NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: NACCHO CEO hits the airwaves to comment on government policy impacts

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner speaking on The Drum

NACCHO CEO hits the airwaves

Earlier this week NACCHO CEO Pat Turner spoke to ABC The Drum about COVID-19 and the rollout of vaccines, the Industrial Relations Reform, employment and economy and the anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations.

Pat Turner also spoke to Patricia Karvelas on ABC Radio National Drive about the Closing the Gap report and the anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations Apology.

To view the ABC The Drum program featuring Pat Turner as a panellist click here and to listen to Pat Turner being interviewed on ABC Radio National Drive click here.

portrait of Pat Turner for RN Drive with Patricia Karvelas 13.2.21

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM, RN Drive with Patricia Karvelas. 15 February 2021

 

NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner, ABC The Drum, 15 Feb 2021

Danila Dilba to deliver 26,000 vaccines

In the traditional language of the Larrakia people, “Danila Dilba” refers to the dilly bag used to carry bush medicines. It’s also the name of one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal health services, which is about to undertake the biggest challenge it’s ever faced.

“It’s absolutely unprecedented in terms of scale, logistics and, I would say, importance as well,” said Andrew Webster, the head of clinical governance at Danila Dilba. Dr Webster is overseeing the mission to inoculate at least 13,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in Darwin. They are among Australia’s most susceptible to the dangers of COVID-19.

To view The Aboriginal health service tasked with delivering at least 26,000 COVID-19 vaccines article click here.

Danila Dilba registered nurse Taylor Matthews opening medicines fridge

Registered nurse Taylor Matthews says it will be “very tough” to vaccinate all of Danila Dilba’s clients. Image source: ABC News.

COVID-19 vaccines common questions and answers

The Australian Government will shortly begin rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations. While details are still unfolding, you will be able to find the answers to many of your questions in the COVID-19 vaccines common questions factsheet here.

This Q&A document, together with vaccine-related information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, can be accessed via the Australian Government Department of Health’s website.

The Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) in collaboration with NACCHO have prepared a community engagement kit that has useful information on what the Government is doing to deliver COVID-19 vaccines.

To support communication with your stakeholders, networks and communities, a suite of resources have been developed, including:

  • newsletter article content
  • social media content
  • a script for videos
  • an editorial example
  • a poster
  • radio and social media advertising content.

Here is a guide that will provide you with the list of resources that are available in the COVID-19 vaccination community engagement kit.

To download the entire kit of resources click here.

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health

The EarTrain Program is here

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have much higher rates of middle ear infection compared to other children. The EarTrain program is a response to these statistics. It is delivered across Australia by TAFE NSW and is funded by the Australian Federal Government. EarTrain is a Closing the Gap initiative available until June 2022.

This program is delivered through an interactive online training platform with an option to register for practical skills workshops. During the practical skills workshops, you will learn to develop audiometry skills and use equipment appropriately. For further information about the EarTrain program click here.

Program eligibility – if you are a primary health care professional providing care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, you are eligible to participate in the EarTrain program. To register to participate click here.EarTrain banner, text deliver by NSW Government TAFE NSW & photo of Aboriginal man, woman & two young girls

Remote GPs urged to update AOD skills

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is encouraging more rural and remote GPs to update their skills using the latest research to support patients with alcohol and other drug (AOD) use problems in their communities. Under the $7.9 million initiative funded by the Federal Government the RACGP is delivering the Alcohol and Other Drugs GP Education Program, which is tailored to meet the needs of GPs in all corners of Australia. The program encourages participation from rural and remote GPs and includes essential skills training to provide an update for GPs wanting to improve their approach to conversations about alcohol and other drug use.

To view the RACGP’s media release here.RACGP banner text Alcohol and Other Drugs GP Education Program Training GPs to help people tackle alcohol & other drug use racgp.org.au/AOD, blue background, pills, beer

Trust in government soars during pandemic

It has become accepted wisdom that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen trust in government rise across countries. But by how much? And why should it matter?

To answer these questions, a representative online survey was conducted in Australia and NZ, with a separate sample for WA, in July 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey discovered a dramatic increase in trust in government. Indeed, 80% of Australians and 83% of New Zealanders agreed government was generally trustworthy, up from 49% and 53% respectively in 2009.

Moreover, this level of trust is far higher than found in studies carried out in several other countries.

To view The Conversation’s article Trust in government soars in Australia and NZ during pandemic in full click here.

NZ PM Jacinta Atdern & PM Scott Morrison standing 1.5m apart, both at lecterns, city in the background

Image source: The Conversation.

24/7 support for remote and rural health workers

Remote and rural health workers make a difference to people’s lives every day, supporting those who may be at their lowest ebb, and keeping the communities in which, they live healthy and safe. But who helps the health workers when the stresses of work, and life, become too much?

The CRANAplus Bush Support Line is a 24/7 telephone service offering free psychological support for this critical workforce, and their families. For decades, the service has been a lifeline for those facing personal or work-related challenges while delivering essential health services beyond Australia’s major cities.

With Australia’s remote and rural communities reeling from the impact of COVID-19 and natural disasters including bushfires, drought and flooding, the provision of easily accessible, meaningful support for health workers has never been more important, says not-for-profit organisation CRANAplus, which provides the Bush Support Line as part of its suite of services for the remote, isolated and rural health workforce.

To view the article 24/7 support service offers a lifeline to remote and rural health workers in full click here.CRANAPlus banner, text Lend you an ear. Give you a hand. Bush Support LIne 1800 805 391 Available to remote and rural health workers and their families, CRANAPlus logo ' text CRANA plu Improving remote health www.crana.org.au

Grants to develop or grow NDIS services

Not-for-profit organisation, Community Business Bureau (CBB) are offering free consultancy services, for up to five organisations to help them develop a new or grow an existing NDIS service. The grant round is currently open, and applications close at 1:00 PM (ACDT) Friday 26 February 2021.

While applications are open to any organisation that provides or wishes to provide NDIS services – CBB are particularly welcoming applications from:

  • Organisations operating or wanting to operate in rural and remote communities in SA, WA, the NT and Queensland.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.

For more information, or to apply click here.

rear view of older Aboriginal woman in wheelchair looking at white clouds against a blue sky

Image source: Power to Persuade website.

Mental health impacted by impaired vision

Dr Peter Sumich, Vice-President of the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists and a cataract and refractive surgeon, spoke to newsGP following the release of new research published in JAMA Ophthalmology. Dr Sumich said ‘There is no doubt – and there’s plenty of research to back it up – that people who have cataracts or low vision have more depression, more social isolation, less independence, more falls and fractures and less ability to drive. Those things all work together to play on your mental health.’

Melbourne Laureate Professor Hugh Taylor, the past president of the International Council of Ophthalmology, the Harold Mitchell Professor of Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne and previous Head of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne says GPs should assess visual capability as part of their health checks and that it is a mandatory part of the 715 health check for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. Professor Taylor said it is also imperative that clinicians ensure any patient who has diabetes receives regular eye examinations. ‘For non-Indigenous Australians, that should be an eye exam once every two years, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that needs to be once a year,’ he said.

To view the newsGP article Impaired vision linked to lower mental and physical health in full click here.

Aboriginal woman with poncho in Aboriginal flag colours, walking cane on road with man assisting

Image source: mivision The Ophthalmic Journal website.

Collaboration sought to shape health policy 

The University of Sydney’s Sustainability, Climate and Health Collaboration (SCHC) is seeking collaborations with various partners to shape policies and practices that could promote people’s health and wellbeing under changing environment and climate. One of SCHC’s focused research areas is Indigenous health promotion. A current SCHC student member is Matilde Petersen – Research Assistant and MPhil candidate at School of Public Health. Matilde is involved in projects on climate change and health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a glossary project on climate change and health to promote multisectoral collaborations.

You can access the University of Sydney’s website here for further information about how to get involved.

Aboriginal man conducting controlled grass burn

Image source: Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation – Russell Ord.

The big issues in outback health provision

In a series of webinars called Outback Conversations, members of The Outback Alliance and key stakeholders from diverse sectors have discussed a range of issues and challenges that have been identified following the first outbreak of COVID-19.

During The Outback Alliance Outback Conversations Webinar #2 – Health Frank Quinlan, Federation Executive, Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and John Paterson, CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance in the NT (AMSANT) explored questions such as: What have been the big issues in health provision? How has the disruption in supply chains, personnel or internet access impacted remote communities? and How do we continue to protect people in the Outback?

To view the webinar click here.

Outback Conversations webinar tile, red dusty outback image, insert image of woman looking at arm of one of 2 boys sitting on the edge of a ute, text Webinar #2 - Health with Frank Quinlan, Federation Executive Royal Flying Doctor Service, John Paterson, CEO - Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT

Image source: The Outback Alliance website.

Vital to combat COVID ‘vaccine hesitancy’

“The rollout of COVID vaccines has been hastened because of the emergency nature of the pandemic, and that’s led to some vaccine hesitancy which is understandable,” Dr Aquino said. “So the Australian government, and pharmaceutical companies need to effectively communicate why these vaccines are safe, and comparable to any vaccine developed outside of the pandemic. “They need to cut through the misinformation from the anti-vaxxer movement to mitigate the growth of that movement. Because the reality is the way these vaccines have been developed for COVID is still scientifically, evidence-based, and they have to go through a stringent regulatory process. Australia is one of the strictest regulators in the world, which is why we haven’t already started rolling out the vaccine like in other countries.”

To view the Illawarra Mercury article It’s vital to combat COVID ‘vaccine hesitancy’, says UOW bioethicist in full click here.

male health professional holding syringe in front of his face

Image source: Illawarra Mercury.

Indigenous Health Research Fund webinars

The Medical Research Future Fund’s (MRFF) Indigenous Health Research Fund (IHRF) was announced in February 2019 to provide $160 million for research to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. An Expert Advisory Panel was appointed in September 2019 to provide advice to the Minister for Health on the strategic priorities for research investment through the IHRF. The Expert Advisory Panel provides their advice on priorities for research investment through the IHRF by developing a Roadmap and Implementation Plan.

The Roadmap is a high level strategic document that includes the aim, vision, goal and priorities for investment for the IHRF. To support the Roadmap, the Implementation Plan outlines the priorities for investment (short, medium and long term), evaluation approaches and measures, supporting activities, and collaborative opportunities. The Roadmap and Implementation Plan are used by the Department of Health to design and implement IHRF investments via Grant Opportunities promoted through GrantConnect.

Consultation has now opened on the Roadmap and Implementation Plan for the IHRF. The Expert Advisory Panel will host two Indigenous Health Research Fund webinars on 23 and 30 March 2021 where you can provide your feedback.

Aboriginal woman in lab coat with microscope and beakers with yellow blue & red liquidr

Image source: Research Professional News Australia & NZ website.

Collingwood’s challenge is everyone’s challenge

As an Aboriginal doctor, cardiologist, and researcher, Burchill said he is often asked for solutions on how to Close the Gap for Aboriginal health outcomes. Since heart disease is one of the major drivers of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, you might think the solution lies in our interventions – heart pills, stents for blocked coronary arteries, pacemakers, and so on. The truth is that we can only close the gap by preventing heart disease in the first place. That begins with us understanding that health starts in the places we share our lives – our homes, schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods, clubs and communities.

If we apply this lens to Collingwood it becomes clear that systemic racism isn’t only a threat to the culture of an organisation but also for the health of those working within it.

To view Associate Professor Luke Burchill’s paper in full click here.

brick wall mural of Adam Goodes

Footballer Adam Goodes experienced one of the most malignant national displays of systemic racism. Image source: The University of Melbourne Pursuit webpage.

Location negotiable across Australia – TAFE NSW

Teacher Audiometry – EarTrain Program (PT casual) – (Targeted) x multiple positions

The TAFE NSW Digital Team is looking for individuals with current industry experience and knowledge in Audiometry and Ear Health Prevention to join their team on a part time casual basis.

EarTrain is an online training program for primary health care professionals to identify and manage otitis media and other hearing conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The program is delivered across Australia by TAFE NSW and is funded by the Australian Government. EarTrain is a Closing the Gap initiative available until June 2022.

To view the position description and to apply click here. Applications close 11:59 PM Monday 22 February 2021.EarTrain program banner, face & shoulders of Aboriginal girl sitting on lounge with headphones & huge smile, text EarTrain & logo - Aboriginal painting of ear, 'Enhance Health Service Delivery'

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month – February 2021

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is held each year in Australia to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is still the deadliest women’s cancer. Every day in Australia, four women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and three will die from the disease. While there is no exact cause for most ovarian cancers, there are factors that may increase a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer, such as increasing age, hereditary and other factors.

The symptoms of Ovarian cancer may include:

  • increased abdominal size or persistent abdominal bloating
  • abdominal or pelvic (lower stomach) pain
  • feeling full after eating a small amount
  • needing to urinate often or urgently

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s speech at the Ovarian Cancer Australia Teal Ribbon Parliamentary Breakfast at Parliament house yesterday can be accessed here. and the joint Minister Greg Hunt and Senator Marise Payne’s media release announcing a further $1 million to Ovarian Cancer Australia can be read in full here.

Ovarian Cancer Australia banner: teal ribbon & text 'Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month & Aboriginal red line drawing of female uterus, fallopian tubes & ovaries, inside a white circle surrounded by purple dots against dark cream background

Image sources: Ovarian Cancer Australia; Graphic from Yerin Eleanor Duncan Aboriginal Health Centre Yerin News, Edition 13, February 2019.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: progressing the Australia Day debate

feature tile, Aboriginal & national flag hanging horizontally, words: Stolen Generations history needed to progress the Australia Day debate

Progressing the Australia Day debate

The Healing Foundation CEO, Fiona Petersen, spoke with Virginia Trioli on ABC Radio Melbourne ‘Mornings’ today about the importance of Stolen Generations history being taught as part of the Australian school curriculum. Fiona said the Healing Foundation encourages school communities to engage with survivors in their local area to learn about not just what happened when they were removed and the follow-on effects of that, but also how they and their families have been overcoming what happened. Fiona agreed that if Stolen Generations history is taught more broadly in schools it is likely to better inform the ongoing conversation about Australia Day.

To view the full transcript of the interview click here.

Aboriginal people with large banner National Day of Mourning 26 January

Image source: Teach Indigenous Knowledge.

COVID-19 patient identification and racism

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is the peak body representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and doctors in Australia. During the COVID-19 pandemic, AIDA members witnessed incidents of racism related to patient identification. Patient identification is imperative to providing culturally safe health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. In one instance, a patient who identified as Aboriginal was denied testing for COVID-19. The justification for this denial was that priority testing would only be offered to “real Aborigines”. Incidents like these highlight the need to improve the cultural safety of all healthcare workers and that increasing community education about why asking all patients whether they identify as being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin is vital.

AIDA advocates for best practice in patient identification to support the development of policies and services related to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Culturally safe practice begins with sensitively, correctly, and regularly asking the identification question at the admission of care. Addressing under-identification includes asking all patients the identity question and recording responses accurately as one of several best practice principles.

To view AIDA’s position paper on patient identification click here.

desktop resource used as a prompt to 'asking the question' "are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?"

Desktop resource to prompt ‘asking the question’. Image source: The University of Melbourne.

Measuring self-reported racism in healthcare

Racism is a fundamental cause of ill health and health inequities globally. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders have identified as a high priority, research on the experiences of discrimination, overall and specifically within healthcare. Regardless of the measure used, there is consistent evidence of high exposure to discrimination in this population. High quality measurement of experiences of discrimination is therefore essential to underpin action to improve health and reduce inequities.

A recent article in the International Journal for Equity in Health, Developing and validating measures of self-reported everyday and healthcare discrimination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults looks at instruments to capture Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ experiences of interpersonal discrimination. The instruments can be used to enable valid measurement of discrimination’s prevalence, in order to identify priority targets for action, quantify discrimination’s contribution to health and health inequities, monitor trends, and evaluate interventions.

To view the paper in full click here.

Image source: The Royal Melbourne Hospital website.

Confronting Australia’s collective racism

In health, ‘bravery’ is something that is typically used about patients. Children (and sometimes adults) are asked to be ‘brave’ when they receive a vaccination. People are often called brave for sharing stories of mental illness to destigmatise it. Sometimes, just seeing a health professional is brave, if the issue is very personal or potentially embarrassing.

However, bravery has now been used about health professionals and policymakers in the 2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia Report: Moving from Safe to Brave. This is the second report (the first being in 2016) outlining where Australia is at with reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. The report is based on interviews with leaders of national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, leaders of relevant non-Indigenous organisations, corporate leaders and Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) partners.

To view the Croakey article in full click here.

street march, lady with flag Aboriginal colours, words no room for racism inside yellow map of Aust, against black top and red lower half of flag, young Aboriginal girl with drum

Image source: The Conversation.

Australia slammed for age of criminal responsibility 

Australia was slammed over its treatment and acknowledgment of First Nations people at the United Nations last week. More than 30 nations – including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Mexico – called on Australia to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, in line with the recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Nolan Hunter, Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, told NITV News that policies around Australia’s age of criminal responsibility were “outdated” and a “legacy of Colonialism”. “What’s more worrying is to allow it to continue and the acceptance of this where kids as young as 10 years old are being thrown in jail,” he said. “The culture of the community in Australia and more so the government is the attitude that there isn’t a problem or to recognise this as a serious issue.”

To view the article in full click here.

black & white spray paint image of Aboriginal child on brick wall with white bars across image representing imprisonment

Photo by Chris Devers. Image source: New Matilda website.

Mobilising a COVID-19 vaccine workforce

The Australian Government is preparing for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by securing an additional vaccine workforce and working to deliver essential training to everyone who will administer the vaccinations. “Australia’s vaccine roll out will be carried out through hospitals, general practices, state and Commonwealth vaccination clinics, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and pharmacies. This additional vaccination workforce will help support and supplement existing services and assist in outreach in areas such as aged care and remote and Indigenous communities working with existing providers. Through the Australian Government’s plan, a panel of four providers have been appointed, who will be called upon to provide a vaccine workforce to supplement the existing immunisation workforce for specific populations. The providers are Aspen Medical, Healthcare Australia, International SOS, and Sonic Clinical Services.”

To view the media release in full click here, and to read a related article in the Western Advocate click here.

gloved hand placing cotton wool bud on person's upper arm

Image source: startsat60. website.

Biggest mass vaccination program begins

vaccine Coronavirus production line

Image source: European Pharmaceutical Review website.

GPs united on vaccine rollout

Australian GPs stand united to work with the Government on rolling out COVID-19 vaccines across the community and the nation. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) have worked collaboratively with Health Minister Greg Hunt over the past weeks to ensure the vaccine rollout is delivered with patient safety as the first priority.

In a joint media release AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid and RACGP President Dr Karen Price said “This is an important moment for the Australian community. We have gone from no coronavirus vaccine a year ago to several vaccines, with the first expected to be rolled out next month. GPs are ready to help vaccinate and protect the community from COVID-19 as soon as vaccines are fully approved for use in Australia, and available for delivery. Vaccinations are also an important opportunity to discuss other health concerns with GPs. This is particularly important at a time when many people have deferred health care due to the pandemic.”

To view the joint AMA and RACGP media release click here.

vaccine lying on top of a mask on at bench

Image source: AMA website.

General practices sought for rollout

The Australian Government is seeking expressions of interest from all accredited general practices to take part in the planned delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine. “General practices will play a key role in the Australian Government’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, in what will be one of the greatest logistical exercises, public health or otherwise, in Australian history. Providing access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for everyone in Australia is a key priority for our Government. General practices will help deliver the vaccine initially to priority groups, starting with people over 70, adults with underlying medical conditions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in phase 1. Three more phases will follow until the whole country has been offered the vaccine.”

To view Minister Greg Hunt’s media release click here.

doctor's arm taking blood pressure of Aboriginal woman

Image source: Australian GP Alliance website.

Pandemic compounds hardship for PWD

Despite the refrain throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that ‘we are all in this together’, the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (PWD) last week revealed the many hardships encountered by PWD over the past six months. In his closing remarks, Chair Ronald Sackville AO QC said the hearings had shed a “piercing light” on the impact of the pandemic and associated stringent measures to contain it on PWD.

He said the pandemic had exacted a “terrible”, and largely hidden, toll on people with a disability. We have heard people with disability experiencing the sudden loss of essential support services, an absence of clear and consistent information in accessible form essential to their health and wellbeing; an inability to access health care, personal protective equipment and even the basic necessities of life such as food and medication; we’ve heard of isolation from the community, from friends and family and from social networks; exposure to a heightened risk of domestic violence; stress and anxiety associated with exposure to the virus; inadequate measures for the protection of people with disability, and uncertainty about how to survive in the face of disruptions to care and essential services, sometimes leading to worsening mental health.”

To read the Croakey article in full click here.

wheelchair image overlaid on Aboriginal dot painting

Image source: AbSec website.

Kelvin Kong’s pandemic reflections

In a Q&A, ear, nose and throat specialist Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, a Worimi man, based in Newcastle on the country of the Awabakal people, has reflected upon the upheaval and life-changing lessons of the past several months. “I am so thankful that we have not seen the devastation that we have seen in other First Nation populations across the world. COVID-19 is such a travesty to all of us. But it really highlights the inequities we have as health service providers. We are lucky geographically that we were able to shut down communities so quickly. The Aboriginal leadership across the nation needs far more praise in its ability to get the message across. Messages that communities could relate to and believe was, and continues to be, paramount in the response.”

To read a transcript of the interview click here.

image of Associate Professor Kelvin Kong smiling at the camera in scrubs in operating theatre with two health professionals in the background

Dr Kelvin Kong. Image source: University of Newcastle.

First Aboriginal dermatologist

Dana Slape is Australia’s first Aboriginal dermatologist. Her mission is mentoring students who may have never considered a career in medicine, as well as advocating for more Indigenous leadership throughout our healthcare system. “I think there has been a really longstanding narrative in Australia particularly in the healthcare space that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are just sick people, and people that are chronically unwell, that are chronically suffering, but the truth of it is that what we have is a system of unconscious and conscious bias that impacts how people are provided care and how they are able to access all of the things that keep us, as a community, well as individuals but also collectively. So when you have people like me and all of the other people that end up working in senior leadership, in hospitals, in clinics, in places where we access healthcare, it starts to tell a different story. You’re deconstructing those unconscious biases around people being always the patient, and never the care provider.”

“My hope is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specialist numbers increase, because the greater leadership we have that are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at all layers of the health system and tertiary education system, means that we are opening up doors for people so that those people can go on and be the leaders of the future and provide care to the next generation and that’s extremely important, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.”

To listen to the ABC interview with Dana Slape click here.

photo of Dana Slape against outback grassland setting

Dr Dana Slape. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Smoking kills half of those 45+

A study has found smoking kills one in two older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, and experts are calling for more funding to boost culturally appropriate smoking cessation services. The report from the Australian National University found smoking caused 37% of deaths at any age in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, but that increased to about half of deaths in those aged over 45.

Dr Michelle Bovill, a Wiradjuri woman and an Aboriginal smoking health researcher at the University of Newcastle, found the results were “quite alarming”. “Aboriginal people do want to quit,” she said. “But then people still don’t really know what to do to quit, and we really don’t have enough funding being put into our Aboriginal community controlled health services to provide that support.”

To view the full article in The Sydney Morning Herald click here.

elderly Aboriginal man smoking

Image source: The Conversation.

Pharmacy students inform WRAP toolkit

Delivering effective healthcare requires healthcare professionals to reflect on their own cultural background and their patient’s cultural needs. Culture is a determinant of health and if not considered, negative health outcomes can result. This is of particular importance when working with Aboriginal communities and caring for Aboriginal people whose views have been excluded from healthcare models, funding, and policy. Non-indigenous healthcare professionals, such as pharmacy students, benefit from understanding Aboriginal peoples’ healthcare needs and models of holistic healthcare, as well as reflecting on their own cultures, assumptions, and experiences on placement.

A research article, Pharmacy students’ learnings and reflections to inform the development of the ‘Working Respectfully with Aboriginal Peoples’ (WRAP) Toolkit  explores students’ views to inform the development of a Toolkit to support students’ learning prior to engaging in placements in Aboriginal communities. The study involved collaboration with students, Aboriginal community members, educators experienced in Indigenous health and allied health education.

For further details about the research article click here.

Dr Rallah-Baker checking elderly Aboriginal woman's eyes with torch

Dr Rallah-Baker has called for cultural competency to become standard good practice before health workers are registered. Image source: Michael Amendolia (Fred Hollows Foundation).

SNAICC appoints new CEO

SNAICC – National Voice for Our Children, the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, has announced that Catherine Liddle has been appointed to the position of Chief Executive Officer. Catherine will commence the role on 8 February 2021. An Arrernte/Luritja woman from Central Australia, she comes to SNAICC with a strong background in senior leadership positions with First Nations organisations. “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Catherine to SNAICC,” says Muriel Bamblett, SNAICC Chair. “With her previous leadership roles, combined with her experience on the Coalition of Peaks, Catherine will ensure that SNAICC can continue to strengthen our partnerships with state and federal governments to make sure our children are at the forefront of policies.”

To view SNAICC’s media release click here.

Katherine Liddle standing in front of a tree in bushland holding a twig with leaves, smiling

Catherine Liddle. Image source: radioinfo website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News – ‘we must incorporate justice into health care’

feature tile: text: 'we must incorporate justice into health care' Donnella Mills NACCHO Chairperson - Aboriginal flag painted on brick wall, scales of justice vector image in yellow centre of flag and vector image of stethoscope around yellow circle centre of flag

‘We need to incorporate justice into health care’

According to Donnella Mills, who is the managing lawyer at LawRight Community Legal Centre, Chair of NACCHO, sits on James Cook University Council and is the project lawyer for the Wuchopperen Health Justice Partnership, “we need to incorporate justice into health care.”

Mills was central to the establishment of the Wuchopperen Health Justice Partnership, a partnership between Wuchopperen Health Service (Cairns) and LawRight that sees lawyers provide free legal advice, referral and casework to clients of the health service. “I kept seeing this missing link, we were talking about family wellbeing, child protection, youth detention, we were talking about issues around chronic disease and I just kept thinking how can we be delivering services when we are not connecting people to legal representation?” said Mills. “Our people will go to their ACCHO and tell their doctor about all of their concerns because the trust is there. The trust is not in the legal institution. We need to start talking about incorporating justice in the way we deliver primary health care.”

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

AHW trainee Darren Braun, Danila Dilba, Palmerston, Darwin NT. Image source: ABC News.

Aboriginal Health Worker trainee Darren Braun, Danila Dilba, Palmerston, Darwin NT. Image source: ABC News.

Vaccines a massive challenge for remote areas

Government health authorities are fine-tuning plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to remote and vulnerable Indigenous populations across Australia — a task an Aboriginal health organisation says is an unprecedented challenge.

remote community buildings with Uluru in background

There are an estimated 500 homelands and 70 remote communities in the NT alone — including Mutitjulu, at the base of Uluru. Image source: ABC News.

GP-led COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed government confirmation that GPs will be at the forefront of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. RACGP President Dr Karen Price said GPs will play an important role in the vaccine rollout. “This is a massive undertaking for our country and GPs will be essential. The majority of Australians go to their GP for their vaccinations and for many Australians they will do the same for their COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinations are one of the greatest success stories of modern medicine and GP-led vaccination programs have been at the forefront all along.”

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

gloved health professional administering a vaccine into an arm

Image source: ABC News.

Peak bodies support COVID-19 vaccine strategy

The Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases (ASID), the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control (ACIPC), and the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) have come out in support of the Commonwealth Government’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy, stressing that concerns about the ability of any vaccines to create herd immunity were not justified at this stage of the process. Immediate Past President of ASID Professor Josh Davis, ACIPC President Associate Professor Philip Russo, and PHAA President, Professor Tarun Weeramanthri said we need to wait until the Therapeutic Goods Administration has completed its review process of the available vaccines.

To view the media release in full click here.

open cardboard box with hundreds of vials of COVID-19 vaccines

Image source: Science News.

Supermarket profits before Aboriginal health

The NT government has caved in to liquor lobby pressure and imperilled the health of First Nations People by approving a Dan Murphy’s Darwin mega-store for Woolworths and lifting the licence cap for Coles.  According to Professor Lesley Russell and Dr Jeff McMullen the Aboriginal communities will pay the price with their health.

To view the full article published by Michael West Media Independent Journalists click here.

shipping container with spray painted Aboriginal flag heart & word Bagot, superimposed with logos for Woolworths and Dan Murphy's

Image source: BlackBusiness.

Back on Track diabetes campaign

Diabetes Australia and the National Diabetes Services Scheme will launch a new health campaign called Back on Track. The campaign has been developed on the back of research which shows that in the last year many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people disengaged from their routine diabetes and health care management plans due to social distancing, fear of exposure to COVID-19, and a focus on other priorities.

The Back on Track campaign is specifically targeted to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to encourage them to get ‘back on track’ with their diabetes self-care in 2021. It has been designed to provide practical, culturally appropriate and engaging messaging to encourage people to reconnect with their diabetes health. The messaging acknowledges that ‘things have been tough for everyone’ but that it is still important for people to look after themselves and look out for their friends and family too.

The steps to getting back on track (key messages) include:

  • Check in with our diabetes health team
  • Check our blood sugar and take our medications
  • Check that we are eating healthy food and being active every day
  • Check that we are looking after each other and taking time to look after ourselves.

Back on Track with our diabetes campaign banner

New diabetes research centres

The Medical Research Futures Fund will provide $10 million each for two new research centres to address diabetes and cardiovascular disease through the Targeted Translation Research Accelerator. The aim of the centres is to produce rapid improvements in preventing, treating and curing diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and their complications. A further $18 million of funding will go to support translational research projects in these areas.

To view the media release in full click here.

researcher looking down through a microscope, superimposed with transparent images of the cells

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

NACCHO housing for health position paper

Housing is a key determinant of health, yet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face a range of issues that prevent them from accessing housing that is affordable, adequate, safe and sustainable. Overcrowding is increasingly prevalent, making household members further susceptible to the burden of disease, psychological distress and other health and wellbeing issues. The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the importance of housing for maintaining health and slowing and stopping the spread of disease. Significant Australian, state and territory government leadership and investment is urgently needed to Improve housing and health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To view NACCHO’s housing policy position paper in full click here.

Walpiri Transient Camp, Katherine (NT) rudimentary tin dwellings in a poor state

Walpiri Transient Camp, Katherine (NT). Image source: The Conversation.

NSW – Wyong – Yerin Aboriginal Health Services Limited

Aboriginal Family Preservation Manager

Yerin Aboriginal Health Services Limited is looking to employ an Aboriginal Family Preservation Manager to provide high-quality management and leadership to the Family Preservation team so they can meet all required legal and practice standards for Family Preservation. This position will provide high quality culturally responsive leadership and management practices that focus on supporting effective, flexible, high quality, child-focused, and family-focused, culturally responsive interventions and supports so that our children and young people can remain safely with their families.

To view the position description and to apply click here. Applications close 9:00 am Wednesday 27 January 2021.Yerin Eleanor Duncan AHS logo

QLD – Toowoomba & Warwick – Carbal Medical Services

Aboriginal Health Worker x 2

Carbal Medical Services (Carbal) is a not-for-profit, charitable organisation that provides health services to members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in and around Toowoomba and Warwick. The core function of Carbal is to provide medical services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through two medical practices and over 17 community programs covering the regions of Darling Downs and Southern Downs.

Carbal is seeking to fill two Aboriginal Health Worker positions based in Warwick and Toowoomba.

To view the position description and to apply click here.

Applications close COB Friday 5 February 2021.Carbal Medical Services logo, words & snake

NT – Darwin – Menzies School of Health Research

Champions4Change Project Coordinator – 6 months FT contract, possible extension

RHDAustralia supports the prevention, diagnosis and management of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in Australia. RHDAustralia is based at the Menzies School of Health Research and is funded under the Australian Government’s Rheumatic Fever Strategy. The Champions4Change (C4C) program is a culturally safe support program for people living with ARF and RHD. With support from RHDAustralia, the program is run by people from across Australia with the lived experience of ARF and RHD, designed and led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. The C4C Project Coordinator will contribute to the conceptual development of the C4C program using experience-based, co-design approaches, and will implement core components of the program.

For more information and the position description click here.

Applications close Friday 22 January 2021.Menzies School of Health Research logo, words plus dot with 3 concentric circles orange black white

NSW – Blacktown/Campbelltown – OzChild

Aboriginal Practice Lead – identified position

OzChild in Blacktown/Campbelltown is looking for an Aboriginal Practice Lead to join its team. The position will be a part of the Dhiiyaan Mirri (family of stars), OzChild’s Bridging Cultures Unit (BCU) and will support the Functional Family Therapy Child Welfare (FFT-CW), Multi systemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN) and Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) Teams at Blacktown and Campbelltown. The position will be based a minimum of 2 days per week at each location, however this can be flexible based on need.

The Aboriginal Practice Lead Position within OzChild will work to ensure that participating First Nation families can benefit from these Evidence Based Models (EBMs), and from time to time other programs that OzChild may deliver. The Aboriginal Practice Lead will also facilitate access and receive support in a timely and culturally responsive manner.

Working with OzChild’s Teams, for the effective delivery of OzChild Services to First Nations Children, Young People and their Families/Kin/Carers, the Aboriginal Practice Lead will contribute from intake through to completion (when required) to the provision of culturally responsive services and a culturally safe working environment through consultation and engagement with OzChild staff, First Nations Peoples, stakeholders and relevant Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.

For more information and the position description click here.

Applications close Thursday 28 January 2021.two Aboriginal young girls, one kissing the other on the cheek, OzChild logo

NSW – Newcastle – University of Newcastle

Senior Lecturer in Nursing – FT x 1

The teaching team within the School of Nursing and Midwifery is led by award winning academics who are all specialists in their fields of practice and committed to teaching and learning strategies which develop and enhance nursing knowledge, and the full range of clinical and interpersonal skills needed by nurses and midwives to function as effective practitioners. The School enjoys a close collaboration with local area health services in providing clinical learning experiences for students, in the provision of graduate programs and in the conduct of clinical research. The aim is to prepare and develop nurses to function in a wide range of clinical settings, health facilities and rehabilitation services.

A vacancy exists for a full-time ongoing position located either at the Callaghan Campus or Central Coast, with an expectation to work across the Callaghan and Ourimbah (transitioning to Central Coast in mid-2021, subject to ANMAC approval) campuses as well as online.

In this role, you will promote and foster a collaborative, dynamic, productive and globally competitive research environment through research collaboration, external grant income, publication outputs, and research higher degree graduates. The promotion of excellence in teaching and learning through appropriate curriculum development and delivery is also a key requirement of this role.

For more information and the position description  click here.

Applications close Sunday 14 February 2021.University of Newcastle logo white on black vector of horse head and external image of the uni

NSW – southern NSW – Murra Mia Tenant Advocacy Service 

Tenant Advocates – FT x 2

Murra Mia Tenant Advocacy Service (Southern NSW Aboriginal TAAS) is seeking  two motivated Tenancy Advocates to engage with Aboriginal tenants whose tenancies are identified as at risk and provide a range of interventions.

For more information and the position description click here.

Applications close Wednesday 27 January 2021.outline of NSW, top black, bottom red, middle yellow house, state surrounded by red dots

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: World Prematurity Day 2020 – Life’s Little Treasures

World Prematurity Day 2020 - life's little treasures, image of Aboriginal father looking at baby in a humdicrib

World Prematurity Day 2020

Every year, 15 million babies are born premature worldwide. More than one million of these babies die, and many more facing serious, lifelong health challenges. Worldwide, one in 10 babies are born too early – more than 27,000 each year in Australia alone. The National average rate of preterm birth in Australia has remained relatively constant over the last 10 years (between 8.1 and 8.7%), however, for many Aboriginal babies, the news is far worse.

In an address to the National Rural Press Club, National Rural Health Commissioner Dr Ruth Stewart will explain that in 2018, 8.4 per cent of births in major cities were premature compared with 13.5 per cent in rural, remote and very remote Australia. “Those averaged figures hide pockets of greater complexity. In East Arnhem Land communities, 22 per cent of babies are born prematurely,” she will say. But she will argue it is an “urban myth” that the quality of rural maternity care and services is to blame. Rather, she will point to an ongoing decline in available services, clinics and skilled operators.

One solution she will present is the model of care developed through the Midwifery Group Practice on Thursday Island. That program has halved premature birth rates across the Torres Strait and Australia’s northern peninsula since 2015. Crucially, all women have access to continuity of care, or the same midwife throughout the pregnancy, and those midwives are supported by Indigenous health practitioners and rural generalists (GPs with a broad range of skills such as obstetrics).

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

For further information about preterm birth in Aboriginal babies click here and to view the ABC Rural article mentioning the Midwifery Group Practice on Thursday Island click here.

World Prematurity Day 2020 - life's little treasures, image of Aboriginal father looking at baby in a humdicrib & logo of World Prematurity Day 2020 with vector image of white footprint and text November 17th & Get your purple on for prems

Image source: Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance Twitter.

Narrative therapy helps decolonise social work

Social worker, educator and proud Durrumbal/Kullilli and Yidinji woman, Tileah Drahm-Butler, has found a narrative therapy approach resonates with Aboriginal practitioners and clients alike. For many Aboriginal people, the words ‘social work’ trigger the legacy of child removal and everything that comes with that. Social work is a colonised discipline that has had a problematic relationship with Aboriginal communities. Tileah was introduced to the practice of narrative therapy while working on ‘Drop the rock’ – a jobs and training program in Aboriginal communities that supported mental health service delivery and went on to complete a Masters in Narrative Therapy and Community Work. 

Tileah explains that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, problems have come about from colonisation. So with clients, it is important to re-author – to move away from a medicalised, pathologised discourse to a story that tells of survival and resistance. Narrative therapy helps people to tell their strong stories and identify the skills and knowledge that they already have that can help them make the problem smaller. Tileah said ‘the problem is the problem’, is narrative therapy’s catchphrase. The person, the family, the community aren’t the problem.

To view the full article published by the University of Melbourne click here.

portrait photo of Tileah Drahm-Butler - senior social worker Cairns Hospital

Tileah Drahm-Butler. Image source: The Mandarin Talks.

Joint Council on CTG to meet

The Joint Council on Closing the Gap will meet this afternoon (17 November 2020) to discuss the implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. It will be the first time the Joint Council has met since the historic National Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect on 27 July 2020.

The Joint Council will discuss the collective responsibilities for the implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap; funding priorities for the joint funding pool committed by governments to support strengthening community-controlled sectors (Priority Reform Two); a revised Family Violence target and a new Access to Information target which reflect a commitment in the National Agreement to develop these two targets within three months of the Agreement coming into effect; and the first annual Partnership Health Check of the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap. The Health Check reflects the commitment of all parties to put in place actions and formal checks over the life of the 10-year Partnership Agreement to make sure that the shared decision-making arrangements strengthen over time.

To view the Coalition of Peaks media alert click here.

Minister Ken Wyatt & Pat Turner sitting at a desk with draft CTG agreement

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and Co-Chair of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap Pat Turner. Image source: SBS News.

Facebook can help improve health literacy

Health literacy, which generally refers to the abilities, relationships and external environments required to promote health, is an influential determinant of health that impacts individuals, families and communities, and a key to reducing health inequities. New research is showing how Facebook can be a useful source of information – particularly when used in conjunction with other methods – to develop broader understandings of health literacy among young Aboriginal males in the NT, and to spark different conversations, policies and health promotion programs. 

The project, Health literacy among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males, led by the Menzies School of Health Research emerged from an understanding that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males face multiple health and social inequities, spanning health, education and justice settings. Unfortunately, these health and social inequities start early in life and persist across different stages of their life-course. They are particularly pronounced for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys and men.

The project found its participants were very open about sharing information about their health and wellbeing on social media — including the benefits of being on country and the importance of family and friends — and how this influenced their own health-related decision making.

To view the full article published in croakey click here.

three young Aboriginal men at Galiwinku, Elcho Island, NT, 2008

Young Aboriginal men, Galiwinku, Elcho Island, NT, 2008. Image source: Tofu Photography.

Clothing the Gap supports Spark Health

For view the full article and to access a link to an interview with Laura Thompson click here.

photo of Laura Thompson sitting in front of laptop at desk huge smile, arms outstretched

Laura Thompson delivering a Spark Health program. Image source: The Standard.

LGBTIQ mental health crisis

The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has called on the Commonwealth Government to develop a mental health and suicide prevention blueprint to tackle the crisis of unmet need within the LGBTIQ community and public investment in LGBTIQ health organisations. La Trobe University research found 57.2% of more than 6,000 surveyed lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people were experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress, while 41.9% reported thoughts about suicide over the past 12 months.

“Mental health in the LGBTIQ community is in crisis, and the La Trobe research makes it clear action and investment in LGBTIQ mental health and suicide prevention is sorely needed,” Darryl O’Donnell, CEO of AFAO, said. “Existing approaches aren’t working and LGBTIQ communities are paying the price.”

To view AFAO’s media release click here and the La Trobe University media release click here. To access the La Trobe University’s Private Lives 3 The Health and Wellbeing of LGBTIQ People in Australia report click here.

Aboriginal trans person with rainbow coloured plait

The Tiwi Islands Sistagirls at Mardi Gras. Image source: Balck Rainbow website.

Most kids in out-of-home care with kin

A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care were living with relatives, kin or Indigenous caregivers in 2018–19. The report, The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle Indicators (ATSICPP) 2018–19: measuring progress, brings together the latest state and territory data on five ATSICPP indicators that measure and track the application of the placement and connection elements of the framework. 

‘The ATSICPP is a framework designed to promote policy and practice that will reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the child protection system,’ said AIHW spokesperson Louise York. As at June 2019, nearly two-thirds (63% or about 11,300 out of 18,000) of Indigenous children in out-of-home care were living with Indigenous or non-Indigenous relatives or kin or other Indigenous caregivers.

To view the full article click here.

Aboriginal mum kissing small child on the cheek at table of activities in outside setting

Image source: Family Matters website.

STI testing drops during COVID-19

Victorians are being urged to get tested for sexually transmissible infections (STIs), with new figures showing a concerning drop in STI notifications and testing during the coronavirus pandemic. New data from the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre shows a 68% drop in people without symptoms seeking STI testing this year. There are many types of STIs and most are curable with the right treatment, however, if left untreated, STIs can cause long-term damage, including infertility.

This week is STI Testing Week (16–20 November) – and as Victoria moves towards COVID Normal it’s the perfect time for everyone to consider their sexual health, have a conversation about STIs and get the important health checks they might have put off during the pandemic. To view the full article click here.

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) says the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Australia’s top experts in HIV and sexual health to drastically rethink our national response. Over 700 HIV and sexual health experts will gather (virtually due to the COVID-19) this week (16–20 November) for the joint Australasian HIV & AIDS and Sexual Health Conferences, run by the ASHM. To view ASHM’s media release click here

half peeled banana with red patch

Image source: Medicine Direct.

HMRI proud of health related initiatives 

Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) has been helping researchers to undertake research that translates to better treatments and better access to health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, including:

MRFF grant for Indigenous kid’s ear health

Associate Professor Kelvin Kong received a 5-year Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant to explore a telehealth ear, nose and throat (ENT) model, based in metropolitan, rural and regional Aboriginal community controlled health services, enabling improvement in Aboriginal children’s access to specialist ENT care and a reduction in the waiting time for treatment during the vital years of early childhood ear and hearing health.

Partners and Paternal Aboriginal Smokers’ project

Research Associate with the University of Newcastle and HMRI affiliated researcher, Dr Parivash Eftekhari, is running a first-of-its kind program to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers to quit smoking when their partner is pregnant, or if they have young children at home. The Partners and Paternal Aboriginal Smokers’ (PAPAS) project is key in improving children’s health by supporting fathers to have smoke-free homes.

To access further information about these research projects and to download the Indigenous Healthy: Eliminating the Gap seminar held earlier this year click here.

Professor Kelvin Kong presenting at Indigenous Health - Eliminating the Gap virtual seminar

Professor Kelvin Kong. Image source: HMRI website.

Mt Isa Hospital opens new Indigenous family rooms

North West Hospital and Health Service has unveiled its newly built family rooms at the Mount Isa Hospital. The family rooms, situation near the hospital’s Emergency Department are a culturally appropriate space where Indigenous patients and their families can meet, rest or engage with specialist hospital staff. Christine Mann, Executive Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health said the facility was a spacious place close to the hospital for use by families, “We have a lot of sorry business around here and regrettably we are outgrowing the hospital, so this place is spacious enough to accommodate families. This is a place where they can come and have a cup of tea and have family meetings.”

To view full article in The North West Star click here.

9 Aboriginal women cutting red ribbon to Mt Isa Hospital family rooms

Image source: The North West Star.

General Practice: Health of the Nation report

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has released its General Practice: Health of the Nation report, an annual health check-up on general practice in Australia. Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Professor Peter O’Mara, said the report contains many positive signs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“It is important not to just dwell on the problems confronting healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said. “On the workforce, education and training front there is very good news. In 2018, there were 74 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GPs registered and employed – an increase from 50 in 2015. In 2020, there are 404 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students – this has increased from 265 in 2014. This year 121 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students started studying medicine, which is a 55% increase over the past three years. Nearly 11,000 members have joined the RACGP’s National Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, which to me shows real interest and engagement.”

To view the full article click here.

Associate Professor Peter O'Mara

Associate Professor Peter O’Mara. Image source: RACGP Twitter.

Prison language program linked to better health

A new Aboriginal Languages in Custody program has been launched at Boronia Pre-release Centre for Women where up to 30 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal prisoners will be taught Noongar, the official language of the Indigenous people of the south-west of WA. The program will be created and delivered by the Perth-based Noongar Boodjar Language Cultural Aboriginal Corporation and rolled out to Hakea Prison, Bunbury Regional Prison and the rest of the state’s jails in four stages from late 2020 to the first quarter of 2021. 

WA Corrective Services Minister Francis Logan said “There is an intrinsic link between language and culture so this new program aims to help Aboriginal prisoners reconnect with their own people, practices and beliefs. Research shows that teaching Aboriginal languages leads to positive personal and community development outcomes, including good health and wellbeing, self-respect, empowerment, cultural identity, self-satisfaction and belonging.”

To view the related Government of WA media release click here.

Aboriginal painting of Aboriginal person with Aboriginal art and english words in the backgrouns

Image source: ABC News.

Dispelling outdated HIV myths webinar

In the lead up to World AIDS Day on 1 December 2020 Positive Women Victoria will host a ground breaking webinar. A panel of women living with HIV, including Yorta Yorta woman Michelle Tobin, will be  joined by a leading Australian infectious diseases physician, to share stories and knowledge about how this fact has transformed their lives and discuss issues around motherhood, sex, and relationships. The webinar will introduce audiences to more than 20 years of scientific evidence confirming that when antiretroviral treatment is used, and levels of HIV cannot be detected in blood, HIV is not transmitted during sexual contact or to a baby during pregnancy and childbirth. There is also growing evidence that supports mothers with HIV with an undetectable viral load and with healthcare support can also breastfeed their baby. 

For more information about the webinar on Thursday 7.00 pm – 8.30 pm (AEDT) 26 November 2020 and to register for the webinar click here.

portrait shot of Yorta Yorta woman Michelle Tobin

Yorta Yorta woman Michelle Tobin. Image source: AFAO website.

Fully subsidised online antibiotic resistance program

An exciting opportunity exists for 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care professionals to enrol in the inaugural Hot North Antimicrobial Academy 2021. The Antimicrobial Academy is a fully subsidised 9-month online program for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander health care workers (pharmacists, doctors, nurses or Aboriginal Health Practitioners) to build on their understanding and expertise in antibiotic resistance and to support further leadership of antibiotic use in our communities.

Further details are available here.

Submissions close Monday 30 November 2020.Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre & Hot North Improving Health Outcomes in the Tropical North Antimicrobial Academy 2021 banner

Vision 2030 Roadmap open for consultation

The National Mental Health Commission is inviting you to participate in a guided online consultation to inform the content and recommendations of the Vision 2030 Roadmap.

This online consultation forms part of the Commission’s stakeholder engagement approach to ensure that the Vision 2030 Roadmap incorporates as wide a range of experience as possible when developing evidence-based responses to mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.

Through special interest meetings and external expertise, the Commission has identified a number of priority areas for inclusion in the Roadmap. The online consultation asks you to consider the impact of Vision 2030 on you and identify your needs in its implementation.

More information on Vision 2030, including video recordings of the ‘Introducing Vision 2030 Blueprint and Roadmap’ webinars is available at the Commission’s website. The Vision 2030 Roadmap guided online consultation can be accessed here.

Now is your chance to get involved. This consultation opportunity is open to all until Friday 4 December 2020.purple tile text 'have your say - online consultation now open - VIsion 2020 AUstralian Government National Mental Health Commission' vector map of Australia with magnifying glass image surrounding the map

 

feature tile elderly Aboriginal woman sitting on a chair in desert setting

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News – COVID-19 highlights health inequalities

feature tile elderly Aboriginal woman sitting on a chair in desert setting

COVID-19 highlights health inequalities

The COVID-19 crisis has turned a spotlight on existing health, social and economic inequities in Australia and internationally and been a stark reminder of the importance of the social determinants of health, and the need to prioritise support for marginalised individuals and groups in our community.

People with pre-existing health conditions, and those from lower-socioeconomic communities and marginalised groups are at greater risk of experiencing the worst effects of the pandemic compared with those from non-marginalised communities.

When people contract COVID-19 and have pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, obesity and asthma, they’re more likely to experience respiratory failure and death. Respiratory infections such as COVID-19 are more easily transmitted among lower-socioeconomic communities who typically live in more crowded conditions. COVID-19 pandemic recovery should include more funding for local community-led initiatives such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led response which has successfully emphasised health equity through all stages of the pandemic to ensure low rates of infection.

To view the full Monash University LENS article click here.

Turning up for alcohol and drug education

Scott Wilson who works with the Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Council (ADAC), SA has been profiled to give an insight into ‘what excellence in drug and alcohol care looks like’. Scott said, “I would love to see an ADAC all around the country because I think unless you’ve got a group that has that role of helping and coordinating, then you just have piecemeal attempts. Everyone’s just struggling in isolation.”

To view the full article click here.

large group of Aboriginal men on country undertaking ADAC training

ADAC alcohol and drug education. Image source: Croakey website.

Paramedic degree offered for first time in NT

Paramedics will soon be able to train in the NT thanks to a new partnership between Charles Darwin University (CDU) and St John NT. St John NT’s CEO Judith Barker said the NT was one of the country’s most interesting and diverse locations, giving paramedics the opportunity to develop skills and experience with complex medical cases, high speed trauma, and delivery of care in extreme and isolated conditions. CDU Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Maddocks said that CDU was uniquely positioned to explore issues of national and regional importance such as tropical medicine, Indigenous health and mental health.

To view the full article click here.

four Aboriginal female paramedics standing in front on an ambulance

Image source: Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) Facebook p

SA Eyre Peninsula child health initiative

Indigenous children have some of the highest levels of preventable diseases in the world. Eyre Peninsula communities will benefit from a new partnership between the Starlight Children’s Foundation and Masonic Charities SA/NT, which will help bridge the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians living in rural and remote communities. Masonic Charities have committed $900,000 to the Starlight Children’s Foundation over the next three years, allowing them to roll out the Healthier Futures Initiative in SA on a permanent basis. As part of the program Starlight personnel will accompany health professionals, keep the children present and entertained, and aim to provide a positive overall experience.

To view the full article in the West Coast Sentinel News click here.

health worker checking Aboriginal child's throat

Image source: The Australian.

Barriers to hepatitis C treatment

Research on the hepatitis C treatment intentions of Aboriginal people in WA has been published in the October issue of the The Australian Health Review, a peer-reviewed journal of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association. The study found there are substantial hurdles to achieving hepatitis C elimination in Aboriginal communities, including lack of knowledge and concerns about the stigma of seeking treatment. Stable housing was also an important pre-requisite to seeking treatment because Aboriginal people who were homeless were much more focused on day-to-day problems of living on the street, including lack of regular sleep, physical exhaustion and daily anxiety. 

To view the research paper click here.

4 Aboriginal people against graffitied wall with words HEP C is Everyone's Business

Image source: Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia Inc. website.

Suicide Prevention white paper

Suicide rates in Australia have continued to rise over the last decade. The challenge to bend this curve is immense, especially in the context of COVID-19 and the recent bushfire season, which have disrupted lives and impacted the psychological health of Australians. The need for evidence-based solutions has never been more important. Black Dog Institute is pleased to present a white paper which shares critical insights from emerging research and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lived experience evidence that explores contemporary issues and offers innovative responses.

To view the white paper in full click here.

graffiti of Aboriginal man's face in red, yellow & black

Image source: Australian Human Rights Commission.

ITC Program helps health system navigation

The Integrated Team Care (ITC) Program is one of Northern Queensland Primary Health Network’s (NQPHN’s) funded initiatives under the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Northern Australia Primary Health Limited (NAPHL) delivers the program throughout northern Queensland. Without the program, many Indigenous people would struggle to access the health care they need to manage their chronic or complex health conditions.

The ITC Program was established to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with complex chronic diseases who are unable to effectively manage their conditions to access one-on-one assistance for the provision of coordinated, multidisciplinary care.

To view the article click here.

Aboriginal health worker taking blood pressure of Aboriginal man

Image source: PHN Northern Queensland website.

NSW/ACT GP in Training of the Year award

Dr Josephine Guyer has won the RACGP’s NSW/ACT General Practitioner in Training of the Year award.

Currently working at the Myhealth Liverpool clinic, Dr Guyer has completed terms at the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation in Airds, the Primacare Medical Centre in Roselands and Schwarz Family in Elderslie. In 2017 she received the RACGP’s Growing Strong Award and has embraced that ethos in her GP training.

RACGP Acting President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda congratulated Dr Guyer, saying “Dr Guyer brings extraordinary strength and resilience to her training and work as a GP. Her background as a registered nurse for almost 20 years, cultural experience as a proud Wiradjuri woman and the fact that she is the parent of three teenagers means that she comes to the role of general practice with valuable life experience that will help her care for patients from different walks of life. Providing responsive and culturally appropriate care is absolutely essential and Dr Guyer is perfectly placed to do just that.”

To view the full Hospital and Healthcare article click here.

Dr Josephine Guyer holding RACGP NSW/ACT GP in Training of the Year award

Dr Josephine Guyer. Image source: Hospital and Healthcare website.

Food security webinar

Access to sufficient, affordable nutritious food is important for the health of rural and remote communities. With the recent bush fires, floods and now the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional supply chains have been interrupted and rural and remote communities that are already at risk of food insecurity, are being impacted even further. Early this year the National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) conducted a webinar covering a range of perspectives on current challenges in ensuring food security for households in rural and remote communities, including from an Indigenous health perspective and considered policy and practical solutions to address the issue well into the future.

The recording of the NRHA webinar called A virtual conversation: affordable and nourishing food for rural and remote communities during COVID-19 and beyond is available for free here.

four Aboriginal children with oranges

Image source: NPY Women’s Council website.

SA ACCHO funding to improve disability services

Four Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) will share in $1 million of federal government funding to improve disability services across SA’s Eyre Peninsula and the Far West.

Ceduna’s Yadu Health Aboriginal Corporation, Tullawon Health Service at Yalata, Oak Valley Aboriginal Corporation and Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service at Whyalla were awarded the funding under the banner of the South Australian West Coast ACCHO Network. The funding will go towards a two-year ‘Aboriginal DisAbility Alliance’ project aimed at supporting Aboriginal communities to access culturally appropriate disability services.

To view the full article in the West Coast Sentinel click here.

painting re yellow black two stick figures & one stick figure in a wheelchair

Image source: NITY website.

Mental Health Month

October is Mental Health Month and as part of the 2020 World Mental Health Day campaign, Mental Health Australia is encouraging everyone to make a promise to “Look after your mental health, Australia.” It is a call to action for the one in five Australians affected by mental illness annually, and for the many more impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the increased uncertainty and anxiety that has ensued. The more individuals and organisations who commit to promoting mental health awareness this month and support the campaign, the more we reduce the stigma surrounding mental ill health and play our part in creating a mentally healthy community.

To view the media release click here.words Mental Health Month October in blue and red lettering logo

Image Source: Department of Health

 

Feature tile - First Nations-lead pandemic reponse a triumph - two Aboriginal boys holding a sign 'too dangerous to stop in Wilcannia'

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: First Nations-led pandemic response a triumph

Feature Story

Telethon Kids representatives, including Dr Fiona Stanley, have written to The Lancet, describing Australia’s First Nations-led response to COVID-19 as ‘nothing short of a triumph’. Since the beginning of the pandemic in Australia, there have been only 60 First Nations cases nationwide. This represents only 0.7% of all cases, a considerable under-representation, as First Nations people make up 3% of the total population. Only 13% of First Nations cases have needed hospital treatment, none have been in intensive care, and there have been no deaths.

These results have shown how effective (and extremely cost-effective) giving power and capacity to Indigenous leaders is. The response has avoided major illness and deaths and avoided costly care and anguish.

To read the letter published in The Lancet click here.

Wiradjuri man appointed as a Professor

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the appointment of Peter O’Mara as a Professor of Newcastle University. The Chair of the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Faculty, Professor O’Mara is Director of the University’s Thurru Indigenous Health Unit and a practicing GP in an Aboriginal community controlled health organisation, Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service. Professor O’Mara said becoming a GP was not something he grew up believing was possible, “I always had a strong interest in science, but in my early years I believed in the stereotypical view that studying and practicing medicine was for other people – doctors’ children and wealthy families.”

To view the full article about Professor O’Mara click click here.

Professor Peter O'Mara speaking into a microphone at a lecturn

Image source: GP News.

Face masks for our mob

The Australian Government Department of Health has developed an information sheet called How to keep our mob safe using face masks.

To access the editorial click here.

Aaron Simon standing against wall painted with Aboriginal art, wearing an Aboriginal art design face mask

Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.

Racial Violence in the Australian health system

The statistical story of Indigenous health and death, despite how stark, fails to do justice to the violence of racialised health inequities that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to experience. The Australian health system’s Black Lives Matter moment is best characterised as indifferent; a “business as usual” approach that we know from experience betokens failure. In an article published in The Medical Journal of Australia a range of strategies have been offered, ‘not as a solution, but as some small steps towards a radical reimagining of the Black body within the Australian health system; one which demonstrates a more genuine commitment to the cries of “Black Lives Matter” from Blackfullas in this place right now.’

To read the full article click here.

back of BLM protester holding sign of face of Kevin Yow Yeh who dies in custody at 34 years

Image sourced Twitter @KevinYowYeh.

Water fluoridation required

Poor oral health profoundly affects a person’s ability to eat, speak, socialise, work and learn. It has an impact on social and emotional wellbeing, productivity in the workplace, and quality of life. A higher proportion of Australians who are socially disadvantaged have dental caries. Community water fluoridation is one of the most effective public health interventions of the 20th century. Its success has been attributed to wide population coverage with no concurrent behaviour change required. The authors of a recent article in The Medical Journal of Australia have said the denial of access to fluoridated drinking water for Indigenous Australians is of great concern and have urged the Commonwealth government to mandate that all states and territories maintain a minimum standard of 90% population access to fluoridated water.

To view the full article click here.

close up photo of three Aboriginal children smiling

Image source: University of Melbourne website.

Torres Strait communities taking back control of own healing

Torres Strait Island communities are leading their own healing by addressing the trauma, distress and long-term impacts caused by colonisation. The island communities of Kerriri, Dauan and Saibai will host a series of healing forums coordinated by The Healing Foundation, in conjunction with Mura Kosker Sorority Incorporated; the leading family and community wellbeing service provider in the Torres Strait. Identifying the need for healing in the Torres Strait, Mura Kosker Sorority Incorporated Board President Mrs Regina Turner said: “We believe that the forums will provide Torres Strait communities a voice for creating their own healing solutions.”

To view the Healing Foundation’s media release click ere.

Wabunau Geth dance group from Kaurareg Nation

Wabunau Geth dance group from Kaurareg Nation. Image source: The Healing Foundation.

New tool to manage healthcare trial

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can trial a new tool to help them manage their healthcare with the launch of a pilot program in Perth of the GoShare digital platform which has supported over 1,000 patients so far. Launched by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, the pilot program enables doctors, nurses and other clinicians at St John of God Midland Public Hospital in Perth to prescribe a tailored information pack for patients. The electronic packs may include video-based patient stories, fact sheets, apps and tools on a range of health and wellness topics. They are prepared and adapted according to the patient’s health literacy levels and are being sent by email or text to improve their integrated care and chronic disease self-management.

To view the Australian Digital Health Agency’s media release click here.

GoShare Healthcare digital platform logo - clip art hand or hand

Image source: Healthily website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : @RACGP News : In his last press release RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon working right up to his passing said there was considerable work to do to close the gap in our mobs health outcomes

“Despite all of the effort that has gone into closing the gap, the difference between the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people remains stark. The rate of preventable hospital admissions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is three times higher than non-Indigenous people.

GPs can make a real difference – as the first port of call for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, GPs can do a great deal to improve patient care and health outcomes.

The RACGP’s revised position statements address factors that are key in improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including social determinants – the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.

Colonisation, racism, poor investment and lack of equity impacts on people’s health outcomes, putting people at higher risk of early death.

The research suggests that approximately 35% of the health gap is linked to social determinants.

As primary healthcare providers, GPs can and do help to explore social circumstances, identify opportunities for interventions, and support coordination for patients.

Social prescribing is one example of social support which can be provided by GPs and make a big difference for patients. However, current funding does not adequately support GPs to address social and cultural issues with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients – this needs to change.”

In his last press release RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon working right up to his passing said there was considerable work to do to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes. See full press release Part 1 below

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon has passed away aged 57 following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

He died peacefully in his sleep nine months after first being diagnosed.

The RACGP Board, on behalf of all members, has extended its deepest condolences to his partner Lindy Van Camp, children Hannah and Ella, and his friends and many colleagues.

A Sydney-based GP and practice owner, Dr Nespolon was elected RACGP President in July 2018 on the strength of a long career successfully leading membership-based organisations. He quickly became a familiar face as the spokesperson for the RACGP, working tirelessly to advocate on behalf of the profession and Australia’s 41,000-plus GPs.

Read full tribute HERE

Part 1 : The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) this week launched position statements to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare.

Read all the NACCHO and RACGP articles published by NACCHO over 8 years

It comes as the RACGP celebrates the 10-year anniversary of its National Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, founded in 2010 to help ‘close the gap’.

Now with over 11,000 members, the Faculty is focused on growing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GP workforce and ensuring high-quality culturally responsive care.

The RACGP has launched five revised position statements to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare, covering a range of issues, including social determinants of health and improving primary care for patients.

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said there was considerable work to do to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.

Chair, RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, RACGP A/Professor Peter O’Mara said he was proud of the Faculty’s work to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the RACGP’s National Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, I am proud of what we have achieved. Particularly our Memorandum of Understanding with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and ongoing support for the Close the Gap campaign.

“Culturally appropriate health delivery systems will improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – but they need to be adequately resourced.

“The RACGP is advocating for funding to implement our Vision for general practice, which will support GPs to provide high quality care and better respond to the individual needs and circumstances of all patients.

“We are also calling for greater investment in the growth and sustainability of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce, across a range of professions, including cultural positions such as traditional healers.

“I urge policymakers to follow the advice of the Coalition of Peaks and give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people real power to make change in their communities.”

The revised position statements include:

  • Identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients
  • Increased investment in ACCHOs
  • A stronger primary care system
  • Working together
  • Addressing social determinants of health

Part 2

RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (the faculty) is celebrating a significant milestone in 2020 – the commemoration of our 10th year of operation.

The faculty was established to drive the RACGP’s commitment to developing a culturally informed GP workforce, increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GPs and advocating for equity in the health system.

Now with over 11,000 members, the faculty is continuing to strengthen its presence and influence.

Over the past ten years, the faculty has celebrated many significant achievements. Central to this has been the hard work of members, GPs in training and medical students, which we have recognised through our annual awards.

Find out more about our past winners on our website.

The faculty supports the following three awards:

  • Standing Strong Together – for RACGP Fellows working with community to deliver health improvements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities
  • Growing Strong – for an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander GP in training, to support their training journey to Fellowship
  • Medical Student – for an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander medical student with an interest in general practice

We encourage anyone with an interest in general practice and a career in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health to consider applying.

The faculty staff are here to assist you – if you have any questions, please contact us via:

Nomination forms and further information can be accessed here: www.racgp.org.au/indigenous-health-awards-2020

Nominations will close on Friday 4 September 2020. Please contact us if you have any questions via aboriginalhealth@racgp.org.au

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Racism : Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair of @RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health “ Differences in health outcomes are ‘absolutely’ linked to systemic and institutionalised racism in Australia.”

” I can recount ‘hundreds’ of similar experiences and that ‘every Aboriginal person’ would have comparable stories – Aboriginal ethnicity is the strongest predictor of Discharge Against Medical Advice ( DAMA  )and occurs at a rate eight times that of the non-Indigenous population.

I am trying to encourage health services to take more responsibility by getting them to ‘look at it in a different way’, as i believe it is incumbent upon health professionals, including GPs, to lead the fight against racism.

[I want them] to think what is so toxic about this environment … [where] they know if they walk out that front door they could die and they’d rather do that than stay in here.

Everyone in the health system should be advocating for their patients, but GPs are perfectly placed to do that.

Our patients trust us more than any other doctor that they see and they have an intimate, ongoing relationship with us that they don’t necessarily have with any other health professional.

Creating a safe environment for our patients is exactly our responsibility … it’s just about showing an extra level of care for patients and ensuring that they’re comfortable in order to help make a wider change.’

Associate Professor O’Mara highlighted disproportionately high rates of Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) events experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as one by-product of discrimination in the health system, but said GPs are well-placed to help prevent such episodes from occurring. Speaking to GPnews

Download the NACCHO RACGP National Guide 

Read over 130 Aboriginal Health and Racism articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years

The 12th Closing the Gap report, released in February this year, laid bare the lack of progress Australia continues to make with regard to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, education and employment outcomes.

Child mortality is twice that of non-Indigenous children, the life expectancy gap remains at about eight years (and equivalent to developing countries like Palestine and Guatemala), and there is a burden of disease 2.3 times greater than that of non-Indigenous Australians.

According to the Coalition of Peaks, which this week released what it called a ground-breaking report into the development of a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, a change in approach is required to ‘truly close the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians’.

It advocates for more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement across the board, and calls for mainstream service delivery – including the health sector – to be reformed to address systemic racism, promote cultural safety, and to be held ‘much more accountable’.

Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP that differences in health outcomes are ‘absolutely’ linked to systemic and institutionalised racism in Australia, as is the subsequent trauma it inevitably produces.

View previous NACCHO TV Interview with Associate Professor Peter O’Mara

 

One of the greatest sources of trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, according to Associate Professor O’Mara, is their interaction with police and the criminal justice system.

‘The system is against us in so many ways,’ he said.

‘I went up to a town in the Northern Territory many years ago and when I got to the community a young fella had just been taken across to Darwin where he was spending two weeks in incarceration [due to mandatory sentencing laws].

‘What had happened is, he and his mates were playing cricket on the street … and this young fella had the bat, hit a big shot, and smashed a streetlight.

‘Someone has complained and said, “I’m calling the cops”. He waited and did the right thing, he said, “Look, I’m really sorry, it was an accident, we were playing cricket. I’m sure my parents will try and help pay for the light”, but he got locked up for two weeks.

‘Just for something silly like that – they were playing cricket on a dead-end street in Australia.’

Associate Professor O’Mara says instances like that only tell part of the story.

‘[For example], there’s the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to suffer hearing disorders – often as a result of things like chronic suppurative otitis media – and the evidence is there to say that when you have a hearing disorder, you’re more likely to be incarcerated,’ he said.

‘Some of the things that we do as GPs, like working on that trying to improve ear health for children, and particularly for Aboriginal children, can have a direct impact.’

Dr Penny Abbott, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Custodial Health network, said GPs are at the frontline for people who are in contact with the criminal justice system.

‘The reasons people end up in prison usually include health issues, such as mental health or substance-related problems, and social problems like homelessness and lack of community-based support networks,’ she told newsGP.

‘Addressing these issues before people get to the point of being sent to prison can happen at a primary care level where we are good at treating the whole person in their context.’

Dr Abbott also said once a person is released from prison it is a ‘perfect time’ to consider if an Aboriginal health check, mental health plan, or chronic disease management plan is urgently needed.

‘[GPs] can make a real difference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait patients by being aware of the kinds of health, social and system issues that their patient comes up against when leaving prison – a precarious time where people are at high risk of relapse to drug use, death, hospitalisation, and returning to prison,’ she said.

‘For example, GPs can ensure continuity of healthcare started in prison, manage health issues that weren’t addressed in prison, and look afresh at issues that may be cropping up post-release. Substance-use disorders are of course a big issue to be on top of.’

Aside from the incarcerated person, Associate Professor O’Mara said it is also important to be aware of the vicarious trauma that families can suffer, especially if the family member is assaulted while imprisoned, or worse, dies in custody.

Since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, imprisoned Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died at a lower rate than non-Indigenous prisoners – although there are no reliable statistics that can be used to calculate death rates in police custody.

A key finding of the royal commission was that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ‘do not die at a greater rate than non-Aboriginal people in custody’, but rather ‘what is overwhelmingly different is the rate at which Aboriginal people come into custody, compared with the rate of the general community’.

Yet, in the subsequent years, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian prisons has nearly doubled from 14% to 27%. As a result, 437 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody in the past 29 years, as opposed to 99 in the 10-year period investigated by the royal commission.

The high incarceration rate means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 15 times more likely to end up in prison than non-Indigenous Australians, and thus more likely to die there as well.

Dr Abbott said deaths in custody are a great burden on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

‘We need to remain vigilant and committed to avoiding people being sent to prison in the first place, as well as providing quality care in prison and after release,’ she said.

‘We also need to continually reflect on the root causes of deaths in custody and over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the social determinants of poor health and inequities, and the systemic racism that our patients continue to experience.

‘There are many things which will help, such as more programs to divert young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from prison, and a larger workforce of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and prison health.’

But, as pointed out in the Coalition of Peaks report, institutionalised racism is not restricted to the justice system, and remains a common experience among health professionals and within the health system as well.

Associate Professor O’Mara highlighted disproportionately high rates of Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) events experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as one by-product of discrimination in the health system, but said GPs are well-placed to help prevent such episodes from occurring.

‘This is a great example, unfortunately, of what happens to our people,’ he said.

‘I’ve seen a gentleman in the clinic in the Aboriginal Medical Service who had chest pain, and I thought that he was having a heart attack – a myocardial infarction. So I started treating him for that and called the ambulance, which took him to a local hospital that … within the health services is known to be blatantly racist.

‘This gentleman goes into the emergency department. He’s quite happy to be there and he’s thankful that he’s receiving the treatment, but some things are said in that environment that are so toxic to him that he decides to pull the ECG leads off, take the IV lines out and walk out the front door.

‘That happens all too commonly in this setting and then at that point, the doctors and nurses, the health professionals will wash their hands of it because we say, “We told them not to go, they chose to go, they signed this [DAMA form]”.’

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 71 : May 26 #KeepOurMobSafe : NACCHO in partnership with @RACGP @LowitjaInstitut and @ANUmedia

” The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), the Lowitja Institute, and The Australian National University (ANU) are working together to provide practical and timely advice for primary healthcare teams supporting prevention and management of COVID-19 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia.

An expert committee guiding the work is providing recommendations for healthcare workers operating in Aboriginal community controlled health services and other primary care settings. “

The first set of recommendations are being released on National Sorry Day 2020, a day to acknowledge and recognise members of the Stolen Generations as part of an ongoing process of healing.

Today is the beginning of National Reconciliation Week where all Australians are encouraged to consider and embrace the theme “in this together”, and to take part in online events as well as use the hashtags #NRW2020 and #InThisTogether2020 to help spread awareness.

The recommendations focus on several vital issues including best practice for transporting patients who do not have confirmed or probable COVID-19 but do have a fever or respiratory symptoms as well as quarantine measures for healthcare workers travelling to remote communities.

The recommendations also zero in on quarantine measures for healthcare workers travelling from higher prevalence areas to low prevalence areas.

Chair of the Expert Committee Dr Tanya Schramm said that the clinical recommendations will be updated on an ongoing basis.

“They will have to be updated as we watch and wait and see what actually happens in the COVID-19 space.

“The recommendations that we’ll be coming up with at the moment are all about obviously preventing it and identifying people who may have COVID-19 and how we’re going to go about it. But things will change and we just need to be ready to adapt as I guess the story of COVID-19 changes in the country and the risk of exposure for us as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people changes.

“Thankfully at the moment we’ve sort of flattened the curve and I think that will hopefully leave us in a space where we’re not looking at handling an acute outbreak in a community. But I think we need to be ready to respond to something if that’s to happen.

Dr Schramm says it is vital that GPs and other healthcare workers continue to be mindful of the risk the COVID-19 virus poses to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“If someone was to contract that and the issues with regards to being able to isolate that person within a community, within a home that may be overcrowded, and so forth.

“They need to make sure that they are providing the appropriate resources to their patients just in terms of even prevention, that the information they’re getting out to patients is culturally appropriate [and that] it’s in the language in which the patient actually speaks as their first language – don’t assume that English is everybody’s first language when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“Also reading what is actually happening, so keeping an eye out for the recommendations as they’re coming out, and looking at how that may reflect on your practice and the services that you’re providing.”

CEO of NACCHO, Pat Turner, said that the COVID-19 virus presented particular challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“It has been recognised that COVID-19 poses a serious risk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to higher levels of chronic conditions exacerbated by overcrowded housing.

“Working on the response to this pandemic comes with huge responsibility and requires partnership with the best in the sector to deliver clinically strong and culturally appropriate recommendations for our people.

“It is an honour to partner with the RACGP, Lowitja and ANU to release the COVID-19 Primary Healthcare Guidance to provide quality guidance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“We have been working with our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to develop possible emergency response plans and these resources will help in ensuring accurate and timely information is being shared responsibly.

“This guidance will strengthen their ability to manage the ongoing threat in this environment and the impacts of the pandemic which is rapidly changing.”

CEO of the Lowitja Institute, Janine Mohamed, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander health organisations have been leading the way and will continue to do so.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander health organisations’ prompt responses have shown outstanding innovation and leadership to mitigate risk and protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from COVID-19.

“This collaboration will further strengthen that work for all our peoples, who face high risk due to historic and ongoing system failures and have been disproportionately affected in past pandemics.

“COVID-19 makes it more important than ever that our people are able to access culturally safe health services that combat racism in our health system because, if they can’t, they will not seek out care or work in and with those services.

“The pandemic also requires us to be quick, informed, innovative and flexible in our clinical and community responses. We are proud to be working with NACCHO, the Royal Australian College of GPs, and ANU on such a critical, evidence-based undertaking.”

The RACGP and NACCHO have previously collaborated on the National Guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – a flagship publication, spearheaded by NACCHO, now in its third edition.

At a ceremony in Darwin last year a new MoU was also signed between the organisations driven by a shared commitment to support the growth of the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors and ensure GPs are equipped to provide clinically and culturally appropriate primary healthcare.

NACCHO Aboriginal Remote Communities Health and #CoronaVirus News Alerts :  #APYLands  @Nganampa_Health @NLC_74 #CAAHSN @AMSANTaus @RACGP All ensuring remote communities are resourced , protected and provided with appropriate information #COVID19

 

“As health and medical research organisations, we are calling for an absolute priority to be given to minimising risk and preventing death in communities across central Australia.

A major priority in our endeavours is working with Aboriginal communities and support to the primary health services in the bush and our regional centres.

Things that might work in. the big cities simply won’t work out bush, so we need to focus on local solutions.

Both Aboriginal community-controlled and government primary health services face enormous day-to-day challenges—and we strongly support them as the real heroes of health care in remote Australia, from Aboriginal Health Practitioners, to nurses to allied health workers to doctors, to all staff doing such vital work “

CAAHSN would continue to be informed by COVID19  messaging from AMSANT Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance and the Department of Health.

AMSANT has already been supplying advice to member services, with a focus on updating vaccinations and a focus on day-to-day preventive measure such as had washing.

Read full press release Central Australia Academic Health Science Network Part 2 Below

Graphic above QAIHC

Read all NACCHO Corona Virus Articles HERE

” As GPs try to navigate national guidelines for coronavirus (COVID-19), a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders have stepped in to manage their own infection control.

For example, in the Northern Territory quite a few communities are putting in place their own procedures around how they’re going to manage it. ’ 

‘[They’re] isolating themselves from [the] outside and I gather even saying, “Actually, we don’t want health professionals coming in at the moment to keep ourselves safe”.’

Dr Tim Senior, Medical Advisor for RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP. See report part 4 below

“We need to be vigilant and follow these guidelines in order to protect Anangu from this virus,

There have been no known COVID-19 cases among APY Lands residents to date, but the Prime Minister has expressed concern about the vulnerability of those in remote Indigenous communities, including the APY Lands.

During the 2009 A(H1N1) swine flu outbreak, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 11 per cent of all identified cases, 20 per cent of hospitalisations and 13 per cent of deaths. Indigenous people are 8.5 times more likely to be hospitalised during a virus outbreak.”

APY General Manager Richard King has issued the directive to all APY staff and contractors. The directive also has been issued to Nganampa Health Council and major allied non-government organisations. State and Commonwealth government agencies, that are not required to apply for a permit to enter the APY Lands, have been contacted seeking their co-operation.

Mr King said communities on the APY Lands were particularly vulnerable because of well-documented poor health and living conditions. See full press release part 3

Part 1 NLC

“ The NLC supports the NT Government’s call to cancel all non-essential trips to remote communities as it tries to prevent the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable populations and has taken steps to ensure that all NLC employees who have recently travelled overseas do not travel to remote communities unless they have been cleared to do so.

“We agree with the NT Government’s decision to ask all workers to cancel their trips if they are not essential and the same goes for NLC staff,”

NLC CEO Marion Scrymgour.

Part 1 :The Northern Land Council’s Executive Council met today with officials from the Northern Territory Department of Health and the Danila Dilba Health Service’s CEO Ms Olga Havnen to examine strategies and information focused on protecting Aboriginal communities in the NLC’s region from the risk of coronavirus.

The NLC supports the NT Government’s call to cancel all non-essential trips to remote communities as it tries to prevent the spread of coronavirus to vulnerable populations and has taken steps to ensure that all NLC employees who have recently travelled overseas do not travel to remote communities unless they have been cleared to do so.

“We agree with the NT Government’s decision to ask all workers to cancel their trips if they are not essential and the same goes for NLC staff,” said NLC CEO Marion Scrymgour.

Ms Scrymgour will meet with NT Tourism tomorrow (March 13) to discuss how tourism operators can minimise their potential impact on remote communities.

NLC chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi said the NLC is working closely with the NT Government and health service providers to  working

“We want people to really think about their need to visit remote communities. Especially if they have returned from an at risk country they must not travel to Aboriginal communities and must take every precaution.”

NT Government website COVID19 Information for Aboriginal communities

  • There are currently no suspected cases of COVID-19 in any Territory communities.
  • Residents should stay alert but carry on with normal activities.
  • There is no risk to eating traditional animals and plants.
  • The virus is not spread by mosquito bites.
  • The virus is not spread on the wind.
  • The most important thing for everyone to remember is to maintain hygiene by:
    • Washing your hands
    • Avoid shaking hands with people who may be unwel
    • Stay at a distance of 1.5 m away from someone who is unwell
    • Coughing or sneezing into your elbow
    • Don’t go to crowded places if you’re unwell.
  • If you get sick, go to your health clinic.

Recordings in language

A Coronavirus (COVID-19) Public Health Remote Communities Plan has been developed and distributed to all remote Territory communities. This plan provides high level guidance and each community will tailor their individual plans to suit their specific circumstances and community requirements.

Part 2

At a Council meeting of the Central Australia Academic Health Science Network [CA AHSN] today, a call was made for decisive and urgent action on the prevention of COVID-19 spreading to remote Australian communities, Executive Director Chips Mackinolty said today.

“We are in this together, and we have a collective responsibility at all levels of government and health service delivery to keep people safe,” said Mr Mackinolty.

“As health and medical research organisations, we are calling for an absolute priority to be given to minimising risk and preventing death in communities across central Australia.

“A major priority in our endeavours is working with Aboriginal communities and support to the primary health services in the bush and our regional centres.

“Things that might work in. the big cities simply won’t work out bush, so we need to focus on local solutions.

“We believe it is critical that rapid and extensive testing be rolled out as soon as possible, so that such work is timely and localised. As a first step this should be located in Alice Springs, rapidly followed by other regional centres.

“Of paramount concern is that our health services—already severely under resourced—not be further burdened. Just as happened in the recent bush fire crises, we would see it as essential that Commonwealth-funded remote area health medical workers being brought in to help.

“Both Aboriginal community-controlled and government primary health services face enormous day-to-day challenges—and we strongly support them as the real heroes of health care in remote Australia, from Aboriginal Health Practitioners, to nurses to allied health workers to doctors, to all staff doing such vital work.

“Meanwhile, our research activities will limit fieldwork, and researchers recently overseas will not be allowed to travel remotely. This follows the initiatives already of some of our partner organisations

In any case, we will also seek to follow the recommendations of local Aboriginal community organisations in our work.

“A major priority, from the Commonwealth and NT governments should be a major effort in proving accurate and concise information to Aboriginal people—with a stron

Part 3 MEDIA STATEMENT: APY enacts border protection to reduce coronavirus risk

APY has introduced strict new rules for entry into its remote lands in response to the Federal Government’s concerns about the potential for coronavirus to spread in vulnerable Indigenous communities.

The Executive Board that governs the remote Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, in South
Australia’s far northwest, addressed the threat of a coronavirus outbreak at its latest meeting.

The Board has resolved not to routinely issue entry permits for the next three months to anyone who has:

  • Been in mainland China from 1 February 2020.
  • Been in contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus.
  • Travelled to China, Iran, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Mongolia.

If a person who wishes to enter the APY Lands has travelled to any of the affected countries, experienced coronavirus symptoms in the previous 14 days, been seen by a doctor and recorded a negative test, they must submit a copy of the test results along with a Statutory Declaration to be considered for an entry permit.

APY has the legal authority to exclude persons from entering the APY Lands pursuant to section 19 of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act. APY General Manager Richard King has issued the directive to all APY staff and contractors.

The directive also has been issued to Nganampa Health Council and major allied non-government organisations. State and Commonwealth government agencies, that are not required to apply for a permit to enter the APY Lands, have been contacted seeking their co-operation.

Part 4 RACGP 

Media report RACGP Dr Tim Senior : Chronic diseases and a lack of access to culturally appropriate care makes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people vulnerable to coronavirus.