NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Eye health sector missing First Nations voice

feature tile text ' Australia's world class eye health sector is missing the voice of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples' image side view of Aboriginal youth's face looking through eye testing equipment

Eye health missing First Nations voice

The recent National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference (NATSIEHC) 2021 — The Gap and Beyond, had a welcome and critical focus on community-led eye care, according to Simone Kenmore, the newly appointed Country Manager of the Indigenous Australia Program at The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Kenmore emphasised the importance of listening to family and community leaders to drive two-way learning approaches in eye care and the urgent need to grow an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health workforce, as well as to invest in Aboriginal community controlled health services, saying “the eye health sector in Australia has a role and responsibility to strengthen the eye health knowledge of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The clinical expertise in the eye health sector in Australia is world class, but critically we are missing the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.”

To view the article in full click here.

Simone Kenmore & 3 of her Aunties in Alice Springs standing together against rendered wall

Simone Kenmore with her Aunties in Alice Springs. Image source: Croakey. Image in feature tile from ANZSOG.

Community control success at WAMS

Reducing the COVID-19 risk to community members was a big focus through the pandemic for the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service (WAMS), which also stepped up to address a range of related challenges, including big concerns about food security for the NSW community.

WAMS CEO Christine Corby OAM said her service took many approaches to reduce the risk of local people getting COVID-19, especially vulnerable Elders and people with multiple health issues. Initiatives included a hand washing song which was taught in schools and used in the mobile children’s service; addressing complicated food supply issues; accessing personal protective equipment, developing and distributing care packs; and delivering scripts.

To view the Croakey article in full click here.

desk with contents of a WAMS cCOVID-19 are package, information brochures, hat, shampoo, colouring books, stress balls, water bottle, rope

Items from the WAMS care package distributed to community members during the pandemic. Image source: Croakey.

Eating disorder stereotypes plague treatment

Indigenous Australians are just as likely to experience eating disorders as others within the wider community but a perception the illness is only prevalent among white girls is hampering diagnosis and treatment. The Butterfly Foundation, the national charity for eating disorders, has found one in 10 Indigenous Australians will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime and 30% of Indigenous young people are concerned about body image. These figures mirror the trends of non-Indigenous Australians.

Butterfly Foundation marketing coordinator Camilla Becket said its EveryBODY is Deadly campaign was trying to raise awareness about eating disorders among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. “We wanted to address this pervasive stigma that eating disorders only affect privileged young white women,” Ms Becket said. To view the article in full click here.

Garra Mundine with black boots, white dress & 3/4 length light brown coat leaning against a tree trunk in native woodland

Garra Mundine said no one recognised that she had an eating disorder because of the perception it was for “privileged white girls”. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Budget opportunity to create a fairer future

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today called on the Morrison Government to use tomorrow’s Budget as an opportunity to create a fairer future by supporting priorities outlined by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS). Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO, said: “This Federal Budget provides an opportunity for investment that not only drives economic recovery but also reduces disadvantage and inequality. ACTCOSS calls on the Australian Government to prioritise investment that will create a fairer future for all Australians.”

ACTCOSS’s top three priorities for the ACT in the Federal Budget are: investment in the community service sector to generate jobs while supporting those facing disadvantage; significantly increased investment in social housing; and better support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to achieve self-determination.

To view the media release click here.

Aboriginal man sitting inside corrugated iron humpy in Utopia, no facial features visible as face is in shade

Scene from John Pilger documentary, Utopia. Image source: newmatilda.com.

RHD the silent killer

Katherine’s Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation Chair Anne Marie Less claims the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health will never be closed until the deadliest of diseases is approached differently. “I have been a Senior Aboriginal Health Practitioner for over 14 years and I am acutely aware of the impact of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) on our communities in the NT. Under the guidance of NT Cardiac, Menzies School of Health and Top End Health Service I have been learning to perform echocardiograms on young people in remote communities across the Top End and sadly in every community we detect 5-10% of the young population with previously undiagnosed RHD – some with the damage to their heart valves so advanced that it requires immediate surgery.

“Mostly it goes undetected and the only way we find out that someone has had rheumatic heart disease is when they drop dead on the playing field from a heart attack or die when they are pregnant. For most, they and their families never knew they had RHD. “Sadly, the only way to detect the presence of RHD is to listen for a heart murmur caused by leaking heart valves. The common practice is to listen for this using a stethoscope which unfortunately misses 40% or more of cases. The only true way to detect RHD is through an echocardiogram which uses a device no larger than a shaver to perform an ultrasound on the heart and clearly shows whether a heart valve is leaking or not.”

To view Sunrise Health Service’s media release in full click here.

RHD patient, Trey (young Aboriginal boy) lying on examination bed receives a handheld echo scan

Rheumatic Heart Disease patient, Trey, receives a handheld echo scan in Manigrida. Image source: Katherine Times.

United opposition to NT legislation

All 14 Australian and NZ Children’s Commissioners and Guardians (ANZCCG) have united in opposing new legislation introduced by the NT Government, which proposes to alter the NT’s Youth Justice Act and Bail Act. The commissioners and guardians wrote to NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner in March expressing their concerns about the legislation and asking him to reconsider his approach. Their letter said the proposed changes are “regressive” and “signal a shift away from evidence-based policy approaches and directly unwind the implementation of key recommendations from the 2017 Royal Commission”. National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds said, “All the evidence tells us the best way to prevent youth offending is to divert young people away from the justice system and into alternative programs that offer the support they need.

To view the ANZCCG and Australian Human Rights Commission media release in full click here.

view of tower of Don Dale youth detention centre

Don Dale youth detention centre. Photo: Jane Bardon. Image source: ABC News website.

Federal Senator Malarndirri McCarthy has also voiced concern about controversial changes to the NT’s youth bail laws, calling on her local Labor colleagues to rethink the plan to fast-track the reforms. The government wants its changes passed through NT Parliament less than a week after the bill was made public and despite questions from legal groups about apparent problems with the draft legislation.

Labor has the backing of NT Police and the police union for measures it says will cut youth crime, but has faced widespread criticism for reversing changes made after the youth detention royal commission. On Monday, Ms McCarthy told ABC Alice Springs she had requested a briefing and raised concerns with the NT government. “I do think the issues being raised by stakeholders in the Northern Territory and indeed nationally about being careful about the incarceration of children and in particular First Nations children is something that the government needs to look closely at,” she said.

To view the article click here.

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy torso in red dress standing against moreton bay fig

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy says she has raised her concerns with the NT government.
Photo: Mitch Woolnough. Image source: ABC News website.

Impact of racism on oral health

Interpersonal racism has had a profound impact on Indigenous populations globally, manifesting as negative experiences and discrimination at an individual, institutional and systemic level. Interpersonal racism has been shown to negatively influence a range of health outcomes but has received limited attention in the context of oral health.

A recent study has examined the effects of experiences of interpersonal racism on oral health-related quality of life (OHRQoL) among Indigenous South Australians. Identifying this link adds weight to the importance of addressing OHRQoL among South Australian’s Indigenous population by implementing culturally-sensitive strategies to address interpersonal racism.

For further details about the study click here.

teenage Aboriginal girl in dental chair with mouth open smiling, gloves hands with instruments, masked dental professional, yellow tones

Image source: Remote Area Health Corps.

Smoking cessation during pregnancy study

Strong and healthy futures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people requires engagement in meaningful decision making which is supported by evidence-based approaches. While a significant number of research publications state the research is co-designed, few describe the research process in relation to Indigenous ethical values. Improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies is crucial to the continuation of the oldest living culture in the world.

Developing meaningful supports to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers to quit smoking during pregnancy is paramount to addressing a range of health and wellbeing outcomes. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have called for non-pharmacological approaches to smoking cessation during pregnancy. A recent project Building an Indigenous-Led Evidence Base for Smoking Cessation Care among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women during Pregnancy and Beyond: Research Protocol for the Which Way? has used a culturally responsive research protocol, co-designed by and co-owned with urban and regional Aboriginal communities in NSW.

For further details about the study click here.

Aboriginal painting of silhouette of pregnant Aboriginal woman throwing away cigarettes, baby visible in womb, & sign Quit for New Life

Image source: South Western Sydney Local Health District webpage.

ACT – Canberra – Australian Medical Association

Policy Advisor (Indigenous Health) x 1 FT – Canberra

Advance your career with the AMA and be part of the team advocating improvements to Australia’s health system and achieving positive change on behalf of its member doctors and the wider community.

Based in Canberra, the Policy Adviser will be a member of the Public Health team and:

  • manage the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health portfolio and support AMA’s ongoing advocacy towards Closing the Gap and ensuring better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • provide Secretariat leadership to the AMA Taskforce on Indigenous Health, as well as in campaigns advocating related improvements to the health care system
  • provide support in AMA’s policy and advocacy work to improve Australia’s mental health system, including reviewing reports, government engagement, and providing support to the AMA Mental Health Committee
  • draft accurate and well-written policy positions, statements, submissions media responses and campaign material
  • oversee the management of the AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship and coordination of support for scholarship recipients

To view the position description and to apply click here. You should submit your application within the next couple of weeks.

AMA logo, Aboriginal hands holding torso of Aboriginal baby no clothes

Image source: NITV website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: ACCHOs can reduce health disparity

feature tile text 'health disparity can be reduced if ACCHOs are appropriately resources & trusted to deliver services' & image of Danila Dilba health professional examining ear of young smiling Aboriginal child

ACCHOs can reduce health disparity

Yesterday proud Yorta Yorta woman Dr Summer May Finlay, Public Health Association of Australia Vice President for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Health Lecturer at the University of Wollongong spoke with Dr Norman Swan on the ABC Radio National On Health Report about the importance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) being run by and for Aboriginal people. Dr Finlay said this element was often missing in mainstream health settings with policy being developed at the Primary Health Network, state or commonwealth level by non-Aboriginal people who don’t know Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities or culture.

Dr Finlay said “what we actually need is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people leading the way in this space like we’ve got with the Coalition of Peaks around the Closing the Gap framework – the new Closing the Gap Framework has strong Indigenous leadership right at the top, and that needs to be emulated throughout the entire health system if we are to take a true cultural determinants of health approach. We need to make sure ACCHOs and other Aboriginal organisations are appropriately resourced to meet the needs of their communities and also trusted to be able to deliver to their communities, because they know their communities best.”

To listen to the interview click here.

aerial photo of red outback land with dusty track & green & silver desert shrubs, overlaid with text 'ABC Health Report' & ABC RN logo 'ABC symbol RN' superimposed on pink orange voice bubble

Image in feature tile sourced from Australian National Audit Office website.

What is our path to health for all?

Yesterday a supplement to the Medical Journal of Australia called Australia in 2030: what is out path to health for all? was released. The authors claim Australia has a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to create a healthy, sustainable, equitable and prosperous future by taking bold action to build back better, fairer and greener following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Finlay who co-authored chapter 2: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander connection to culture: building stronger individual and collective wellbeing of Australia in says “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have long understood the role that culture plays in health and wellbeing. All programs and policies aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to take a cultural determinants approach. This can only be done through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership.

All organisations funded to deliver services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to be resourced to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their representative bodies in the development of the programs and policies. When the cultural determinants of health become core to policy and programs, trauma and racism will likely decline, and we will see a significant shift in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Without acknowledgement of the cultural determinants of health, we will probably never see justice or ‘close the gap’.”

You can read the full article here.

stethoscope on Aboriginal flag

Image source: The Conversation.

Monitoring cultural safety in health care

Improving cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care users can improve access to, and the quality of health care. This means a health system that respects Indigenous cultural values, strengths and differences, and also addresses racism and inequity.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a two page summary of the key findings of the Cultural safety in health care for Indigenous Australians: monitoring framework (the Framework). The Framework aims to measure progress in achieving cultural safety in the Australian health system. For this purpose, cultural safety is defined with reference to the experiences of Indigenous health care user, of the care they are given, their ability to access services and to raise concerns.

To view the AIHW’s summary click here.

health professional checking ear of young Aboriginal boy with red band around head & white ochre across chest & red pants

Image source: General Practice Training Queensland website.

High rates of preventable hospitalisations

The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care’s recently published Fourth Atlas of Healthcare Variation has raised questions about the equity and quality of our health system with significant differences in the services provided across geographic and socio-economic areas. The report found a high rate of potentially preventable hospitalisations among people living in remote and socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, and among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These high rates occurred in all five conditions examined in the Atlas: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney infections and urinary tract infections, cellulitis, heart failure, and diabetes complications.

The Commission’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Anne Duggan said many of these hospitalisations could be prevented by the implementation of evidence-based care plans that ensure earlier intervention, better disease management and better coordination of care.cover of publication text 'Australian Commission on Safety & Quality in Health Care Australian Government Australian Institute of Health and Welfare The fourth Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation 2021', image of map of Australia with watercolour painting in pink, yellow, orange bleeding into each other

Targeted early years support essential

The national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, SNAICC (the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care), has welcomed the Australian Government’s recent announcement to increase investment in early childhood education and care. Early years services are critical to improving outcomes for children before they start school and set them on a journey for success throughout their lives. The promise of increased subsidies for families with two or more children in childcare will help to make early education more affordable and accessible for many families.

To view SNAICC’s media release click here.

4 young Aboriginal children, 1 girl, 3 boys sitting outside on outdoor rug all looking in one direction making hand signals presumably to a song

Image source: Moriarty Foundation website.

Calls for enforced aged care nurse ratios

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation have joined forces to call for the fast tracking of one of the key recommendations from the royal commission into aged care, and that is the provision of around the clock nursing care. The Federal Budget next week is expected to contain an extra $10 billion for aged care, over a four-year period. But that’s far short of the sector’s call for an extra $20 billion a year. Dr Omar Khorshid, President of the AMA spoke to Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast earlier today about wanting the Government to put in place legislation that would enforce ratios of registered nurses at aged care facilities.

Dr Khorshid said “it’ll change everything about how our nursing homes operate. I think most Australians would be very surprised to hear that you don’t necessarily need to have a nurse present in a nursing home, looking after the needs of significant numbers of elderly Australians with significant health needs. We saw so many terrible examples during the royal commission of where care was unable to be provided due to the lack of staff. Now, the only way to ensure that the facilities with Australians with high needs do have enough nurses is to mandate ratios of staff to nurses, including the highest trained nurses in that sector which are the registered nurses. And we are calling on Government to make a commitment in the budget to make that a reality as soon as possible for elderly Australians in nursing homes.”

To view a transcript of the interview click here.

Aboriginal Elder sitting in a wheelchair with sleeveless orange floral dress & black yellow green stripe beanie with her arm around a health care worker

Image source: Industry Skills Advisory Council NT website.

Push back against NT youth bail crackdown

Indigenous members of the NT Labor Party have urged their own government to reconsider proposed changes to youth bail laws, telling Chief Minister Michael Gunner his team is stoking “racist community attitudes” by using tough-on-crime rhetoric. Labor last month flagged what it described as “tougher than ever” consequences for alleged offending, in the face of continued pressure over property crime and a fresh push by the Country Liberal Party opposition to wind back changes made after the youth detention royal commission.

The government’s changes have been backed by NT Police and the police union, but condemned by the youth detention royal commissioners, human rights organisations and Aboriginal legal and health services. In a letter obtained by the ABC and addressed to the Chief Minister, the Indigenous Labor Network of the NT calls for a stop on what it says are “regressive changes” that would disproportionately affect Aboriginal young people. The letter says the government’s plans contradict royal commission recommendations as well as parts of Labor’s own draft Aboriginal Justice Agreement, which is aimed at reducing reoffending and the imprisonment rate of Indigenous Territorians.

To view the full article click here.

Indigenous Labor Network chairperson Thomas Mayor speaking into a microphone at Garma, wearing black t-shirt with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander flags

Indigenous Labor Network chairperson Thomas Mayor wants the Labor Party to reconsider the proposed youth bail changes. Photo: Mitchell Woolnough. Image source ABC News website.

International Day of the Midwife

International Day of the Midwife is celebrated each year on 5 May. This is a chance for midwives to celebrate their profession and for all of us to recognise their work and contribution to maternal and newborn health. Midwives put women and the family at the centre of care and at the heart of every decision, empowering them to be genuine partners in their care and improving their care experience. The significance and importance of providing women, their partners and families with compassionate care cannot be underestimated.

For more information click here.banner purple background text 'International Day of the Midwife 5 May 2021' vector image of 5 midwives, 2 holding babies & one mother holding baby behind top of globe

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Intergenerational trauma must be addressed

The Healing Foundation recommends the impacts of intergenerational trauma be recognised & addressed across all parts of the health system, Aboriginal baby's hand in adults hand

Intergenerational trauma must be addressed

In its latest submission to the National Preventive Health Taskforce in response to the Draft National Preventive Health Strategy, The Healing Foundation is recommending that the impacts of intergenerational trauma be recognised and addressed across all parts of the health system. It is one of six key recommendations that underpin The Healing Foundation’s view that strategies that support those impacted by intergenerational trauma – conservatively, a third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – can inform all strategies for First Nations peoples and lead to better outcomes for all. The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth said that the continuing impact of trauma requires genuine steps to be undertaken to address trauma as an underlying cause of poor health.

To view The Healing Foundation’s media release click here.

red brown Aboriginal dot painting of outline of adult holding hand of a child

Image source: AbSec website. Image in the feature tile is from The Conversation.

NDIS IBSF grant applications close SOON

Attention NACCHO members! NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grant applications are CLOSING SOON!

IBSF offers funding to eligible ACCHOs to help address:

  • basic establishment costs, and/or
  • business and technical challenges in registering and delivering services under the NDIS

Grants of $20,000 are available for up to 100 member ACCHOs.

ACCHOs have been contacted via email with information about the grants and how to apply. Applications close on Friday 14 May 2021.

Please contact the NDIS Ready team ndisready@naccho.org.au if you have any questions.tile text 'NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding Applications Closing Soon' Aboriginal art symbols yellow, teal, orange, navy

More GPs in rural areas

Increasing numbers of doctors are training to become GPs in regional, rural and remote areas, which will deliver significant benefits to patients and communities in the bush. The Australian Government’s 2021 Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program selection process has seen the largest number of acceptances – 1,434 doctors – in several years, more than 100 additional doctors than last year’s intake. Of these, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine is allocated 150 training places, and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is allocated 1,350. Federal Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton said almost 700 of these doctors will undertake their training in regional, rural and remote locations across the country.

To view the media release click here.

outback road with yellow road sign with words CLINIC100km

Image source: RACGP newsGP website.

Unique program key to rural GP recruitment

A unique national GP training program that enables doctors to gain their specialist qualification in General Practice – while living and working as a doctor in a First Nations, rural or remote community – has assisted the recruitment of an additional much-needed doctor for St George in Queensland.

Additional funding is enabling a key element of the program to be expanded to recruit more doctors to communities with significant medical workforce shortages. Funded by the Australian Government, Remote Vocational Training Scheme (RVTS) delivers General Practice and Rural Generalist training for medical practitioners in First Nations, rural and remote communities throughout Australia.

To view the RVTS media release click here.

torso of doctor in white coat hand on stethoscope around neck

Image source: Armidale Express.

NT youth justice reforms condemned

Today paediatricians, clinicians, lawyers and human rights experts have joined forces to condemn the NT Government’s plans to introduce some of the most punitive youth justice laws in the country and to re-open parts of Don Dale that were shut down after the Royal Commission. The NT Government’s proposal to make it harder for children to get bail, reduce access to diversion and impose electronic monitoring on young people prior to conviction has been condemned by medical and legal experts as dangerous and ineffective. The changes actively take a significant step back, bringing the Northern Territory back to the pre-Royal Commission days. John Paterson, CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT: “Continuing to detain children in Don Dale, a decommissioned adult prison that the Royal Commission recommended be shut, is a disgrace. It is inhumane, expensive and ineffective.”

To view the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) , Change The Record, AMSANT and Danila Dilba Health Service joint media release click here.

youth in jail, torso and legs only all dark because photo taken in the shade

Image source: ABC News.

CATSINaM focus on racism in healthcare

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives gathered on Kaurna country in Adelaide this week, the focus was firmly on the importance of addressing racism in healthcare. It was the third event in the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) national conference series.

Gamilaroi man Dr Chris Bourke, Strategic Programs Director of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, presented the work he led (together with Professor Adrian Marrie), auditing SA’s Local Health Networks for institutional racism. This important work, done on behalf of the Health Performance Council, demonstrated high levels of institutional racism across South Australian state health services. Nine out of ten local health networks showed very high levels of institutional racism based on publicly available information.

To view the full Croakey article click here.

six paper dolls, 3 white, one dark brown, one tan hands joined in acircle on wooden surface

Image source: AMA website.

Monitoring cultural safety in health care

A new release from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: The Cultural safety in health care for Indigenous Australians: monitoring framework brings together available data to assess progress in achieving cultural safety in the health system for Indigenous Australians. The framework includes measures on culturally respectful health care services; Indigenous patient experience of health care; and access to health care services. The data are presented at the national, state and regional levels.

For further details click here.

5 Aboriginal people on country at dusk overlaid with text 'cultural safety' white font

Image source: SNAICC website.

Domestic & Family Violence Prevention Month

In Australia, violence perpetrated by an intimate partner is the cause of more illness, disability and death than any other factor for women aged 25–44 (AIHW, Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018). Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month is an annual event held each May to raise community awareness of the social and personal impacts of domestic and family violence and the support available to those affected. The key aims of the month are to:
  • raise community awareness of domestic and family violence and its impacts;
  • promote a clear message of no tolerance of domestic and family violence in Queensland communities;
  • ensure those who are experiencing domestic and family violence know how to access help and support;
  • encourage people who use abuse and/or violence to take responsibility for their abusive behaviour and seek support to change.

For more information about Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month click here.

banner orange with purple arch divided into squares purple, lavender, orange, yellow, text 'we all play out part Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month 2021; #endDFV #notnownotevertogether #DFVPM2021

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Woolworths dumps Dan Murphy’s mega store plan

feature tile text 'Woolworths dumps plan for dan murphy's mega store after 5-YEAR battle with Aboriginal & health groups' & logo, vector drawing of Dan Murphy & text 'Dan Murphy's' with red cross through image

Woolworths dumps Dan Murphy’s mega store plan

Supermarket giant Woolworths has scrapped its long-running push to open a large-scale Dan Murphy’s outlet near Darwin’s airport, but has not ruled out a development at another location. The company said a review found Woolworths had not done enough to engage with Aboriginal groups concerned the store would worsen the region’s already high rates of alcohol-related harm. The outlet was to be built on airport land in Darwin’s northern suburbs, close to three dry Aboriginal communities.

The announcement was welcomed by Darwin’s Danila Dilba Aboriginal Health Service, which had launched a legal challenge to the development, calling on the Woolworths board to abandon the project. Chief executive Olga Havnen said she commended the company on its decision. “We think that’s the right thing to do and it was certainly more than just the lack of appropriate consultation. It actually goes to the question of public health issues, the public health concerns that we raised consistently and the potential for increased harm as a result of alcohol.”

Noelene Swanson, NT director of Save the Children, also welcomed Woolworths’ decision, saying it was the best outcome possible for children and their families in the territory. “It made zero sense to open a Dan Murphy’s megastore in the NT, especially so close to dry communities′ Ms Swanson said. “This shows the power of community advocacy and I’m very relieved that Woolies has listened to the people.”

You can read the ABC News article here; a related article in the Financial Review here. and a Joint Statement from the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), Danila Dilba Health Service and the Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) here.

Danila Dilba CEO Olga Havnen in blue Danila Dilba logo shirt stanind inside an office building near a very large glass window

Danila Dilba CEO Olga Havnen. Image source: ABC News website.

RHD cases continue to grow

A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has shown that the burden of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) continues to grow in Australia. RHD is rare in most high-income countries yet in Australia it persists in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, causing grief and heartache for many families and communities.

RHD is a consequence of ARF, stemming from an abnormal immune reaction to untreated Group A streptococcal (Strep A) infection in the throat or on the skin. The report shows that the rate of definite or probable ARF notifications from health services increased from 67/100,000 in 2015 to 81/100,000 in 2019. The data for the report, drawn from Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and New South Wales from 2015 to 2019, also highlights that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accounted for 81%, or 4,337, of all RHD diagnoses during that same time.

To view the RHDAustralia and Menzies School or Health Research media release click here, and to view a summary and analysis of the April 2021 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report into rates of ARF and RHD in Australia click here.

small Aboriginal boy pretending to listen to heart of adult woman with Aboriginal girl & rack of dress-ups in the background

Image source: Menzies School of Health Research website.

Top 3 COVID-19 vaccine questions

The Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) have released a video of Professor Alison McMillan answering the top 3 questions asked on the DoH’s social accounts. You can view the video here.YouTube title page text 'Your top 3 questions answered Chief Nuring and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMilan' with photo of Prof McMilan in checked blazer, blue background with COVID-19 virus cell

Deaths in custody deserves multifaceted response

Both the Federal Government and the Opposition have announced funding regarding Indigenous deaths in custody, spurring hope for a multifaceted national response which addresses the impact of the criminal justice system on First Nations people. Last week the Morrison Government announced an investment of $2.4 million across three years to create a new Custody Notification System (CNS) in SA as of July 1 this year and a funding increase of over $724,000 for the NT and Victorian services.

The CNS is a 24/7 phone line that is mandatory for police to use when a First Nations person is taken into custody. It provides access to health and welfare checks and access to legal services. “With contemporary knowledge of police processes and experience in providing crisis support, Custody Notification Services delivered by Aboriginal Legal Services are a proven way to reduce the risk of a death occurring in custody,” said Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.

To view the article Indigenous deaths in custody deserves multifaceted response in the National Indigenous Times click here.

protest march female & male wearing covid-19 maskes with banner in background of Aboriginal flay overlaid with words 'stop Aboriginal Deaths in Custody'

Image source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers website.

Ask a Pharmacist Sessions

NPS MedicineWise is running a series of ‘Ask a Pharmacist’ sessions on the topic of Opioids. These use existing NPS MedicineWise platforms and are being promoted on the NPS MedicineWise Facebook page. The ‘Ask a Pharmacist’ sessions provide an opportunity for consumers to ask their medicines questions via Facebook, for these to be answered by specialist pharmacists. Responses may include links to relevant online resources, suggestions to call the NPS MedicineWise telephone line services, or referral to another appropriate health service provider.

The pharmacists provide evidence-based information about opioids, their safety profile, side effects and interactions with other medicines and health conditions. Responses provided as part of these sessions aim to inform consumers about medicines, offer reassurance where appropriate and direct consumers to trusted sources of information including the NPS MedicineWise Medicine Line and AME Line telephone service.

Upcoming sessions will be active for one week starting:

  • Session 4: 3 May 2021
  • Session 5: 24 May 2021
  • Session 6: 14 June2021

The theme for Session 4 starting on Monday 3 May will be Reducing the risk of harms associated with opioids. Themes for other sessions will be advised at a later date.banner man with tie, white shirt grey pullover jumper, black belt, grey pants, text 'Ask a Pharmacist about Opioids - NPS MedicineWise'

Racism declares a serious health threat

The United States’ leading public health agency, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, has recently declared racism to be a “serious public health threat” that must be a critical focus of its work. In here article United States public health agency declares racism a serious health threat. Meanwhile, in Australia… Marie McInerney says this declaration contrasts with continuing muted responses from the Australian Government. Instead, ‘the Australian health system’s Black Lives Matter moment is best characterised as indifferent; a ‘business as usual’ approach that we know from experience betokens failure’.

To view the Croakey article in full click here.

drawing of multiple head silhouettes in different colours white, drawn brown, brown, peach overlaying each other superimposed with th transparent thick white cross

Image source: TED Recommends website.

Telehealth needs to stay

The Government’s decision to extend Medicare-funded telehealth for GPs and non-GP specialists until the end of the year is welcome but is a missed opportunity to enshrine telehealth as a permanent feature of the Australian health system in a form which has greatest benefit for our vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities, AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said today.

“The existing COVID telehealth items were designed specifically to respond to the pandemic, which, as the recent lockdown in Perth illustrates, is far from over,” Dr Khorshid said.

To view the AMA’s media release click here.

vector image laptop with white coated doctor reaching through the screen writing on a clipboard, either side of laptop is stethoscope, pill bottle, pen holder, thermometer & mobile phone

Image source: Musculoskeletal Australia website.

Cultural supervision research scholarship

The University of Sydney is offering a $20,000 postgraduate research scholarship in cultural supervision. The scholarship is to support Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander PhD students at the Faculty of Medicine and Health. For further information, including how to apply for the scholarship click here.Sydney University logo vector image of lion against red rectangle & blue cross with yellow star on each cross end with open book in the middle inside yellow outline of a shield, text 'THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY' & photo of sandstone uni building seen from arched sandstone walkway

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Embedding cultural determinants of health in policy

feature tile text ' Lowitja Institute report offers blueprint for embedding cultural determinants of health in policy & practice

Embedding cultural determinants in health policy

A new report published by Lowitja Institute provides a blueprint for placing culture at the core of policies affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, showing how the cultural determinants of health can be implemented into policy and practice.

Lowitja institute CEO Dr Janine Mohamed said the report Culture is key: towards cultural determinants-driven health policy outlines how culture is a protective factor for health and wellbeing and needs to be integrated and valued within health policy frameworks and programs, and also in broader government policies. “For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the cultural determinants are an essential part of our identity and are protective factors of health and wellbeing, anchored in ways of knowing, doing and being that have continued for tens of thousands of years,” she said. “However, this holistic concept of health is often neglected in government approaches to our health and wellbeing because it does not align with dominant culture or western perspectives and is not understood or fully appreciated by policymakers,” she said.

Dr Mohamed said the new Closing the Gap National Agreement and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan refresh offer a unique window of opportunity for the government to invest in cultural determinant-driven whole-of-government policy.

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

Lowitja Institute is hosting a webinar on Thursday 29 April 2021 to support the release of the report. For more details or to register for the webinar, click here. For more information about the report or to arrange an interview with Dr Janine Mohamed, please contact Amy Hofman on 0405 114 930.

young Aboriginal girl Allorah Saunders with face paint, wearing t-shirt with Aboriginal flag, hanging from a bar, head half concealed by her arm

Allorah Saunders, whose health care is provided by the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation Medical Service in western Sydney. Photo: Steven Siewert. Image source: Oxfam Australia.

Mental health & suicide prevention interim report

The House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (the Select Committee) has released its interim report. The Committee’s interim report includes an update on the Committee’s activities to date, and emerging themes identified through recent reports into Australia’s mental health system and engagement with the Productivity Commission, National Mental Health Commission and Department of Health.

Chair of the Committee, Dr Fiona Martin MP, said ‘The interim report provides a snapshot of the breadth of work underway on mental health and suicide prevention. It also identifies some areas that the Committee feels need further examination as the inquiry progresses. These areas include the divide between public and private mental healthcare, coordination and funding of mental health services, affordability, the growth of telehealth and digital services in response to COVID-19, and the role of professional bodies in advocating for, regulating and supporting the workforce.’

To view the media release in full click here.

drawing of a bust sliced into 7 sections, inside of slices is red, outside of slices are white, reflected on black surface, dark grey background

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

The Hon David Coleman MP, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health & Suicide Prevention delivered a speech at the Suicide Prevention Australia Symposium 2021 earlier today in which he released the National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s final advice.

pile of 4 lots of paper with dog clips on desk, potted plant blurred in background

Image source: The Mandarin.

Change makers create future they want

“We can all be superheroes, we can save the world, we’ve just got to care enough to do it,” says JK-47, the 23-year-old rising star of Australian rap on what he is trying to communicate through his music. He is one of the passionate change makers who answered the call the ABC put out for young people to tell them how they are coping with a world that is increasingly scary.

It is hard not to feel disempowered in the face of stories about climate change, racism, new wars, and now global pandemics — particularly when you are young. However, the teenagers and 20-somethings featured in the article have discovered a way to create the future they want to grow into.

To view the full ABC News article click here.

black & white photo of rapper JK-47's face with white paint lines, fingers raised to face against trunk of a gum tree

JK-47’s debut album Made For This features lyrics about the daily injustices First Nation people face. Photo: Kiarney Mulyono. Image source: ABC News website.

Healthy sexual relationships campaign

WA’s new HealthySexual campaign is all about preventing, testing, treating and talking to minimise the personal and social impact of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). With outbreaks of infectious syphilis occurring in metropolitan, regional and remote parts of the state and notifications rising over the past five years, it’s a timely reminder to be aware of and talk about sexual health.

In 2020, notifications of infectious syphilis in WA were 26% higher than the previous year. The Department of Health’s Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program Manager, Lisa Bastian said outbreaks of STIs over much of the state had placed populations at risk and prompted a more mainstream prevention campaign for the general community. She said an outbreak that started in the Kimberley region in June 2014 had spread to the Pilbara in February 2018 and the Goldfields in January 2019.

To view the Government of WA Department of Health’s media release click here.

banners from WA Healthy Sexual Campaign text 'anyone can be a Healthy Sexual, Talk, Test, Protect, When you look after yourself, you look after all of us' talk has a photo of a girl with glasses & very broad smile, test has a photo of a man with eyeshadow with hands holding rainbow coloured braces, protect has bald man with goaty beard & hawaiian shirt, last slide has a young smiling woman with long wavy golden hair

Image source: Government of WA Department of Health.

Deaths in custody, every family has a story

A detective visited the parents of a young Aboriginal man; a warrant had been issued for their son’s arrect. ‘We’re going to get your son; he’s going to be locked up,’ the detective told them. ‘But if you get him to come around now, I can guarantee you that the arrest will be a non-eventful process. He won’t be harmed; we’ll put him into custody, he’ll serve his time and then he can get on with his life.’

The request went against their instincts, but the parents agreed. When their son arrived, however, the promise fell through. ‘They grabbed him, ruffed him up and smashed him into the fence, causing a head injury,’ Professor Peter O’Mara, a Wiradjuri man and Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP. ‘That young man then went into the system. Approximately one week later, he died.’

To view the newsGP article in full click here.

Aboriginal flag billowing in the wind

On average, one Aboriginal life is lost in custody every three weeks. Image source: newsGP.

Stan Grant has written an in-depth analysis of the reasons for Aboriginal deaths in custody in his article Aboriginal deaths in custody reflect the poor health of Australia’s democracy. His article begins with some frightening statistics ‘3% of the population comprise nearly 30% of those behind bars. Look closely and it becomes even more alarming. In WA, 40% of prisoners are Indigenous. In the NT, it is more than 80%. Among youth it is even worse. Half of all children in detention nationally are Indigenous. In the NT, more than 90% of all juveniles detained are black.’

‘Despite the recommendations of the royal commission, we are going backwards. The number of Indigenous people imprisoned has increased 100% in the past three decades. Since 1991, more than 400 Indigenous people have died in custody. Thirty years after the royal commission, things are worse.’

To read Stan Grant’s article click here.

white banner with text in red '30th anniversary' text in black 'roayl commission into Aboriginal deaths in cutody' red text '1991:99 lives; 1991-2021: 500 lives' yeallow text on black separate placard ' Australia is a crime scene under the crown'

Banners at the black deaths in custody Photo: Mitch Abram. Image source: ABC News website.

Young people staying away from jail

Corrie Bell didn’t think he’d make it to his 28th birthday. He’d been taken away from his parents at the age of 15 and didn’t have a lot of hope. “All my life I’ve been living in prison… mentally and emotionally, you know feeling caged in and trapped,” he said. Corie’s a Ngunnawal Kamilaroi man from Campbelltown in south-west Sydney. He told Triple J Hack he had a really rough childhood. “Drugs, alcohol, crime, domestic violence… was very frequent within my family home,” Corie said.

Corie says what he really needed as a kid to keep him out of trouble was stability and guidance from positive role models. Instead he had cops following him, dealers for mates and a bunch of trauma he was trying to drown out. By 18, Corie was sent to jail for robbery and reckless wounding. He says he was so drunk he didn’t even realise where he was.

To view the Triple J HACK article What do young people need to stay away from jail? in full click here.

Uncle Glen from The Glen Centre with white face paint standing in front of 9 men, 8 with faces & chests painted with white paint & one with a black t-shirt & white paint on his forehead

Uncle Glenn (front) says ‘The Glen Centre’ adopts a holistic approach to rehabilitation, with a focus on integrating Indigenous culture and spirituality. Image source: ABC News website.

In a related story, Amnesty International Australia have expressed disappointment that the Committee charged with investigating the proposed youth justice amendments in Queensland has recommended the amendments pass, despite its own report being full of evidence that they will do nothing to address youth crime. The youth justice amendments seek to take a punitive approach to young children who often have complex needs the justice system is ill equipped to address, and which ultimately condemn these kids to life in the quagmire of the criminal justice system. Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Campaigner Maggie Munn gave evidence at the committee hearings.

To view Amnesty International Australia’s media release click here.

two Aboriginal youths in Darwin Don Dale Juvenile Prison

Youth detained in a Darwin prison. Image source: ABC News website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: 30 years on, deaths in custody a national shame

feature tile text '30 years on from Royal Commission report Aboriginal deaths in custody a national shame' transparent Aboriginal flay overlaying Aboriginal hands holding jail bars

30 years on, deaths in custody a national shame

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the of the Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) and numerous stakeholder organisations have released statements condemning the continued failure of governments to implement all of the report’s recommendations.

The Partnership for Justice in Health (P4JH) said it stands in solidarity with the grieving families and communities of loved ones who have died in custody due to a failure of governments to effectively implement the clear and comprehensive recommendations outlined in the RCIADIC report. The P4JH said all levels of government must reflect on the loss and grief that could have been prevented had they acted on the recommendations as a matter of priority in 1991 and in the years since. “We are sending our strength to those families and friends whose grief and trauma is compounded by that continued failure of Australian governments to act with resolve and commitment,” said the P4JH co-chairs Dr Janine Mohamed, CEO of the Lowitja Institute and Karl Briscoe, CEO of the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP). To view P4JH’s media release click here.P4JH logo

Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) released a statement acknowledging the deep loss and grief of families and friends whose loved ones have passed away while in custody, both before and since the RCIADIC report. IAHA said ‘we are at our best when we go beyond empathy and act to reduce the causes of that grief and loss. We must do that now.’ IAHA called for the full implementation of the RCIADIC report’s recommendations. To view the IAHA’s media release click here.IAHA logoThe Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) said that ‘Aboriginal deaths in custody continue to occur to this day – and the over-representation of our people in custody – is a national travesty. This is an abject failure of Australian governments. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer unacceptably high levels of physical illness, mental illness and suicide. There is ample evidence that grief, stress and trauma make us sick and incidents such as ongoing deaths and over-representation – further add to the burden of health and disadvantage. Racism and unconscious bias – institutional, systemic and individual – is an unacceptable fact of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Culturally safe services can support service providers to confront and understand cultural difference and deliver effective and safe services to our people.’ AIDA called on all governments to accept, and to address racism and unconscious biases that are embedded in police, prison, legal and health systems. To view AIDA’s media release click here.AIDA logoThe National Native Title Council (NNTC) similarly said that three decades on from the RCIADIC report the rate of Indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody continues to be one of our country’s greatest shames. The NNTC referred to research from The Guardian that found Indigenous peoples who died in custody were “more likely to not have been charged with any crime” and were “three times more likely to not receive all required medical care, when compared to non-Indigenous people”. The Royal Commission made 339 recommendations, of which more than one hundred have not been implemented. To view the NNTC’s media release click here.National Native Title Council logo

Change the Record says it is a national shame that in the three decades since the RCIADIC report, state, territory and Commonwealth governments have failed to implement the majority of the report’s recommendations – and as a result ‘our people are still dying at horrendous rates.’ To view the Change the Record’s media release click here.Change the Record logo

Human Rights Watch agreed that the Australian government’s continued failure to address Indigenous deaths in custody tarnishes the country’s rights record and global standing. To view the Human Rights Watch article click here.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said: “Today is a historic and shameful day for our nation. Thirty years ago, the landmark report of the RCIADIC revealed the full extent of the danger that our justice system presents to First Peoples, and laid out the path we needed to take to make things right. Thirty years on, and things are much worse – with incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more than doubling in relative terms. Our leaders have been missing in action on this issue. They have failed to implement many of the report’s 334 recommendations, and they have failed to show care and compassion for First Peoples by changing an unfair and unjust system.” To view Oxfam Australia’s media release click here.OXFAM Australia logo

Thirty years ago Robert Tickner AO, the Aboriginal Affairs Minister in the Hawke government, presented the RCIADIC report to the national Parliament. Now as the Chair of the Justice Reform Initiative he said “It is to our great shame that 30 years later, we have progressed so little. We cannot wait another 30 years for real change.” The report made 339 recommendations, including that imprisonment should only occur as a last resort. This recommendation was adopted by all Australian Governments including by every State and Territory Government from all political persuasions. This support was given on the back of incontestable evidence that jailing was failing Aboriginal people. To view the media release click here. Justice Reform Initiative logo

Cairns ACCHO gives students a strong start

Commencing on 22 April, six students in Year 11 from Bentley Park College and Trinity Bay State High School, will start a school-based traineeship at Wuchopperen Health Service (Wuchopperen) to kickstart their health career with 100% Indigenous owned and operated Group Training Organisation, Australian Training Works Group (ATW), leading the recruitment drive.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traineeship Program, ‘Strong Start’, will give Indigenous youth a head start, achieving a nationally recognised qualification and on the job training while completing year 11 and 12. “By allowing students to gain work skills while completing school, they’re able to work towards a goal, whether that be higher education or transition to work,” says Rachael Ham, Deputy CEO at Wuchopperen. To view the media release in full click here.

photo L–R: Tony Marten (owner & Managing Director at ATW), Wendy Burke (Director of Health Services at Wuchopperen), Rachael Ham (Deputy CEO at Wuchopperen) standing in front of Wuchopperen banner

L–R: Tony Marten (owner & Managing Director at Australian Training Works), Wendy Burke (Director of Health Services at Wuchopperen), Rachael Ham (Deputy CEO at Wuchopperen).

Health sector’s role in deaths in custody

As Australia marks the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC)  the health sector has been urged to reflect on whether it is part of the problem or offering solutions. Associate Professor Megan Williams, Wiradjuri justice health researcher and educator, has identified multiple areas where the sector has failed to address the health needs of prisoners.

Professor Williams says ‘justice is essential for health, for all people in Australia. How we disregard the Royal Commission recommendations is as sick as how we treat First Peoples. $40 million, three years of testimony and evidence about 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody in the 1991 final report and 339 recommendations. But what about deaths since? More than 474. Barely a family have not been affected by Aboriginal deaths in custody, police brutality, poverty or racism. It’s time to make a list of all the government frameworks that overlook, minimise, forget, ignore, exclude, tokenistically mention or silence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison, and all people in prison.’

To view the full Croakey article click here.

End Black Deaths In Dustody rally in Naarm Melbourne to mark 30th anniversary of the Roayl Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody - crowd carrying photos, signs, placards

End Black Deaths In Custody rally in Naarm Melbourne to mark 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Photo by Marie McInerney. Image source: Croakey.

Raising criminal responsibility age urged

National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO have urged all Australian governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility as a matter of priority. A report commissioned by a meeting of Attorneys-General in July last year recommended that all jurisdictions raise the age and ensure younger teenagers are not held in detention. Recent reports have suggested that Australian Attorneys-General are considering raising the age from 10 to 12. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14-years-old as a minimum. As we mark 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its report, it’s important to acknowledge that Indigenous children account for 58% of young people being held on remand and 48% of young people in sentenced detention.

To view the Australian Human Rights Commission media release in full click here.

spray painted image of an Aboriginal child on a brick wall overlaid with white chalk lines representing jail bars

Image: Chris Devers, Flickr. Image source: newmatilda.com.

Mega prison raises fears for prisoner health

Governments often hail the economic benefits that new or expanded prisons bring to regional communities. But what are their health and social impacts? These issues are investigated as part of Croakey’s new Rural Health Justice series. In the feature article launching the series, journalist Linda Doherty explores how Australia’s newest mega jail, the Clarence Correctional Centre (CCC), near Grafton, NSW is affecting the health and wellbeing of prisoners, their families and the local community.

Around 60% of the 155 women prisoners in CCC have dependent children and one-third are Aboriginal women, according to SHINE for Kids which advocates for the human rights of children with a parent in prison, transports children to jail visits, runs evidence-based parenting, cultural and education courses in 27 jails in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, ACT and WA, and funds tutors for primary school children.

Like many of the 339 recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody that have been ignored by governments, recommendation 168 resonates for the parents in the new CCC facility. It says: “…where possible, an Aboriginal prisoner should be placed in an institution as close as possible to the place of residence of his or her family.”

To view the full article in Croakey click here.

photo of Storytime book called 'Tracks my Country' created by parents in prison for their children

One of the Storytime books created by parents in prison for their children. Image source: SHINE for Kids.

Increasing vaccine take-up in remote NT

In East Arnhem Land, the Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation said only 129 of about 5,600 eligible people had received the AstraZeneca vaccine since the rollout began in the region at the start of April. Chief executive Eddie Mulholland told the ABC he expected that number to be higher, but people were now becoming even more reluctant because people are hearing reports of rare blood clotting among recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The NT’s peak Aboriginal health service is working on a plan to improve the take-up of COVID-19 vaccines after reports of growing reluctance in remote areas. A spokeswoman for the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT said details will be released early next week.

To view the article in full click here.

photo of 9 Aboriginal adults, one holding a baby around table at Miwatj Health indicating they have had a COVID-19 vaccine

All adults in remote communities are eligible for vaccination under phase 1b of the rollout. Photo supplied by: Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: ABC News website.

COVID-19 radio ads in language

The Australian Government Department of Health has produced a collection of translations of the radio ad, ‘Living the new normal’, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. To access the collection click here.DoH banner text 'Keep Our Mob Safe' Coronavirus (COVID-19) Help Stop the Spread and Stay Healthy' against Aboriginal dot art painting in black, gold, pink, light blue, tan

Health system needs to learn from patient experience

The health system in Australia would benefit significantly by paying more attention to the lessons learned from patient experience, the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) says. This is a key message from the latest edition of the Health Voices ejournal which covers the recent Shifting Gears Australasian summit conference of the CHF.

“The value of learning from experience was given fresh power at the inaugural Australasian summit last month,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said. “As the conference heard more than once, health consumers, particularly those with chronic conditions are more likely to have deeper knowledge of their overall care than any one health professional dealing with a single aspect of their care. There is much to learn, including from such community-centred programs as the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation success in countering COVID-19.”

To view the Consumes Health Forum of Australia media release click here.

5 stacked wooden blocks, top two & bottom two with black arrows to left, middle with red arrow to the right

Image source: Australian College of Nursing.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Important Update from CMO to COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partners

Important Update from CMO to COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partners

Dear Australian COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Partner

By now you will be aware of advice provided by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) in light of the evolving evidence of a rare but serious side effect involving thrombosis with thrombocytopenia following receipt of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

This ‘thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome’ (TTS) is a newly described serious condition, with unusual blood clots in the brain (cerebral venous sinus thrombosis) or in other parts of the body, associated with low platelet levels and can cause serious long term disability or death.

The evidence that connects TTS to receipt of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been reviewed by ATAGI and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and subsequently, ATAGI has recommended new changes to the Australian COVID-19 Vaccine Program including a preference for the use of the Comirnaty (Pfizer) vaccine in adults aged under 50 years.

The ATAGI statement (found here) provides further information on the key considerations that went into formulating this advice.  Amongst these were the following:

  • TTS remains an extremely rare event among vaccine recipients. Experience in Europe has shown approximately  4 – 6 people in every one million people develop TTS in the 4-20 days after the first dose of vaccine. However higher rates have been reported in some countries, and among younger people. One person in Australia developed the syndrome after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.
  • While Australia currently has very low or no community transmission of COVID-19, this could change. The risk of serious disease and death in Australia remains, even as border controls and other measures continue.
  • The individual benefit-to-risk balance of vaccination with COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca in Australia varies with age. The risk of ongoing health issues and death from COVID-19 is highest in older age groups, particularly rising from 50 years of age. By comparison, the rate, and so possibility of disability and death from TTS may be higher in younger people.

Please note that ATAGI has further recommended that:

  • The AstraZeneca vaccine should only be used in adults aged under 50 where the benefits clearly outweigh the risk for that individual and the person has made an informed decision based on an understanding of the risks and benefits.
  • People who have had the first dose of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca without any serious adverse effects can be given the second dose, including adults under 50 years.

The Australian Government places safety above all else, as it has done throughout the pandemic, and will continue to follow the medical advice in protecting Australians. On this basis, the Government has accepted ATAGI’s recommendations and will move swiftly to ensure Australia’s vaccination program and advice to patients is adjusted accordingly, as per the TGA’s and Department of Health Secretary and Chief Medical Officer statements.

In the short term, and in line with ATAGI’s recommendations, you may want to contact any patients under 50 who are currently booked to receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and cancel in cases where the benefit clearly does not outweigh the risk.

As per the previous ATAGI statement on 2 April (found here), please remain alert for warning signs of TTS in those who have received the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. So far these have included as either central venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) or thrombosis in other sites, such as intra-abdominal venous systems. These presentations have occurred between 4 and 20 days following receipt of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. CVST may present as a new onset persistent headache not settling with analgesia, features of raised intracranial pressure (including acute severe headache, vomiting, confusion), focal neurological deficits, and/or seizures. Thrombosis in the intra-abdominal venous system may present as abdominal pain.

I appreciate that this change in direction is sudden, and may cause additional stress and difficulty over the next period. It is also likely to contribute to an increase in vaccine hesitancy amongst your patients. GPs are key to managing this risk in their roles as trusted advisors, and we expect that you will be called upon to assist your patients to make an informed decision based on their individual circumstances.  I suggest you reiterate to your patients:

  • the risk of developing this side-effect following receipt of the AstraZeneca vaccine is extremely rare;
  • the new age-based recommendations are made out of an abundance of caution and the benefits of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccination outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people; and
  • that if you have received your first dose of the vaccine with no major adverse reaction, you are strongly encouraged to receive the second dose as planned.

If you have questions about specific patients with prior medical conditions, you can contact the specialist immunisation service within your jurisdiction.

The Department is further developing and refining resources for informed consent that clearly convey the benefits and risks of vaccination for both providers and consumers, and we will continue to provide you with advice and patient resources in coming days and will be sent directly to you. The attached script has also been developed to assist your practice to respond to patients who may call with questions about the AstraZeneca vaccine. Please continue to check www.health.gov.au for the most up to date information.

ATAGI and the TGA will continue to review the evidence on a regular basis,  and as with everything during this pandemic, it is possible that there may be further changes to this advice as new evidence emerges or the epidemiological situation changes. The Department will be working with states and territories to determine how those under the age of 50 in phase 1 can access the Pfizer (Cominarty) vaccine in a timely fashion.  We will keep you updated with this process as it continues, and will come back in coming days with further resources and information.

I want to take this opportunity to again thank you for your flexibility, commitment and resilience during the pandemic.

Prof Paul Kelly MBBS, DTM+H, PhD, FAFPHM

Chief Medical Officer

Australian Government Department of Health

The script prepared for General Practices to assist in responding to patients with questions about the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine can be found here.

The Department of Health acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Australia and their continued connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to all Elders past and present.

Ministerial Media Release: AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine

The Australian Government received advice from the vaccine expert taskforce, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI). The Government accepts the advice from Australia’s medical experts and will move swiftly to ensure Australia’s vaccination program and advice to patients is adjusted accordingly.

The Australian Government places safety above all else, as it has done throughout the pandemic, and will continue to follow the medical advice in protecting Australians. The ATAGI advice is clear that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe disease caused by COVID-19. The medical advice to the Government is that the risk of blood clotting side effects from the Astra Zeneca vaccine is four to six in one million people, in the first four to 20 days post the vaccine.  This is a rare but serious side effect.

Read the full media release here.

SWAMS pick up rural health award

The South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) has been recognised for its outstanding work in the public health sector at the 2021 WA Rural Health Awards. The organisation’s Kaart Darabiny ‘What are you thinking?’ Mental Health Team was successful in the Building Healthy Country Communities category at the awards, which were held last month. The program is designed to support young people at risk and using culture to promote a holistic view on wellness as well as working with clients who have experienced trauma.

Seven doctors from the South West, more than ever before, were also recognised at the ceremony for 40 years of service to rural health. Mary Collins, Ronald Jewel, Michael Peterkin, Frederik Pretorius, Phil Reid, David Robinson and Allan Walley all received recognition and were thanked for their service by Rural Health West chief executive Tim Shackleton. “We are extremely pleased to shine a light on the work undertaken by these outstanding health professionals and sincerely thank them on behalf of their patients and the rural communities they serve,” he said.

To view the full article click here.

photo of SWAMS' Kaart Darabiny Mental Health Team - 3 women, 2 men holding rural health award

SWAMS’ Kaart Darabiny Mental Health Team. Image source: South Western Times.

Call for radical mental health system reform

The Australian Association of Social Workers’ (AASW) submission to the House of Representatives Select Committee inquiry into Mental Health and Suicide Prevention has called for government to seize the opportunity to build a more cohesive system of mental health support that will radically reform Australia’s mental health system. AASW CEO, Cindy Smith, said the AASW’s extensive submission draws on decades of experience of its members working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society and this submission and its recommendations for improvements to the mental health system are consistent with previous submissions. “Social workers have been talking about the failings of the mental health system for decades and here we are in 2021, still beset by long waiting lists to access publicly funded services, inadequate rebate amounts under Better Access, and a shortage of mental health professionals across the country.”

To view the AASW media release in full click here.

drawing of a head, inside the head in a map of Australian raining with water going doing neck into a drain hole

Artwork by Matt Davidson. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Rural and Remote health COVID-19 roundtable

Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton MP, chaired the 12th special rural and remote health COVID-19 roundtable with members of the Rural Health Stakeholder group on 18 February 2021. A summary of the proceedings and decisions can be found here.

outback road with signs of camel, wombat, kangaroo & text 'nest 96 km'

Image source: AJP.com.au.

Health professional kidney disease webinar

Kidney Health Australia are hosting a Health Professional Webinar discussing chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. The webinar will be presented by Associate Professor Mark Thomas at 7:00 PM Tuesday 20 April 2021.

Registration is essential. You can register here or via the link in this flyer.banner text'Kidney Health Australia Health Professional Webinar Kidney Disease in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples Presented y: A/Prof Mark Thomas When: Tuesday 20 April, 7.00 PM AEST; image of two Aboriginal men against outback setting

Add your voice to family violence consultation

The Australian Government has opened public consultation on the next National Plan to reduce family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia. All Australians can add their views and voices to the consultation via an online questionnaire, available on the Engage website. Women who have experienced violence, family safety advocates, service providers and other stakeholders will also be invited to take part in a two-day National Women’s Safety Summit to be held on 29 and 30 July 2021. The Summit was agreed as part of the establishment of the Taskforce on Women’s Safety in December last year.

To view the joint media release here.segment of cover of plan with text 'National Plan to reduce violence against women & children' background in yellow paper chain of girl/woman against khaki background

Decolonising public health policies 

Wingara Mura Leadership Program Academic Fellow Carmen Parter has written a PhD thesis with the title Decolonising public health policies: Rightfully giving effect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledges and cultures of ways of being, knowing and doing in public health policies.

In her thesis Carmen argues that ‘for the knowledges held by Indigenous people to be recognised and valued, the dominant western non-Indigenous culture must accept that Indigenous people’s cultural knowledges of ways of being, knowing and doing are relevant to policy production.’ Carmen goes on to say in her concluding remarks ‘As policy makers and all levels of government embark on a new National Closing the Gap Agreement (Australian Government, 2020), a continued and trusting co-design approach that is a genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities is paramount. A systems perspective is warranted to address the ingrained and invisible colonialist, imperialist and racialized paradigms – the native assumptions – that have dominated the Indigenous affairs and Indigenous public health policy environment for the last 31 years.’

To view the thesis in full click here.

blurred image of a city overlaid with Aboriginal flag colours & text 'decolonise'

Image source: Eco-shout website.

COVID-19 an opportunity to build a better healthcare sector

The opportunities of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to represent an opportunity for Australia to do better in supporting the health of all, according to the Australian College of Nursing (ACN). Speaking on World Health Day, ACN Chief Executive Officer, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN, said that the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s annual report should be seen as an opportunity by governments to build a better health care sector as the world rolls out the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Many of the issues identified by the WHO are issues that we face not only in Australia, but in our Pacific region where we have a role to both lead and support local health systems,” Adjunct Professor Ward said. “We must use the pandemic as an opportunity to continue to support people most impacted by global inequality in health care, not just to aim to return to the previous status quo.”

Adjunct Professor Ward said the Australian Government must use World Health Day to look to support the most vulnerable members of our community, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Australians living in rural and remote areas and elderly Australians.

To view the article in full click here.

shopping trolley medical products, pills, needles, vials, thermometer etc.

Image source: Benefits pro.

Fully-funded community data use course – BE QUICK!

After the successful launch of its Full-Time Data Analytics (the science of being able to tell an accurate story from a set of data) and Cloud Course, Goanna Education is offering a part-time course that you can fit around your work schedule.

This fully funded program has been developed in conjunction with Data Analysts working in the industry, educators and technical recruiters. This program will teach participants how to identify the right data, make sure that data is fit for analysis, analyse the data and then present it visually in order to better explain the results to other people. The course is designed specifically for Indigenous Australia and it is a requisite that students identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander to apply.

The part time Data Analytics course starts on Monday 12 April 2021.

It is made up of:

  • 6–7 week self-study blocks with weekly online drop-ins, and
  • 4 intensive learning weeks: 1. Excel: 24–28 May; 2. Excel: 19–24 July; 3. Databases: 13–17 Sep; and 4. Power BI: 18–22 Oct.

The course includes the opportunity to sit exams for 3 Microsoft Certifications and finishes 22 October 2021.

To register click here. collage of 3 tiles, each with Aboriginal student, text 'career pathway support', no experience needed, fully-funded' & goanna Education logo superimposed

VIC – Mooroopna/Shepparton – Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative – multiple positions

Health Outreach Worker x 1 PT (Fixed Term) – Mooroopna

The Outreach Worker plays a pivotal role in service coordination, advocacy and support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community throughout the Integrated Team Care Goulburn Valley Primary Health Network Region. You will be required to provide culturally appropriate coordination of care for patients with complex needs/chronic disease including treatment, early intervention and prevention and associated services in the context of an Aboriginal Health Service.

To view the position description and to apply click here.

Applications close 4:00 PM Tuesday 13 April 2021.

Specialist Aboriginal Family Violence Team Leader (Orange Door) x 1 FT – Shepparton Office

The Aboriginal Family Violence Team Leader is a leadership position co-located in The Orange Door site and will have a significant role to work closely with other Orange Door partners as well as provide supervision to the Aboriginal Family Violence practitioners to lead high quality, culturally safe and effective responses to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking support and safety.

To view position description and to apply click here.

Applications close 4:00 PM Friday 16 April 2021.

Specialist Aboriginal Family Practitioner (Orange Door) x 1 FT – Shepparton Office

The Aboriginal Family Violence Practitioner will provide screening, assessment, triage and short-term response to all incoming referrals through the Orange Door Hub using an Integrated Practice Framework and ensuring the delivery of high quality, culturally safe and effective responses to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeking support and safety.

To view position descriptions and to apply click here.

Applications close 4:00 PM Friday 16 April 2021.

Family Partnership Worker x 1 FT (identified) – Mooroopna

Culturally support delivery of The Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program to clients, alongside the Nurse Home Visitor and Nurse Supervisor. Includes, promotional event planning and coordination, cultural connection and community networking.

To view position description and to apply click here.

Applications close 4:00 PM Tuesday 20 April 2021.

Nurse Home Visitor x 1 FT (fixed term) – Mooroopna

Deliver the Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program to clients in a home setting, alongside the Family Partnership Worker and Nurse Supervisor. Includes, promotional event planning and coordination, maintaining stakeholder networks, improving pregnancy outcomes, improving child health and development and helping parents develop a vision for their own future.

To view position description and to apply click here.

Applications close 4:00 PM Tuesday 20 April 2021.

Kinship Case Manager x 1 FT – Mooroopna

Work with and support children and young people and carers to meet case contracted kinship targets.  The role will work directly within case management and care teams ensuring a shared understanding of key issues related to theoretical frameworks including attachment theory, trauma theory, brain development, ages and stages of development, resilience theory, strength-based approach and the neurobiological development of maltreated children. The minimum qualifications required to be considered for these positions include: Tertiary qualification in Community Services, Social Work, Youth Work or related discipline.

To view position description and to apply click here.

Applications close 4:00 PM Friday 23 April 2021.

Team Leader Kinship Care, Better Futures Home Stretch x 1 FT – Mooroopna

Provide strong leadership to a team of workers, oversee and maintain the responsibility for the Better Futures, Home Stretch Programs, staff operating in this space to ensure young people are transitioning occurs from Kinship Care to Better Futures Home Stretch. Minimum qualifications required to be considered for these positions include: Tertiary qualification in Community Services, Social Work, Youth Work or related discipline.

To view position description and to apply click here.

Applications close 4:00 PM Friday 23 April 2021.

Family Preservation Worker x 1 FT – Mooroopna

To provide intensive support to Aboriginal families in a culturally respectful way and to support parents to maintain care or to resume care of their child/children who are referred to the Family Preservation Program by Child Protection. The Worker is responsible for the provision of all aspects of casework services to families referred to the Rumbalara Family Preservation Program Minimum qualifications required to be considered for these positions include: Diploma of Community Services and Welfare Studies or equivalent is preferred.

To view position description and to apply click here.

Applications close 4:00 PM Friday 23 April 2021.

Assessment Officer x 1 PT (3 days per week) – Shepperton

Undertake in home holistic assessments, for people wanting to access Aged Care and Disability related supports and then match the client or carer’s needs and goals to the most appropriate service. The position requires someone who is experienced with navigating funded supports such as the Home and Community Care Program for Younger People (HACC PYP), Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); has an understanding of the issues faced by Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people; and has Tertiary qualifications in Aged Care, Community Services, Case management or equivalent.

To view position description and to apply click here.

Applications close 4:00 PM Friday 23 April 2021.

Support Worker x Casual (flexible as per demand) – Shepperaton

Assist members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community by providing direct support to clients and consumers in the delivery of services for Home and Community Care Program for Younger People (HACC PYP), Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) offered by Rumbalara Aged Care and Disability Services. Minimum qualifications required to be considered for this position include: Qualifications in Certificate IV in Aged Care Work or equivalent, or willing to undertake such training.

To view position description and to apply click here.

Applications close 4:00 PM Friday 23 April 2021.

external view of Rumbalara Aboriginal co-operative Ltd building & logo: Aboriginal art of emu against 3 curves rainbow shaped lives in red yellow black colours

Image source: Baldasso Cortese Architecture website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: St Vincent’s Hospital transforms delivery of care

feature tile text 'St Vincent's Hospital transforms delivery of care for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people'; image of a empty gurney being pulled through hospital emergency foyer

St Vincent’s Hospital transforms delivery of care

In the latest episode of the Australian Healthcare and Hospital’s Association (AHHA) podcast, The Health Advocate, AHHA Strategic Programs Director, Dr Chris Bourke, speaks with St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney, Emergency Department Director, Dr Paul Preisz and Aboriginal Health Manager, Scott Daley, to discuss how St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney has improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. While the hospital’s staff knew there was a problem in the Emergency Department with the delivery of care and the outcomes, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, NSW Health data highlighting the unacceptable treatment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients was the final straw. This promoted a mandate from executives to improve results.

‘St Vincent’s work in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients is a great example of how organisations can transform the delivery of care and offers many lessons for other organisations wanting to follow a similar path,’ said Dr Bourke.

You can view the AHHA press release here and listen to the podcast here.

St Vincent's Hospital Sydney Aboriginal Health Manager Scott Daley sitting at hospital bed of 49-year-old Aboriginal male patient

Aboriginal Health Manager Scott Daley with a patient in St Vincent’s Hospital Emergency Department. Image source: ABC News website.

Wirraka Maya leads way in better patient management

An Aboriginal community health service in WA has produced record results in the use of technology to ensure better connected care for local patients. Senior Medical Officer at Wirraka Maya Health Service in Port Hedland, WA, Dr Yolande Knight said: “We rely on My Health Record to keep us updated on patient pathology, imaging, medication, dispensing and history records. “We find it helpful because a lot of our patients are transient, moving from one region to another, so it can be difficult to get their comprehensive files.  We can see what other doctors have requested and performed, overcoming the delays waiting for records requested from other practices and providers.” Australian Digital Health Agency Consumer Advocate, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Champion and Co-Chair of the Agency’s Reconciliation Working Group and national Medicines Safety Program, Steve Renouf, congratulated Wirraka Maya for its commitment to digital health.

To view the media release click here.logo 'Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation' circle fish, goanna, blue ochre

Building a more robust medicine supply

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is seeking feedback on proposals to help ensure ongoing, reliable supply of important medicines.

Medicine shortages have been of particular concern during the COVID-19 pandemic and the TGA have been reviewing ways in which they can better assist affected Australian patients and their healthcare providers. Specifically, the TGA is seeking feedback on possible reforms that would:

  • prioritise the evaluation and registration process for certain important generic prescription medicines, to reduce the risk of shortages
  • encourage registration of more generic versions of medicines known to be affected by shortages, to mitigate the impact of those shortages
  • support a more reliable supply of overseas-registered medicines imported into Australia as substitutes when the Australian medicine is in longstanding or repeated shortage.

The TGA’s Consultation paper – Building a more robust medicine supply gives further details about proposed mechanisms to prevent and mitigate medicine shortages. For further details about the public consultation and to access the online survey click here.

The consultation will close on Monday 17 May 2021.

multiple coloured pills in a pile on grey glass surface & plastic pill bottle on side with yellow tablets spilling out

Image source: Newsbook website.

Resources for First Peoples with Disability

A range of new accessible, culturally appropriate resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have been released by the peak body First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN).

“Our community urgently needs information about the vaccine, so we have created a poster with culturally relevant information and artwork to let people know about what is happening and why,” said Damian Griffis, CEO of FPDN.

“During the pandemic, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability found it hard to get the right information about what was happening, and it looks like those lessons haven’t been learnt when it comes to the vaccine roll out.”

To view FPDN’s media release click here and to download FPDN’s resources click here.text 'Get the COVID Jab and help keep our mob safe First Peoples Disability Network Australia' drawing of syringe, 9 virsus cells & one large circles with Aboriginal art in orange with meeting symbols

Gaps in Aboriginal aged care project

Little is known about how older Aboriginal adults access and engage with aged care services. A project has been initiated by the Port Augusta Community to address gaps in Aboriginal aged care and research is being conducted for the broader Aboriginal Eyre Peninsula Communities in partnership with the Adelaide Rural Clinical School Aboriginal research unit.

The lead researcher Kym Thomas, from Port Augusta, is an Aboriginal person, providing and ensuring that spirit and integrity are at the forefront of all community and stakeholder engagement and activities. Communities involved in the research include Port Augusta, Port Lincoln, Ceduna and Whyalla. Kym has been supported in his work by Associate Professor Pascale Dettwiller and Emma Richards.

To read the full article click here.

photo of Associate Professor Pascale Dettwiller & Kym Thomas standing either side of Yadu Health Aboriginal Corporation banner

Associate Professor Pascale Dettwiller & Kym Thomas. Image source: Partyline website.

Disadvantaged neighbourhoods can shape adolescent brains

Growing up in a poor or disadvantaged neighbourhood can affect the way adolescents’ brains function, according to new research. It can alter the communication between brain regions involved in planning, goal-setting and self-reflection. These brain changes can have consequences for cognitive function and wellbeing. But the good news is that positive home and school environments can mitigate some of these negative effects.

A “disadvantaged neighbourhood” is one in which people generally have lower levels of income, employment, and education. Growing up in these conditions can cause stress for children, and is associated with cognitive problems and mental health issues in young people.

It is not yet known exactly how this link between neighbourhood disadvantage and poor mental outcomes works, but it is thought that social disadvantage alters the way young people’s brains develop.

To view the story in full click here.

vector of brain wrapped in yellow tape with text 'UNDER CONSTRUCTION'

Image source: Momentous Institute website.

Better cardiac care measures report

The fifth national report on the 21 Better Cardiac Care measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with updated data available for 15 measures. The level of access for cardiac-related health services is improving for Indigenous Australians. While the mortality rate from cardiac conditions is falling among the Indigenous population, it is still higher than among non-Indigenous Australians. The incidence of acute rheumatic fever among Indigenous Australians continues to be much higher than in non-Indigenous Australians.

To view the report click here.

 Indigenous Pride Heart Studs Flag: Aboriginal Torres Strait Island One of each Flag

Image source: Haus of Dizzy website.

Mental health challenges & disability

The prevalence of mental health issues is higher in people with a disability than in the general population. This means that often, a person who has both a physical, intellectual or neurological disability is also dealing with mental health challenges.  There can be complexities in distinguishing mental health issues from intellectual or neurological disability and this can lead to mental health challenges not being recognised or identified.  Participants will explore concepts of recovery, trauma and strength- based approaches to working with people with complex needs. They will use a recovery and biopsychosocial approach to meet their client’s needs.

Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) are promoting a training course being delivered by the WA Association for Mental Health. For more details click here.

young Aboriginal man sitting on a headland looking out to sea

Image source: SBS News website.

Vaccinations being in regional SA AHS

Indigenous health workers in Mount Gambier have been among the first in SA to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in Phase 1b of the national roll-out. 10 staff at Pangula Mannamurna Aboriginal Corporation were selected to receive the vaccine on Monday this week.

Outreach worker Catherine Bulner was the first of the group to roll up her sleeve and get the jab. She said she felt privileged to be the first South East Indigenous community member to get vaccinated. “I’m pretty fortunate to have it done in an Aboriginal community-controlled health service. “I think it’s really good that we can instil confidence in our community to get it done to protect not only ourselves, but our family and our community.”

Ms Bulner encouraged others to do the same to allow life to return to normal. “It’s unknown, but there’s plenty of information out there that can tell you all about it, if you need to make an informed decision before,” she said. “It’s not mandatory, but arm yourself with the information I did and you will be really confident to get it.” Transport worker Peter Brennan was also vaccinated and said it would provide him with a lot more confidence when conducting his work duties.

To view the full article click here.

Indigenous transport worker Peter Brennan receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Indigenous transport worker Peter Brenna. Image source: ABC News website.

Keeping the momentum on eye health equity

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector entered 2020 with high hopes. The equity gap was still evident in measures of access to services and outcomes, but there was a continued positive trajectory towards the gap for vision being closed, with a strong sector driving change through collaborations on regional and state levels. 2020 was a target year for the elimination of trachoma, as well as to achieve equity and close the gap for vision.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the work of the sector in a number of ways. Many communities closed or reduced non-urgent visiting services, suspensions to elective surgery and reductions in permitted surgical loads and lockdowns in different parts of Australia to stop outbreaks, while necessary, meant that the already-existing waitlists for eye care became longer. The stronger impact on public hospitals, for example through lower caps on elective surgeries compared with private, has a disproportionate impact on population groups with the stronger reliance on the public system.

The impact on the sector’s work also includes the interruption to the positive momentum of change. Across Australia, regional and state-level groups of stakeholders involved with the provision of eye care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have been driving improvements in pathways and outcomes. The community-controlled sector has been key in leading this change.

To view the full article click here.

person dressed as Milp the trachoma goanna at AFL game in Alice Springs surrounded by Aboriginal children

Milpa the trachoma goanna supporting ‘Clean Faces, Strong Eyes’ health promotion messaging at an AFL game in Alice Springs NT. Image source: Partyline.

WA – Broome – University of WA

Research Fellow x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Broome

The University of WA are seeking a skilled health researcher to conduct statistical analysis of real world health services data from current and future projects. This position will be based in the Kimberley where Rural Clinical School of WA (RCSWA) sites conduct collaborative research with health services into improving Aboriginal health and building research capacity. Under limited directions from Principal Research Fellow, Associate Professor Julia Marley and in close collaboration with the Kimberley Medical Services, you will provide impetus and capacity to research initiatives in the Kimberley region of WA.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers are encouraged to apply.

To view the job advertisement, including the Position Description click here position descriptions and to apply click here. Applications close Monday 16 April 2021.Uni of WA & Rural Clinical School of WA logos

World Health Day 2021 – Building a fairer, healthier world

April 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day. From its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and since taking effect in 1950, the celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization.

Over the past 50 years this has brought to light important health issues such as mental health, maternal and child care, and climate change. The celebration is marked by activities which extend beyond the day itself and serves as an opportunity to focus worldwide attention on these important aspects of global health.

To celebrate World Health Day the Australian Global Health Alliance is hosting a special online event where a line-up or expert guest speakers will share their reflections on this year’s theme ‘Building a fairer, healthier world’.

For more information about the event from12:00–1:00 PM AEST Wednesday 7 April 2021 and to register click here.

banner text 'World Health Day April 7, pink wooden wall with stethoscope around plasticine world in blue & green

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: second phase of COVID-19 vaccine rollout starts

feature tile text 'Second phase of COVID-19 vaccine rollout starts with 33 ACCHOs first to administer the jab', image of COVID-19 vaccine vial & syringe destroying a virus cell - image from The Conversation

Second phase of COVID-19 vaccine rollout starts

While Liverpool became a COVID-19 hotspot during the pandemic, not one case was recorded at the Gandangara clinic. Medical adviser to NACCHO, Jason Agostino, said Indigenous leadership was critical in this achievement. “All the ACCHOs across the country have just been really incredible in getting messages out to their communities about how to stay safe in the initial part of the pandemic and in those spots where there have been outbreaks, places in Melbourne, in Brisbane, have just been exceptional in supporting their communities and keeping them safe,” he said. “So it’s been a whole bunch of things all put together but at the heart of it is leadership by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

The second phase of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out started today with 33 ACCHOs being the first to administer the jab, including the Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council’s health service in Liverpool, in Sydney’s south-west.

But questions remain within the community about the vaccine. “A lot of them are saying yes, a lot of them are just not sure,” said Dunghutti elder and Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council board member Aunty Gail Smith. Aunty Gail, who’s worked in the health industry for almost 40 years, said despite the community’s low case numbers the pandemic had had a huge impact. “It was a big strain because they couldn’t go out or meet their families, a lot of us come from country areas we couldn’t go there as well,” she said.  “I think it’s been tough across the board for everybody… but now we’re slowly getting back to it. I encourage everyone if they could, it’s up to them, [but] if its gonna help our community and our people, why not, because we’re survivors and we want to survive for our next generations as well.”

To view the ABC news article in full click here.

Dunghutti Elder & Gandangara Local ALC board member Aunty Gail Smith

Dunghutti Elder and Gandangara Local Aboriginal Land Council board member Aunty Gail Smith. Image source: ABC News website.

Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance launched

Kimberley-based Aboriginal community-controlled and government health services, research institutes and universities have united to form the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research Alliance (KAHRA) with the objective of improving and promoting the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley through the development and application of practical health research. This collaboration combines the power of research to drive evidence-based change, the commitment of regional health services, and the vast cultural knowledge and strength of communities.

The development of collaborative projects utilising the strengths of the Alliance will seek to drive change to health outcomes, policy and services within the Kimberley and ultimately improve health outcomes of Kimberley Aboriginal community members. KAHRA has already seen unprecedented collaboration across health services in the region, with a collective voice advocating for better use of data to inform health service delivery in the region. Work has begun on a project to enable health services and researchers to see the full picture of disease burden in the region.

To view the KAHRA media release click here.banner text 'KAHRA - Kimberley Aboriginal Health Research' yellow black & red dots

Vicki O'Donnell - KAMS CEO speaking at the launch of KAHRA

KAMS CEO Vicki O’Donnell speaking at the launch of KAHRA.

Rhetoric and action gap needs to close

As communities across Australia mark National Close the Gap Day, leaders of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), the Uniting Church and UnitingCare Australia have come together to call for enduring reforms to support self-determination and tangible outcomes for First Peoples. According to  Pastor Mark Kickett, UAICC Interim Chair, “after 13 years of Closing the Gap, it is time to turn rhetoric into real action that genuinely empowers First Peoples and delivers lasting benefits.

Pastor Kickett continued, “the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap has the potential to be a gamechanger. But we are yet to see the structural change and funding commitments needed to achieve real reform, and pressure needs to be kept on governments to maintain their commitments and to apply the principles of reform that they signed off in 2020. Real change requires more than words and minor policy tinkering. It requires closing the gap between rhetoric and action. And it requires enduring structural and constitutional reform to empower First Peoples to take leadership in their affairs, in true partnership with government. The response of our communities to COVID-19 demonstrated the benefits of community-led action and the enduring resilience, creativity, and decisiveness of First Peoples leaders and governance.”

Uniting Church in Australia President Dr Deidre Palmer said the Uniting Church lamented with First Peoples the ongoing health inequality, lack of self-determination, experiences of racism, high incarceration rates and the tragic prevalence of preventable deaths in custody. Dr Palmer said investing in solutions led by First Peoples was key to Closing the Gap.

To view the joint media release here.

4 Mutitjulu elders at Uluru, all with checked shirts & Akubra hats, one in a wheelchair

Mutitjulu elders at Uluru. Photo by Jimmy Widders Hunt. Image source: BBC News.

Aged care fails remote communities 

For the last five years, Mary Dadbalag, aged in her 90s and confined to a wheelchair, has been living in a tent on a verandah in the NT remote community of Jibena. For the last three years, her granddaughter Jacqueline Phillips has been knocking on every government service provider’s door she can think of asking for help to get her grandmother a bedroom built with a toilet attached. She said her grandmother is living in the tent at the edge of what she described as a “chicken house” because she can’t get to the nearest toilet 20 metres away over grass in her wheelchair, but she can shuffle to the edge of the verandah.

“It’s upsetting, not healthy and not hygienic. Like, her tent is just right next to where she does her toilets. She’s a great, great, great-grandmother, one of the last elders of our region and she’s just not being respected.” Ms Phillips is worried her grandmother may continue to fall through the cracks. “There needs to be better aged care services, especially for the people on the homelands,” she said. “We really need the federal government to listen to the very remote communities and provide that service, it’s human rights.”

To view the full article click here.

Elder Mary Dadbalag sleeping on ground outside tent on the veranda of a makeshift home

Mary Dadbalag has been living in a tent on the veranda of a makeshift home. Image source: ABC News.

High youth detention FASD rates acknowledged

Danila Dilba Health Service has welcomed the release of the Senate’s report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) (17 March 2021). Danila Dilba provides comprehensive primary health services within the Darwin/Palmerston region, including to many children and families impacted by FASD or other neurodevelopmental impairments. The release of the Senate’s report the day before National Close The Gap Day provides a timely reminder of the tangible ways the government can fulfil its commitment to address the health gap between First Nations and non-Indigenous Australians.

The report highlights the need to incorporate FASD prevention, assessment, and management into a comprehensive primary health care model. In particular, the Senate Committee recognises the importance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) like Danila Dilba in delivering culturally appropriate, holistic care to families affected by FASD.

Danila Dilba’s Head of Clinical Governance, Dr Andrew Webster, gave evidence to the inquiry about the lack of culturally appropriate assessment, therapeutic interventions, and support for children with FASD and their families, “ACCHOs can provide a ‘one-stop shop’ within a trusted service rather than families having to go through the process of diagnosis and therapy with multiple providers. Sadly, due to the barriers to assessment, many children suffering from FASD or other impairments do not get a diagnosis, and so are unable to receive the supports that they need. It is these children that we then unfortunately see coming to the attention of the child protection and justice systems.”

To view Danila Dilba’s media release in full click here.

Aboriginal youth at skate park with hands over his face & policeman in the background

Image source: The Conversation.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Yesterday the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and called upon Canberrans to reflect on their personal responsibility in combatting racism. “This year’s theme is ‘Youth standing up against Racism’, and it is an opportunity to reflect on the power that young people have in shifting narratives and creating change, both online and in person,” said ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell. “Over the past year, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought racism to the forefront of global conversation. In Australia it drew attention to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our justice system, and reignited conversations about racism and implicit bias more broadly.”

To view the ACTCOSS media release in full click here.banner text 'Internationald Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination March 21' vector image of handprint finger colours yellow, red, blue, aqua, black & brown palm with white heart

Diabetes management in Aboriginal communities webinar

The first webcast session of a four-part series of interprofessional webinars focusing on Diabetes management in an Aboriginal community will be held from 12:30–1:30 PM this Thursday 25 March 2021.

The webcast, Prevention and Control of Type-2 Diabetes in Aboriginal Communities: Changing Dietary, Activity and Lifestyle Patterns will explore evidence-based approaches and practical strategies for nutrition, exercise, lifestyle and behaviour changes to support the prevention and management of diabetes in Aboriginal people. Barriers and solutions to improving engagement with Aboriginal communities will also be discussed.

Diabetes is a complex condition that can impact people in different ways. It has a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This webcast provides an overview of the prevalence of diabetes in the Aboriginal population, discusses risk factors for early diabetes detection and focuses on the key lifestyle behaviours for the prevention and management of diabetes. Key nutritional considerations relating to the use of whole foods, fibre, carbohydrates and how to shop on a budget will be discussed. Further to this, stress management, importance of sleep, exercise, flexibility and ways to reduce sedentary behaviour will be covered. The presenters will also discuss their local Aboriginal community group programs, including culturally safe practices.

For more information you can download an event flyer here and register here.

Aboriginal person's hands - diabetes blood test

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit

NACCHO and the Department of Health (DoH) are excited to share with you, COVID-19 vaccine providers, new resources and materials to roll-out Phase 1b, due to start week commencing 22 March.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit includes a series of templates and materials that both vaccination clinics and non-vaccination clinics will be able to use and adapt for their sites. All resources feature the beautiful work of Aboriginal artist Jordana Angus, “Stand Together For A Healthy Future”.

This kit will help you work through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)’s regulatory guidelines for advertising COVID-19 vaccinations.

Here is a formal letter providing an approval for your organisation and its members and its members to adapt Government campaign materials as necessary.

The TGA or the Department of Health can look over draft materials or ideas if ACCHOs have concerns.

The templates and materials are available on the Department website for download, and are free to share with your contacts.   

Find below a list of the communication resources created. These can be easily adapted to suit the needs of your practice/clinic.

If you require any other resources, contact covid19vaccinecomms@health.gov.au

There are several resources that you may find helpful as you roll-out vaccinations through your clinic/practice – you can find more on the DoH website.

We can’t thank you enough for your support and partnership in helping us keep our communities safe and healthy! #OurJobToProtectOurMob 

There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there: newsGP reports

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts speak to newsGP about steps to address misinformation and hesitancy ahead of phase 1b.

As Australia prepares to move into phase 1b of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) are buckling down on tackling vaccine hesitancy.

GP Dr Tanya Schramm is a Palawa woman and Chair of the Expert Committee behind the COVID-19 clinical recommendations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
‘There’s been a huge social media campaign in general with … the anti-vax movement putting a lot of stuff out … and that has obviously just overflowed into our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

GP Dr Jason Agostino is the Medical Advisor at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19:  ‘There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there, [but] I don’t think we have an anti-vax movement.

‘What we have is hesitancy around this vaccine and a lot of misinformation going around to people [who have] reasonable questions that they want answered.

‘We’ve got a specific factsheet about vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people talking about the experiences of other First Nations [people], and really clarifying that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aren’t guinea pigs here.

‘The reason that they’re priority populations is because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders have fought hard to make sure that they have access to vaccines early.’

Read the full story in the newsGP here.

COVID-19 Roadshow in Ramingining

2021 Close the Gap Campaign Report celebrates strengths-based examples 

As one of the members driving the Close the Gap Campaign, NACCHO invites you to read the 12th annual Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021 titled, Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe.

Connect with the strengths-based examples of our peoples, professionals and communities managing the most complex of challenges such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and suicide prevention.

This year’s report was produced by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s community controlled national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. In the CTG annual reports they often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood.

Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap said, “New formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.”

“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Dr Dawn Casey Deputy CEO NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 quoted in the Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021

“ACCHOs know where our mob are and how to get the right message out.”

“I feel proud of the community controlled sector. It’s great that there’s been that recognition of how responsive and how flexible our sector could be. You could see firsthand how, if you work with ACCHOs on the ground they will deliver an effective response that’s appropriate for their setting.”

“You don’t get the same care for our people in mainstream health organisations, you don’t get that recognition of the social determinants of health or of the way colonisation impacts on our health as you do with ACCHOs.”

Indigenous birthing services vital to health of mothers and babies

Charles Darwin University midwifery researchers are calling for Indigenous-led birthing centres to expand across Australia after a seven-year study found a decrease in preterm births and an
improvement in breastfeeding and antenatal care for First Nations families.

The paper “Effect of a Birthing on Country Service redesign on maternal and neonatal health outcomes for First Nations Australians: a prospective, non-randomised interventional trial published today in The Lancet Global Health revealed preterm births were 50 per cent less likely in women accessing a designated Birthing on Country service in Brisbane’s south.

The study reported an almost 40 per cent increase in breastfeeding after discharge from hospital and an 80 per cent increase in women attending more than four antenatal sessions in pregnancy.

More information click here.

Aboriginal woman;s hands cradling pregnant belly painted with image of baby turtle in the sea

Image source: #LoveBroome.

Free CPD accredited training for GPs Practice Managers 

RACGP and Healthdirect Australia are running free CPD accredited training for GPs and Practice Managers to support GPs to use video call more confidently and effectively.

Training comes in two streams (both worth 2 CPD points):

  1. ESSENTIAL Video Call training covers basic call functions such as how to sign in and see patients and how to invite them to a Video Call appointment.

When: Wednesday 21 April 6:30-7:30pm AEST

Register here.

  1. ADVANCED Video Call training covers multiple party calls, how to bring an interpreter into a call, transferring callers between clinics, and other advanced functions.

When: Wednesday 24 March 6:30-7:30pm AEDT OR Wednesday, 14 April 6:30-7:30pm AEST

Register here.

 

Majority of Australians support raising the age

Most Australians support raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14, according to research commissioned by Amnesty International Australia.

The current minimum age of criminal responsibility in all Australian jurisdictions is just 10 (the age of a child in year three in primary school), a fact only one in 10 Australians could identify. In 2019 the Committee of the Rights of the child recommended Australia raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to at least 14 in line with international standards.

Australia also came in for criticism from the international community during the recent Universal Periodic Review where 31 countries recommended Australia address its treatment of Indigenous people and raise the age. “The tough-on-crime rhetoric is a false economy – all the evidence shows that locking kids up doesn’t work,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, Nolan Hunter, said.

Read the media release here.

Aboriginal child's hands on jail barred overlaid with Aboriginal flag.

Image source: Amnesty International Australia.

Claiming Telehealth

Before claiming any of the COVID-19 Telehealth items, GPs are reminded that it is a legislative requirement that GPs and Other Medical Practitioners (OMPs) working in general practice can only perform a telehealth or telephone service where they have an established clinical relationship with the patient. There are limited exemptions to this requirement.

Patients are eligible for GP and OMP telehealth services if they have an established clinical relationship with a GP, OMP, or a medical practice. This requirement supports longitudinal and person-centred primary health care that is associated with better health outcomes.

Read more from the article here.

man on mobile phone pointing to Aboriginal hand on computer screen

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

How Australia’s vaccine rollout in Indigenous communities will work

An Indigenous-owned remote dialysis clinic in Alice Springs is working to make COVID-19 vaccine information more accessible to people living in remote communities.

At 71 years old, Barbara Nampitjinpa is the perfect candidate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the next phase of the rollout.

Ms Nampitjinpa, who uses an oxygen tank to help herself breathe, is not only getting the jab for her own health, but to encourage other people in remote communities to do the same.

Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, which begins on 22 March, will focus on vaccinating Indigenous Australians aged 55 and over, people over 70, and those who are immunocompromised, as well as some emergency services personnel including the remainder of the health workforce not included in Phase 1a.

Read the story released by SBS News here.

Barbara Nampitjinpa wants people in remote communities to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Source: SBS News

Wunan to run headspace Kununurra

East Kimberley organisation Wunan has been appointed as the lead agency to establish and operate headspace Kununurra. headspace Kununurra will bring a much-needed resource to the area, offering young people support with their mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drugs issues, and work and study.

WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), the operator of the Country WA Primary Health Network, awarded the contract to Wunan following an open tender procurement process.

For nearly 20 years Wunan has been successfully delivering services and programs across the East Kimberley, including delivery of clinical services to Kununurra and surrounding communities.

Young people aged 12 to 25 can contact headspace Kununurra directly or be referred by their GP or mental health professional.

Read the media release here.

Illustration source: Chris Johnston, Eurekastreet.com.au

The outstanding health outcome Indigenous communities have produced

The fact Indigenous communities kept COVID-19 infection rates six times lower than the rest of Australia without a single death is proof that when they have control and autonomy over policies and programs, success follows.

That’s the message from June Oscar, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner and the co-chair of the annual Close the Gap campaign.

The pandemic and the bushfires of 2020 reinforced the need for large-scale reform and “a paradigm shift to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”, Ms Oscar said.

Chief executive of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Vicki O’Donnell said avoiding COVID-19 deaths was a triumph.

“Our mob live together, eat together, work together, they kiss and they hug – so the spread was a huge risk for us.

“No Aboriginal person died. Does that not tell you something about what we do?” she said.

In 2019, suicide was the biggest killer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged five to 17 years. Suicide rates among adults are at least two to three times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.

Yet the lack of resources and funding to train Aboriginal people in mental health and suicide prevention was “incredibly frustrating” for Thomas Brideson, the chief executive of Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia, a newly established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and suicide prevention organisation.

Read the article in the Sydney Morning Herald here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar. Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Close the Gap report says 2020 reinforced need for large-scale systemic reform

Australian governments at all levels must adopt the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and should take strengths-based approaches to improve health outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples, according to the Close the Gap Campaign.

The campaign is made up of 54 organisations, including the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and aims to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In its 2021 Close the Gap report (not to be confused with the federal government’s Closing the Gap initiative), the campaign noted that the events of 2020 have reinforced the need for large-scale systemic reform and a “paradigm shift” in Australia’s approach to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Read the full story in the Mandarin here.

Indigenous leadership in pandemic delivers a blueprint to Close the Gap

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people have been hailed for their world-leading response to the coronavirus pandemic which left First Nations communities largely unscathed.

As leading Indigenous researcher Professor James Ward, Director of the UQ Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, and former Australian of the Year and health researcher Professor Fiona Stanley wrote this week: “Little did anyone know that just a few years after the Uluru Statement from the Heart was presented to the Australian government (and rejected), the First Nations leadership would be able to show just how powerful having a voice could be for their health and wellbeing.”

The 2021 Close the Gap Report, released on Thursday to mark National Close the Gap Day, says it’s time for that lesson to be learnt and applied to so many issues that continue to drive health inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including racism, climate change, over-incarceration, youth detention, housing, food and income insecurity, health workforce shortages and stresses, and cultural destruction.

Country and culture are central to the report and the Kimberley is one of the regions highlighted for the leadership shown by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and people during the pandemic, with the number of COVID-19 cases among Indigenous people six times lower than for other Australians, no cases in remote communities, and not a single death recorded.

As Oscar wrote in the report: Some of our homelands, once threatened with closure by governments in the past, became some of the safest places in Australia.”

The relative safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities also ranked as a global success, said Indigenous researcher Professor James Ward, the only Aboriginal member of the Communicable Disease Network of Australia, who was a panellist at the Close the Gap event, which also heard from Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and  Sir Michael Marmot, former head of the WHO Social Determinants Committee.

Read the full story in Croakey here.

three Katungul NSW staff in PPE in shooting stance with gloved fingers in shape of pistol

Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services staff taking a well-earned break at a mobile COVID-19 clinic at Eden. Image source: Croakey.