NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Keep mob safe this winter

Keep mob safe this winter

With winter here, the best way you and your family can stay well and keep doing the things you love is to:

  • Wear a mask when out in crowded spaces
  • Stay home and get tested if you’re not feeling well
  • Get together outside or in well ventilated places
  • Stay up to date with your vaccinations, including COVID-19 and flu

The NSW Government have prepared a range of new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander winter and flu resources to promote help these messages. Your help in sharing these resources through your channels is appreciated to help protect the community this winter.

Even if you’ve had COVID-19, it is still important to stay up to date with your vaccinations to boost your immunity and protect yourself and others. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) now recommends waiting 3 months to receive your vaccine after a confirmed COVID-19 infection.

There are antiviral treatments available for people at higher risk of getting really sick from COVID-19, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 35 years and over and those with underlying health conditions. You can access more information about antivirals here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over are also eligible for a winter COVID-19 vaccine (second booster) four months after your first booster dose to help keep your immunity strong. If you get COVID-19 before your winter booster dose, wait three months to receive it.

For more information you can view the NSW Government’s Keep Our Mob Safe COVID-19 Newsletter here and access the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander winter and flu resources, including videos (screenshot of the Keep Our Mob Safe video below), posters, graphics and fact sheets here.

Lowitja Institute CEO reflects on NAIDOC Week

Lowitja Institute CEO, Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed says that “NAIDOC Week can’t just be a tick box, where people invite us in for one week of the year, listen, take some notes, and then go back to business as usual. We need to celebrate and take pride in our First Nations peoples every day of the week and to examine our role in continuing injustice and inequity.”

“This year’s NAIDOC theme encapsulates this idea, it asks us all to: Get up! Stand up! Show up! My people already have a proud history of getting up, standing up, and showing up. From our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers who fight everyday for improved care, our Grannies fighting for our kids in out-of-home care, to our activists who scream for justice and remind us of the toll. Just to name a few.

We have been seeking to make change since the first days of colonisation. As an Elder at the NAIDOC flag-raising event on Naarm reminded us, our peoples have been long told ‘Sit down, and shut up, or be locked up!’ So I see this year’s NAIDOC theme as a call to action to non-Indigenous people, to the broader community and to the institutions and organisations that we work with and within. A call to create environments where racism is actively dealt with and prevented. Where governance at all levels privileges Indigenous leadership – and not just by putting an Indigenous person on a reference group. We need authentic involvement. True allyship. And a clear focus on those three NAIDOC Week calls to action.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article Get up, stand up, show up – and listen up in full click here.

Lowitja Institute CEO Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed. Image source: Better Futures Australia.

RACGP slams QLD pharmacy pilot extension

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has slammed Queensland Health’s decision to extend the UTI pharmacy prescribing pilot despite concerns raised by leading health groups, including the RACGP. It follows reports of Queensland Health advising that the controversial pilot, which allows pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for uncomplicated urinary tract infections or UTIs, will continue while work takes place “determining the future of the scheme”. They also pointed towards a 118-page evaluation report, which has been made public for the first time. Some of the contents of the report were previously reported on by The Australian several months ago.

To view the RACGP media release RACGP slams pharmacy prescribing pilot extension in full click here.

Photo: AAP. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Improving kidney care for mob

The Adelaide-based Aboriginal Kidney Care Together – Improving Outcomes Now (AKction) project aims to transform Indigenous kidney health and healthcare. It is founded on long-term relationships, a shared determination for systemic change, and recognition of the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership, autonomy and governance.

Last week, the @AKction2 team took the reins of Croakey’s rotated Twitter account @WePublicHealth and shared knowledge, language and insights into the cultural determinants of health, plus photos from the recent Renal Society of Australasia conference.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Sharing vibrant, productive and creative journeys to improve kidney care for First Peoples in full click here as well as read more about AKction’s work here.

Support for VIC ACCHO frontline workers

The Andrews Labor Government is supporting more Aboriginal organisations across Victoria to provide vital health services in culturally safe ways with a landmark investment in new jobs across the state. Minister for Treaty and First Peoples Gabrielle Williams has announced $25 million is being shared across 26 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations as part of the second tranche of the Aboriginal Workforce Fund.

The fund was established to support organisations to set their own workforce priorities, with a focus on new jobs, staff wellbeing and building organisations’ capacity to continue delivering vital services to their communities. Recipients include:

  • Aboriginal Community Elders Service, which received $1.6 million to deliver holistic mental health and alcohol and other drug services, and to enhance Elders’ connections with their culture and community
  • Victorian Aboriginal Health Services has also been allocated $1.4 million to strengthen the capacity and capability of its workforce to deliver a range of medical, dental and social services for Victoria’s Aboriginal community
  • Oonah Health and Community Services, which will expand its clinical arm and employ new staff to support the delivery of health, education, community and employment services, and
  • Kirrae Health Service, which will invest in skills training for its Aboriginal workers.

To read the Victorian Government’s media release Supporting Frontline Workers At Aboriginal Services in full click here.

Michael Graham, the CEO of Victoria Aboriginal Health Services, is pictured receiving his COVID-19 vaccination in Melbourne. Photo: Luis Ascui, NCA NewsWire. Image source: news.com.au

Coles raises funds for First Nations health

To raise funds for Indigenous health this NAIDOC week, Coles supermarkets and Express stores in the NT and select regional stores in WA have launched a ‘Purple House’ campaign. Purple House – also known as the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation – is a First Nations-owned not-for-profit health service that provides dialysis services to people suffering from chronic kidney disease in 19 remote communities across NT, WA and SA.

Through the campaign, Coles will donate $1 to Purple House for every customer who wears the colour purple during their shopping trip or fuel stop at participating Coles supermarkets and Coles Express sites in WA and the NT until Sunday 10 July. “The money raised will help dialysis patients who are forced far from home for treatment, to get back on country for important cultural business and precious time with family,” said, Sarah Brown, Purple House CEO.

To view the Inside Retail article Coles NT, regional WA stores raise funds for Indigenous health in full click here.

Image4 source: Coles Group.

AMSA call for greater disability representation

The Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) is calling for medical schools and healthcare systems across the nation to actively support students and professionals with disabilities. Considering almost 20% of Australians have reported to have a disability, the current healthcare systems are lacking the protocols and resources to adequately address the various challenges encountered by medical students and health professionals.

“The bottom line is our current approach is not good enough. We are leaving an important part of the population behind, which is unacceptable. We need to see the appropriate pathways for more students and professionals with disabilities in healthcare. We need more role models,” said Jasmine Davis, President of AMSA.

“Inclusion in medicine is important for so many reasons, including creating a better healthcare system for people with disability by embedding those with lived experience within it,” said Jimmy Jan, a current medical student and Ambassador for Wings for Life.

To view the AMSA media release ‘We need more role models’ – Medical students call for greater disability representation and support in the healthcare world click here.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Cervical screening self-collection now an option

Image in feature tile from Cancer SA.

Cervical screening self-collection now an option

As of last Friday 1 July 2022, anyone eligible for a Cervical Screening Test under the National Cervical Screening Program (NCSP) (i.e. women and people with a cervix aged 25-74 years who have ever had any sexual contact) will have the choice to screen either through self-collection of a vaginal sample using a simple swab or clinician-collection of a sample from the cervix using a speculum.

The Hon Ged Kearney MP, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care says the launch of self-collection for cervical screening is a game changer in the fight to eliminate cervical cancer.

You can access an information sheet with the title National Cervical Screening Program launch of self-collection eligibility expansion, including the following headings listed below, here.

  • Where to get more information
  • What you can do
  • Key messages for healthcare providers and laboratories
    • availability and procession of self-collected vaginal samples
    • important considerations
    • broad awareness of pathway changes
  • Want to know more or have any questions?
In addition, you can watch a video (screenshot below) of Minister Kearney, who is also a nurse, on the launch of self-collection including who can access self-collection, where you can access it and how to do it, using this link.

Screenshot of Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care video on Facebook about the launch of the self-collection cervical screening.

ACCHOs celebrating NAIDOC Week 2022

National NAIDOC Week celebrations are being held across Australia this week to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

NAIDOC Week 2022’s theme Get Up, Stand Up and Show Up with pride and respect for your culture is something Aboriginal leader Lizzie Adams, CEO of  Goolburri Aboriginal Health in Toowoomba, wants to scream from the roof tops.

“When I was born, I wasn’t even registered as a human being. I was born as flora and fauna,” she said. “In the march, other people see us doing this, and it’s us doing it in a way that our ancestors would like us to do it. “Be proud, be energetic and get our message across that we’re here and we’re here to stay.”

To view the Chronicle article NAIDOC WEEK: untied effort in working for change click here.

Lizzie Adams in the NAIDOC Week march in Toowoomba. Monday, 4 July 2022. Photo: Nev Madsen. Image source: The Chronicle.

Ungooroo Aboriginal CEO Taasha Layer said NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.

“The theme for NAIDOC Week this year  Get Up, Stand Up, and Show Up can take many forms. It might be pushing for systemic change to help Close the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, it might be calling out racism or working to improve access to health and social services, individuals and organisations all have a part to play,” explained Ms Layer.

Ms Layer said “The recent Ungooroo Health & Wellbeing Community Expo at Singleton Centre attracted hundreds of visitors and showcased a range of Ungooroo services and local organisations who work with Indigenous communities to improve health, social, education and employment outcomes. Our Community Expo is the perfect example of how we can work together to improve the lives of Indigenous communities and help people learn more about Aboriginal culture and tradition.”

To view the Hunter Valley News article NAIDOC WEEK: untied effort in working for change in full click here.

The Ungooroo Health & Wellbeing Community Expo at Singleton Centre attracted hundreds of visitors and showcased a range of Ungooroo services. Image source: Hunter Valley News.

Elders play critical community health role

In many parts of Australia – where a recent royal commission revealed a broken aged care system – we could do better with the way we treat our elders. So is there something to be learned from the cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people — cultures where where eldership is highly respected?

Worimi man Paul Callaghan says there is. He knows first-hand the essential role Elders play in their communities. His Elders gave him “solace and support” when he endured racism growing up in Karuah on the NSW coast, and urged Callaghan to continue his education when he felt like quitting. “They have always encouraged me to bridge two worlds,” he says.

Research shows eldership is critical to creating healthy Indigenous communities. A 2017 study identified the pivotal role Elders play in critical Indigenous issues such as health, education, unemployment and racism. “By empowering Elders with the support necessary to address issues in their communities, we can make a positive step in helping close the gap and transferring sacred spiritual knowledge,” said Dr Lucy Busija, one of the study authors.

You can read the ABC article What Indigenous culture can teach us about respecting our elders in full here.

Elders teaching culture to children. Image source: Katherine Times.

Racism barrier to healthcare participation

Challenging how health services might better meet the needs of Aboriginal people was the focus of NAIDOC Week activities at The Alfred this week Addressing a roomful of staff, the Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities and descendant of the Kalarie peoples of the Wiradjuri nation, Todd Fernando, said within a decade we will weed out homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Victoria.

“We will not achieve the same for racism. And that’s because of how the system is set up,” Mr Fernando said. Asking the audience to consider what changes they could make within their own work areas, Mr Fernando said that systemic and historical factors impact how Aboriginal people participate in health and that dismantling these barriers must become a priority. “We need to look at how services support Aboriginal people, particularly those from the LGBTIQ+ community, rather than contribute to feelings of marginalisation and isolation.”

To view the Alfred Health article Special guests call for change click here.

Antivirals key to fight next COVID-19 wave

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) National President Dr Fei Sim is calling on governments to do more to protect the community and prepare for an increasing number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations by improving access to antiviral medicines.

Dr Sim says that governments – at both state/territory and federal levels – must take a pragmatic approach to ensure high-risk patients have timely access to antivirals, to avoid the shortages and last-minute policy-making that Australia saw with the rollouts of COVID-19 vaccines and Rapid Antigen Tests. “We cannot sit and wait for infections and hospitalisations to rise further – governments must act now. Timely access to antivirals is critical to reduce the severity of COVID-19 infection and limiting complications.”

To view the PSA media release Access to antivirals key to tackling next COVID-19 wave click here.

Image source: NPS MedicineWise.

Brisbane leaders keeping culture alive

From learning the traditional name of your suburb, to joining in the fight for Indigenous rights and constitutional recognition, there are steps you can take to be an Indigenous ally this NAIDOC Week and beyond. Seven of Brisbane’s Indigenous leaders have explained how they are keeping their culture alive and how the whole country can help them.

One of the leaders, Dharumbal and South Sea Islander Jacob McQuire, a National Indigenous Radio Service and ABC journalist, said “These days I’ve been doing all that I can to be a healthier and better blackfulla for my family, my mob and my community. I’ve had struggles for a long time now with my mental health and making better choices around my health more generally. This year I’ve made it a goal of mine to improve myself so I can be stronger and better for the mob around me. There’s no keeping my culture alive if I’m not alive.”

When asked about whether he sees a shift toward non-Indigenous Australians wanting to respect and learn about Indigenous culture, Mr McQuire said, ” I think whatever change we see now is a part of a much longer, gradual shift, and that shift is the result of years of fighting and advocacy on the part of mob to make this place more hospitable for blackfullas. With that being said, wanting to learn and respect our culture is much different than wanting to fight with us and help dismantle racism and the institutions which uphold it in this country.”

To view the ABC article NAIDOC Week 2022: How Brisbane Indigenous leaders keep culture alive and how you can help click here.

Jacob McQuire, National Indigenous Radio Service and ABC journalist. Image source: ABC News.

Importance of cancer support for mob

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! promotes a systemic change to close the health inequities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people still face today. Cancer Council Queensland and BuAkoko Mabo (Bua/ Benny Mabo Jr), third-generation Mabo, are working together to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are impacted by a cancer diagnosis to access Cancer Council Queensland’s various support services.

Benny, a professional translator and advocate for the preservation of the Torres Strait Island Meriba culture, was diagnosed with oesophageal and tonsil cancer in November last year, and subsequently underwent chemotherapy and radiation. Recently, Benny stayed at Cancer Council Queensland’s Gluyas Rotary Lodge in Townsville and took advantage of their Transport to Treatment service. He has been known to ‘light up the room’ and never turns down the opportunity for a chat with friends and strangers.

Cancer Council Queensland General Manager, Cancer Support and Information, Gemma Lock, said  “In 2021, our accommodation lodges provided 17,823 nights of accommodation and our Transport to Treatment services travelled over 195,676 kms to connect cancer patients and their carers to the support they needed. Patients like Benny often need to travel from regional and remote areas to access vital cancer treatment that they wouldn’t otherwise receive. The lodges provide support to those who need to travel for cancer treatment, offering practical services like transport to treatment.”

To view the Senior AU article Benny shares the importance of cancer support this NAIDOC week in full click here.

Benny Mabo Jr. Image source: Torres Strait Islanders Media, Association, Radio 4MW.

Better childhood disability management

Dr Gaj Panagoda is a paediatric rehabilitation physician and general paediatrician, Gaj who has worked at Queensland Health and Queensland Children’s Hospital for 10 years. Over that time, Gaj began to believe that childhood disability, injury and chronic disease could be better managed through the community rather than a hospital.

“I wanted childhood disability to be better managed in the community and I knew I had to jump out of the public health sector and set up this model of care myself,” he said. “It’s an innovative approach that meets the needs of young patients and their families while utilising their local community for management. Local organisations like schools, sports clubs and allied health therapists in their area are engaged to support the management of the disability to decrease reliance on hospital-based services.”

To deliver the new model of care, Gaj launched ‘Superkid Rehab’, a rehabilitation service aiming to maximise the potential of children and young adults with disabilities, injuries and chronic diseases. In addition to Superkid Rehab, he is now also the Lead Paediatrician at the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, where the team provides paediatric and disability medical services across 20 Aboriginal health clinics.

To read the MBA News article MBA Student Sets Out to Change Healthcare System and Improve Outcomes for Kids with Disability click here.

Paediatric Disability Specialist and QUT MBA student Dr Gaj Panagoda. Image source: MBA News.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO welcomes aged care funding

Image in feature tile is from The Daily Beacon.

NACCHO welcomes aged care funding

Yesterday The Hon Anika Wells MP, Minister for Aged Care and Senator the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy, Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians issued a joint media release Support for First Nations Elders to Access Aged Care available here. In response NACCHO has issued the following media statement:

NACCHO welcomes the funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Workforce

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) welcomes the announcement from Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, on the $86 million funding support for the Trusted Indigenous Facilitator–Aged Care Workforce program.

Pat Turner AM, NACCHO CEO said, ‘We are grateful to receive this investment that will help us deliver much better outcomes for our Elders. Over the life of the program, we will see 250 staff, predominately drawn from local communities, onboarded across our sector nationally to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders.’

The ACCHO sector are best placed to deliver this program because, ‘We have worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for decades on matters that are important to our people and are best placed to represent areas like health, aged care, early childhood, education, land and legal services,’ stated Pat Turner.

‘The program will be developed and implemented in genuine partnership, where equal weight is given to the sector’s voice at the table alongside that of governments and agencies, ensuring equal decision-making authority with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This aligns with our goals in the National Agreement of Closing the Gap, to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.’

Overseeing the program will be our established NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Advisory group consisting of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) nationally who are currently involved in aged care or wanting to become a provider. This group will be responsible for advising NACCHO on implementing the program, including informing the development of a model of care, service linkages, and workforce training requirements.

You can view the NACCHO media statement NACCHO welcomes the funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Workforce on the NACCHO website here.

Image source: 3 Bridges Community websie.

NITV Big Mob Brekky host NACCHO CEO

Earlier this morning NACCHO CEO Pat Turner appeared on NITV’s Big Mob Brekky show, providing an update on COVID-19 and urging people to get their vaccines and/or booster shots as well as a flu shot. Ms Turner also reflected on what the theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week means to her.

Humour to destigmatise palliative care 

Indigenous comedian Sean Choolburra is the voice behind a new Queensland University of Technology (QUT)-led animation series that uses humour to help demystify and destigmatise palliative care and dying for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The QUT-based Indigenous Program of Experience in Palliative Approach (IPEPA) developed the animations to educate and entertain communities and health professionals in a grass-roots way about palliative care, serious illness, grief, feelings and pain management.

The IPEPA project director, Distinguished Professor Patsy Yates is a world-renown nurse and recognised leader in palliative care research said content for the IPEPA animations was led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and drew on cultural strengths and perspectives. “Using humour to communicate about dying was a risk, but communities let us know it played an important role in their resilience and was the best way to engage people,” Professor Yates said.

You can view the Queensland University of Technology article Humour used to destigmatise death and promote community healing here. As well the video below on pain management you can view four other videos available here.

Rapper Adam Briggs on NAIDOC Week theme

Rapper Adam Briggs said “I was thinking about the slogan they’ve got [for NAIDOC Week] this year – the theme ‘Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!’ For me, it’s a reminder that we can’t be complacent. Many blackfellas have been doing this fight and this work for a lot longer than I’ve been alive, so I’m not allowed to be tired yet. It’s not about fighting all the time, but it’s about support and get up, stand up and show up for ourselves and for each other.”

NAIDOC Week encourages all Australians to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, to acknowledge our history and to realise that acknowledgement is a crucial unifier. “I think a lot of the willingness to not engage with it, that White Australia has, comes from the top-down – it’s that Howard-era of ‘I refuse to look at the past with a black armband’, and so that tells people ‘that’s not my fault, why should I have to do anything?’” said Briggs.

Briggs continued, “It’s like ‘Mate, I’m not asking you to go and volunteer or give up your time’, but acknowledge – wholeheartedly and truthfully – what went on and how this manifested and how we’re here and what that disadvantage is. For the regular Joe, it might not be your job to close the gap on Indigenous health; these are complex, sophisticated issues, but acknowledgement that it’s an issue and that the people, whose job that is, should be doing something about it and fixing it. For the average Karen or Darren on the street, I’m not asking you to fix it – I’m asking you to understand that it’s an issue, wholeheartedly and truthfully.”

To view the Beat article Briggs: ‘It’s not about fighting all the time, it’s about support’ in full click here.

Rapper Adam Briggs. Image source: Beat.

Period care product access needed for all

In Australia, most states have introduced initiatives to provide people who menstruate with free period care products in public schools. However, there is value in enhancing the program by providing reusable products to reduce waste to landfill, by educating boys and other students who don’t menstruate, and tailoring this initiative appropriately for remote and Indigenous People who menstruate.

Australia has come a long way since The Conversation published an article in 2017 article about Indigenous girls potentially missing school in remote communities each month due to a range of period care challenges. The article began an important and ongoing Indigenous health collaboration towards ensuring all Indigenous and remote people who menstruate have access to information and products every month.

To view The Mandarin article Free period care products in Queensland schools is just a first step. Remote communities need access to these items as well in full click here.

Young girls learning about how to manage their menstrual cycles with confidence. Photo: Central Australian Youth Link Up Service. Image source: ABC News website.

UON students experience cultural immersion

A University of Newcastle (UON) scholarship program looks very different this year, with students swapping China for cultural immersion in Indigenous Australia. UON has run since 2018 the Ma and Morley Scholarship Program, which aims to provide students with an eye-opening and life-changing opportunity to travel.

Previously this has been to China, but this has not been possible for the past three years due to COVID-19. Instead, the 2020 scholars left Newcastle on Monday for Broken Hill, for a trip that will focus on Aboriginal connections to people, place and spirituality or purpose. Wiradjuri man and UON Pro Vice Chancellor of Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, Nathan Towney, said the trip showcases the commitment UON has to Aboriginal communities and to learning and respecting traditional culture.

To view the Newcastle Herald article University of Newcastle Ma and Morley Scholarship Program participants explore Indigenous Australia in full click here.

Images from University of Newcastle Ma and Morley Scholarship Program 2022. Image source: Newcastle Herald.

Unintended pregnancy data for mob missing

Yesterday The Medical Journal of Australia published an article about the need for data about the prevalence, experiences and outcomes of unintended pregnancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (acknowledging that unintended does not necessarily mean unwanted), including issues relating to pregnancy intentions, decision making, and health care access.

Up to 40% of women in Australia have experienced an unintended pregnancy, which can be associated with suboptimal pre‐conception health behaviour and reproductive health care engagement and adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience higher rates of pregnancy risk factors, adverse perinatal outcomes, and adolescent pregnancy compared with non‐Indigenous women. However, little is known about the prevalence and impact of unintended pregnancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

This knowledge gap must be addressed.  Meaningful engagement and collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and researchers are required to confirm priority issues, design culturally appropriate data collection processes, and achieve a nationally representative sample. Data sources such as those held by primary health care providers and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations have an untapped potential to highlight the needs and priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, should they be used with appropriate consultation and respect for Indigenous data sovereignty.

You can read The Medical Journal of Australia article Unintended pregnancy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women: where are the data? in full here

Image source: MCWH website.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Thurs 30.6.22

Image is feature tile is of health staff working long hours to test residents in Bidyadanga. Photo: KAMS. Image source: ABC News 28 February 2022.

KAMS’ quick response to COVID-19

At last week’s Communicable Diseases and Immunisation Conference, Dr Lorraine Anderson shared some valuable insights from the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service’s (KAMS) response to COVID-19.

Medical director at KAMS, Anderson showcased their quick response to the pandemic, urging all conference delegates to consider the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) model of care to “help bring all people on board in the health space”.

In her presentation, Anderson said that communication, leadership, governance and the prioritisation of Aboriginal cultural and spiritual ways, self-determination and empowerment were critical.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Aboriginal leadership key to successful management of COVID-19 in the Kimberley region in full, including Anderson’s full presentation, as delivered at the conference on 21 June 2022 click here.

Vaughan Matsumoto, Senior Aboriginal Practitioner at the Beagle Bay clinic receives a coronavirus vaccine. Photo: KAMS, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

Leading the way to improve RHD outcomes

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, between 5 and 15 years of age are 55 times more likely to die from rheumatic heart disease (RHD) than other Australian children. The broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with RHD than other Australians. The prevalence of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) is also significant. This was released in a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in April 2022.  

To address these alarming issues, NACCHO will develop a new service delivery model for the national Rheumatic Fever Strategy (RFS), for the prevention, treatment, and management of RHD and ARF. This model will be co-designed with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector. 

A Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) will oversee the strategy and be co-chaired by NACCHO and the Australian Government Department of Health. The JAC has been established to create a nationally cohesive approach to ARF and RHD, with a focus on improving care pathways and RHD data and includes representatives from: 

  • State and Territory Government Health representatives – NT, QLD, SA, and WA 
  • NACCHO Affiliates – NT, QLD, SA, and WA 
  • Heart Foundation 
  • Australian Medical Association
  • Members of the NACCHO RHD Expert Working Group.

A NACCHO RHD Expert Working Group has also been established and comprises representatives from the ACCHO sector.   

The JAC will meet bi-monthly during the establishment phase of the program. A meeting communique will be publicly available and provided to relevant stakeholders.  

Click here to read the JAC February 2022 communique.  

If you would like to be kept informed about progress in this space, you can contact the NACCHO RHD team using this email link.

Dr Josh Francis, Shannon Brown and Trey Brown in Maningrida. Photo: Mike Hill, Take Heart Program. Image source: NRHA Partyline on-line magazine.

Decolonising healthcare – a call to action

In her final story from the 21st International Conference on Emergency Medicine, Dr Amy Coopes has written about the call to decolonise healthcare, and for health workers to challenge “inequity and injustice in their work”. Dr Coopes explains that structural inequities and injustices as a legacy of colonisation can only be dismantled by acknowledging that a script of subjugation continues to be played out in healthcare settings, perpetuating a cycle of prejudice and ill health for oppressed peoples.

Disrupting this narrative is urgent work for all healthcare professionals, and begins with reflexive action, interrogating the motivations, power imbalances and potential for oppression, violence and injustice in our practices and approaches in health. These were the central messages of a compelling call to action for emergency doctors at a recent global summit held in Melbourne centred on the themes of equity, sustainability and innovation.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Decolonising healthcare: a call for equity in action in full click here.

REFOCUS makes profound difference

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! and it calls on the community to rally for systemic change and continue to support and secure institutional, structural, collaborative and co-operative reforms.

On a local level, one organisation working day in, day out to make a difference is REFOCUS. The charity is making a profound difference in the wellbeing of Indigenous youth and their families across the region. REFOCUS has been delivering wellbeing support services to the Sunshine Coast, Moreton Bay and Gympie regions since 2010.

The charity stands for ‘Redirecting and Empowering Families through Culturally Unique Services’ and provides a range of programs to support children to reach their full potential. REFOCUS CEO Darcy Cavanagh first began working in the youth and child protection sector in 1998 and knows firsthand the need for this type of support in the local community. “My interest in this line of work comes from my brief experience of being placed in the foster care system with my two brothers and the life that followed being returned home,” he says.

Launching REFOCUS with six staff, and now with a team more than 60, the charity supports thousands of individuals through a variety of programs across its catchment area, with a specific focus on children under 18. Programs include family wellbeing services, family participation programs, NDIS support services, foster and kinship care as well as Aboriginal medical service Gunyah of Wellness.

To view the My Weekly article It’s time to come together in full click here and to access the REFOCUS website click here.

Calls for VIC Treaty Authority

Last week, Co-chairs of the First People’s Assembly of Victoria called on Victorian parliamentarians to pass legislation enabling the establishment of the Treaty Authority in Victoria. In what Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder Aunty Geraldine Atkinson described as an “umpire” independent from government, a Treaty Authority would “support Treaty-making in Victoria between the First Peoples of Victoria and the state government.”

Marcus Stewart, a proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, said “the Treaty Authority agreement is decolonisation in action”. Although an agreement has been signed between the First People’s Assembly and the Victorian Government, legislation is required to facilitate the operation of Authority. The Treaty Authority bill passed the Victorian Parliament’s lower house last week.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Lore, law and cultural authority at the heart of Victorian Treaty Authority in full click here.

Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Census lacks detail about people’s lives

The census counted 812,728 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on census night, making up 3.2% of the total people counted. That’s up from 649,171 in the 2016 census, an increase of over 25%. Many have estimated the population prior to the arrival of the British was between 750,000 and 1 million. So the exciting news is in only 234 years we are nearing pre-colonial numbers.

Whenever there is an increase in the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, there is always speculation as to why. Of course the politics of identity is always at play. There will be the usual commentary that targets the way people look in those old arguments that refer to skin colour as the measure of who counts as Aboriginal and the idea that lighter skin signifies less Indigenous or no Indigenous identity at all.

These worn out tropes never take into consideration that colonial policies and practices such as those that led to the Stolen Generations directly targeted people with mixed heritage. These targeted people suffered unimaginable violence in the nation’s mission to breed the colour out of us.

But unfortunately, given the lack of information in the census about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ lives, we can’t be sure if overall health among Indigenous people is improving and why lifespans seem to be improving. And the census has failed to investigate other ways Indigenous people may choose to identify, and how we live as families.

To view the SBS NITV article OPINION: First Nations population has increased, but census lacks details about Indigenous lives in full click here.

Three generation Aboriginal family. Image source: CHF Journal Health Voices – June 2022 edition.

Preparation for work in communities

Charles Sturt University paramedicine students and First Nations mental health students recently participated in training scenarios as part of their preparation for work in communities throughout Australia.

Associate Head of School – Paramedicine Dr Sonja Maria in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Paramedicine and Healthcare Sciences in Bathurst said the scenarios were designed to give both groups of students insights into the possible needs of First Nations patients and how the paramedics in particular operate when on-call. Dr Maria said the interdisciplinary training day was created with the assistance of Dr Jola Stewart-Bugg, the Discipline Leader for First Nations at Charles Sturt.

To read the Charles Sturt University article ‘Together we are stronger’; health students strive for better First Nations patient outcomes in full click here.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) paramedicine students and First Nations mental health students in training. Image source: CSU website.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Vital role of First Nations midwives

Image in feature tile is of a participant of a new, dedicated, midwifery service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums-to-be, established by Townsville Hospital and Health Service in partnership with Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services (TAIHS). Image source: Townsville Bulletin.

Vital role of First Nations midwives

First Nations midwives play a vital role in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children, according to Pamela McCalman (midwife and PhD Candidate at La Trobe University), Professor Catherine Chamberlain (Professor of Indigenous Health Equity at The University of Melbourne) and Machellee Kosiak, who is affiliated with Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund.

Reporting on results from the Birthing in our Community study, they write that “in addition to western midwifery training, First Nations midwives draw on cultural and community knowledge systems” and “foster a sense of cultural safety and trust in maternity services for First Nations women”. While Australia is one of the safest places in the world to give birth, First Nations women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than other Australian women and First Nations infants are almost twice as likely to die in the first month of life, with preterm birth the biggest cause of mortality.

Ensuring First Nations children are born healthy and strong is the second Closing the Gap target – a critical foundation for “everyone enjoying long and healthy lives”. A much needed step to guarantee this is to increase First Nations health workers, particularly midwives and nurses. The article goes on to discuss the health impacts of colonisation, the vital role of First Nations nurses and midwives and the need to increasing their number.

To read the Croakey Health Media article First Nations midwives’ leadership and care are central for improving outcomes click here.

Midwife Mel Briggs, wearing “Sister Scrubs” to identify herself as Indigenous, Yuin woman Hayley Williams and baby Jaari. Photo: Janie Barrett. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

AMA emergency pharmacy trial meeting

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid has called an emergency virtual meeting tonight to discuss the North Queensland Scope of Practice Pilot. The North Queensland pharmacy trial, as it has been called, will allow pharmacists to prescribe and dispense autonomously. It will allow chemists in 37 local government areas to diagnose and treat 23 conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart failure and asthma without consulting a GP.

The Queensland Government says a recent two-year Queensland urinary tract infection (UTI) pharmacy prescribing trial was a success, but the AMA strongly disagree, saying the trial lacked transparency. With no meaningful data available about the UTI trial, which was open to non-pregnant women aged 18 to 65, AMA Queensland surveyed 1,300 doctors and found approximately one in five treated patients for serious complications which were either missed or misdiagnosed by pharmacists in the trial. The complications ranged from antibiotic allergies to ectopic pregnancies to cervical cancer.

The AMA and AMA Queensland believe the trial places an unacceptable risk on patient health and safety and will exacerbate workforce shortages and hospital pressures; widen the health gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; fragment healthcare and exacerbate emergency department ramping and hospital logjam; and is a major conflict of interest for pharmacists.

To view the AMA Queensland article AMA calls emergency Town Hall meeting click here. You can also view NACCHO’s Media Statement NACCHO and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector oppose the proposed Queensland Community Pharmacy Trial on the NACCHO website here.

Image source: AMA News website.

The new addiction of vaping

Vaping is a multi-billion-dollar global industry that is rapidly growing in popularity amongst teenagers and young adults. Vaping was hailed as the new way to quit smoking but there are serious concerns the product is now causing nicotine addiction in teenagers. On Monday next week Four Corners investigates the explosion in vaping amongst teenagers and the booming black market which is thriving in Australia due to a failure to police the rules. Reporter Grace Tobin tracks down some of the suppliers who are illegally selling nicotine vapes either online or under the counter in stores.

To view the ABC Four Corners media release Vape Haze: The new addiction of vaping in full click here.

According to a Talking About the Smokes survey 21% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who smoke have tried vapes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had tried vaping were younger; living in non-remote areas or more advantaged areas; people who smoke daily and wanting to quit, having made a quit attempt/used NRT in the past year.

You can find more information on Tackling Indigenous Smoking webpage Facts about vaping (e-cigarettes) webpage here.

Image source: ABC News website.

Mental health surf program for youth

Biripi and Bundjalung siblings Amber Hamer and James Mercy are working to raise awareness about the importance of mental health through surfing. Surfing has been part of their lives from their earliest days in Coffs Harbour, NSW. “We went straight from the hospital when I was born ,Mum and Dad took me straight to the beach, because Dad was dying for a surf. I guess that started my lifelong affinity with the water,” Ms Hamer said.

Their late father Eric Mercy was a well-known surfer and beloved member of the local community who took his own life. Now, the brother and sister duo are continuing their father’s legacy by teaching youth about mental health and well-being on Gumbaynggirr Country. Five years ago they started hosting regular surfing camps to help young people learn about the healing beauty of the ocean. Their project is called Naru, the Gumbaynggirr word for water.

To view the SBS NITV article The surfing program teaching youth about culture and mental health click here.

Equity and emergency care

Equity and emergency care was the theme for day two of the 21st International Conference on Emergency Medicine on 17 June 2022. One of the speakers, Professor Greg Phillips, spoke about improving outcomes for First Nations people, how to address systemic racism and decolonise healthcare by blending Aboriginal and Western health paradigms with better representation and rewritten health curricula. He highlighted the importance of separating intent from affect, saying white fragility and recognition of privilege in healthcare is a pressing issue that involves a lot of listening and a lot of unlearning, especially for clinicians.

Ways to keep mums-to-be healthy

Dr Karen Best leads SAHMRI research in Adelaide, SA that targets optimal nutrition for women and kids. Dr Best, a Senior Fellow in the Women & Kids theme at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), designs and manages clinical trial research to understand the best nutrition for pregnant women.

Food eaten during pregnancy keeps the mother healthy and supports the growth and development of the baby. However, certain components of food – nutrients- are important for more subtle aspects of health. Karen’s recent research has focused on a type of fat called omega-3, which is found in oily fish, walnuts and other foods. “We found a dietary supplement of omega-3 in women who had low levels could reduce their risk of preterm birth,” Karen explains.

Preterm birth can result in developmental problems for babies and is often distressing for families. Required support and healthcare are costly. Even just a small improvement in that rate could translate into better outcomes for the children and families involved, and lowered expense for the healthcare system. SAHMRI’s Women & Kids theme is also researching optimal levels of iodine in pregnancy. Iodine is a naturally occurring mineral important for developing the brain and nervous system. “In this study, we’re looking at levels of iodine in pregnant women and how that is linked with developmental measures we assess once the baby reaches age two,” Karen explains.

To read The Lead article Discovering the best ways to keep mums-to-be healthy in full click here.

Photo: Emma by Jess Naera Creative. Image source: Australian Birth Stories.

Community First Development Fellow’s Oration

At Community First Development, ‘research success’ is research that is requested, led and delivered by First Nations’ people and communities. It is undertaken through deep listening and strives to achieve the outcomes that communities have set out to achieve. The First Nations Research and Evaluation Fellow is a pathway for First Nations’ academics to explore, design and deliver evaluation and research projects driven and led by First Nations’ people and communities.

Community First Development launched the inaugural Fellowship in 2020. As part of the Fellowship Murran/Iwaidja woman, Donna Stephens, our first Fellow, took a lead role in a participatory action research project with 11 communities across Australia. The final report has been published, and findings have been presented at numerous events. At this year’s oration Donna will speak on Participation and Community Development: Reflections on Change Organisations.

You can download an the invitation to the event here and register for the live webcast this Friday, 25 June 2022 by clicking here.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Time to end First Nations “economic apartheid”

Image in feature tile is of shack outside of Tennant Creek. Image source: ABC News.

Time to end First Nations “economic apartheid”

Experts from The Australian National University (ANU) have raised alarm bells about the “economic apartheid” facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and are calling for an urgent, nation-wide strategic approach to ensure their economic self-determination. This is the key theme of a landmark series of events to be held this week and led by the ANU First Nations Portfolio.

A first for Australia, the forum and symposium will chart the path to First Nations Australians’ economic development, wealth creation and a self-determined economy. Professor Peter Yu AM, Vice-President First Nations at ANU, said Australia remains the only Commonwealth country to have never signed a treaty with its Indigenous people.

To view the ANU’s media release Time to end First Nations “economic apartheid” in full click here.

A town camp outside Alice Springs, NT. Photo: Children’s Ground. Image source: The Guardian.

Children protection system under fire

Every year, Australia’s child safety departments remove thousands of children from their parents on the grounds they are not safe at home and need urgent protection. In doing so, the government becomes their guardian, taking responsibility for their lives. Far from being safe, some of these children are then preyed upon by the very people the government has vetted to look after them.

Indigenous children are 10 times more likely to be removed from their families. Departmental policy dictates that they are then placed with Indigenous carers to maintain contact with their culture, but that doesn’t always happen. Instead, Aboriginal children can languish in care hours from their land while some workers dismiss signs of sexual abuse in First Nations children as “cultural” behaviour.

Lisa Wellington from Aboriginal women’s health and welfare organisation Waminda said the child protection system had been failing Indigenous families since it had been set up. “In order for change to happen, the department needs to engage with the Indigenous community and listen to the families and walk alongside them,” she said.

To view the ABC article Bad Parent in full click here.

Image source: Aboriginal Family Legal Services website.

Health reform issues for new government 

Is Australia on the verge of a long-awaited and sorely needed move towards cooperative federalism to drive health reform? Encouraging noises to this effect have emerged from the first National Cabinet meeting (Friday 16 June) since the Federal election.

The NSW Premier said there had been “a real focus of working with the States and Territories in relation to substantive health reform going forward” something that had “been in the too-hard basket for too long.” The Queensland Premier said it had been “a refreshing change to be able to discuss health. Previously, we have tried to get this on the agenda. We’ve got a PM who listens and understands that health is a big issue and it is a national issue that’s affecting everybody across our nation”.

The Victorian Premier said: “…on behalf of every nurse, every ambo, every doctor, every patient in Victorian public hospitals I want to thank the Prime Minister. Politics was put aside at this meeting and we’ve put patients first and that is the most important thing. Now, the test for all of us will be to work hard in the weeks and months to come, to come up with practical ways in which we can make the system work as a true system.”

Associate Professor Lesley Russell will monitor the efforts of the Albanese Government to deliver on their election commitments in health, healthcare, Indigenous health and climate change (and in fact any issue that improves the health status and reduces the health disparities of Australians).

To view the Croakey Health Media article The Health Wrap: as National Cabinet sets a course for health reform, here are some key issues to address in full click here.

Image source: Choose Your Own Health Career website.

Call for action against racism, racial violence 

A Brisbane author brought her defiant call to action against racism and racial violence to Cherbourg last week, welcoming South Burnett community members to the Ration Shed Museum for a workshop on her 2021 book ‘Another Day in the Colony’. ‘Another Day in the Colony’ has attracted praise from fellow academics as well as members of the public, who commend the author on her uncompromising truth-telling and exposure of Australia’s intolerance.

“While I work as an academic, the book was written just for anyone to read – I wanted to write for mob and wanted my kids to be able to read it, regardless of whether they got a degree or not,” Dr Watego explained. “The thing that’s really hit me is mob getting back to me and saying ‘you wrote what I feel! You gave a language to what I already knew but didn’t know how to express.’

“Mob have been really moved by it, and that’s what I wanted to do – I wanted to speak to the souls of blackfellas. That’s the beautiful part: not the reprints, but the imprint it’s had on the community.”

To view the Burnett Today South, Central & North article Cherbourg Celebrates book tour in full click here.

Dr Chelsea Watego and her book Another Day in the Colony.

Top 3 men’s health questions

In celebration of Men’s Health Week (13-19 June 2022), Dr Lucas de Toca from the Australian Government Department of health has spoken on how family history and lifestyle impact our health and provides tips to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. The three top questions answered by Dr de Toca are:

  • What is Men’s Health Week?
  • How can men build healthier outcomes and reduce the risk of chronic disease?
  • How can men better engage with Australia’s health services?

To view the Department of Health’s Top 3 Qs article click here.

Health conference abstracts FINAL CALL

A final call for abstracts for the upcoming Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference is being put out. The closing date is just one week away – COB Monday 27 June 2022.

For further event information click here and to register to present click here.

Adam Goodes (virtually attending) and Sue-Anne Hunter will be keynote speakers at The 7th Annual Ngar-wu Wanyarra Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Conference.

Mob left out of low unemployment figures

The National Employment Services Association says First Nations people and other disadvantaged Australians are being left out of record low unemployment figures. Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data reported unemployment remained at a record low 3.9% in May.

The real numbers were much higher. The employment rate among Indigenous Australians is considerably lower than it is for the rest of the population. Many First Nations people have historically been excluded from statistical analysis such as employment figures. Historically Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples unemployment rates have sat fairly consistently at three times that of their non Indigenous counterparts.

Discrimination is a factor in the employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That is ever so slowly changing so that disparity you know is trending in the right way, but not rapidly. To view the National Indigenous Times article Industry peak body calls out Indigenous exclusion in latest unemployment rates in full click here.

Image source: Monash University Lens website.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Chair addresses FECCA conference

NACCHO Chair addresses FECCA conference

Earlier this morning NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills addressed The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) 2022: Advancing Multicultural Australia conference. The event is Australia’s premier conference on multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion, and migration and hosts multicultural communities, policy makers, service providers, academics and many more over two days of presentations, speakers and topics.

Ms Mills said, “It is important that when we are talking about today’s systemic racism in the health system, we understand two fundamental points. The first is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are foremost and always Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We have our own distinct identities, languages and beliefs about what contributes to health and wellness and what causes sickness. Australia’s health system, however, is built around the identities and beliefs of the white settler and their western model of health and wellness and causes of sickness. This immediately puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the back foot in accessing health care in Australia. For us to access mainstream health services, we are required to suspend our own beliefs and cultures and adopt or accept the western model of health.”

You can access Ms Mills’ speech in full here. For more information about the FECCA2022 conference click here.

ACCHO CEO awarded honorary doctorate

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) has issued a media release saying it is proud to acknowledge the awarding of an Honorary Doctor of Arts to its Chair and Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Congress (CAAC) CEO, Donna Ah Chee, by Charles Darwin University yesterday. The award took place at a ceremony in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) where she has lived and worked for the past 30 years.

AMSANT CEO, Dr John Paterson congratulated Ms Ah Chee on her well-deserved honour in recognition of her significant contribution to the health of First Nations peoples. “Donna has distinguished herself through the outstanding leadership she has provided to the Aboriginal community-controlled health services (ACCHS) sector, including many years as CEO of CAAC and as Chair and Director of AMSANT”, Dr Paterson said.

“Her leadership has also been recognised through many high-level appointments to boards and advisory bodies in Aboriginal health and related areas, including the NACCHO, the NT Aboriginal Health Forum and the NT Children and Families Tripartite Forum. “Donna has been a driving force in the development and expansion of the model of Aboriginal comprehensive primary health care delivered by our ACCHSs and broader reforms of the health system that together are required to achieve better health outcomes for our people. Her passion and significant contribution in the areas of early childhood development, education, health research and reducing alcohol harm have been widely recognised.”

To view AMSANT’s media release AMSANT Chair, Donna Ah Chee, awarded Honorary Doctorate in full click here.

Donna Ah Chee. Image source: Health Voices Journal of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia.

Remote houses are dangerous hot boxes

In remote Indigenous communities that are already very hot and socioeconomically disadvantaged, climate change is driving inequities even further. New research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia shows how higher temperatures in remote Indigenous communities in the NT will drive inequities in housing, energy and health.

Existing housing in remote areas is old and poorly constructed. In many remote Indigenous communities in the NT, you don’t need a building permit or even a qualified builder to build a house. Houses have missing doors, boarded-up windows, no air conditioners, are often un-insulated, have failed plumbing and have been poorly maintained over decades. These houses become dangerously hot as climate change bears down.

The researchers conclude the solution is Indigenous communities need a say; buildings need to be climate resilient; energy needs to be safeguarded and houses need to be maintained.

To view The Conversation article How climate change is turning remote Indigenous houses into dangerous hot boxes in full click here.

Shoddy NT remote homes lethal

Indigenous Australians living in remote, shabby housing with unstable electricity connections in the NT’s extreme heat are enduring life-threatening conditions. A research paper published this month in the Medical Journal of Australia found that Indigenous Australians with chronic diseases who depend on cool storage and electrical equipment are vulnerable to dying earlier.

The study was conducted by the ANU in partnership with the Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation in the NT, where extreme heat stress has become a reality in the past few years. ANU researcher Simon Quilty says excessive heat, poor housing, energy insecurity and chronic disease have reached critical levels and a multi-sector response is needed to avert catastrophe. He says a constant electricity supply is often a luxury, rather than a right.

“Most houses in remote communities are old, poorly constructed and poorly maintained,” Dr Quilty said. He said tenants pay rent for houses with no doors, no windows and no insulation in the ceiling, falling well below national building codes. “All of the houses in these communities rely on pre-paid power cards and as a result there are extreme rates of electricity disconnection, making those with chronic disease particularly vulnerable,” Dr Quilty said.

To view the Kyabram Free Press article Shoddy homes lethal to Indigenous patients in full click here.

Unserviced shacks in Tennant Creek shelter some people on the public housing waiting list. Photo: Samantha Jonscher. ABC News.

Diabetes epidemic hits Central Australia

The latest health research has shown type two diabetes in remote Aboriginal communities has reached epidemic proportions, with children as young as four diagnosed. The rates of type 2 diabetes in remote communities are some of the highest in the world and getting worse, according to new research released by the Menzies School of Health Research.

Menzies researchers examined seven years of health data from 21,000 Aboriginal people across 51 remote communities in the NT. It found a staggering 40% of adults in Central Australia now have the condition, which can cause kidney disease, heart disease, strokes, impaired vision and amputations due to infections. 29% of the Aboriginal adult population in the rest of the Territory are also living with the condition. In 2020 it became the leading cause of death in communities, and those diagnosed with it are getting younger.

Shiree Mack and her family have lived with type two diabetes for years and many of her extended family are also battling the condition. With younger generations increasingly affected, she says the time for change is now. “The effects are huge and our little people are getting diagnosed at five and six,” she said. Ms Mack said any proposed solutions need to come from the community. “Let’s listen to the community let them tell us what will work. They know.”

To view the SBS NITV article Diabetes epidemic hits Central Australia in full click here.

The Mack and Ross families from Alice Springs are all living with type two diabetes as the number of cases in the Centre skyrocket. Image source: NITV.

Integrating kidney health into patient care

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects one in 10 Australian adults. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the prevalence is even higher, affecting nearly one in five adults. CKD contributes to 11% of all deaths and is associated with 37% of all cardiovascular deaths in Australia. However, the asymptomatic nature of CKD means it can be difficult to diagnose unless there is targeted screening for it. Timely management can slow or even prevent the deterioration in kidney function, and improve cardiovascular outcomes. GPs are in a prime position to detect and diagnose CKD early. This involves targeted screening and performing investigations that are mostly already part of regular clinical practice.

Dr Tim Senior, GP at Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, clinical senior lecturer at the University of Western Sydney Medical School and CKD expert in general practice says that “Rather than seeing the kidneys as a single, separate, complex and difficult organ, it is straightforward to integrate them into the overall care of your patients along with other organ systems. You’ll find, for instance, that what’s needed to diagnose CKD is largely already what you’re doing for other conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. So when you assess your patients for risk factors and test for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, you should also think of their kidneys.”

To view the NPS MedicineWise article CKD – Integrating kidney health into patient care in full click here.

Dr TIm Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Indigenous assistant minister sworn in

Indigenous Australians assistant minister Malarndirri McCarthy has vowed health outcomes for First Nations people will be placed at the forefront of the Albanese government’s bid to close the gap. The NT senator was sworn into the ministry by Governor-General David Hurley at Government House on yesterday.

Senator McCarthy said commitments taken to the election campaign focused on health policies, but also included improving access to education and job opportunities for people in regional and remote communities. A key focus would be closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, with better health outcomes being essential to improving the lives of First Nations people.

Senator McCarthy said she will be working closely with Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney – who was appointed to cabinet – on progressing a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament in the government’s first term.

To read Yass Tribune article Indigenous assistant minister sworn in in full click here.

Malarndirri McCarthy with her partner Richard and their children following her swearing-in at Parliament House. Photo: AAP, Image source: SBS News.

Indigenous Eye Health Conference

Health leaders from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who recently attended a national eye health conference, called on non-Indigenous Australians to support efforts to establish an Indigenous led approach to closing the gap in eye health. The 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference (NATSIEHC22), co-hosted by Indigenous Eye Health (IEH) at the University of Melbourne and Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), took place on Larrakia country in Darwin from 24–26 May 2022.

The conference theme, Our Vision in Our Hands, was reflected in a consistent call for “greater leadership and ownership of eye health by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, along with the shift in power that is necessary to produce the outcomes that we are all working towards”.

One of the conference co-chairs, Anne-Marie Banfield, who is the National Manager of Engagement and Awareness at Hearing Australia said that while First Nations peoples must play a key role in leading eye health initiatives that improve outcomes in their communities they cannot do this on their own – non-Indigenous people are needed as allies to “amplify the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

To view the mivision The Ophthalmic Journal article Making Change: Indigenous Eye Health Conference in full click here.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: racism in perinatal health services

Image in feature tile is of Stacey Foster-Rampant with her baby boy, Tyler, at a Malabar Community Midwifery Link Service clinic. Photo: Louise Kennerley. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Racism in perinatal health services

After nine months, imagine giving birth to a beautiful, healthy baby. As tired as you are, you adapt to your new sleep-deprived routine, feeding your newborn at any time of the day and night as needed. But then child protection services arrive with the police, and a court order, to take your baby from your arms and place them in the care of a stranger. Sadly, this is the case for too many First Nations women in Australia.

Issues relating to the removal of First Nations infants from their families by contemporary child protection systems can be traced to perinatal health services. Tracey Stephens, a Kurnai woman and registered midwife, sees racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women across mainstream healthcare settings on a regular basis. “Stereotypically in mainstream midwifery there’s this strong sense that all Aboriginal women are going to smoke cannabis and drink alcohol and are drug addicts. However, this isn’t the case.” she says. “Far too much of my time is spent trying to educate others and address unconscious bias and racism amongst the healthcare workforce.

To read the article Separated at birth: Racism and unconscious bias in perinatal health services by Research Fellow, Health and Social Care Unit, Monash University in full click here.

Image source: Monash University Lens webpage.

SA to start Voice to Parliament journey

South Australian Attorney-General Kyam Maher wants to begin talks on a state version of the First Nations Voice to Parliament ahead of a launch of the body next year. It would provide advice to Parliament about decisions affecting the lives of First Nations people. Mr Maher — SA’s first Aboriginal Attorney General and Aboriginal Affairs Minister — said South Australian Labor made a commitment to adopt the Statement from Uluru after the 2019 federal election.

He said he believed the state should not have to wait for the federal government to act. “At its core, it’s about Aboriginal people having more a say in decisions that affect their own lives,” Mr Maher said. “I find that pretty hard to argue against.”

To view the ABC News story Consultation to start on SA Indigenous Voice to Parliament ahead of 2023 launch in full click here.

Kyam Maher is the only Indigenous person elected to parliament in South Australia at a state or federal level. Photo: Ethan Rix, ABC News.

First Nations more likely to die in childbirth

While Australia is one of the safest places in the world to give birth, First Nations women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than other Australian women and First Nations infants are almost twice as likely to die in the first month of life with preterm birth the biggest cause of mortality.

The causes of these gaps in life expectancy are complex and stem from colonisation, including:

  • racism and lack of cultural safety in hospitals and from healthcare providers
  • pregnant First Nations women avoiding antenatal care for fear of child protection services taking their children. This is a legacy of the “stolen generations” with continuing high rates of child removals
  • closures of regional and remote birthing services requiring more First Nations women to leave home and travel long distances to give birth, often alone. Some women opt to give birth without a midwife, which can have significant issues for mother and baby.

Ensuring First Nations children are born healthy and strong is the second Closing the Gap target – a critical foundation for “everyone enjoying long and healthy lives”. A much needed step to guarantee this is to increase First Nations health workers, particularly midwives and nurses.

To view The Conversation article First Nations mothers are more likely to die during childbirth. More First Nations midwives could close this gap in full click here.

Geraldine at the Gudang Dalba Hostel, Darwin NT. Image source: ABC News.

Mental health restraint concerns

Patients in Victoria’s mental health hospitals are being restrained at higher rates and for longer than the national average, a new report has found. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being secluded and restrained at higher rates, which the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) said is concerning.

“Many Aboriginal people have complex trauma,” a spokesman for VACCHO said. “We are concerned with this data and would like to know more on the reasons that drive this over-representation. A model of care that is focused on healing, social and emotional wellbeing and cultural safety is what works for Aboriginal people.”

To view the 7 News article Restraint concerns in Vic Mental health in full click here.

Image source: The University of Melbourne Pursuit webpage.

Approaches for non-Aboriginal health professionals

SA’s outstanding young leaders were recently celebrated through the 40 Under 40 Awards. Annabelle Wilson, Associate Professor of Implementation Science at Flinders University, SA was included in the list. 38-year-old Professor Wilson is a dietician and PhD with a clear focus on Indigenous health. “Through my research and leadership, I have disrupted and challenged current thinking about how non-Aboriginal health professionals work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, specifically in nutrition and dietetics,” Annabelle says.

“My research has impacted health professional practice by identifying and translating approaches that non-Aboriginal health professionals can use when working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including reflexivity and awareness of one’s own attitudes and biases.” Annabelle’s work led her to develop models of practice, which were adopted in mentoring and training courses for health professionals. “In the next few years I plan to continue and extend the work I have been doing. In particular, I have applied for funding to lead transformation in nutrition and dietetics related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.”

To view the InDaily and CityMag article SA’s top young business leaders click here.

Associate Professor Annabelle Wilson. Image source: citymag.indaily.com.au.

Indigenous Health Division is recruiting

Do you want to make a real contribution to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes? Do you have a unique set of skills and experiences to contribute to this challenging undertaking? The Indigenous Health Division of the Department of Health has multiple roles for you across both the APS5 and APS6 levels.

The Department of Health is seeking experienced and committed people to develop relationships, policies and programs that improve the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You will help to shape the development and implementation of the Australian Government’s healthcare commitments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Applications close on Monday 27 June 2022. Further detail on the roles is available on the APSJobs and the Department of Health’s website or by using this link.

Remote PHC Manuals project June update

The Remote Primary Health Care Manuals (RPHCM) are currently being reviewed and updated. Monthly updates are being provided to keep health services and other organisations up-to-date as RPHCM moves through the review process. It is now almost two years into the manuals updating project and activities are continuing to meet planned timelines (despite some COVID impacts that have tightened deadlines for reviews).

All protocols will be finalised for publication on Thursday 20 June 2022. After this date, there will be no further changes to the manuals as they move into the final editing and publication stage. The new editions are planned for release (online and hardcopy) in November 2022. The project team will meet with key stakeholders shortly to discuss major changes and prepare health services to use the new editions.

You can view the RPHCM Project Update June 2022 flyer here.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

Take Heart: Deadly Heart screening

A virtual screening of the Take Heart: Deadly Heart – A Journey to an RHD Free Future followed by a Q&A panel session will take place from 11:00 AM–12:00 PM AEST on Wednesday 29 June 2022.

A guest speaker for the Q&A panel session is a senior Noongar woman, Vicki Wade, who has over 40 years of experience in healthcare. Vicki is a co-producer of Take Heart: Deadly Heart. She has guided the production process in a culturally appropriate way and employed a series of yarning circles throughout the pre-production phase. Vicki is well respected for the work she has done to close the gap. She sits on the National Close the Gap steering committee and is a previous board member of the Congress of Aboriginal Nurses and Midwives.

The screening is an opportunity to see the work that is being done across Australia, in regional and remote communities, to eliminate Rheumatic Heart Disease. Attendance is free but registration is essential. To register click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Health Minister’s to-do list is packed

Note: the mage in the feature tile is of Winston, a traditional owner, land manager, artist and Aboriginal Health Worker from Blackstone (Papulankutja) community in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands of WA, who was first diagnosed at Kings Canyon during an outreach screening service for Aboriginal rangers. His dense cataract caused him to go blind in his left eye, which he kept shut to keep out the painful glare. Image source: The Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Health Minister’s to-do list is packed

Dr Tim Woodruff, a specialist working in private practice, has written an article for Croakey Health Media arguing that when it comes to delivering better healthcare and better health for Australians, the new Federal Government has a lot of work to do. Dr Woodruff  says the government’s intention to review the NDIS is desperately needed, and if improvements introduced are the right ones, this will also help public hospitals by limiting unnecessary admissions and time in hospitals. It will also make primary healthcare for those with disability much easier to access and co-ordinate.”

Dr Woodruff goes on to note that “Primary healthcare is in increasing disarray. The GP workforce is aging and unable to provide adequate timely access. Co-ordination of care is chaotic even when access to the spectrum of care is available. Primary Health Networks are improving but have quite limited capacity, and fee for service funding is inappropriate for chronic disease.”

Dr Woodruff points out that ACCHOs and 80 Community Health Centres in Victoria who have demonstrated the success of different models of primary healthcare provision need to be supported and expanded. Co-ordination and integration are key elements for these services, rather than optional add-ons as they often are in standard GP-led practices, and primary prevention is an integral part of such practices.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Memo to Minister Mark Butler and colleagues: your to-do list is packed in full click here.

Image source: Croaky Health Media.

Labor’s Indigenous affairs agenda

Alongside reforms in Indigenous health, housing, welfare and the justice system, Labor is committing to a referendum on the voice to parliament in their first term of government, all spearheaded by the first Aboriginal woman in cabinet – the new Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney.

Guardian Australia’s Indigenous affairs editor, Lorena Allam, spoke to Linda Burney about how Labor intends to keep these promises in a podcast available here.

Linda Burney. Phto: Blake Sharp-Wiggins, The Guardian.

Pat Dodson on the Uluru Statement

Yawuru man Patrick Dodson has been at the forefront of change for much of his life. Well-known for his role at the helm of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation in the 1990s, the Broome-based Labor Senator has also played significant roles in the fields of Aboriginal deaths in custody, native title and research. In 2019 he was widely tipped to become Australia’s first Aboriginal Federal Indigenous affairs minister before a shock result delivered the election to the Liberals and Ken Wyatt was elevated to the job.

Now, finally part of a government in office, Mr Dodson has been appointed a new role as Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement. From the Heart campaign director Dean Parkin said Mr Dodson’s appointment was well-deserved, “having his wisdom, experience and expertise involved in this in a very direct way is a great development and hugely encouraging for our prospects of success.” Mr Parkin, who is of the Quandamooka peoples of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in Queensland, said Indigenous-led decision making was vital to making progress. “A voice to parliament making sure people from those communities are sitting at the table advising the politics and the bureaucrats is the best way to make progress in Closing The Gap,” he said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Father of reconciliation Pat Dodson turns eye to Uluru Statement in new role in full click here.

Senator Pat Dodson. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Mob in city for medical care risk homelessness

Aboriginal people from regional WA visiting Perth for medical care are at risk of homelessness and relying on aged care facilities for accommodation in the city, a parliamentary inquiry has heard. During a recent inquiry into the financial administration of homelessness services in WA, Moorditj Koort Aboriginal Corporation told the panel chaired by Liberal MLC Peter Collier there was a “terrible increase” in individuals and families facing homelessness.

Moorditj Koort deputy chief executive Annie Young said at least one in every 10 clients was at risk of or already of homeless. “We have people with other issues including justice issues, they are involved with the Department of Child Protection, there are compounding issues as well,” she said. Ms Young said rental stress was acute for those accessing Centrelink and on low incomes. She encouraged the inquiry to also examine overcrowding and its impact on health of residents.

To read the National Indigenous Times article Aboriginal people visiting Perth for healthcare forced to rely on aged care system, inquiry told in full click here.

Raymond Ward (right) talks with Freddie in his shelter which he shares with up to six other people at the Tent City homeless camp in Perth. Image source: Daily Mail Australia.

Top 3 questions – flu vax and pregnancy

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMillan has given a presentation on why it’s important for women to get the flu vaccine when they are pregnant. In the presentation Professor McMillan answers the following questions:

  • Is it safe for women to receive a flu vaccination at any stage of their pregnancy?
  • What potential adverse reactions should pregnant women be aware of following the flu vaccination?
  • Does getting the flu vaccination while pregnant protect unborn babies from flu?

For further information you can access the Australian Government Department of Health’s webpage Top 3 questions – Flu vaccination & pregnancy with Professor Alison McMillan here.

Clinical Yarning program about trust

Clinical Yarning — a Mid West-led approach to build more trusting relationships between patients and clinicians — is set to keep spreading the word after receiving a funding injection. The research program, a patient-centred healthcare framework that marries Aboriginal cultural communication preferences with biomedical understandings of health and disease, will receive a share of $2.3 million in funding after being awarded an Implementation Science Fellowship.

Dr Ivan Lin, senior lecturer at the Geraldton-based WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH), which is part of the University of WA, was one of four recipients of the fellowship, which are conducted in partnership with the WA Country Health Service (WACHS). “(Clinical Yarning is) designed to address long identified issues reported by Aboriginal people when accessing health services, by improving health providers communication with these communities,” Dr Lin said.

To view the Sound Telegraph article Mid West-led Clinical Yarning program receives State Government funding boost thanks to fellowship in full click here. You can also view Professor Dawn Bessarab in the video below introducing the Clinical Yarning eLearning Program.

Jimmy Little’s early death to kidney disease

Dr James “Jimmy” Oswald Little AO was born on 1 March 1937. The eldest of seven children, he was raised on Cummeragunja Mission Station on the Murray River. The Yorta Yorta/Yuin man first picked up a guitar at 13, taking to it quickly he was playing local concerts in just a year. In 1955 he took the leap and moved to Sydney, pursuing a country music career. By 1956, he had signed to Regal Zonophone Records and recorded his first single Mysteries of Life/Hearbreak Waltz.

In 1963, Little hit the big time with his cover of gospel song Royal Telephone which hit #1 Sydney and #3 in Melbourne. Its success made history, being the first song by an Indigenous artist to hit the mainstream. Little was hitting his stride at a time when his people weren’t counted as citizens. In 1989, Little received the National Aboriginal Day of Observance Committee’s Aboriginal of the Year award, in 2002 he was named NSW Senior Australian of the Year, and in 2004 he was the recipient of the Australia Council Red Ochre Award. The same year he received an Order of Australia for his health and education advocacy and was recognised as a “living Australian treasure” via public vote.

In 1990, Little was diagnosed with kidney disease which led to kidney failure and Type II diabetes. In 2006 he established The Jimmy Little Foundation. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get check-ups often enough or soon enough to realise the possibility that my kidneys could fail,” he said. “I have seen too much fear and sadness caused by the early death and suffering from potentially preventable chronic illnesses by my Indigenous brothers and sisters. “I started The Jimmy Little Foundation to do something positive to curb the rate of chronic disease.” On April 2, 2012 Little died at Dubbo home, aged 75.

To view the NITV article Google pays homage to Indigenous music icon, Jimmy Little in full click here.

Dixon Patten’s Jimmy Little dedicated graphic for Google. Image source: SBS NITV website.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Stan Grant on knowing how to live well

Image in feature tile is of Stan Grant. Image source: The Monthly.

Stan Grant on knowing how to live well

Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi journalist Stan Grant delivered an impassioned and eloquent keynote address reflecting on the scars of colonisatio at the recent Royal Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists Congress in Sydney. Grant said that after years of “dragging my history around with me”, which took “an enormous toll”, he decided to leave Australia – a “foreign country, for other people” where he never felt he belonged. “I felt a great sense of liberation, freed from the history of this country and what it does to us, written on our bodies,” he said.

Overseas, reporting on the legacies of “colonisation, empire, dictators and despots, kings appointed by foreign powers”, he recognised in oppressed people, “positioned on the other side of history”, a familiar grief where “only the afflicted know the truth. I saw the eyes of my own family, people for whom all certainty had been removed, who cou;ldn’t believe in the promise of Western liberalism and all it purported to deliver,” he said. Grant reflected on the cumulative trauma of growing up Aboriginal in Australia, culminating for him in a breakdown whilst posted overseas with an “irrepressible surging wave” to end his life. Grant seeing a psychiatrist was very important in his recovery, but absolutely nothing was as important as “standing on my land.”

To view Croakey Health Media article Yindyamarra winhanganha – the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in click here.

You can also watch a video below of Stan Grant delivering a National Reconciliation Week 2022 Keynote Address.

NACCHO CEO welcomes end of cashless debit card

Labor will push ahead with plans to abolish the cashless debit card scheme with Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth saying last week that she was in discussions to terminate the program, which was a Labor election commitment. She pledged to work with communities to find “better local solutions”. The decision followed an Australian National Audit Office ­report released on Thursday last week which highlighted a lack of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of the scheme. “The former Coalition government spent more than $170m on the privatised cashless debit card – money that could have been spent on services locals need,” Ms Rishworth said.

Implemented under the ­Abbott government in 2016, the scheme was designed to encourage socially responsible behaviour by quarantining 80% of a person’s welfare payments on a debit card to prevent it being spent on alcohol and gambling. It was initially introduced in Ceduna, SA, East Kimberley and the Goldfields in WA, and then ­expanded to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland. The cost of the program reached $36m in 2020–21, with nearly 17,000 people participating as of February this year.

Pat Turner AM, NACCHO CEO, said the scheme had caused “unnecessary embarrassment” for Indigenous Australians. “I certainly welcome the scrapping of the cashless debit card,” she said. “The Auditor-General’s report confirms what we already knew and why we were so opposed to the scheme. It’s simply poor public policy to run trials as the former government did for five years.”

The above has been extracted from an article by Jess Malcolm’s Cashless welfare card to be folded article published in The Australian on Friday 3 June 2022.

Image source: Crikey, 3 June 2022.

Using culture to turn suicide tide

Rocked by a spate of suicides, Shepparton’s Aboriginal community is using culture to turn the tide It began in October 2021 when a group of Shepparton’s First Nations community members came together in a backyard to figure out how to change the situation on youth suicide rates in town. “We had a cuppa and said, ‘what are we going to do about this?’,” Yorta Yorta woman and founding member of Dunguludja Dana Jean Miller said. “Our kids have been exposed to way too much trauma here, and something needs to be done.” Shepparton is home to the largest Aboriginal community and one of the highest rates of suicide in regional Victoria. Jean Miller said last year the community experienced about seven suicides by youth in just two months. This is when Dunguludja Dana was formed with a purpose to change the numbers. “It’s a Yorta Yorta word for strong pathways or strengthening journeys, and that’s what we want to do, that’s our vision,” Jean Miller said. “It was just about trying to engage our youth and let them know that no matter what life path they’re currently on, there’s always someone that loves them and cares and wants to support them.“ It could be a friend, it could be a cousin, it could be someone they knew in their school, but the impact is a ripple effect.”

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

Each Wednesday, the group run three sessions where First Nations students partake in painting, drawing, charcoal, and burning art – as well as creating possum skin cloaks. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Undrinkable water, casual racism the reality

Rebecca Davis, a Senior News & Features Writer for MamaMia, has written a lengthy article Undrinkable water and casual racism: The reality of Indigenous health in Australia. In the article Ms Davis includes several accounts from Indigenous women about:

  • undrinkable water contaminated with uranium in Laramba, NT
  • Betty Booth from Doomadgee who died after being given Panadol by the local hospital and told to go home
  • a Melbourne woman routinely soiling herself as her bathroom door is not wide enough for her walker

For her article Ms Davis spoke to Pat Turner, a revered figure; a Gudanji-Arrernte woman with a long history as an Indigenous and women’s rights activist. Aside from being CEO of NACCHO, she was the founding CEO of NITV, and is an advisor to the establishment of an Indigenous voice to government. NACCHO facilitates 144 ACCHOs across the country, bringing comprehensive primary health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It’s not just for Indigenous people – it’s largely run by them too, with more than half of their 6,000-strong staff of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.

Speaking with Mamamia from Darwin, Pat reflected on the impact of institutionalised racism that still plagues many state-run hospitals. “Many Indigenous people also discharge themselves against medical advice, which I think is a sign of being unhappy with how they are treated, and not having access to their families,” she says. “There is still a lot of unconscious bias and racism across the board, particularly where you have large numbers of Aboriginal clients, so it’s about getting staff that are more culturally competent. Some of the worst offenders are the nurses. They really have to smarten up their attitudes. They think they know everything, and they can be very direct and rude. A lot of Aboriginal people feel very confronted by that.”

To read the article in full click here.

Feature Image: Children from the remote Indigenous community of Laramba in the Northern Territory, a region affected by undrinkable tap water. Credit: Marianna Massey, Corbis via Getty Images, Mamamia.

Moves to save Coonamble’s Marrabinya program

Petitions are circulating in each of the western NSW communities served by the Marrabinya program as Aboriginal people react to a decision by the Western NSW Primary Health Network (Western PHN) to cease funding the service from the end of 2022. Marrabinya is a Wiradjuri word meaning “hand outstretched” and since 2016, the Aboriginal-run program has acted as brokerage service to assist Aboriginal people with a diagnosed chronic illness to access medical support services, even in the most isolated communities. The priority chronic diseases are heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney and liver disease and cancer.

The Western NSW PHN are yet to issue a statement regarding the end of funding for Marrabinya’s program however, Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service CEO Phil Naden told the Coonamble Times that the situation was not all doom and gloom. “A major review was conducted and feedback provided from right around the region,” he said. “Whilst Marrabinya might not continue in its current form the service will not be lost.”

To learn more about the Marrabinya program you can listen to a podcast “Marrabinya – Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands” here. You can also read the May 2022 Marrabinya News, including details of the Save Marrabinya Campaign 2022 here.

To view the Coonamble Times article Moves afoot to save Marrabinya in full click here.

Alarming STD-caused throat cancer

The prevalence of throat cancer caused by a prominent sexually transmitted disease among Indigenous Australians has been laid bare by new global research. University of Adelaide (UOA) researchers human papilloma virus-led throat cancer was 15 times more prevalent in Indigenous Australians than young non-Indigenous Australians, and five times higher than rates found in the US, Brazil, Mexico and Finland.

UOA Indigenous oral health unit director and Yamatji woman Joanne Hedges said Indigenous communities had worked closely with the researchers on the project. “Participants wanted to be part of this HPV project because they wanted to be part of change,” she said. “The theme coming out was, ‘I had a family member pass away with this throat sickness, and I don’t want to happen to any other Nunga in my community or my family’. There was a real strength of participation.”

HPV is normally associated with cervical cancer, but can spread to the throat, head and neck via oral sexual activities, and is increasing at a rapid rate globally. UOA Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health director Lisa Jamieson said extending the study would allow a deep dive of the knowledge they had already learnt.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Alarming STD-caused Indigenous throat cancer statistic laid bare in new report in full click here.

Lisa Jamieson and Joanne Hedges (inset). Photo: University of Adelaide. Image source: University of Adelaide.

Home Stretch WA supports kids leaving OOHC

The WA State Government has committed $37.2 million to support the Department of Communities state-wide roll out of its Home Stretch WA program over the next three years. Home Stretch WA will support young people who exit the State’s child protection system at 18 years of age, until they turn 21, helping them successfully transition to independence. Research shows young people leaving care are at greater risk of unemployment, homelessness, mental health issues and interacting with criminal justice systems.

The Home Stretch WA program will provide flexible one-to-one individualised support focused on coaching young people towards independence. This support can include to obtain stable accommodation, enrol in further education, progress to work opportunities, identify where to access assistance in the local community, access health services, build support networks and improve financial skills.

The WA Department of Communities is looking forward to working in partnership with Yorganop Association Incorporated (Yorganop) to deliver Home Stretch WA to young Aboriginal people preparing to leave the child protection system  in the metropolitan area. Yorganop’s readiness to deliver Home Stretch WA is built from direct involvement in development of the ‘Nitja Nop Yorga Ngulla Mia’ (our boys and girls are staying home) model that formed part of the Home Stretch WA Trial.

You can view the WA Government Department of Communities article Young people to benefit from the state-wide roll out of Home Stretch WA click here.

Image source: WA.gov.au.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.