NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: National Indigenous Legal and Health Justice Conference

The image in the feature tile is of NACCO CEO Pat Turner speaking at the National Indigenous Legal and Health Justice Conference 2022 held in Hobart from 4–6 December 2022.

National Indigenous Legal and Health Justice Conference

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) hosted the National Indigenous Legal & Health Justice Conference from 4-6 December 2022 with Pat Turner and Donnella Mills among other expert speakers from across the nation inspiring, encouraging and motivating delegates on some of the big challenges facing us today.

Discussions ranged from conversations around Voice, Treaty and Truth, to how we keep our children out of care and connected to community, culture and country, cultural competency pathways, native title versus land rights, and the future of Aboriginal Legal Aid.

You can find out more about the conference on the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre website here and photos here.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner with other participants of the National Indigenous Legal and Health Justice Conference.

Encouraging deadly choices for community

Proud Gooreng Gooreng woman Kimberley Appo is using her passion for her culture and heritage to help close the gap by promoting kindy as a deadly choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Coming from a large, close-knit family, Kimberley’s passion for educating and caring for children started from a young age. “My father is one of five children, my mother is one of eight, I’m the youngest of nine and I have 21 nieces and nephews — not to mention countless cousins,” Kimberley said.

But, like many students Kimberley didn’t always excel in the traditional schooling system, and despite her obvious passion for the industry she was initially reluctant about returning to study. “I guess schools have such an unrealistic curriculum that’s just one-size-fits-all, rather than having a curriculum that’s for individual children. And when you finish school, if you didn’t do as well as you should have, there seems like there’s nothing else for you,” she said.

But after dipping her toe in by enrolling in the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care , Kimberley quickly discovered that studying at TAFE Queensland was very different to being at school. “You’re not going in just to get a piece of paper, you’re going in and you’re learning and you’re finding your passions through TAFE,” she said.

To view the TAFE Queensland article Encouraging deadly choices for her community in full click here.

Kimberley Appo. Image source: TAFE Queensland website.

Why we must keep fighting for Medicare

Dr Tim Senior has written an article for The Medical Republic called Why we mustn’t stop fighting for Medicare. Dr Senior says many practices can walk away from bulk billing, but there are communities where people simply can’t afford to pay, “When patient rebates alone are inadequate to fund the staff resources and infrastructure to provide high-quality care, and there’s the added regulatory and compliance burden and the threat of the PSR, who can blame us for opting out?”

Dr Senior continued “Most services in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, in which I work, are ACCHOs, meaning that they are owned and run by the local Aboriginal community along co-operative lines. Just about all services are bulk billed. The reason for this is that they are there to provide medical services for a community where the vast majority of people can’t afford to pay. Median household income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults is $553, while for non-Indigenous Australians it’s $915.”

“Closing the Gap” has been a government policy imperative for over a decade, aiming to improve a range of health and social indicators. Health, of course, depends on good primary care, including general practice, to provide cradle-to-grave care. Even though Medicare is available to all Australians, on the latest figures available, Medicare spending on general practice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was $180 per person, compared to $243 per person for non-Indigenous people. This is 0.74 times as much, despite there being twice the need.”

“Where people have more complex needs – for example, due to the mix of multi-morbidity, mental health needs and social circumstances common in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector – then longer consultations are needed. The longer the consultation, the more suppressed is the funding we get through Medicare. Clearly, as we all know, Medicare rebates alone are not enough to fund the primary care required. While there is top-up funding to ACCHOs, to try to compensate for the longer consultations and more health professionals seen at each visit, this is capped and comes with significant reporting requirements. There is a lot of encouragement made to Aboriginal Medical Services to increase Medicare billing to fund services.”

To view The Medical Republic article Why we mustn’t stop fighting for Medicare in full click here.

Graduate’s chance pathway to medicine

A University of Queensland graduate can partly thank school holiday boredom for setting her on a career path in medicine. The newly conferred Dr Ella Ceolin was encouraged by a high school teacher to attend UQ’s Indigenous outreach program, InspireU when she was in Year 11. “It was in the school holidays which I wasn’t too keen on, but I had nothing much else to do and went on a bit of a whim,” Dr Ceolin said. “It was a huge eye-opener and I actually came away from that deciding that I wanted to be a doctor.” The proud Djabuguy/Wulgurukaba woman, who also has Italian and Malaysian heritage, this week graduated from UQ as a Doctor of Medicine.

“I’d always thought I’d follow my mum, auntie and sister into teaching because that’s what I saw, and what I knew,” Dr Ceolin said. “Before I started medicine I didn’t know any Indigenous doctors, that visibility just wasn’t there for me. But it can make a huge difference. When my nephew was younger, he said ‘If you’re going to be a doctor, does that mean that I could be too?’”

Dr Ceolin has since served on the board of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, which supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors and medical students. “It’s about advocating for more of a presence in the health workforce and contributing to equitable health outcomes,” she said.

To view the First Nations Telegraph article Indigenous graduate’s chance pathway to medicine in full click here.

Dr Ella Ceolin. Image source: First Nations Telegraph.

Is it ever ok to ask that?

Is it ever OK to ask how someone how Aboriginal they are? University of Sydney students and staff have participated in a video to answer anonymously submitted questions and confront myths and stereotypes about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. You can find out more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community on the Sydney University campus here and enrol in the Cultural Competence MOOC: Aboriginal Sydney here.

Tanika supported by Yapug pathway program

Never underestimate what’s possible. That’s what the past three years have taught Tanika Ridgeway, a Proud Worimi woman from Port Stephens, who is graduating as part of the University of Newcastle’s Yapug program. Yapug is a pathway program designed to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gain skills for entry into undergraduate degrees at the University of Newcastle. When students embark on a Yapug pathway program, they also benefit from a range of support services offered by the Wollotuka Institute.

After nine years working in pathology at the John Hunter Hospital, Tanika was interested in becoming a primary school teacher. She was encouraged by her mentors to try medicine, something she didn’t think was a possibility for her. “Hannah Pipe, the Indigenous Advancement Officer at Wollotuka told me that I should consider medicine. I grew up in a housing commission in Raymond Terrace. I didn’t do science in my senior years of high school, and my ATAR was 32. So, I am not your typical medical student – but here I am.”

“I didn’t go to university straight from school and didn’t realise how much my life experiences would help me in my current studies. I’m currently working as a Research Assistant with Dr Michelle Kennedy in Indigenous Health Research, and I’m just so happy that I took the step to find out what was possible for me. Having people like Michelle and Hannah believe in me and support me throughout my university journey has meant that I have had the confidence to pursue new opportunities I would never have considered if not for them.”

To view the University of Newcastle article Ready to make a difference: University of Newcastle 2022 graduates in full click here.

Tanika Ridgeway. Image source: University of Newcastle website.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Aboriginal-run renal facility celebrates 20 years

The image in the feature tile is of Angus Seela who travelled to Perth for life-saving treatment before dialysis was available in the Kimberley. Photo: Tallulah Bieundurry, ABC Kimberley. Image is from an ABC News article Australia’s first Indigenous-run renal facility celebrates 20th anniversary in Broome published today.

Indigenous-run renal facility celebrates 20 years

Australia’s first Indigenous-run facility dedicated to kidney health has hit a key milestone in WA’s far north. The 10-bed Kimberley Renal Services (KRS) unit was established in Broome in 2002, after Aboriginal medical leader Dr Arnold “Puggy” Hunter advocated for Indigenous people to receive treatment on country. Since then, the service has grown to include Kununurra, Fitzroy Crossing and Derby.

Kimberley woman Agnes Seela is the longest-running dialysis patient in Broome. She remembers a time when the life-saving treatment was thousands of kilometres away. “I was in Perth for a long time and it was really hard,” she said. “I didn’t get to come home for my dad’s funeral.” Ms Seela and her husband underwent dialysis together until he received a kidney transplant. She said treatment in the Kimberley had lifted her spirits. “I was really happy to start dialysis in Broome,” she said. “It makes it really easy to travel between Halls Creek, Ringer Soak and Broome.”

Rates of kidney disease in the Kimberley are among the highest in Australia, with the disease particularly prevalent in Aboriginal people. A leading cause for the disease is diabetes, with most people living with it experiencing some level of kidney decline. KRS Medical Director Lorraine Anderson said kidney issues were on the rise in the region.

To view the ABC News article Australia’s first Indigenous-run renal facility celebrates 20th anniversary in Broome in full click here.

Ms Anderson says the 10-bed Broome facility has saved lives. Photo: Tallulah Bieundurry, ABC Kimberley. Image source: ABC News.

KAMS shares James Memorial Award

Researchers from the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) and the Rural Clinical School of WA University of WA are thrilled to win the annual prestigious Ray James Memorial Award. This award is presented for the best article published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia over the last year. The article was chosen by the Journal’s Research, Evaluation and Evidence Translation Committee and is presented for excellence and innovation in health promotion research.

The research explores 10 Aboriginal Australian men’s experiences during their partner’s antenatal period. The study found the participants valued supporting their partners through pregnancy, making positive changes to their own lifestyles, and having access to information on pregnancy. Participants described experiencing multiple stressors during the antenatal period that impacted on their social and emotional wellbeing. This study demonstrated that these Aboriginal men valued engagement with antenatal care services and highlighted strategies to improve Aboriginal paternal involvement with antenatal care services.

Erica Spry, Bardi and Kija woman and researcher discussed how the project grew from an existing project that was exploring maternal and child health in the Kimberley: “I was having a conversation with an Elder, talking about our other research and recruiting participants and this Elder said to me “it takes two to make a baby, you should be talking to the men too’. She was right, so little had been done exploring the role of our Aboriginal dad’s.”

To view The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) media release click here.

Emma Carlin (Research Fellow, RCSWA/ Senior Research Officer KAMS); Erica Spry (Research Fellow, RCSWA/ Research Officer KAMS); Zac Cox (Manager Social and Emotional Wellbeing, KAMS). Image source: CBPATSISP.

Why Keating’s Redfern Speech still matters

30 years after former Labor PM Paul Keating addressed a mostly Indigenous crowd in Sydney’s Redfern, his acknowledgement of genocide, Stolen Generations and ongoing oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remains as relevant as ever. Delivered in Blak heartland in honour of the 1993 International Year Of Indigenous People, the speech saw Keating directly address the Indigenous community and take moral responsibility for the atrocities of colonisation for the first time.

The most resonant words were starkly honest. “It begins, I think, with that act of recognition. Recognition that it was we who did the dispossessing. We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers,” Keating told the crowd, stunned to appreciative silence.

In a poll of the ‘Most Unforgettable Speech of all Time’, Keating’s address ranked third. It trailed only Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ and the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ from the Bible. The vote illustrated the impact of Keating’s words not only at the time, but in the decades since. Delivered only 6 months after the historic Mabo decision by the High Court, which recognised Native Title and expunged the fallacy of terra nullius from the history books, the Redfern Speech came at a pivotal moment in the fight for First Nations sovereignty.

To read the NITV article Why Paul Keating’s Redfern Speech still matters in full click here.

Criminal age can save lives, inquiry told

A silly mistake at age 10 can have devastating and often permanent consequences for Aboriginal kids but raising the criminal age of responsibility could help save lives, experts say. When Bangerang and Wiradjuri elder Aunty Geraldine Atkinson was in year 6, her 10-year-old brother was taken into police custody on suspicion of minor theft.

He would later spend the next two decades in custody before his premature death at 36, a tragic story Ms Atkinson says is all too common in her community. “That’s the story of a child being removed at 10 years of age and then what their life trajectory is. This is what we want to stop,” Ms Atkinson told the Yoorrook Justice Commission as part of an inquiry into Victoria’s criminal justice and child protection systems on Tuesday.

She said raising the age of criminal responsibility in Victoria from 10 to 14 could also stop Aboriginal deaths in custody and lead to better overall community outcomes.

To read the Muswellbrook Chronicle article Criminal age can save lives, inquiry told in full click here.

More needs to be done to ensure Indigenous children aren’t locked up, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson says. Photo: Morgan Hancock/AAP. Image source: Muswellbrook Chronicle.

Taking the stress out of heatwaves

A pioneering new Heat Stress Scale and accompanying app will be trialed in Western Sydney this summer, designed to reduce the risk of serious health problems brought on by heatwaves. Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience Steph Cooke said the app is being developed by researchers at the University of Sydney through the $52m Disaster Risk Reduction Fund.

“Heatwaves are responsible for more deaths in NSW than any other severe weather event, with the impact greatest on children, the elderly, Indigenous communities and people with pre-existing health conditions,” Ms Cooke said. “The Heat Stress Scale is similar in concept to the UV index and gives users personalised, real-time information on their risk of heat-related health problems based on temperature, humidity, solar radiation and wind speed. This innovation will put a person’s individual risk of health problems in hot conditions in the palm of their hands, and could revolutionise the way we handle the heat.”

Professor Ollie Jay, who is leading the world-first project, said the Heat Stress Scale and app are being developed by a team of multidisciplinary researchers from the University of Sydney’s Heat and Health Research Incubator in collaboration with the Sydney Environment Institute. “This summer Western Sydney residents included in the trial will be able to create a personalised health profile in the app, providing information like age, medical conditions and regular medication,” Professor Jay said.

To view the NSW Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience’s media release Taking the stress out of heatwaves in full click here.

Indigenous leadership key to halt Nature’s destruction

At the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) being held in Montreal, Canada from 7–19 December almost 200 countries are reckoning with the world’s extraordinary loss of the variety of life. Climate change, mining, urban development and more are threatening Earth’s biodiversity to an extent never before witnessed in human history.

The conference will see countries negotiate a global 2030 plan, called the Global Biodiversity Framework, to set worldwide targets for a range of issues, from establishing national parks to habitat destruction. But so far, the draft text is lacking a fundamental element: adequate inclusion of language and perspectives from Indigenous peoples and local communities. Without Indigenous and local community leadership, any biodiversity targets will remain out of reach.

Despite comprising less than 5% of the global population, Indigenous peoples protect an estimated 80% of global biodiversity. Yet, the capacity of Indigenous peoples and local communities to continue to exercise this stewardship is being actively eroded across the world. Issues of power and inclusion in the current draft framework must therefore be resolved.

To view The National Tribune article Indigenous Leadership Key to Halting Nature’s Destruction in full click here and for more information about COP15 you can access the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) webpage  on the UN Environment Programme website here.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: RACGP calls for QLD government to come clean

The image in the feature tile is from an RACGP newsGP article ‘Very disappointing’: UTI pharmacy prescribing pilot extended indefinitely published on 4 July 2022.

RACGP calls for QLD government to come clean

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has called on the Queensland Government to come clean on the North Queensland Retail Pharmacy Scope of Practice Pilot. It comes following the RACGP lodging a Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) request to the Queensland Health Department on 28 March this year – 256 days ago. So far, no information has been forthcoming. The application sought access to meeting agendas, meeting papers (including notes and briefing papers), minutes, correspondence, budget documents and briefings relating to the pilot.

The college has previously cautioned that the pilot will fragment care and put patient safety and wellbeing at risk. In October this year, the RACGP doubled down on warnings that the experiment will result in poorer health outcomes for patients and much higher healthcare costs. Since then, several jurisdictions including Victoria and NSW, have forged ahead with their own pharmacy prescribing plans.

RACGP President and Mackay-based GP Dr Nicole Higgins said that scrutiny of the pilot was needed more than ever. “This is not rocket science, if due process has been followed then these documents exist, and it is in the public’s interest to know what they contain, especially as this pilot is the product of an election promise rather than responding to a demonstrable public need,” she said.

To view the RACGP media release What is the Queensland Government hiding on the controversial pharmacy prescribing pilot? in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Concerns mob missing out on eating disorder treatment

To view the ABC News article Concerns Indigenous Australians missing out on eating disorder treatment in full click here.

Wiradjuri and Wotjobulak man AJ Williams battled bulimia for three years. Image source: ABC News.

Remote housing: holding government to account

Royal Darwin Hospital’s Dr Nerida Moore and paediatric registrar Dr Tasmyn Soller have co-authored an article about how overcrowding and poor-quality housing are significant driving forces of death and disease in remote communities of the NT, saying “As health care workers, we bear witness to the devastating impact that overcrowding and grossly substandard infrastructure brings. We see mothers who are desperate to find solutions to enable them to wash their children’s clothes, limited by access to washing machines, power and water. Likewise, we see families advocating to reduce overcrowding in their community who are told to wait patiently for nearly a decade for a new house to be built.”

Inadequate housing and overcrowding are at crisis level in many parts of the NT – a fact that has been established over many decades. In Australia, the highest levels of overcrowding occur in very remote communities. In 2019, it was estimated that 51% of Indigenous Australians living in very remote communities resided in overcrowded homes. Estimates suggest an extra 5,000 homes are needed by 2028 to reduce levels of overcrowding to an acceptable level.

It is therefore unsurprising that remote communities experience some of the highest rates of devastating and preventable diseases such as acute rheumatic fever (ARF), rheumatic heart disease (RHD), acute post streptococcal glomerulonephritis, chronic suppurative lung disease, skin infections and otitis media. These diseases, even though they have different pathophysiology, all have common links to the social determinants of health. This is further highlighted by the steep decline of these diseases globally as living conditions have gradually improved across the world.

To view the InSight article Remote community housing: holding government to account in full click here.

Gloria Chula lives in a three-bedroom house of 16 people in Wadeye, one of the Northern Territory’s poorest and most troubled Indigenous communities. Image source: The Islander.

Nine-year-old ‘doctors’ set to graduate

A group of primary school-aged “doctors” are set to graduate in Melbourne’s north and become life-long health ambassadors for themselves and their communities. The 30-odd students in grades three and four at Reservoir East Primary School are graduating from the 15-week Malpa Young Doctors for Life program this week.

The program is culturally derived and teaches both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children traditional ways of healing, along with modern ways of keeping communities healthy. Interstate, nine South Australian schools signed up in 2022, and three schools are also part of the program in NSW in Dubbo South, and in Smithtown and Kempsey West in the Mid North Coast region.

The program “equips them with Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge which they end up sharing with others – I believe they are closing the gap for themselves,” Malpa leader Mel Harrison said. “At Reservoir, one of the main benefits is that it has dramatically improved school attendance. “The way the program is designed means that every child feels some form of success in Malpa.”

To view the Milton Ulladulla Times article Nine-year-old ‘doctors’ set to graduate in full click here.

Students from a primary school in Melbourne took part in the Malpa Young Doctors for Life program. Image source: Milton Ulladulla Times.

NT facing COVID-19 spike

COVID-19 cases have doubled in the NT in the past week, rising faster than anywhere else in the country. The NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles says the NT has moved out of the COVID-19 emergency phase but Aboriginal health care providers say that call is premature. Angus Randall reports that health services are very worried about a Christmas peak. The NT recently recorded a worrying COVID milestone, 100,000 cases since the start of the pandemic. Experts say that is likely an undercount, but the trend in the official numbers shows a steeper rise in the NT right now than anywhere else in Australia.

John Paterson the CEO, of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT) said “Up until this year we’ve had 40 Aboriginal deaths in the NT, it’s killing Aboriginal people at younger ages, with the highest numbers of deaths in the 60-69 age group then the 50-59 age group compared to over 80 for the non-Aboriginal population, so you can see the Aboriginal population is at most risk.”

Mr Paterson is concerned about what will happen over the coming weeks as those in remote communities travel to the more populated centres during the Christmas season. “It is unfortunate and I think premature that governments are taking their foot off the pedal and not giving this issue the attention it deserves given we are now seeing a rise in COVID-19 numbers again. Our advice would have been to wait until after the Christmas New Year period to see what the numbers are like and reconsider any other public measures we might need to take during that period.”

You can listen to The World Today ABC broadcast NT facing COVID-19 spike in full here.

Photo: Steven Schubert, ABC News. Image source: ABC News – The World Today.

Australia’s annual sexual health check up

New data released last week by the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney reveals how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted testing and diagnoses of sexually transmissible infections (STI) in Australia. The report titled HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual surveillance report shows that in 2021 there were 86,916 diagnoses* of chlamydia, 26,577 of gonorrhoea and 5,570 of infectious syphilis in Australia.

“Prior to the pandemic we were seeing increases in chlamydia and gonorrhoea, but in 2021 we recorded a small decline. We believe this reduction is a consequence of both reduced testing and reduced sexual activity with new or casual partners, due to social restrictions and lockdowns during 2020 and 2021,” says Dr Skye McGregor from the Kirby Institute, one of the report’s authors. “On the other hand, syphilis has been steadily increasing among women of reproductive age, gay and bisexual men and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This reflects sustained and ongoing transmission across Australia, which is extremely concerning.”

To view the scimex article Australia’s Annual Sexual Health Check Up: STIs are mostly down, but reductions in testing could be the cause in full click here.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) webpage of 1800 My Options website.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: NACCHO Deputy CEO talks about HIV

The image in the feature tile is of NACCHO Deputy CEO Dr Dawn Casey PSM.

NACCHO Deputy CEO talks about HIV

Yesterday NACCHO Deputy CEO Dr Dawn Casey spoke to Lola Forester on Blackchat, Koori Radio 93.7 FM about positive actions being taken to get the right information out to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities about HIV. Dr Casey said the community is tracking pretty well in terms of the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people contracting HIV and cases being reported. She said there’s been a massive program, funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, over the last couple of years where many of the ACCHOs are involved in running programs for overall blood borne viruses (BBV) and STIs. Communities have made significant headway in terms of creating awareness about BBVs and STIs and prevention. Stigma and shame around HIV however continues to be a problem.

Dr Casey said so much more awareness needs to happen so people understand HIV is not threatening like it was many years ago. An issue that needs to be improved considerably is partner notification and contract tracing. ACCHOs are doing an incredible job with prevention programs and awareness campaigns, in language where required, around BBVs, STIs and HIV. Dr Casey and Lola reflected on the very inventive and funny ways ACCHOs have been getting the message out about safe sex, including condom trees.

You can listen to the 10-minute Koori Radio Blackchat radio interview in full by clicking here.

Koori Radio 93.7 FM Blackchat presenter Lola Forester.

Calls to stop ‘pipeline’ of shattered children

The Yoorrook Justice Commission has called for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised from 10 to at least 14, to help stop vulnerable Indigenous children getting “lost in the pipeline” of child protection and criminal justice systems. The Standing Council of Attorneys-General – a group of attorneys-general from federal, state and territory governments that focuses on best practices in law reform – will review the age of criminal responsibility when it meets later this week.

Counsel assisting the Yoorrook Justice Commission Fiona McLeod, SC, urged the council to consider First Nations people, “the many, many reports into this issue” and the testimonies that would be heard at the commission’s public hearings this week. McLeod said the number of First Nations children in out-of-home care in Victoria was “heading in the wrong direction” and contributing to a high incarceration rate among First Nations people. “It appears the current system is failing in its fundamental object of child protection,” she said. “It appears it is broken. It is fuelling a pipeline of shattered children straight to our health services and our criminal justice system.”

To view the WAtoday article Call to raise age of criminal responsibility and stop ‘pipeline of shattered Indigenous children’ in full click here.

Kutcha Edwards and niece Eva Jo Edwards are survivors of the stolen generations. Photo: Simon Schluter. Image source: WAtoday.

Kids face higher rates of skin infections

Bacterial skin infections and atopic dermatitis may be underdiagnosed among urban Indigenous children, says a WA dermatologist and researcher. A systematic review, published in Pediatric Dermatology, assessed the burden of atopic dermatitis and bacterial skin conditions in Indigenous children and young people living in urban environments in high-income countries.

Researchers included 16 papers from Australia, NZ, Canada and Greenland spanning 26 years. “Atopic dermatitis is common among urban-living Indigenous children in high-income countries with current symptoms and current severe symptoms higher than their non-Indigenous peers,” the researchers wrote. “This may suggest under-treatment of atopic dermatitis, reflecting the socioeconomic disadvantage that disproportionately affects Indigenous people, creating financial barriers to primary and dermatologic care, prescription treatments, and costly skin care regimens.”

The researchers said S.aureus colonised the skin in atopic dermatitis, exacerbating the disease and increasing the risk of bacterial skin infections. “Untreated bacterial skin infections can lead to serious complications including sepsis, post-infectious glomerulonephritis, and rheumatic heart disease,” they wrote. Urban-living Indigenous children in Australia and other high-income countries shared a history of colonisation, displacement and negative impacts on health, said lead author and dermatologist, Dr Bernadette Ricciardo from the University of WA and the Telethon Kids Institute.

To read the Medical Republic article Kids face higher rates of infections click here.

Image source: Medical Republic.

Healthy Skin Week in Maningrida

Mala’la Health Service recently coordinated Healthy Skin Week to promote early identification and treatment of skin infections in a bid to lower long term health conditions such as Acute Rheumatic Fever, Rheumatic Heart and Kidney Disease. Over five days, the dedicated crew of Aboriginal Community Health Workers, Nurses and Volunteer Doctors assessed and treated more than 1,200 people in Maningrida and outstations. Outreach clinics through late night shops, child and family centre and public spaces around the community provided extra points of access for the community.

Natasha Bond was involved in leading the community response with home-to-home visits and workshops to provide health information and support. “Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is a huge concern for our mob, we have the highest rates of RHD in the world. We want to encourage everyone to work on this together, get treatment straight away and stop further health complications”.

In the lead up to Healthy Skin Week, West Arnhem Regional Council coordinated hard-rubbish collections with Stedman’s also coming on board to provide Skip Bins at various sites. Maningrida College hosted multiple workshops with the school students from kindy to seniors’ cohorts. These Workshops were delivered by the Mala’la team of Aboriginal Health Workers in-training, Natasha Bond and Eileen Gunabarra alongside Jennifer Damsey in Burarra and English languages.

To view the West Arnhem Regional Council article Healthy Skin Week in Maningrida in full click here.

Image source: West Arnhem Land Regional Council website.

Informing National Health and Climate Strategy

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and leadership will inform climate health policy and action at all levels under a discussion paper that is being circulated for feedback to inform development of a National Health and Climate Strategy. This is the first of six principles informing the paper, and “recognises the role of First Nations people in protecting and caring for Country, that Indigenous ecological knowledge should be considered in policy development, and that First Nations’ engagement will lead to better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

Other principles informing the paper are that:

  • a more sustainable healthcare system will improve public health outcomes
  • all Australians have equal access to a strong and climate-resilient health system, both now and in the future
  • evidence underpins strategies and actions
  • all levels of government and stakeholders work in partnership to implement agreed focus areas and actions
  • a health lens is applied to climate change policy.

The paper asks readers to consider whether other principles should be considered. “For example, should transparency, reporting and accountability also be included as a key principle underpinning the Strategy?” While the paper “acknowledges that some populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, rural and remote communities, elderly Australians and Australians from lower socio-economic backgrounds, are more vulnerable to poorer health outcomes from the impacts of climate change”, it does not mention the term ‘health equity’. Nor does ‘climate justice’ rate a mention.

To read the Croakey Health Media article On the National Health and Climate Strategy, how’s it shaping up? in full click here.

Raylene Lenmardi and Sumayah Surprise, Ngurrara Rangers. Image source: WWF Australia.

Winnunga Nimmityjah health centre opens

The Winnunga Nimmityjah health centre opened in a formal ceremony on Saturday 3 December 2022 is the first purpose-built facility of its type in the ACT. CEO Julie Tongs said “This building is a huge game-changer in many ways and is a true testament to Aboriginal self-determination.” She said it was needed because the life expectancy of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait islanders was still far behind that of the wider community.

The elegant purpose-built building in Narrabundah will serve about 5,000 people a year in about 60,000 visits. “We’ve got so many people who are vulnerable,” she said. “Here, in Canberra, people think it’s the land of milk and honey but it’s not for a lot of people.”

At a cost of $20 million, it will provide a wide range of medical facilities for Aboriginal people in the territory. There are six GPs, three nurse practitioners and 14 nurses. Physical and mental health will be dealt with at the centre. Julie Tongs is clearly very proud. “This is a huge deal because it’s what our community deserves,” she said.

To read The Canberra Times article Winnunga Nimmityjah health centre, the ACT’s first Aboriginal-run health centre, to open in full click here.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services chief executive Julie Tongs at the new centre. Photo: Keegan Carroll. Image source: The Canberra Times.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Pharmacist Scholarship recipient Bryony Forrest

The image in the feature tile is of NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship recipient Bryony Forrest during an interview at the 2022 NACCHO Members’ Conference in Canberra.

Pharmacist Scholarship recipient Bryony Forrest

Bryony Forrest (Darumbal / Kanolu), an aspiring deadly pharmacist and a recipient of the NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship was interviewed at the recent NACCHO Members’ Conference following the Medicines and Pharmacy stream session.

In February 2022, NACCHO announced applications were open for the inaugural NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship, proudly supported by a grant from Sanofi Australia. The scholarship provides subsidy and support for prospective or current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pharmacy students and aims to build the pharmacist workforce among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It includes tailored mentoring from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders.

In April 2022 NACCHO was pleased to announce the five successful recipients. Though the scholarship was initially established to support two applicants, the quality and number of applicants led to the expansion of the program:

  • Bryony Forrest, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)
  • Jai-ann Eastaughffe, James Cook University
  • James Sowter, RMIT
  • Jason Coleman, University of SA
  • Louis Emery, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Dr Dawn Casey, NACCHO Deputy CEO said, ‘NACCHO was impressed with the calibre and volume of applicants we received, especially in this first year of the scholarship’s implementation. We are proud to provide opportunities that help build leadership and skills amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals, who are significantly underrepresented in the pharmacy profession.’

Karen Hood, Sanofi’s Country Lead said, ‘As members of Australia’s healthcare community we know how important it is to listen to, and work in partnership with, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve health outcomes and support meaningful steps toward a more fair, equal and just society. ‘Recognising the crucial role pharmacists play in our health system and the clear need for greater Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in this field of study, we are delighted to be supporting the inaugural NACCHO scholarship as another step toward improving health and economic participation as determined by Australia’s First Peoples.’

Bryony Forrest said ‘I have always had a passion for pharmacy from when I started as a pharmacy assistant in 2018, which only deepened as time went on and I gained more experience in this field. Connecting with my community is extremely important to me and forming these meaningful connections with individuals in the context of health showed me how powerful being a pharmacist is, and what a unique opportunity it holds for health interventions and long-term health solutions in improving the lives of others. I look forward to practising as a pharmacist and making a difference for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’

You can find further information about the NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pharmacist Scholarship on the NACCHO website here and listen to Bryony Forrest’s interview below.

Winnunga Health and Wellbeing Service at AMC

Winnunga has been operating the standalone Winnunga Health and Wellbeing Service in the AMC (Alexander Maconochie Centre, ACT adult prison) since January 2019, within its own model of care. This is an Australian first and one Winnunga believes will prove to be one of the most significant advances in the care and rehabilitation of Aboriginal detainees. Development of this service required meeting the RACGP Standards for health services in Australian prisons with infrastructure, staffing, equipment and policies. The service provides high quality holistic care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in prison and continuity upon a client’s release from prison.

A client satisfaction survey of the Winnunga prison health and wellbeing service was published in the Journal of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet in February 2022. Participant responses indicated a high quality of care across all five aspects of
care that were evaluated (participation in care; care design; care planning and self management; care coordination; follow up and respectful care). At least three-quarters of respondents indicated that they had received the specified aspects of care ‘Most of the time’ or ‘Always’. The provision of respectful care was rated particularly high, with all respondents indicating that they always had things explained in a way they could understand, had their concerns listened to, and felt that they and their beliefs were respected by Winnunga staff. Clients were also highly satisfied with the care provided to them and their families through Winnunga.

The most common suggestions for improvement in the client survey related to Winnunga not yet having an opioid replacement pharmacotherapy program so some clients could not be transferred to Winnunga care. This has now been addressed and more detainees have access to the Winnunga prison health and wellbeing service

The above information about the AMC Health and Wellbeing Service Survey was published the Winnunga News November 2022 edition here. You can read the Evaluating Patient Experience at a Novel Health Service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prisoners: A Pilot Study article here.

Winnunga Health Clinic at Alexander Maconochie Centre. Image source: The Canberra Times.

HIV and sexual health webinar this WEDNESDAY

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) and NACCHO are partnering to deliver a webinar during Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week 2022, to discuss available HIV resources and support that we can offer to the sexual health sector. The purpose of the HIV Toolkit Webinar is to provide ACCHOs and the HIV and Sexual Health Sector with culturally appropriate, evidence informed, and effective training for workers to build the capacity and confidence to support and educate their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients around HIV and sexual health.

The webinar also aims to increase the uptake and utilisation of AFAO’s recently published ‘Healthcare Workforce Toolkit: HIV and Sexual Health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people tool kit as an ongoing resource with comprehensive information, including to help improve rates of HIV and sexual health testing, and to increase the awareness and uptake of HIV treatment, and prevention tools including condoms, PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis).

The webinar is from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm (AEST) Wednesday 7 November 2022. To REGISTER click here.

ACCO literacy campaign linked to crime reduction

Researchers from Literacy for Life Foundation, the Lowitja Institute and the University of NSW have authored a report about the beneficial impacts of a First Nations community-controlled adult literacy campaign. The most significant quantitative finding was a 50% reduction in reported serious offences in a sample of 162 campaign participants. Qualitative data from interviews found an increased use of legal assistance services following the campaign. These findings are contextualised through the lived experiences and perceptions of First Nations campaign staff and participants, community leaders and government and non-government agency personnel.

This study demonstrates the potential benefits of an adult literacy campaign in reducing the incidence of negative justice system outcomes in rural and remote NSW Indigenous communities with low levels of English literacy. By drawing on linked administrative data to corroborate self-reported and observer reported data, this study has shown that participation in a community-controlled Aboriginal adult literacy campaign correlates with reductions in the average number of total offences, especially those related to traffic and justice procedures.

Of particular note, serious offences were halved in our study group, especially in women and in relation to assault. The analysis of qualitative data indicates that improved literacy may lead to greater degrees of self-control, among other positive impacts. If efforts to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous adults in the criminal justice system are to be successful, further research into and resourcing of adult literacy interventions is urgently required. Such research can assist in moving beyond simplistic law-and-order agendas by acknowledging that ‘building of positive futures for communities relies on building a foundation of well addressed non-criminal needs’.

You can read the International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy article Impact of a Community-Controlled Adult Literacy Campaign on Crime and Justice Outcomes in Remote Australian Aboriginal Communities in full here.

Image source: Literacy for Life Foundation website.

What’s next for our kids? asks Chris Bin Kali

Deputy Chairperson, Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA) Chris Bin Kali has written an opinion piece published in the National Indigenous Times last Friday about Premier Mark McGowan announcement of a $63m plan to address conditions for youth in detention. Bin Kali said while it is clear that additional funding is desperately needed, so is clarity around what is next for our young people in detention.

Bin Kali said a single funding announcement is not enough to make lasting change, ‘We know that in Australia, Aboriginal youth are disproportionately represented in youth detention. A large majority of the youth detainees currently at Banksia Hill are Aboriginal.  Under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, the WA Government has committed to partnerships and shared decision-making with Aboriginal people about issues impacting our lives, and to improving the accountability and responsiveness of government to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

“To honour these commitments, the WA Government must listen to Aboriginal people and partner with us to find solutions to these issues. We know that these problems are complex and will require long-term changes across a range of areas. We know how troubled some of our young people are and the healing they need. We don’t pretend these things can be fixed overnight. But we are certain that they won’t be fixed without prioritising Aboriginal voices.”

To view the NIT article What next for our kids, Premier? in full click here.

Chris Bin Kali. Photo supplies by AHCWA. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

NDIS Ready videos and social media tiles

At the end of 2021 NACCHO delivered over $1.25m in grants to 57 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) to support the delivery of culturally safe and appropriate National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) services to their communities. The grants were delivered through the NDIS Ready program which is funded by the Department of Social Services.

The Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grants, worth $22,000 each, are designed to build the capacity of ACCHOs and ACCOs to deliver disability services sustainably under the NDIS by empowering them with the resources they need to be NDIS ready. This will support the growth of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander NDIS market and workforce and help improve access to culturally safe services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.

Some of the funding has been used by NACCHO affiliates to produce the following videos:

AHCWA

AH&MRC

AHCSA (no videos)

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: U and Me Can Stop HIV video launch

The image in the feature tile is of the U and Me Can Stop HIV banner painted by VACCHO staff for the VACCHO reception area. Image supplied by VACCHO.

U and Me Can Stop HIV video launch

On World AIDS Day yesterday VACCHO launched a video U and Me Can Stop HIV video. This video was a result of a collaboration by VACCHO with Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and Thorn Habour Health. Over a period of two days VACCHO made 1,000 awareness red ribbons for World AIDS Day. VACCHO said the ribbon making was a great way to engage people and have a low key yarn about HIV.

Warra could change face of Indigenous leadership

Research tells us that the more diverse management and leadership teams are, the better organisations function. Diversity leads to richer ideas, a more inclusive work culture and better business decisions and outcomes. In fact, McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, found in 2020 that the relationship between diversity on executive teams and the likelihood of financial outperformance had strengthened over time.

Despite this, many organisations continue to fall behind the eight ball on diversity, with the statistics especially dismal for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who remain vastly underrepresented – or completely excluded – from leadership in the Australian workforce. According to the Minderoo Foundation’s Indigenous Employment Index, Indigenous employees are almost entirely absent from senior management and executive leadership positions. Among the 31 employers who reported the relevant data, Indigenous representation at senior leadership levels was just 0.7%.

It’s a reality that Kamilaroi woman, Carlyn Waters is all too familiar with. Over the past 20 years, Waters has held senior positions in various government roles, often finding herself as one of very few Indigenous people at the same level. Now, Waters is calling time by, spearheading a new sponsorship program called Warra, the first program delivered by Cultivate Indigenous – a majority First Nations owned and operated business. The program seeks to inspire and develop talent at all levels by embedding a culture of sponsorship, and delivering tailored development opportunities to grow, retain and advance Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

To read the Women’s Agenda article ‘That kind of support can be transformative’: A new, curated sponsorship program could change the face of Indigenous leadership in full click here.

Carlyn Waters. Image source: Women’s Agenda.

Questions must be answered on pharmacy trials

According to a media release from the Australian Medical Association (AMA) state governments have a responsibility to answer questions about why they are determined to move Australians to a second-class health system and put patient safety at risk through pharmacy prescribing trials. AMA President Professor Stephen Robson launched a video today posing six questions to state governments about pharmacy prescribing trials and the decisions that led to their implementation.

Professor Robson said these trials presented a clear risk to patient safety; ignored ethical concerns regarding separating prescribing and dispensing of medicines and could lead to an increase in anti-microbial resistance and the emergence of more superbugs. “Responding to GP shortages with second-class policy solutions that trample over the advice of independent bodies like the Pharmacy Board of Australia and the Therapeutic Goods Administration and bypass established national processes that exist to protect patient safety isn’t the answer.

“GPs train for 12–15 years to have the expertise to diagnose conditions that are being covered in some of these trials. You can’t replace that training and experience with a few hours of weekly online training without putting patients at risk. GPs are highly skilled and equipped to diagnose the difference between a UTI and other serious and potentially deadly health conditions. They are equipped to take a full medical history of their patients and understand the full range of contraceptive options available to women. A second-tier health system that moves the costs of health services from the government to the patient (except for Victoria which is proposing to cover some of the costs) isn’t the solution.”

To view the AMA media release Questions must be answered on pharmacy prescribing trials in full click here.

Image source: RACGP newsGP.

Exhibition showcases art’s healing power

The healing power of art is reflected in an exhibition of First Nations ceramic works originating from a new collaboration, which co-mingles visual art education and well-being activities for Purple House dialysis patients in Alice Springs. Charles Darwin University (CDU) Academy of Arts has partnered with Indigenous-owned and operated health service Purple House, to present the exhibition that blends and celebrates the cultural diversity of Aboriginal communities in central Australia.

The exhibition’s title, Pana, Tjulpirpa, Pilki combines the words for clay in three different desert languages spoken by the ceramic artists who hail from the region’s Pintupi-Luritja, Pitjantjatjara and Kukaja communities. It showcases the creative talent of First Nations women who are Purple House patients receiving dialysis treatment, while studying visual arts at CDU’s Alice Springs campus.

Purple House is a non-profit health organisation, based in Alice Springs, that aims to improve the lives of First Nations people with renal failure, support families and reduce the impacts of kidney disease in communities. Purple House CEO Sarah Brown said that art has always been integral to Purple House and the lives of its patients. “Art helps keep culture strong in communities, and it’s a powerful way to share knowledge and stories, and an important source of income,” Ms Brown said. “Our patients get so much out of their ceramics classes at CDU each week and this is a fabulous opportunity for them to exhibit their artwork.”

To view the Charles Darwin University Australia News article Exhibition showcases art’s healing power in Alice Springs in full click here.

An exhibition in Alice Springs showcases the ceramic artworks of First Nations women who are receiving dialysis treatment at Purple House, while studying Visual Arts at CDU. Image source: CDU website.

Improving transplantation access for mob

More than 30 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney patients and their carers will travel from across Australia to attend a two-day meeting in Adelaide next week. The meeting aims to improve access to and outcomes from transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, according to a statement from The National Indigenous Kidney Transplantation Taskforce (NIKTT), a multidisciplinary national network of clinical, patient, and community advocates.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney transplant recipients, dialysis patients, and their carers and family from the Kimberley, the Torres Strait, central Australia, far north Queensland, regional NSW and Victoria, and the Top End will travel to Adelaide to work together with clinicians, researchers, and policy makers to determine priorities and next steps for the NIKTT.

Organisers say the meeting has been designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney patients, non-Indigenous advocates, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers to be “a safe, shared, brave space that will allow us to co-design the future of transplantation equity together”.

To view the Croakey Health Media article As new report launches, historic meeting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kidney patients and carers to co-design transplantation equity in full click here.

Theatre staff prepare surgical equipment for a kidney transplant operation. Photo: Frances Roberts, Alamy. Image source: The Guardian.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

International Day of People with Disability

International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) is held on 3 December each year. IDPwD is a United Nations observed day aimed at increasing public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability. The Australian Government has been supporting IDPwD since 1996 and provides funds to promote and raise awareness of the day and support activities around Australia. This includes encouraging individuals, schools, community groups, businesses and organisations to get involved and hold events on, or around, 3 December.

The IDPwD program aligns with key action areas under Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–31. This includes improving community awareness by recognising the positive contribution people with disability make to society, and building confidence in the community to work and engage with people with disability.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience disability at up to twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians and while many receive support for their disability, historically Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been up to four times less likely to receive a funded disability service. For more information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, including statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare click here.

You can find more information about IDPwD here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: World AIDS Day 2022: Boldly Positive

The image in the feature tile is of awareness red ribbons, the universal symbol of support and solidarity for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. The image is taken from the UK World AIDS Day Facebook page.

World AIDS Day 2022: Boldly Positive

In 2021 there were an estimated 580 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with HIV in Australia. While new diagnoses have declined over the past year, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to be diagnosed late (more than 4 years after becoming infected with HIV) compared to non-Indigenous people, reflecting complex social factors including poverty, lack of access to health services, low health literacy, high incarceration rates and intergenerational trauma.

The national theme for World AIDS Day 2022 is Boldly Positive, promoting openness around HIV and AIDS discussion without shame and stigma, while developing bold and effective prevention strategies free from discrimination.

NACCHO Chair, Donnella Mills says, ‘in the spirit of this year’s theme, Boldly Positive, it cannot be understated that to achieve the goal of eliminating HIV transmission in Australia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we need further investment for the scale up of preventative measures, innovative approaches to increase access to culturally safe testing and treatment pathways and improved stigma reduction programs. More must be done to improve the HIV cascade of care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, ensuring access to treatment and supporting people to achieve viral suppression’.

To coincide with World AIDS Day, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week (ATSIHAW) brings together Aboriginal Community Controlled health sector professionals to raise awareness of HIV and promote community action. Whist ATSIHAW is a great event to shed light on HIV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, sexual health teams within the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector, work tirelessly throughout the year to test, treat and educate Community about HIV and other BBVs and STIs.

One of the most popular ATSIHAW events is Virtual Trivia which will be held on Thursday 8 December 2022, co-hosted by the University of Queensland Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and NACCHO. Mills states, ‘this event brings together people from across Australia, working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, to raise awareness of HIV and mobilise community action to bring down HIV rates. This event raises serious issues with serious amounts of fun. It really is a wonderful event that gains momentum each year.’

NACCHO will continue to advocate for ongoing funding and work with partner organisations to address the disproportionate rates of sexually transmitted diseases and blood-borne viruses among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

You can register here for the ATSIHAW virtual trivia, which will be held on Thursday 8 December at 4pm and is open to all ACCHO staff and organisations supporting ACCHOs.

You can view the NACCHO media release World AIDS Day 2022: Boldly Positive on the NACCHO website here.

NACCHO Deputy CEO Dr Dawn Casey attended the World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast held earlier this morning. Following the breakfast the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) issued a media release Australia charts a path to zero on World AIDS Day, available here. You can find the annual World AIDS Day Booklet on the AFAO website here and AFAO’s annual snapshot of the profile of HIV in Australia, HIV in Australia 2023 here.

Beyond the C to eliminate hepatitis C

Be a part of Beyond the C and help eliminate hepatitis C.

Beyond the C is part of a National hepatitis C 50,000 Project to find 50,000 people living with hepatitis C who have not accessed treatment, support and care.

The Australasian Society for HIV Medicine (ASHM) is calling on people working in general practice across Australia to join the Beyond the C program to help identify, support and enhance people’s wellbeing, and eliminate hepatitis C.

Beyond the C is a national partnership program with general practices to find people living with hepatitis C to treat, cure and connect them with care.

You can REGISTER for the National Program Launch of Beyond the C click here.

Special guests will include Dr Jacqui Richmond (EC Australia), Carrie Fowlie (Hepatitis Australia), and Elena Donaghy, Joe Staniszewski and Daniel Hunt (DYHS).

Date: Wednesday 7 December 2022 

7:00pm – 9:00pm AEDT (NSW, ACT, VIC, TAS)

5:30pm – 7:30pm ACST (NT)

6:00pm – 8:00pm AEST (QLD)

6:30pm – 8:30pm ACDT (SA)

4:00pm – 6:00pm AWST (WA)

 You can view a flyer about the national launch of Beyond the C here.

Pointed questions about research, ethics and the law

Research ethics and research misconduct, Indigenous Data Sovereignty, socioecological justice, and harmful treatments were among wide-ranging topics up for discussion at the recent Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law 2022 Conference in nipaluna/Hobart last month.

Topics covered at the conference included:

  • whether research ethics committees are still fit for purpose
  • how health issues can increase the risk of youth reoffending
  • an analysis of the relationship between consumer law and negligence
  • ethical and legal complexities with consent when undertaking research
  • the key role of data monitoring committees in clinical trials
  • what Australian health law is and what it’s for
  • how data can be better used for advocating positive change, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • Monitored Emergency Use of Unregistered and Experimental Intervention (MEURI)
  • who is responsible for published studies with falsified data
  • ethical issues associated with adaptive machine learning systems
  • organ donation following voluntary assisted dying
  • theory and practice of precedent in research ethics committee review
  • the lack of any mechanism in Australia to hold Human Research Ethic Committees to account

To view the Croakey Health Media article Raising some pointed questions about research, ethics and the law in full click here.

Strong community response to monkeypox

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this week that following consultations with global experts, a new name for monkeypox virus is recommended. The new preferred term is mpox – WHO advise that both names will be used for the next year while “monkeypox” is phased out. According to the WHO, “when the outbreak of monkeypox expanded earlier this year, racist and stigmatising language online, in other settings and in some communities was observed and reported to WHO.”

A spokesperson from NACCHO said they have been involved in the mpox response from the earliest stages, including participation in the National MPX Taskforce and through the Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Standing Committee.

“As part of our work supporting the ACCHO sector we have shared updates and information with member services, delivered a monkeypox webinar for member services and produced monkeypox resources for ACCHOs to use in their clinics and with communities,” they said. “Monkeypox remains rare in Australia and there has been only a very small number (less than five) of cases among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article Strong community mobilisation: how Australia is responding to monkeypox (mpox) in full click here.

Photo: Dado Ruvic. Image source: Reuters.

Criminal age of 12 still too young

Aboriginal groups have given conditional support to the NT government’s decision to increase the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years old, but argue children are often still too young to be in detention. The NT is the first jurisdiction in the country to raise the age of criminal responsibility. The move follows longstanding calls by Indigenous advocates, human rights experts and lawyers to raise the age to at least 14.

Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT)welcomed the reforms and said breaking the cycle of offending and ending the over-representation of Indigenous children in custody required complex solutions. “The revolving door of repeated incarceration is not working and does not improve community safety,” its statement said. “We want to see responsive action, centred on addressing the risk factors for crime, because this leads to better outcomes for everyone.” But the group, which brings together a coalition of Aboriginal peak bodies including justice and health groups, are continuing to push for the age of criminal responsibility to be increased to 14 years old. “Now that this has been achieved, APO NT commits to working with the government to eventually raise age of criminal responsibility to 14 years of age,” said Dr John Paterson, a spokesperson with the group.

The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency said the reform was a welcome “momentous first step” and is calling for further investments into community programs for young people and families. “The cost of imprisoning one child costs the taxpayers roughly $4,600 a day,” its acting CEO, Mark Munnich, said. “The government needs to redirect these funds to better resource community-led organisations and initiatives to provide holistic services to improve outcomes.”

To view The Guardian article Indigenous groups welcome Northern Territory raising criminal age but say 12 still too young in full click here.

The NT government has lifted the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 – a move Aboriginal organisations welcomed while wanting it raised further. Photo: Luoman/Getty Images. Image source: The Guardian.

Winnunga News – November 2022 edition

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health & Community Services (Winnunga) have released the November 2022 edition of their Winnunga News newsletter. In this edition Winnunga CEO Julie Tongs OAM gives an update on the lack of progress that has been made in response to the concerns she raised with government over two years ago about “the crisis in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contact with the justice system and the level of Indigenous incarceration in the ACT.”

Other topics covered in the Winnunga News November 2022 edition include:

  • What do Nurse Practitioners do at Winnunga?
  • Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) Health and Wellbeing Service Survey
  • New advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Youth takes the reigns in ACT
  • Winnunga AMC Health and Wellbeing Clinic – an Australian first
  • ACT least affordable jurisdiction for renters on low incomes
  • Official opening of new Winnunga building along with Community Day – Saturday 3 December 2022
  • Children’s Christmas Party – Saturday 10 December 2022
  • COVID-19 Update
  • Staff Profile – Sharon Ingram – Assistant Practice Manager

You can access the Winnunga News newsletter – November 2022 edition here.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: ‘Mixed progress’ calls for better collaboration

The image in the feature tile is Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, yesterday Tuesday 29 November 2022. Photo: Mick Tsikas, AAP Image. The image is from the SBS NITV article Closing the Gap targets widening in serious areas including incarceration and children in out-of-home care published today.

‘Mixed progress’ calls for better collaboration

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney will present the findings of the 2022 Closing the Gap report to parliament today. The report shows signs of mixed progress on Closing the Gap targets, with the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians widening in some of the most serious areas:

While some targets are improving or “on track”:

  • Babies born with a healthy birthweight (89.5%)
  • Children enrolled in preschool (96.7%)

other targets are worsening or “not on track”:

  • Children being school ready (34.3%)
  • Adults in prison (2,222 per 100,000)
  • Children in out-of-home care (57.6 per 1,000)

This is the first Commonwealth Closing the Gap Annual Report since the launch of the 2020 National Agreement and Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation Plan released in August 2021. In 2020, an agreement between the federal government, the Coalition of Peaks, all state and territory governments and the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) was struck, aiming to renew ways of working together to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians. The groups agreed to improve 18 socio-economic outcomes across health, education, employment, housing, justice, safety, land and waters, culture, language and connectivity.

Minister Burney said the latest annual report told a story of mixed progress, and that it is disappointing to see a lack of progress in a number of areas. “The Closing the Gap architecture can only work when all parties are invested and there is a coordinated effort from all jurisdictions in partnership with First Nations peoples,” she said. “We have to work more closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make real and much-needed progress.”

To view the SBS NITV article Closing the Gap targets widening in serious areas including incarceration and children in out-of-home care in full click here. You can access the report here and also view the Minister Burney and Senator McCarthy joint media release 2022 Closing the Gap Annual Report here.

Churchill Fellows offer policy insights

NACCHO representatives were in attendance earlier today at Australian Parliament House for the launch Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda. This is the flagship publication of the Policy Impact Program, a partnership between The University of Queensland and The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

The publication includes articles from ten Policy Impact Program Fellows 2022, including the below four with specific relevance to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector:

  • Belinda Cook: First Nations First: Targeted investment to grow a dynamic and sustainable First Nations fashion sector
  • Dr Niroshini Kenney: Safe, Healthy & Thriving: How culturally safe health care can close the gap for Aboriginal children in care
  • Clement Ng: It’s Time to Treat Sick Kids, Not Punish Them
  • Maida Stewart: Healthy Housing Programs: For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with high rates of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease

To more information about the launch you can access the Winston Churchill Trust website here.

Clockwise: Belinda Cook, Dr Niroshini Kennedy, Clement Ng and Maida Stewart. Image source: Winston Churchill Trust website.

Holistic approach to child health and education

A community-based preschool in regional NSW is now a hub for the health of its community. Jumbunna Community Preschool and Early Intervention Centre, in Casino, NSW, is now an inclusive, holistic environment where families can access support and therapy for children with additional needs, along with accessing a preschool program. Jumbunna’s growth is proof of how needed its services have been in the regional community of Casino.

It became an early intervention centre in 1992 after originally starting as a community-based preschool. Jumbunna provides early intervention for around 130 children each year, including children with disabilities, delays in development or those who are at risk of delays for environmental or biological reasons. It serves many families from vulnerable backgrounds.

Jumbunna has now grown to include supported playgroups, mobile preschools that visit nearby remote communities, and parenting support. The centre is also an NDIS provider. Some service providers travel to attend the centre and hold clinics, including a paediatrician who comes over from Lismore. This is useful for families that aren’t able to access paediatricians, whether for financial reasons, difficulty accessing transport, or inability to get a referral.

Staff at Jumbunna have embedded themselves in the community to learn more about what services are needed, and its commitment to the health and wellbeing of children has travelled by word of mouth to more families. They’ve also developed relationships with local health services and the Aboriginal Medical Service. To better support local First Nations children, Jumbunna hosts the Happy Program which checks hearing and vision.

To read the Australia ProBono News article Jumbunna grows with community in full click here.

Jumbunna Community Preschool and Early Intervention Centre staff. Image source: Pro Bono News.

Arthritis, one of the most prevalent, costly diseases

Despite arthritis being one of our most prevalent and expensive diseases, impacting over 3.6m Australians (or 1 in 7) and costing $14b per year, a new report has identified major gaps in research, and confirmed the condition has one of the lowest levels of research funding of all chronic health conditions – keeping Australia dangerously ‘in the dark’ on this health priority.

The Arthritis Australia Impactful Arthritis Research report calls for an urgent focus on arthritis research. Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions account for 13% of the country’s total disease burden, on par with cardiovascular disease (13%), mental health (13%) and cancer (18%). But just 1% of the Medical Research Future Fund has been on arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions.

Arthritis is a leading cause of disability in Australia, affecting people of all ages with the number diagnosed with arthritis set to rise to 5.4m by 2030. Yet it remains poorly understood by the community, often trivialised and firmly focussed on the bones and joints, ignoring the significant broader health and life impacts on those living with the condition. The costs are extraordinary with over $2.3b a year spent currently on hip and knee replacements for osteoarthritis. This is anticipated to more than double to $5.3 billion per year by 2030.

The report outlines urgent research priorities with an emphasis on improved care, research across the multiple types of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, and the needs of communities and priority populations – including children, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, those living in rural and remote areas, and people with disabilities.

To read the Mirage article Australians ‘in dark’ with arthritis: one of our most prevalent and costly diseases in full click here.

Image source: Tristate Arthritis & Rheumatology website.

Crucial turning points for CTG intervention

A multi-disciplinary team of researchers will use more than 40 years of data to pinpoint crucial areas that could be “turning points” in development where intervention could contribute to closing the gap in Aboriginal health in Australia. The team, led by Telethon Kids Institute and The University of WA researcher, Associate Professor Francis Mitrou, has been awarded a prestigious Synergy Grant by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The five-year study, in partnership with Aboriginal communities, will use data from the West Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS) of more than 5,000 Aboriginal children and their families collected between 2000 and 2002, and which has been linked to administrative datasets from WA Government, some stretching back more than 40 years.

The milestone study is one of the most significant studies of its kind examining the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal children, conducted under the principles of Indigenous Data Sovereignty.

To view The University of WA article Rich data to highlight crucial turning points for intervention to close the gap in Aboriginal health in full click here.

ACT prison an overcrowded powderkeg

The ACT’s prison is no longer able to cope with the rising number of detainees and conditions inside the wire continue to deteriorate, with boredom and lack of education and training opportunities chronic issues feeding unrest, a new report says. The ACT Inspector of Correctional Services’ latest health check of the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) paints a damning picture of an overcrowded facility where women detainees feel unsafe, Indigenous detainees are subject to harsher discipline and cut off from family and culture, and a lack of meaningful activity generally leads to outbreaks of violence.

The Healthy Prison Review is only the second report since the first in 2019 and says the past three years have been challenging. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted AMC operations with fewer staff due to illness, detainees spending more time in their cells and a reduction in programs and visits but it alone cannot account for the deteriorating situation.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees are overrepresented in higher security classifications, uses of force, strip searches and as subjects of segregation orders, and feel their cultural and health needs are not being met. “Not being able to see family, attend Sorry Business, or practice cultural responsibilities causes significant harm for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and compounds dislocation from community,” the report says. “Disconnection from culture/family also increases the difficulty in re-engaging with community upon release.”

Aboriginal community controlled health service Winnunga Nimmityjah is making a difference at the AMC providing primary care but only about 30% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees are able to access this service at any one time. The report makes 29 recommendations including expanding the health centre and other facilities, increasing women’s accommodation, exploring the feasibility of a multi-purpose industries building, and creating a senior Aboriginal-identified position to find ways to reduce the disadvantages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees.

To view the Riotact article ACT’s prison an overcrowded powderkeg past its use by date, says report in full click here. You can also access a related statement Review of ACT Prison Reveals Serious Concerns by from ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) here.

Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Ian Cutmore, ABC News.

Sector Jobs

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Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Big believer in ACCHO model of health care

The image in the feature tile is of Dr David Scrimgeour who has published a book about his experiences working in the Western Desert. Photo: Giulia Bertoglio, ABC Goldfields. Image source: ABC News article Reflections on Australia’s last desert nomads, Pintupi Nine and Richters, and the homelands movement published on Sunday 27 November 2022.

Big believer in ACCHO model of health care

When Australia’s last groups of nomads walked out of the desert, David Scrimgeour was the first doctor to examine them. Dr Scrimgeour recounts this experience as well as two defining moments in Aboriginal history: the homelands movement and the push for Aboriginal-controlled health care in his book Remote As Ever: The Aboriginal struggle for autonomy in the Western Desert.

Dr Scrimgeour is a big believer in the Aboriginal community-controlled model of health care and hopes his book will show how important autonomy is for Aboriginal communities — particularly, he said, as government policies have ebbed away at the pride people felt when the communities were first established. “I think it’s important that that the Australian public generally are aware of how people did get out here to these communities,” he said. “And how important taking control of your own life is for people’s health.”

Dr Scrimgeour said there was now another social movement taking place in remote Aboriginal communities that gave him hope for the future. He described it as the “caring for country movement”, which was underpinned by ranger programs. He believes funding local people to undertake ecological and cultural work on country not only helps the environment but also people’s physical and spiritual health. “Caring for country is good for the health of the people,” he said. “It’s good for the health of the country. It’s good for the health of the whole country of Australia.”

To read the ABC News article Reflections on Australia’s last desert nomads, Pintupi Nine and Richters, and the homelands movement in full click here.

Aboriginal health practitioner Tyson Stevens, remote area nurse Simon Gabrynowicz, Dr Scrimgeour and Aboriginal health worker Winmati Roberts all worked at the Spinifex Health Service. Photo: Paul Bulley. Image source: ABC News.

Researchers need to invest time to build trust

Historically in Australia, research has been a dirty word among First Nations communities, some of the most ‘researched on’ people in the country. They got no ownership of the data obtained from their participation, no recognition of their sovereignty and no help in building their own research capacity. But there’s been a national push to try to ensure that research is driven, and co-designed, by Indigenous Australians themselves. Increasingly, national funders, including the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), require grant applicants to provide evidence of Indigenous partnerships, including Indigenous leadership.

As part of short series of articles about decolonizing the biosciences, paediatric lung researcher Pamela Laird has outlined the steps that clinical researchers must take to establish and maintain trusting relationships with Indigenous communities that they serve. Based at the University of WA and at Telethon Kids Institute, both in Perth, Laird’s team has spent years laying the foundation to study respiratory disease in Indigenous Australian children.

To view the nature article Invest the time to build trust among marginalized research participants in full click here.

Pamela Laird (right) and her team have spent years earning the trust of Indigenous Australian mothers whose children participate in respiratory research. Image source: nature.

NT set to raise age of criminal responsibility

The NT is this week set to become the first Australian jurisdiction to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years old. The move has been praised by health organisations and Indigenous groups, who say it will prevent children from becoming trapped in the criminal justice system. But the plan has also come under fire from the territory’s opposition, who say it risks encouraging youth offenders, and from paediatricians who say the age should be raised even higher.

In all Australian states and territories, the current minimum age of criminal responsibility is 10 — much younger than most other developed nations. Governments on both sides of politics have been under growing pressure to radically overhaul how they deal with youth offending since a Four Corners investigation into youth detention made global headlines in 2016.

At the centre of the investigation was the treatment of detainees inside Don Dale Youth Detention Centre near Darwin. The shocking vision included in the episode led to a royal commission which, among other things, recommended raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12. This is below the United Nations’ recommended minimum age of criminal responsibility, which was set at 14 by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2019.  Last year, in an escalation of international pressure, 31 UN member states called on Australia to raise the age as part of the Universal Periodic Review. But so far, only the NT and the ACT have announced plans to legislate the change.

To view the ABC News article Northern Territory set to become first Australian jurisdiction to raise age of criminal responsibility. Here’s what that means in full click here.

The NT’s minimum age of criminal responsibility is set to to be raised from 10 to 12. Photo: Tristan Hooft, ABC News.

WA Premier needs to “take notice” of evidence

Mark McGowan says “activists” like former Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley, who are campaigning for major reform of WA’s youth justice system, are not “dealing with the real world”. Professor Stanley, at the weekend described WA as the “worst” State for the development health of children. She called for the age of criminality to increase from 10 to 14, for the juvenile Unit 18 at Casuarina Prison to close by Christmas and for the McGowan Government to adopt Aboriginal service-led solutions.

The highly-respected child health advocate also publicly urged Mr McGowan to “take notice” of research and evidence that showed early intervention could prevent children from being locked-up. “We know from our studies, in our Telethon Kids Institute, that nearly 90 per cent of the children who have gone into Banksia and have been transferred into Casuarina have a major developmental disorder, either FASD (fetal alcohol syndrome) or ADHD or an intellectual disability. It’s not just FASD — it’s early life trauma, it’s actually intergenerational trauma.” Prof Stanley said. “Now, if you know that and understand it — and we have briefed every minister about that — how could you then do what’s happening to children in Banksia and Casuarina … it beggars belief.”

Former Labor premier Dr Carmen Lawrence joined forces with Prof Stanley to criticise the current Labor Government’s approach to youth detention, saying “it was a “disgrace” that so many young people were still being incarcerated in WA and that it was a “breach of any decent standards” to detain children at an adult prison. If you think of your own children or grandchildren, you’ll know that if they were kept in solitary confinement, even for an hour, they would start to climb up the walls. It’s inevitable that children will not behave well in those circumstances, so those practices have to stop,” she said.

To read the Kalgoolie Miner article Banksia Hill: Premier Mark McGowan slams activists’ ‘fanciful’ ideas regarding WA’s youth justice system in full click here.

On Sunday, Professor Stanley endorsed a suggestion that because 80% of the children in detention were Aboriginal, the aim should be for 80% of the facility’s staff to be Aboriginal. Photo: Andrew Ritchie, The West Australian.

AEC launches First Nations enrolment drive

The Australian Electoral Commission has launched a month-long advertising and communication campaign aimed at empowering First Nations Australians to have their say at electoral events. Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers says the campaign is aimed at the estimated 101,000 Indigenous Australians who are not enrolled to vote.

“Australia’s estimated Indigenous enrolment rate of 81.7% is the highest it’s ever been, but we’re not going to be satisfied until we’ve closed the gap with the broader national enrolment rate,” Mr Rogers said. “There is clearly the likelihood of a referendum soon with a topic specific to First Nations Australians, making high levels of enrolment and engagement even more important.”

To read the AEC media release Vote Loud. Vote Proud. AEC launches First Nations enrolment drive in full here.

CSIRO postgraduate scholarships available

The CSIRO has Master and PhD scholarships available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are enrolled in an Australian university and wish to undertake a postgraduate research degree.

If you have studied in any of the following disciplines, the CSIRO is especially keen to hear from you:

  • science
  • technology
  • engineering
  • maths.

The CSIRO postgraduate scholarships provide additional funding to a research training program (RTP) Scholarship, Centrelink education scheme payment or equivalent scholarship. Applicants must be of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent and enrolled in an Australian university.

Students can apply at any time of the year!!

You can find more information about the CSIRO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Postgraduate Scholarships by clicking here.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Youth justice funding response to rising public alarm

The image in the feature tile is from an article WA government announces funding boost for youth justice reforms in the face of growing pressure published in the National Indigenous Times on 27 November 2022. Photo: Govanni Torre.

Youth justice funding response to rising public alarm

After a long-running campaign and in the face of rising public alarm, the WA government has announced a $63m package it says will address the crisis in youth detention. The funding and reform plan is intended to deliver expanded mental health care, improved conditions and more education and vocational training in youth detention.

This comes in addition to funding announced earlier for building upgrades and to tackle the long-running dire staff shortages that saw the excessive use of lockdowns in the system. “The public rightfully expects that community safety is paramount. It is also vital to break the cycle of crime for young people,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

Former Inspector of Custodial Services, Professor Neil Morgan, has noted repeatedly that the high rate of re-offending among former Banksia Hill detainees, around 70%, indicated the failure of the system. Indigenous youth are radically overrepresentated in the children detained at Banksia Hill and Casuarina Prison’s Unit 18.

Premier McGowan recently met with a small group of advocates at a summit called in the wake of disturbing footage from within Banksia Hill being broadcast by state and national media. Human rights advocate Megan Krakouer, who has worked with hundreds of current and former Banksia Hill detainees building a class action case, said that “more than half of the newly announced spend is on upgrading cells”.

To view the National Indigenous Times article WA government announces funding boost for youth justice reforms in the face of growing pressure in full click here.

A related article Fiona Stanley and advocates urge for inquiry, greater Indigenous involvement in rehabilitation in juvenile detention was published earlier today by ABC News and is available here.

Fiona Stanley says Indigenous people have answers to problems facing the youth justice system. Photo: Cason Ho, ABC News.

SCMSAC celebrates 40 years

The Nowra Showground came alive as mob celebrated four decades of the South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation (SCMSAC) on Friday. Elders and school students united in song and dance to champion and reflect on the incredible work done by so many part of the organisation.

In 1982, Jane Ardler along with a number of local leaders formed the corporation, with the aim of achieving accessible and effective health care for Aboriginal communities with a focus on prevention and self-determination. The service started with just a single doctor working one day in a small meeting room at the cultural centre in Nowra.

Now 40 years on, the corporation has a proud team of over 120 employees, spread across eight locations, spanning from the head office in Nowra down to the Victorian border.

To read the Illawarra Mercury article South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation celebrates four decades of self-determination in full click here.

The Nowra Showground came alive as mob celebrated four decades of the South Coast Medical Service Aboriginal Corporation on Friday 25 November 2022.

Supporting students into tertiary studies

The vital knowledge of First Nations people will be harnessed in a new program to support students into tertiary studies in health, education, and arts. In January 2023, Charles Darwin University (CDU) will launch the First Nations Introduction to University for Health, Education, and Arts students, a taste of university for students interested in a career in health, education or arts.

Split into two interlinked units, the program will give foundational academic skills and knowledge in the students proposed future study area. The program was co-designed with First Nation and non-First Nation educators and professionals and will include guest speakers from local organisations.

Co-developer and Gudanji and Wakaja woman Dr Debra Dank said the inclusive program aimed to empower students and give them confidence to use and expand their knowledge.

To view the Charles Darwin University article New program to guide First Nations students into health, education and arts in full click here.

Image source: Charles Darwin University website.

Early Childhood Voice Conference 2022

Charles Sturt University is hosting a major early childhood education and research conference online from Monday 5 to Friday 9 December 2022 featuring international experts from Luxembourg, Canada, the USA and Australia as keynote speakers.

One of the keynote speakers will be Dr Hontel Givson  by Dr Chontel Gibson, a Kamilaroi woman from north-western NSW, who presentation is titled ‘Valuing Indigenous peoples and their health and wellbeing in early childcare services’. Dr Gibson graduated as an occupational therapist in 2000, was awarded a Master of Public Health in 2010, and a Doctorate of Philosophy relating to Aboriginal health and wellbeing in 2018. She has worked as an occupational therapist, policy officer and academic, and has held many leadership roles, including Board Director of Occupational Therapy Australia and the inaugural Deputy Chairperson for Indigenous Allied Health Australia.

Dr Gibson co-developed and continues co-chairing the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Occupational Therapy Network, which provides strategic advice on occupational therapy. She is currently managing the ‘Good for Kids. Good for Life’ team that supports early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in the NSW Hunter-New England region to implement health promoting practices in-line with ‘Munch and Move’.

To view the Charles Sturt University article Leading experts to speak at online Early Childhood Voices 2022 Conference in full click here.

iSISTAQUIT – change starts with a chat

For centuries, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People have been yarning with each other, utilising collective knowledge to solve complex problems. Through the iSISTAQUIT (implementing Supporting Indigenous Smokers to Assist Quitting) program, health providers are being trained and empowered to start a chat with pregnant women who smoke tobacco to encourage them to quit smoking, and empower Indigenous women to connect with health services that are trained and ready to assist.

All health providers understand the importance of quitting smoking, especially during pregnancy. Quitting smoking in pregnancy not only improves infant health outcomes such as birth weight and gestational age it also improves the health and wellbeing of the woman, her family and the entire community. Most Indigenous pregnant women want to quit smoking but may not get enough culturally appropriate guidance, resourcs and support from health providers.

It is not that health providers lack motivation to provide smoking cessation assistance. The issue is that Australian GPs and other health care workers who provide care to pregnant women often find themselves ill-equipped to provide smoking cessation care to Indigenous pregnant mums. In a study of 378 GPs and obstetricians, more than 75% agreed that training would help them provide better smoking cessation care in pregnancy.

To view the Insight Plus article Change starts with a chat – connecting through iSISTAQUIT in full click here.

Massive GP problems in coming years

The more than 1,500 RACGP members attending the GP22 conference were left in no doubt about the scale of the problems facing general practice in the coming years. Continued underinvestment, current and projected workforce shortages, and the erosion of their place in the healthcare system were at the top of the agenda. However, attendees also received insights into the amount of behind-the-scenes work the college has been doing to reverse this burgeoning crisis, as well as a path towards a brighter, more sustainable future.

Outgoing President Adjunct Professor Karen Price spoke about the challenges of her two-year term and thanked members for their tireless and much needed efforts. But she also warned about the need to redouble efforts to combat the coming headwinds. “We have endured another exhausting 12 months; however, you should all hold your heads high,” she said. “You have to delivered millions of COVID vaccines and boosters, flu vaccines, cared for patients who delayed or avoided screenings and consults during the pandemic, [and] we’ve helped those with mental health [concerns] and will continue to do so.”

“We achieved all of this despite many of the nation’s leaders and media commentators not fully appreciating the immense challenges and the complexity that we face every day – nor do they understand the value of our work. As professionals we must actively and rebelliously resist. We must declare that we are the experts in complexity and in general practice. We need meaningful reform backed by real investment. And as I’m fond of saying … reform without reinvestment is just red tape. We must draw more future GPs to the profession. We must keep the GPs we have. We must ensure high quality care is available to all patients in all corners of Australia. And we must secure the future of general practice care for years to come.”

To view the newsGP article Message of hope kicks off GP22 click here.


More than 1500 people have travelled to Melbourne to attend GP22 in-person. Photo: Adam Thomas, Image source: newsGP.

Sector Jobs

Sector Jobs – you can see sector job listings on the NACCHO website here.

Advertising Jobs – to advertise a job vacancy click here to go to the NACCHO website Current job listings webpage. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a Post A Job form. You can complete this form with your job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.