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.

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #RuralHealth : @RuralDoctorsAus President and CEO says quality rural and remote health care essential to #ClosingtheGap

“Both Federal and State governments, right across the country, need to step up and invest in rural health if they are serious about this.

There have been numerous examples of initiatives developed to improve access to health care in rural and remote areas being extended into urban areas to prop up under-funded services in for the socially disadvantaged.

This has resulted in the unintended consequence of further disadvantaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in rural and remote Australia.

We need continued investment in health infrastructure and services aimed at addressing the disparity in health outcomes between those who live in the city and those who live in the bush… and this extends across both our Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

Without this, as a nation we are never going to close the gap, and the divide for the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people living in rural and remote Australia will never be addressed.”

Dr John Hall, President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA), said that without access to high quality health services in rural areas, the gap will never close.

Photo above : Here is what GPs said about working in Indigenous health

” I’m particularly concerned with successive government failure to halve Indigenous child mortality rates.

A lot of this is about access, it’s around health literacy.

It’s also about the holistic care, it’s also around education, housing and a whole range of other things”.

Australia needs to boost hospital and birthing facilities in rural and regional areas in order to overcome entrenched Indigenous health disadvantage, according to Rural Doctors Association of Australia CEO Peta Rutherford told SkyNews .

Watch SkyNews interview HERE 

Read over 70 Aboriginal Rural and Remote Health NACCHO Articles HERE

Another disappointing Closing the Gap Report, released this month [12 February 2020], demonstrates why health care in rural and remote Australia is a key driver to Closing the Gap in health.

“The Government’s Closing the Gap Report 2020 showed that the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on key health indicators has not closed,” Dr Hall said.

“Two key health-related benchmarks were chosen by the

Government in 2008, with a target of halving the gap in child mortality by 2018, and to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031.

“Neither of these targets are on track.

“The main cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child deaths are perinatal conditions such as complications of pregnancy and birth.

“With 85 per cent of these deaths occurring during the first year of life, maternal health and risk

factors during pregnancy play a crucial role.

“Access to quality, culturally safe, medical care is the most direct way of improving these outcomes,” Dr Hall said.

Similarly, life expectancy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is strongly influenced by health and health care, with the report attributing 34 per cent of the gap to social determinants (such as education, employment status, housing and income), 19 per cent to behavioural risk factors (such as smoking, obesity, alcohol use and diet), leaving 47 per cent attributed to what is clearly a disparity in health outcomes and associated health care issues.

In rural and remote areas there is a noticeable difference of a more than six year reduction in life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females, when compared to those living in major cities.

This demonstrates a failure across the board in these key areas, all of which are influenced by the provision of quality health care.

“Clearly we can’t close the gap without a functional health system in rural and remote Australia,” Dr Hall said.

“And this cannot just be solved through funding Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS); the other parts of the health system need to be equally funded to service these communities in order to be able to provide the standard of care that will result in a reduction in the gap in health outcomes.

“We can’t have hospital services downgraded and expect to close the gap.

“We can’t have communities with no access to medical birthing services and expect to close the gap.

“We can’t have people needing to travel hundreds of kilometres to access cancer or surgical treatment and close the gap.

“We need quality rural hospitals, staffed by Rural Generalist doctors, with the skills needed to meet the needs of these communities in both the General Practice and hospital settings, if we are serious about improving health outcomes and actually closing the gap.

NACCHO congratulates the @RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Unit celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month

‘ If we do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health well, we can’t help but influence the healthcare of all Australians.

It means better doctors, better healthcare teams and so it goes.
 
Everyone in this room has a story. Most of us are very rarely straight out of school. Often there are surrounding problems with finances or family illnesses – no one around here had a silver spoon-type journey to get where we are.
 
That’s the basis on which this faculty is based. That’s the soil from which we’ve built. That’s really important to remember.’

Dr Brad Murphy (the inaugural Chair ) told newsGP that improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health also helps improve the health of the nation. See full RACGP news coverage Part 2

Image above : The celebrations at the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health officially recognised its 10th anniversary on 19 February 2020.

Key contributors in the establishment of the faculty were honoured at an event on Monday 10th February, acknowledging their hard work and dedication to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health at the RACGP.

Pictured: Professor Jenny Reath, Dr Hung Nguyen, Associate Professor Brad Murphy and Alan Brown. Photo by Jalaru Photography.

Part 1 : The RACGP in 2019 deepened its commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health via a new Memorandum of Understanding with NACCHO

“The RACGP’s partnership approach with NACCHO is similar to that seen in clinical practice, with respect for the insights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations, and the experience of RACGP members,’ he said. ‘Our organisations’ relationship embodies this philosophy.
 
Each organisation has unique skills, knowledge and experiences, which, when combined with the other, really can make a difference in our efforts to improve healthcare for Australia’s First Peoples “

At a signing ceremony at the NACCHO 2019 AGM in Darwin attended by Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, RACGP Vice-President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda said the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) represents a ‘special milestone’. Read full media coverage HERE

Link to all RACGP Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Resources

Read over 20 Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander health and the RACGP articles published by NACCHO

‘ We’ve been able to provide help alongside the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and Indigenous General Practice Registrars Network ahead of the exams,’ he said.

‘That’s important for the profession – it changes us all when we have Indigenous registrars in the college. That means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are our colleagues, and it means we listen better to people and learn how to provide culturally appropriate care.

What that means is that it gives patients a sense of relief – they don’t have to justify themselves or explain what’s happening,’ he said. ‘There’s this understanding of culture and its importance, and of the experience people may have had in the health system.

‘It gives a level of comfort.’

For GP Dr Tim Senior, the faculty’s medical advisor, the highlight of the first 10 years has been the support provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registrars as they work towards becoming a GP.

In recent years, a number of Aboriginal registrars have started at Dr Senior’s workplace, the Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Service.

Part 2

RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Chair Associate Professor Peter O’Mara described the college’s work in this area as ‘a shining light’ at the faculty’s recent 10-year anniversary event.

‘I think our college stands out – we are leaders in this space, through the commitment of the whole organisation,’ he told the audience.

Founded in 2010, RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health emerged out of an earlier unit within the college that began in 2006, alongside a standing committee.

Driven by Dr Brad Murphy, GP, Associate Professor and Kamilaroi man, as well as Professor Jenny Reath and influential Aboriginal health advocate Alan Brown, the unit became a faculty, with Dr Murphy as the inaugural Chair.

Associate Professor O’Mara told newsGP he felt humbled to be part of the process, given the work that had gone on before his time.

‘I feel very positive about where things are going to go in the future for us,’ he said. ‘While we are a leader in this space, we don’t want to rely on that – we want to keep getting better and better all the time.’

Dr Murphy told newsGP that improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health also helps improve the health of the nation.

‘If we do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health well, we can’t help but influence the healthcare of all Australians. It means better doctors, better healthcare teams and so it goes,’ he said.

‘Everyone in this room has a story. Most of us are very rarely straight out of school. Often there are surrounding problems with finances or family illnesses – no one around here had a silver spoon-type journey to get where we are.

‘That’s the basis on which this faculty is based. That’s the soil from which we’ve built. That’s really important to remember.’

Professor Jenny Reath was a manager in the early 2000s, when the unit was first established.

‘We’ve had fabulous leaders, which is a big part of our success,’ she told newsGP.

‘What I love about Brad is his incredible vision. We had a unit and Brad said, “I think we should be a faculty”. He made that happen.

‘What I didn’t realise about becoming a faculty was the seat on the board and the influence that created – it has made a huge difference.

‘Brad was absolutely the right person at the right time.

‘We were eyeing Peter [O’Mara] off, hoping he could step into Brad’s shoes, and he has led us – gently, humbly, respectfully but very strongly – to engage with the council and the board, to lead us to the next stage. We are incredibly fortunate.’

Professor Reath’s own work in paving the way for the faculty was recognised with a commemorative plaque, alongside Associate Professor Murphy, GP Dr Hung Nguyen and Allan Brown.

After government funding to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health within the college ran out around 2005, Professor Reath remembers discussions about what to do next.

‘We thought, we can’t just stop. So the college funded the unit and standing committee,’ she said. ‘That was a landmark, funding it out of mainstream funds. We were the first college to do that.

‘I feel proud to be a member of the college, with the way it has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Enormously proud.’

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News : Read / Download Press Release responses to the 2020 #ClosingtheGap Report from #CoalitionofPeaks @closethegapOZ @NATSILS_ @SNAICC @SenatorSiewert @CAACongress @RACGP

“ These Closing the Gap reports tell the same story of failure every year

The danger of this seemingly endless cycle of failure is that it breeds complacency and cynicism, while excusing those in power.

People begin to believe that meaningful progress is impossible and there is nothing governments can do to improve the lives of our people.

The truth is that the existing Closing the Gap framework was doomed to fail when it was designed without the input of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We know what will work best for our communities and the Prime Minister even acknowledges in this report that our voice was the missing ingredient from original framework.

The Coalition of Peaks has signed a formal partnership agreement with every Australian government, where decision-making on design, implementation and evaluation of a new Closing the Gap framework will be shared. Through this partnership, the Coalition of Peaks has put forward structural priority reforms to the way governments work with and deliver services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Governments say they are listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, the true test in listening is translating the priority reforms into real, tangible and funded actions that make a difference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across our country.

This historic partnership could be the circuit-breaker that is needed. However, if they view this process as little more than window dressing for the status quo, the cycle of failure evident in today’s report is doomed to continue.”

Pat Turner, CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, said that governments need to learn from these failures, not continue to repeat them.

Read Download the full Coalition of Peaks Press Release HERE

Read previous NACCHO Communiques this week

1.Coalition of Peaks Editorial Pat Turner

2.PM Launches CTG Report ( Download )

3.PM CTG Full Speech

4.Opposition response to CTG Report

“Every year for the last 12 years we have listened to a disappointing litany of failure – it’s not good enough, Indigenous Australians deserve better.

We are heartened by the developments last year with COAG and the Prime Minister agreeing to a formal partnership with the Coalition of Peaks on the Closing the Gap strategy.

Indigenous involvement and participation is vital – when our peoples are included in the design and delivery of services that impact their lives, the outcomes are far better.

However, now that partnership is in place, Australian governments must commit to urgent funding of Indigenous healthcare and systemic reform.

Preventable diseases continue to take young lives while unrelenting deaths in custody and suicide rates twice that of other Australians continue to shame us all.

As governments reshape the Closing the Gap strategy, we cannot afford for the mistakes of the past to be repeated.

Close the Gap Campaign co-Chairs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Association (NATSIHWA) CEO Karl Briscoe, have called on the government to invest urgently in health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Download full Close the Gap campaign press release HERE

Close the Gap Campaign response to CTG Report

” There was one glaring omission from the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap speech this week. Housing did not rate a mention. Not a word about action on Aboriginal housing or homelessness.

Housing was not even one of the targets, let alone one we were meeting, but it must be if we are to have any chance of finally closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on all the other targets for life expectancy, child mortality, education and jobs.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 3 per cent of Australia’s population but 20 per cent of the nation’s homeless. Aboriginal people are 2.3 times more likely to experience rental stress and seven times more likely to live in over-crowded conditions than other Australians.”

James Christian is chief executive of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.

“For the first time ever, there is a commitment from all Australian governments, through COAG, to work with Aboriginal leaders through the peak bodies of Aboriginal organisations to negotiate key strategies and headline indicators that will make a difference.

So long as the negotiations continue in good faith and we stay the course together this should lead to a greater rate of improvement in coming years. Of this I am sure.

There is a commitment to supporting Aboriginal people by giving priority to our own community controlled organisations to deliver the services and programs that will make a difference in our communities while at the same time ensuring mainstream services better meet our needs”

Donna Ah Chee, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress : Read full Report Part 1 below.

“Today is another day we reflect on the Federal Government’s inability to meet the Closing the Gap targets.

This report clearly shows that the gap will continue to widen if reforms aren’t translated into tangible, fully funded actions that deliver real benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the country.

The report reveals that progress against the majority of Closing the Gap targets is still not on track. The gap in mortality rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous

Australians increased last year and there are very worrying signs on infant mortality.

The Federal Government needs to commit to funding solutions to end over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they must be implemented alongside other areas of disadvantage in the Closing the Gap strategy – health, education, family violence, employment, housing – in order to create real change for future generations.”

Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair of NATSILS.

“We are deeply concerned about the Federal Government’s decision to not continue funding for remote Indigenous housing. Access to safe and affordable housing is essential to Closing the Gap,”

Nerita Waight, Co-Chair of NATSILS.

Download the full NATSILS press release HERE

NATSILS response CTG Report

” SARRAH welcomes the bipartisan approach by Parliamentarians who committed to work genuinely and collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

The potential contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is far greater than has been acknowledged or supported to date.

There are many organisations working hard to close the gap, such as Aboriginal community controlled health organisations right across Australia, and Indigenous Allied Health Australia, the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak allied health body.

Governments, through COAG, working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Coalition of Peaks have the opportunity to reset the trajectory.”

Download SARRAH Press Release

Media Release SARRAH Closing the Gap

“ Many of our communities are affected by a range of adverse experiences from poverty, through to violence, drug and alcohol issues and homelessness.

Without an opportunity to heal from the resultant trauma, its impact can deeply affect children’s brain development causing life-long challenges to the way they function in the world.

It is experienced within our families and communities and from one generation to the next.

We need urgent action to support better outcomes and opportunities for our children.

SNAICC CEO, Richard Weston

Download the full SNAICC press release HERE

SNAICC Response to CTG Report

“Mr Morrison will keep failing First Nations peoples and this country until a genuine commitment to self-determination is at the heart of closing the gap.

The Prime Minister’s same old “welfare” rhetoric indicates that the Government really hasn’t got it.   While they say they are committed to the COAG co-design process the PM ignores the point that it is his Government continuing to drive discriminatory programs such as the Cashless Debit Card, the CDP program, ParentsNext and who are failing to address the important social determinants of health and wellbeing.

There are a few things this Government needs to do before they just “get people into jobs”, like invest in the social determinants of health and wellbeing and a housing first approach.”

Australian Greens spokesperson on First Nations peoples issues Senator Rachel Siewert

Download the full Greens press release HERE

The Greens Response to CTG Report

” Australia’s efforts to close the gap are seemingly stuck in a holding pattern.

Though Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hailed the beginning of a ‘new era’ of improving the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the launch of the 12th Closing the Gap report, the results are all but unchanged.”

Read RACGP editorial

Part 1 : Donna Ah Chee, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress

Continued

“It’s also important to recognise that there has been progress here in Central Australia both over the longer term and more recently. Since 1973, the number of Aboriginal babies dying in their first year of life has reduced from 250 to 10 per 1000 babies born, and life expectancy has improved on average around 13 years.

As recently as 2019 we have seen significant improvements across multiple areas.

“Alice Springs has experienced a remarkable 40% reduction in alcohol related assaults and a 33% reduction in domestic violence assaults. This is 739 fewer assaults year on year, or 14 fewer assaults per week”.

“There has been a 33% reduction in alcohol related emergency department presentation which is 1617 fewer presentations year on year or a reduction of 31 per week. Corresponding with this, there has been a decline in hospital admissions and, as noted in the MJA recently, ICU admissions. These are dramatic improvements,” she said.

“The proportion of babies born of low birth weight has halved and the rates of childhood anaemia and anaemia in pregnancy have declined markedly.”

“In addition to this the number of young people who reoffend and therefore recycle through youth detention has dropped dramatically.”

“Combining all of these factors, we are closing the gap on early childhood disadvantage and trauma and this will make a big difference in coming years in other health and social outcomes.”

There are however, still many issues to be addressed, especially with the current generation of young people, as too many have already experienced the impacts of domestic violence, trauma and alcohol and other drugs. Unfortunately, this has led to the youth issues experienced now in Alice Springs.

The NT government recently advised Congress that they are implementing strategies that are aimed at making an immediate difference while at the same time we know key strategies that will make a longer-term difference are already in place. New immediate strategies include:

  1. 14 additional police undertaking foot patrols and bike patrols in the CBD
  2. Police now taking young people home where it is safe to do so, rather than telling them to go home themselves
  3. The employment of two senior Aboriginal community police officers from remote communities and the recruitment of three others in town and two at Yuendumu
  4. The flexible deployment of the YOREOs to meet peaks in the numbers of young people out at different hours of the night
  5. The much more active deployment of the truancy officers to ensure all young people are going to school.
  6. Access to emergency accommodation options for young people at night

While progress overall is slower than it should be, it is important to acknowledge the successes we are having because of the good work of many dedicated community organisations and government agencies working together in a supportive environment, where governments are adopting evidence based policies.