disease rates in the world,” Professor Kong said. “Chronic suppurative otitis media affects from 40% to 85% of children in Indigenous communities. It is disheartening discussing my mob on an international scale because of the dichotomy that exists with ear disease here.

“Every kid endures otitis media at some point in their life. Most get it at around two years of age. In our population, we’ve seen it occur in under-12-months. The big difference is whether you identify the issue early and whether you get access to the help required.”

To view the InSight+ article Medical community has role to play in achieving a Yes vote: Kelvin Kong in full click here.

Professor Kelvin Kong at reception of medical centre

Professor Kelvin Kong. Image source: InSight+.

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: VACCHO toolkit to help mainstream services

feature tile artwork by Dixon Patten (Bitja); text: 'VACCHO develops Victorian Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Workforce Strategy Implementation Tool'

The image in the feature tile is of artwork by Dixon Patten (Bitja) that appears on page 35 of the  Victorian Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Workforce Strategy: An implementation tool for organisations in Melbourne’s north and west 2023–2026.

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

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

VACCHO toolkit to help mainstream services

Efforts to close the health and life expectancy gaps between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous communities are ongoing and urgent. An important way to achieve that is to ensure organisations operate in ways that embrace Aboriginal cultures and practices. The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) is acutely aware of this, and for nearly 30 years has been advocating for vibrant, healthy, self-determining Aboriginal communities.

A key part of this work is the creation and rollout of the Victorian Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Workforce Strategy 2022–26, available here. This plan supports a strong and able workforce across VACCHO’s 33 member organisations, delivering holistic wellbeing services to Aboriginal people.

However, for this vision to be achieved other organisations must also contribute, says VACCHO’s CEO, Jill Gallagher AO. “The [ACCHO] sector is leading the way in providing culturally safe services, but we are not immune to the challenges of workforce shortages and infrastructure limitations,” she said. “With a rapidly growing population, we need all services in the health system to deliver culturally safe care. It’s vital that there is no wrong door for Aboriginal families in being able to gain access to quality, culturally safe healthcare that is delivered in a high-trust environment.”

With this in mind, North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) commissioned VACCHO to develop a toolkit to help mainstream organisations in Melbourne’s north and west implement the health and wellbeing strategy. NWMPHN’s CEO said the free toolkit, available here, provides practical ways for mainstream organisations to support the work of Aboriginal community-controlled organisations.

N

To view the NWMPHN article New toolkit to help mainstream organisations support Victoria’s Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Workforce Strategy in full click here.

VACCHO staff Jessica Mitchell (L) and Abe Ropitini (R) standing outside VACCHO building

VACCHO staff Jessica Mitchell (L) and Abe Ropitini (R). Photo: Leigh Henningham. Image source: NWM PHN News.

DHAC key health updates, August 2023

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care (DHAC) has released its Health updates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities August 2023 edition.

This edition includes information about:

  • World Breastfeeding Week
  • ‘Yarning About’ resources series
  • Hearing Health
  • Helping eliminate hepatitis in Australia
  • New childhood immunisation videos featuring child health nurses

You can view the August 2023 edition of DHAC’s Health updates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in full here, including the below new childhood immunisation video featuring child health nurses.

Boosting cancer outcomes for priority populations

Eight grants totaling over $840,000 have been awarded to increase equity for people in population groups with poorer cancer outcomes. The Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health Senator Malarndirri McCarthy announced the Supporting people with cancer grants today, including three directly aimed at reducing the impacts of cancer on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Supporting people with cancer grant initiative is an annual grants program that funds community organisations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to better support people affected by cancer at a community level. Since its inception in 2005, 137 grants totalling $11.55m have been funded through this initiative, with funded projects attracting over $9m in contributions from grant recipients and served communities.

The community programs will support locals including through screening, early detection, cancer prevention and care management nationally and in regional and remote communities.

You can find more information about the Supporting people with cancer Grant initiative on the Australian Government Cancer Australia website here, and read Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health’s media release Enhanced funding initiatives to boost cancer outcomes for priority populations in full here.

ATSI woman on phone holding had of sick Aunty lying on couch

Image source: NSW Government Cancer Institute NSW website.

RFDS confronts First Nations stories

Tiwi Islander and actor Rob Collins who returns as Senior Medical Officer Dr Wayne Yates in Season 2 of the TV series RFDA says the “RFDS is unapologetic in confronting First Nations stories.” The series reflects the Broken Hill community and addresses medical issues for the mob. Rob Collins is particularly proud of RFDS for addressing First Nations medical issues to a broad audience in an authentic way.

This season the series not only weaves bush medicine into its storylines, but it does not shy away from the very real concerns faced by Indigenous communities. Rob Collins said he’s “really excited for people to see Wayne’s journey in this [series] because it raises some serious questions about the intersection between Aboriginal people and the medical profession.

“We know anecdotally, that Aboriginal people are over-represented, when it comes to fronting up to hospitals, and suffering chronic diseases. We don’t shy away from that conversation in the series. I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done and of the show for going there. I think it’s going to start conversations that I don’t think we’ve had, in such an unapologetic way on Aussie telly before.”

To view the TV Tonight article Rob Collins: “RFDS is unapologetic in confronting First Nations  stories” in full click here.

Aboriginal actor Rob Collins in RFDS TV series RFDS navy uniform standing in middle of red dirt outback road

RFDS actor Rob Collins. Image source: TV Tonight.

Better sleep to improve mob’s health

A program linking sleep science and traditional knowledge is being expanded to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnoea in regional Indigenous communities. Associate Professor Yaqoot Fatima from The University of Queensland’s (UQ) Poche Centre for Indigenous Health said one in four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the condition, known as OSA, to a moderate or severe level but it is largely untreated.

“When a person’s airway is blocked during sleep, there are sudden drops in blood oxygen levels and frequent wakefulness affecting restorative sleep and straining the cardiovascular system,” Dr Fatima said. “People who don’t sleep well are more likely to be overweight and at risk of diabetes, heart disease and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.”

The OSA project has received $4.06m from the Medical Research Future Fund and will be an extension of Let’s Yarn About Sleep (LYAS), a partnership led by UQ which runs a co-designed sleep health program for young Indigenous people in NW QLD. Through consulting with community members and up to 100 service providers the researcher will identify what’s contributing to poor sleep and upskill local health workers to improve the diagnosis and treatment of OSA and other sleep health conditions.

To view the UQ article Better sleep to improve health in Indigenous communities in full click here.

Roslyn Von Senden leads a Walk on Country talking about the use of plants and relaxation techniques as part of the LYAS program for young people

Roslyn Von Senden leads a Walk on Country talking about the use of plants and relaxation techniques as part of the LYAS program for young people. Image source: UQ News.

Helping teens addicted to vaping

The Australian government is cracking down on vaping. Recreational vapes of any type – whether they contain nicotine or not – will be banned from retail sale across Australia after legislation is introduced (though the date is yet to be set).

Rates of teen vaping have been rising rapidly in Australia, from 0.8% of 14- to 17-year-olds describing themselves as a current vaper over the past six months in 2018 to 14.5% in 2023. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 19.8% have been a current vaper over the past six months. The majority of e-cigarettes contain nicotine, even when they’re not labelled as such. Some vaped tested in Australia contained 900 mgs of nicotine – the equivalent of the nicotine in almost 100 cigarettes.

Nicotine dependence produces a strong desire for, and difficulty controlling, nicotine use and young people are at greater risk of nicotine dependence than adults and can develop dependence faster. Once nicotine-dependent, a person will experience withdrawal symptoms if they reduce or cease their use. A Hooked on Nicotine Checklist, available here, is a tool to assess dependence on smoking cigarettes or vaping, specially designed for adolescents. The higher the score, the less control a teen will have over their nicotine addiction.

To view The Conversation article My teen is addicted to vaping. How can I help them quit and manage their withdrawal symptoms? in full click here.

hand holding out a vape, person's face obscured by a cloud of smoke

Photo: AdobeStock. Image source: ABC btn.

Don’t miss out – COVID-19 vax competition

Win return flights, accommodation, and tickets to the 2023 NACCHO Members’ Conference

6 ACCHOs and 15 creative people can win return flights, accommodation, and tickets for up to 3 ACCHO staff members to attend the NACCHO’s Members’ Conference in Perth this October.

Enter the COVID-19 Vaccination promotion competition by submitting a deadly video advertisement/promotion that represents the theme: Getting a COVID-19 vaccination is looking after yourself, for your chance to win! Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Relevance to the theme: Getting a COIVD-19 vaccination is looking after yourself
  • Composition
  • Creativity
  • Originality
  • Appropriateness for the target age group: Category 1 – kids 5–12 years (in the ACCHO community), Category 2 – teens and adults 13–49 years (in the ACCHO community), Category 3 – older adults 50+ (in the ACCHO community).

There are 3 amazing prizes up for grabs:

Category 1

  • First Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

Category 2

  • First Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

Category 3

  • First Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

This is an opportunity for you to really show who and what your community is like, and the best ways to communicate with them.

We encourage teams to be creative with the theme. Is the best way to get your mob interested, through humour? Being strong and serious? Telling a story? Addressing negative stereotypes?

Be open to the possibilities of what ‘self-care’ looks like. Self-care could be 30-year-olds discussing the importance of getting the vaccination; or 70-year-olds spinning around the basketball courts because they’re fit and healthy and vaccinated; or tie your promotion to building community strength and vitality.

The more original and community-oriented, the better.

You can access a competition Entry Form here.

The Terms and Conditions for the competition are available here.

NACCHO tile text 'NACCHO Members' Conference 2023 - 23-26 October, Noongar Boodjar (Perth) MAY THE BEST ACCHOs WIN... - Return Flights; Tickets to NACCHO's Conference for 3 staff members; Accommodation; images of plane, city of Perth at night & motel bedroom

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.

Key Date

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NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: COVID-19 competition – win flights to Perth

feature tile, round dot art from conference promotional material overlaid with text 'competition time!' & text 'COVID-19 vaccination program competition win flights, accommodation and tickets to the NACCHO Members’ Conference'

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

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

COVID-19 competition – win flights to Perth

Win return flights, accommodation, and tickets to the 2023 NACCHO Members’ Conference

6 ACCHOs and 15 creative people can win return flights, accommodation, and tickets for up to 3 ACCHO staff members to attend the NACCHO’s Members’ Conference in Perth this October.

Enter the COVID-19 Vaccination promotion competition by submitting a deadly video advertisement/promotion that represents the theme: Getting a COVID-19 vaccination is looking after yourself, for your chance to win! Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

  • Relevance to the theme: Getting a COIVD-19 vaccination is looking after yourself
  • Composition
  • Creativity
  • Originality
  • Appropriateness for the target age group: Category 1 – kids 5–12 years (in the ACCHO community), Category 2 – teens and adults 13–49 years (in the ACCHO community), Category 3 – older adults 50+ (in the ACCHO community).

There are 3 amazing prizes up for grabs:

Category 1

  • First Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

Category 2

  • First Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

Category 3

  • First Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 3 staff members
  • Second Prize includes return flights, accommodation, and tickets to NACCHO’s 2023 Conference in Perth for 2 staff members

This is an opportunity for you to really show who and what your community is like, and the best ways to communicate with them.

We encourage teams to be creative with the theme. Is the best way to get your mob interested, through humour? Being strong and serious? Telling a story? Addressing negative stereotypes?

Be open to the possibilities of what ‘self-care’ looks like. Self-care could be 30-year-olds discussing the importance of getting the vaccination; or 70-year-olds spinning around the basketball courts because they’re fit and healthy and vaccinated; or tie your promotion to building community strength and vitality.

The more original and community-oriented, the better.

You can access a competition Entry Form here.

The Terms and Conditions for the competition are available here.

NACCHO tile text 'NACCHO Members' Conference 2023 - 23-26 October, Noongar Boodjar (Perth) MAY THE BEST ACCHOs WIN... - Return Flights; Tickets to NACCHO's Conference for 3 staff members; Accommodation; images of plane, city of Perth at night & motel bedroom

ACCHO named WA’s Best GP Service for 2023

Derbarl Yerrigan Health Services (DYHS) has been awarded WA’s best GP practice of 2023 by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). This ACCHO that operates on the lands of the Whadjuk Noongar people in metropolitan Perth was recognised for demonstrating excellence in patient care, safety and a commitment to the wellbeing of the community. DYHS GP Registrar, Dr Corey Dalton, was named the RACGP’s 2023 GP in Training. It is the second consecutive year that an Aboriginal doctor from the DYHS medical team has taken out the award. DYHS CEO, Tracey Brand, said the RACGP awards come as the ACCHO prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

“It is remarkable that a service started 50 years ago by a group of volunteers in an old city building with disused equipment from Royal Perth Hospital has become the largest ACCHO in WA,” she said. “These awards acknowledge our Board’s strong leadership and the dedicated DYHS team’s compassion and commitment to cultural safety and clinical excellence.”

Earlier this year DYHS chose to undergo accreditation through the Australian General Practice Accreditation (AGPAL) which involved the practice team reviewing all systems and processes, prior to an independent assessment conducted by a team of AGPAL surveyors. Ms Brand said “Our model delivers culturally responsive comprehensive primary health services with a focus on prevention, early intervention, comprehensive care and care coordination across the life course of our 22,000 patients.”

To view the Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service media release Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service named state’s best GP service for 2023 in full click here.

tile of 50+ Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service with hands in air at top landing & down stairs of DYHS office

Glen for Women officially opens

On Wednesday last week, 30 August 2023, The Glen for Women was officially opened. The Glen for Women runs a 12-week residential rehab program based on the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Residential Rehabilitation Network (ADARRN) model of care. The program is designed to support participants with individualised case management plans; grief and trauma counselling; financial counselling; relationship and parenting programs; anger management and relapse prevention programs and 12 step fellowship meetings. Through the program, participants can also learn a range of practical skills to set them up for their return to community.

The Glen for Women has now been operational for 15 months and 84 women have passed through its doors. At the official opening the women who had fought so hard for The Glen for Women, Aunty Coral, Aunty Cheryl, Aunty Gail, Aunty Jan and Aunty Barbara were acknowledged.

You can find more information about The Glen for Women on The Glen website here.

image of outside seated guests for opening of The Glen for Women 20.8.23

Official opening of The Glen for Women. Image sourece: The Glen Rehab Facebook page.

Why the Voice is crucial to health outcomes 

Respected Aboriginal leader Aunty Jill Gallagher – CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) – recently spoke on NITV Radio about the upcoming referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, how Aboriginal Elders drive the narratives as well as an upcoming VACCHO Elder’s Summit. Aunty Jill explained emphatically why a Yes vote is crucial.

You can listen to the NITV Radio interview Aunty Jill Gallagher on why a Yes vote is crucial, the impact on Aboriginal health outcomes and more in full here.

NITV Radio tile text 'Aunty Jill Gallagher on why a Yes vote is crucial, the impact on Aboriginal health outcomes and more' & portrait image of VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher

Image source: NITV Radio.

Children in detention increases crime

Some advocates say the best way to create an adult criminal is to lock up a child. The younger a child is slapped with a probation order or locked up for committing a crime, the more likely they are to return behind bars. So when QLD brought in laws allowing kids as young as 10 to be held in police watch houses, human rights groups were appalled.

Indigenous advocates were also alarmed given the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the youth justice system. Catherine Liddle, the head of a national organisation for Indigenous children known as SNAICC, said the Queensland government action was a disgrace.

“Suspending the Human Rights Act so children as young as 10 can be held in police watch houses and prisons designed for adults is utterly shameful,” she said. “It makes a mockery out of all the work that we’ve been doing to close the gap, which says to work in partnership with ACCOs before you make decisions like this.”

To view the SBS News article Does putting children in detention prevent or produce crime? in full click here.
corridor with closed prison doors either side

Photo: Jono Searle – AAP. Image source: SBS News.

Reducing medication-related problems

Medicines are the most frequent health care intervention type; their safe use provides significant benefits, but inappropriate use can cause harm. Systemic primary care approaches can manage serious medication‐related problems in a timely manner.

A quality improvement activity developed to improve medicine safety is ACTMed (ACTivating primary care for MEDicine safety). ACTMed uses information technology and financial incentives to encourage pharmacists to work more closely with general practitioners to reduce the risk of harm, improve patients’ experience of care, streamline workflows, and increase the efficiency of medical care.

A stepped wedge cluster randomised trial is planned to be undertaken in 42 Queensland primary care practices to assess the effectiveness of the ACTMed intervention. The primary outcome will be the proportion of people at risk of serious medication‐related problems — patients with atrial fibrillation, heart failure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, or asthma or congestive obstructive pulmonary disease — who experience such problems. The trail will also estimate the cost per averted serious medication‐related problem and the cost per averted potentially preventable medication‐related hospitalisation.

To read the Activating pharmacists to reduce the frequency of medication‐related problems (ACTMed): a stepped wedge cluster randomised trial article published in The Medical Journal of Australia today click here.

You can also read a previous article on ACTMed published in this newsletter here.

tablet dispenser & hand pouring tablets into palm of other hand

Image source: The Economic 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: Referendum an overwhelming time for mob

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

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

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

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

Referendum an overwhelming time for mob

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

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

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

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

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

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

image of back of heads of protesters & Aboriginal flags flying

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

Maningrida named NDIS market gap trail site

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

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

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

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

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

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

NT CTG should start with kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

100% pass rate for GPs in training

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

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

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

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

ATSI GP checking patient's heart with stethoscope

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

IWC tackles antenatal care gap for mums-to-be

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better access for people with diabetes and CVD

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

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

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

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

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

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

ATSI man gripping chest

Image source; Medical Journal of Australia.

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