NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Thurs 30.6.22

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

KAMS’ quick response to COVID-19

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

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

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

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

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

Leading the way to improve RHD outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the JAC February 2022 communique.  

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

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

Decolonising healthcare – a call to action

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

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

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

REFOCUS makes profound difference

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

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

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

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

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

Calls for VIC Treaty Authority

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

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

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

Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Census lacks detail about people’s lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preparation for work in communities

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

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

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

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

New process for job advertising

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

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

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

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

Racism in perinatal health services

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

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

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

Image source: Monash University Lens webpage.

SA to start Voice to Parliament journey

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

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

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

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

First Nations more likely to die in childbirth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mental health restraint concerns

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

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

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

Image source: The University of Melbourne Pursuit webpage.

Approaches for non-Aboriginal health professionals

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

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

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

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

Indigenous Health Division is recruiting

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

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

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

Remote PHC Manuals project June update

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

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

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

New process for job advertising

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

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

Take Heart: Deadly Heart screening

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

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Mob more likely to die in car accidents

Mob more likely to die in car accidents

In a 2021 submission to the Joint Select Committee on Road Safety, the National Aboriginal Community Contorlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 2.7 times more likely to die, and 1.4 times more likely to suffer serious injury because of a vehicle crash compared to other Australians.

Pat Turner, CEO of NACCHO says, ‘this year’s National Road Safety Week is an important reminder that significant and sustained action must be taken to improve road safety outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The level of fatalities is unacceptable for our people. It is also unacceptable across the board for all Australians.’

In a 2021 policy submission, NACCHO outlines key recommendations for improving road safety outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community including, the need to fund Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and other community-controlled organisations to develop and deliver targeted road safety campaigns to their local communities, and to provide post-accident and trauma care, including training, medicines, and equipment.

Other recommendations include, subsidising public transport options for regional and remote communities to reduce the need for people to drive when it is unsafe to do so; developing and implementing road safety programs, including those that target prevention and early intervention; and, ensuring that any road enforcement policies do not disproportionately impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

‘These recommendations must be addressed in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and local communities and made widely accessible,’ Pat Turner stated.

Donnella Mills, Chair of NACCHO further commented, ‘government must take immediate action to improve road safety outcomes and reduce fatalities and injuries for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in alignment with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and the four Priority Reforms. These responses must be holistic and consider the social determinants of health.’

The policy submission can be accessed on the NACCHO website here and this media release here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Growing diabetes epidemic in remote NT

A new paper published this week shows rates of diabetes among Aboriginal people in remote NT communities are some of the highest in the world and getting worse—with the condition affecting more people, year after year. The research shows the prevalence of diabetes is currently 17% (of which 99% is classified as type 2 diabetes)—up from 14.4% recorded in 2012. When focusing on the adult population, the findings show a massive 29% of Aboriginal people in remote NT communities have diabetes, with the burden highest in the Central Australia region, where a staggering 40% of adults now have the condition. Diabetes is a leading contributor to kidney disease, heart disease, strokes, impaired vision and amputations due to infections.

The study analyses seven-years’ worth of health data relating to over 21,000 Aboriginal people from 51 remote communities across the NT. It was published in the online open access journal BMJ Open. Lead author Endocrinologist Dr. Matthew Hare said the burden of type 2 diabetes among Aboriginal people in remote communities of the NT is among the highest reported of any population globally, and there is an urgent need to introduce preventative strategies to address the crisis. “Type 2 diabetes is not due to ‘lifestyle choices.’ This epidemic is strongly related to the impacts of colonisation and the ongoing social and economic disadvantage experienced by many Aboriginal people in the remote NT.” “Holistic prevention strategies need to be developed and implemented in partnership with Aboriginal community members, alongside better resourcing of clinical care for chronic conditionsin remote communities,” Dr. Hare said.

To view the Medical Xpress article Growing diabetes epidemic in remote NT communities by Menzies School of Health Research click here.

Keen basketballer Kudin Brogan and her mum, Gemma Brogan, both live with diabetes. Photo: Michael Franchi, ABC News.

Dramatic increase in RHD funding needed

A dramatic increase in funding will be needed to eradicate a disease which stems from poverty in Australia’s Indigenous community, according to a leading paedeatrician. The federal government has committed to ending rheumatic heart disease (RHD) by 2030, but advocates are adamant the goal will not be met unless there’s a major increase in investment and a radical shift in the way overcrowding is tackled in remote communities.

The disease starts with repeated strep A infections which damage the heart over time, leading to serious illness and death. While the disease is no longer an issue in mainstream Australia, it disproportionately impacts Indigenous people, particularly women, in places like the Kimberley, NT and outback Queensland and SA, where overcrowding and poverty are entrenched. Experts warn the current trajectory of new diagnoses means more than 8,000 Indigenous people are expected to develop the disease in the next decade, leading to the deaths of about 600 people.

Commonwealth funding is largely targeted towards treatment, a task made difficult by cultural barriers and logistical challenges. Remote health workers and specialists who research the disease nationally say overcrowding and poverty among Indigenous Australians must be tackled meaningfully if the 2030 goal has any chance of being achieved.

To view the ABC News article Rheumatic heart disease funding needed to help Indigenous communities in full click here.

Curtis and Trey Brown travelled from Maningrida, NT, to Canberra in 2018 to raise political awareness of rheumatic heart disease. Photo: Josh Francis. Image source: ABC News.

Sign up to join the LIPPE family

The Leaders in Indigenous Pharmacy Profession Education (LIPPE) Network” is a partnership of the Australian Pharmacy Council, and the Council of Pharmacy Schools Australia and New Zealand. Under the leadership of Indigenous pharmacists, and in collaboration with other individuals and organisations, LIPPE will foster transformational change in the pharmacy workforce beginning with the recruitment and retention of students to the provision of care in practice settings.”

And “Sign up to join the LIPPE family – You will be part of a dynamic and growing community who are committed to making a difference through the work that pharmacists do. You will receive news on our progress, be invited to take part in events, including sharing your knowledge and expertise.”  You can watch a short video below of Wiradjiri woman Associate Professor Faye McMillan AM welcoming you to LIPPE, and find further information on the LIPPE Network website here.

New NT liquor laws process “shameful”

A coalition of peak Aboriginal and community bodies have ramped up their attack on the NT Government over its decision to allow booze to be sold in remote communities again for the first time in 15 years. The NT Government on Tuesday passed amendments to the Liquor Act allowing the sale of takeaway booze into hundreds of alcohol protected areas from mid-July. More than 200 remote communities and homelands will be able to decide for themselves whether they remain dry. About 100 will revert to old restrictions.

Aboriginal health, housing and justice organisations have panned the government’s lack of consultation before implementing the changes, arguing the move risked opening the floodgates to booze in remote communities. And now the Territory’s police union and council of social services have added their voices to the chorus of criticism, urging immediate consultation to avoid a looming booze-fuelled disaster. NT Police Association president Paul McCue said frontline police held “significant” concern about the reforms. “The passing of this legislation goes completely against what the Government claims to be achieving in relation to reducing alcohol-related harm,” he said. “Our already stretched resources will now undoubtedly suffer further strain, not to mention the risk to them, other frontline workers and the wider community as a result of alcohol related harm, “Residents in communities and town camps will now likely be subject to an increase of violence and isolation.”

NT Council of Social Services chief executive Deborah Di Natale said the legislation was rushed and done against the advice of ACCOs. The coalition is calling for a moratorium on takeaway alcohol sales until transparent negotiations have taken place, and for more funding for alcohol harm programs to manage increased needs. Concerns have also been raised about the impact of the policy on already-stretched Aboriginal medical services. AMSANT CEO John Paterson said the legislation’s process was shameful.

To view the National Indigenous Times article A relic of NT Intervention is being lifted, but peak Aboriginal groups are furious in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Initiative allows vision-impaired kids play football

Blind and vision impaired Aboriginal children from some of Australia’s most disadvantaged and remote communities will be able to participate in the transformational program through the use of audible balls. A new partnership between two of Australia’s most prolific sporting initiatives will provide football opportunities for children with eye and vision problems, currently the most common long-term health conditions experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The program established by John Moriarty Football (JMF) and Australian Blind Football (ABF) will help facilitate education and knowledge to coaches which will allow for children to enjoy the social benefits of the sport. Yanyuwa man John Moriarty AM, the Co-Founder of JMF and the first Indigenous man to be selected for the Socceroos, claims that the new partnership will be “game changing. Improving access to the game of football is paramount to us at JMF,” he said.

To view the SBS Sport article Game-changing initiative allowing blind, vision-impaired Aboriginal children to play football in full click here.

Vision impaired JMF participant, Alyawarr boy Tarrant Jackson (16 years), celebrates a goal in Tennant Creek, NT. Image source: SBS Sport website.

Chance for 2 years of PIHW membership

Want to be more LGBTQ inclusive in your care?

Through the Coles Grant Scheme, two 2-year Pride in Health + Wellbeing Memberships are available to help smaller organisations provide more LGBTQ inclusive care. These memberships will allow these organisations to not only review and upskill on their care for gender and sexuality diverse patients/service users but also to measure this change through the free annual Health + Wellbeing Equality Index (HWEI) benchmark and surveys.

For further details about the grants and to access an EOI form click here. EOIs close Wednesday 1 June 2022 – so get in QUICK!

New process for job advertising

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

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

National Road Safety Week

Every year, approximately 1,200 people are killed and another 44,000 are seriously injured on Australian roads. Traffic injury is the biggest killer of Australian children under 15 and the second-biggest killer of all Australians aged between 15 and 24. These numbers are growing every year but are preventable if we choose to Drive So Others Survive!.

National Road Safety Week is an annual initiative from the Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH) Group, partnering road safety organisations and Government. The week highlights the impact of road trauma and ways to reduce it.

You can access the National Road Safety Week 2022 website here, as well as view a short video below:

HIV&AIDS Sexual Health conference scholarships deadline extended

The deadline for Scholarship applications for HIV Clinicians to attend the Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS and Sexual Health Conferences 2022, has been EXTENDED to this Sunday 22 May 2022.

HIV Clinician scholarships include:

  • Return economy flights to the conference
  • Accommodation
  • HIV&AIDS Conference registration

View the Scholarships webpage here for more information on eligibility and priority.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: RHD impacts on young First Nations people

Image in feature tile from Bupa Take Heart of RHD webpage.

RHD impacts on young First Nations people

Mrs Vicki Wade, a Director at RHDAustralia and Senior Cultural Advisor at Menzies School of Health Research, is a senior Noongar woman with over 40 years’ experience in health at state and national levels. In 2021, she received a Heart Foundation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award for her project investigating the impacts of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in young Aboriginal and and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Vicki is undertaking research to explore the social and emotional needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (aged 15 to 25 years) with RHD. The Heart Foundation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Award will support her PhD, and build the capacity of an Aboriginal community researcher. The award will also build the capacity of Aboriginal individuals and communities to advocate for their own needs – beyond their medical needs – which must be addressed to improve health outcomes.

To view the article Q&A with Mrs Vicki Wade – Beyond the Scars: The social and emotional wellbeing of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples with RHD on the Australian Heart Foundation website click here. You can also view Vick Wade talking in the video below about the an RHDAustralia program, Champions4change, which involves over 60 champions across Australia who are passionate about making a difference in their communities. These champions are ideally placed to support the emotional and social needs of their communities, as they have the lived experience of rheumatic heart disease.

Myriad issues compound poor youth health

WA’s north feels the pinch due to food insecurity more than most, according to a host of Boab Health Services professionals. Dieticians Mandy Cripps, Tara Rawson and Isabelle Walker, and paediatric dieticians Aimee Sullivan and Sally Conte said a large proportion of children and youth seen by Boab present with issues such as growth faltering, iron deficiency and obesity, often stemming from varying levels of food insecurity.

The group said many factors drive food insecurity at an individual and systemic level, including weather, remoteness, environment, power supply, poverty, unemployment, high staff turnover and a lack of locally produced food, all of which drive up the price of food. “The Kimberley Region has people who are amongst the most disadvantaged in Australia paying the most for their food,” they said. Boab also identified the lack of personal transport to purchase food, overcrowded housing, a lack of adequate cooking facilities, trans-generational trauma and significant rates of poor mental health.

The Boab dieticians said it was important any solutions to the crisis were co-designed and community driven. “There is an obvious need for crisis food provision – giving food to those in need short term – as well as a longer-term strategic approach,” they said. “Not having enough good food to eat impacts on learning and life outcomes, and we are keen to see what can be done to help children in this situation.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Myriad issues compounding poor health among WA’s youth revealed as govt launches inquiry in full click here.

Empty shelves in the Kimberley, WA. Photo: ABC. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Water woes for remote NT communities

Yuelamu is a small indigenous community of 200–300 people, with the population varying depending on which family came to visit. Located 280 kms NW of Alice Springs, the community is in one of the most remote areas of the country, nestled among rocky hills at the end of a long stretch of red dirt road. The large community dam and lush greenery surrounding the township are deceiving. The reality is that this is one of the most water-stressed communities in the country.

The most recent measurements from NT’s Power and Water Corporation suggest that the small aquifer that has been the community’s main source of water since 2016 has just 18 months of supply left. It’s an improvement from measures last month, when the utility announced that groundwater supplies had reached an all-time high and crews were immediately trucked to the community for water.

As the latest sampling put an end to the need to truck in water, crews began work on the facilities to truck water in from a temporary borehole on the highway. Tanami, 20 kms away, which should open by the end of May. It’s a band-aid solution with a hefty price tag, but one that could be the lifeline of Yuelamu.

You can read the Duchetridao article Indigenous Yuelamu community faces water crisis as aquifer dries up in full here and watch a short video about the water availability issues in Yuelamu here.

Signs around Yuelamu explain to locals how to save water. Photo: Saskia Mabin, ABC Alice Springs. Image source: Dicjetrodap.

Brain injury support for mob

An Edith Cowan University (ECU) research project has established in-community stroke and brain injury support groups run by, and catering to, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Project lead Professor Beth Armstrong said the initiative was created after previous research identified a gap in the continuity of care of Aboriginal Australians following a stroke or traumatic brain injury caused by an incident such as a car accident, fall, or assault.

“The essential component involves providing a culturally safe space that Aboriginal Australians will be comfortable with and will want to come back to,” Professor Armstrong said. They aim to help improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Australians, who are often underrepresented in rehabilitation services.

You can access the SBS NITV radio interview Bridging the gap for Aboriginal Australians with traumatic brain injury SBS NITV Radio here.

Photo: Edith Cowan University. Image source: SBS NITV Radio.

Regional Australians avoid bowel cancer diagnosis

Listen to your body and don’t ignore what it’s telling you — that’s the advice of Geraldton man John McLellan who has battled bowel cancer and knows all too well how important it is to react quickly to unusual body changes. He recommended regional men and women listen to their bodies. “If you think you’re not well, don’t ignore it and seek advice,” he said. The Cancer Council is urging adults in the Mid West to familiarise themselves with the symptoms of bowel cancer, and to visit a doctor if they begin experiencing symptoms.

“In the Mid West region in 2019, 50 people were diagnosed with bowel cancer and 17 people died from it,” Cancer Council Mid West regional educational officer Aiden McDowell said. Cancer Council WA’s recent data shows 25 people a week are diagnosed with bowel cancer in WA alone, with regional Australians less likely to be alive five years after diagnosis compared with Australians living in metropolitan areas. Mr McDowell said in 2019, bowel cancer — or colorectal cancer — was the third most common cancer in men and women in WA.

“If you’re unsure about a possible symptom you should make an appointment to discuss the change with your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker as soon as possible,” he said. Common symptoms of bowel cancer include blood in faeces, a new pain, lump or swelling in the stomach, fatigue, paleness, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite and unusual bowel movements.

To view The West Australian article Cancer Council statistics show Mid West bowel cancer figures are high and regional Australians avoid diagnosis in full click here. You can also view a WA Cancer Council bowel cancer screening campaign Youtube video featuring Mary G below.

FASD clinician guideline questionnaire

The University of Queensland in collaboration with 12 organisations around Australia are currently undertaking a comprehensive review of the Australian Guide for Assessment and Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). As part of the process of revising the guideline, they would like to gather experiences, input, and feedback from Australian clinicians and are inviting you to complete the Australian clinicians’ determinants questionnaire to better understand clinicians’ awareness and current utilisation of the guideline.

Participation of this questionnaire is completely voluntary and should take no more than 20 minutes to complete. If you are interested in participating this research, you can access the questionnaire here and if you have any questions regarding the study, please contact Dr. Natasha Reid via email here.

You can view a recent article Key Stakeholder Priorities for the Review and Update of the Australian Guide to Diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A Qualitative Descriptive Study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health which summarises initial input gathered from the project’s Advisory Group members here.

Image source: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

New treatment keeps bush kids close to home

Medical researchers have started a project designed to treat sick outback kids near where they live – keeping them close to home and family, and saving millions of dollars in aeromedical transport costs. Ms Sally West, a Clinical Nurse, researcher and PhD student at James Cook University’s Murtupuni Centre for Rural and Remote Health, is part of a study that includes researchers from Griffith University, James Cook University, Wesley Hospital and Metro South Hospital and Health Services. She said the team will focus on the treatment of children suffering Acute Respiratory Failure (ARF) in rural and remote areas.

“Acute respiratory distress in children is the most common reason for emergency department (ED) presentations in Australia and is the reason for more than half of all hospital admissions of children under one year of age. It’s also the most common reason for paediatric aeromedical transfers in remote Australia. We saw an opportunity to collaborate with lead world respiratory paediatric researcher Dr Andreas Schibler, this was the obvious step forward given his landmark work in nasal high flow therapy” said Ms West.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Donna Franklin from Griffith University  said many rural and remote hospitals see delays in transfers due to the distances involved, availability of aircraft or weather, often resulting in an extended stay in the local ED for the children and increased pressure on local resources. “What we are setting out to do is introduce nasal high-flow (NHF) therapy to rural and remote hospitals,’’ she said. “This is a relatively new and effective approach to help children with ARF. The uptake of NHF in urban and tertiary hospitals has been rapid over the past few years, but rural/remote health care settings are lagging behind.”

To view the James Cook University article New Treatment keeps bush kids close to home in full click here.

Proud Arrernte and Garrwa actor Dujuan Hoosan. Photo: Maya Newel. Image source: Outdoors Queensland.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Rural and regional health system is broken

Image in feature tile from Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation, NSW website.

Rural and regional health system is broken

Dr Rob Phair, GP in Bairnsdale Victoria, and President of the Rural Doctor’s Association of Victoria. Dr Robin Williams, GP in Molong NSW, and Chair of the Western NSW Primary Health Network and Dr Gabreille O’Kane, CEO of the Rural Health Alliance were guests this morning on an episode of ABC Radio National Life Matters hosted by Michael Mackenzie discussing the question ‘Is the medical system in rural and regional Australia still fit for purpose?’

Rural doctors say the death, earlier this month, of a 72-year-old man in Bairnsdale, eastern Victoria, died in an emergency room bathroom after waiting more than three hours for treatment is the latest example of a broken medical system, which, they argue, needs a radical restructure to meet the changing needs of the times.

Dr O’Kane said the ACCHO model of care is appealing to the rural health sector and is proposing a community-led model of care employing a range of healthcare professionals, from GPs and psychologist to nurses and physiotherapists, similar to ACCHOs.

You can listen to the Life Matters interview in full here.

Photo: Ian Waldie, Getty Images. Image source: ABC News RN Life Matters webpage.

Health sector needs ‘whole-of-workforce’ strategy

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) is urging all political parties to recognise the importance of our workforce in establishing a health system that can deliver the care Australians deserve. ‘Matching and forecasting the needs, demands and supply of the health workforce is complex in any context,’ says AHHA Acting Chief Executive Kylie Woolcock. ‘However, ahead of the upcoming Federal Election, urgent action is needed to address workforce issues in Australia’s heath system if it is to continue to provide vital services to the community.’

To view the AHHA media release Whole-of-workforce strategy needed to deliver healthcare that Australians deserve in full click here.

RHD not purely due to remoteness

Lynette Bullio’s son Jalil was just seven years old when he found out he would need painful injections each month until at least his 21st birthday. The Cairns boy was limping around but he and his mother thought it was because he had tripped over at school. When, by the end of the week, Jalil couldn’t even manage a short walk from his mother’s car to the school gate, Ms Bullio knew it was something more serious. Jalil, now 11, was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease(RHD).

He is one of thousands of mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across northern Australia with the condition that was largely eradicated in Australia’s urban non-Indigenous population about 60 years ago. “It still is traumatic, I think, when I talk about it and realise how huge this disease is,” Ms Bullio said. “I start getting a lump in my throat.”

Ben Reeves, a paediatric cardiologist at Cairns Hospital, said while the disease was often associated with isolated communities he still saw new cases of rheumatic fever in Cairns children every week. “This is not purely due to remoteness,” Dr Reeves said. “It’s a lack of access to appropriate facilities and it’s a lack of awareness among the community and some health staff and we’re trying very hard to turn this around.”

You can access the ABC Far North News article Rheumatic heart disease strategy launched in Queensland as more people get sick in large centres in full here.

Image source: newsGP.

Major Parties ‘Nowhere on Health’

The AMA is disappointed the federal election campaign is half-way through and ‘nowhere on health’, while calls for politicians to address health policy are getting louder in the community. State Premiers, Health Ministers and State Treasurers have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Federal Health Minister previously to ask for a 50-50 split on hospital funding, and to remove the annual cap on activity, in order to deal with the backlog of care in the community following COVID-19 lockdowns.

“State and Territory Ministers, and even Premiers, have stated their clear, unequivocal support for a 50-50 agreement that removes the cap on funding growth – this is not something an incoming government is going to be able to ignore. So instead, political parties should be outlining how they will fix our hospital system, should they win government,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

To view the AMA’s media release Halfway to Nowhere on Health, AMA says future PM and Government can’t hide from urgent need for new hospital agreement in full click here.

Fears NT bill will open booze floodgates

Three Indigenous bodies are calling on the NT government to immediately shelve legislation which could allow take-away alcohol into more than 430 communities from mid-July this year. The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT (AMSANT), the Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency and Aboriginal Housing NT have proposed the bill be dismissed.

Under the 2007 Federal Intervention, these communities in NT became Alcohol Protected Areas, which continued under the Stronger Futures legislation. AMSANT CEO John Patterson said consultations for the proposed change have not begun. “There has been no proper consultation, and there simply cannot be any in the short time available,” he said. “Aboriginal health organisations and peak bodies did not know about the Bill. This Government has introduced many excellent alcohol reforms, and this sudden and puzzling change is a backward step that has not been explained properly to anyone. Why not move to an opt-out system instead which would ensure all communities make an active decision about what they want to do rather than simply have the current protections taken away.”

North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency executive officer Priscilla Atkins said the mixture of dry and unrestricted communities would be impossible to monitor. “The biggest issue we’ve got is a lot of criminal matters that come before the court are alcohol related,” she said. “You’re going to have alcohol coming into the remote communities there’ll be more violence, more pressure on the courts, more pressure on the police…and it’s disappointing that we’re talking about this now and the legislation expires on the 30th of June.

You can view the National Indigenous Times article Fears NT Govt bill will open booze floodgates in dry communities in full here.

Photo Tim Wimborne, Reuters. Image source: The Guardian.

Agent Orange poisoned WA mob

Premiering from June onwards on both NITV and SBS online platforms, a documentary On Australian Shores, produced and directed by Ngikalikarra Media, will tell the harrowing story of a large number of Aboriginal men and their families, who were knowingly and unwittingly poisoned by government in order to enhance the profits of the agricultural industry. The story of the wanton neglect of the WA Agricultural Protection Board (APB) via a series of interviews with survivors, their family members that have outlived them, and current generations still affected by Agent Orange poisoning.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers has spoken to Ngikalikarra Media co-producer, director and editor Dr Magali McDuffie about how despite numerous inquiries and reports the overwhelming majority of victims remain uncompensated, while the WA government continues to deny any of it ever happened.

You can read the article WA Poisoned First Nations With Agent Orange: An Interview With Ngikalikarra’s Dr Magali McDuffie in full on the Sydney Criminal Lawyers website here.

One of the APB work crews employed to unknowingly spray Agent Orange around the Kimberley. Image source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers website.

NDIS access in the Kimberley region

An article Equity in Access: A Mixed Methods Exploration of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Access Program for the Kimberley Region, WA has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The article describes a study exploring the process and early outcomes of work undertaken by a program to increase Aboriginal people’s awareness of, and access to, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The Access Program was reported as successful by staff in its aim of connecting eligible people with the NDIS. Vital to this success was program implementation by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector. Staff in these organisations held community trust, provided culturally appropriate services, and utilised strengths-based approaches to overcome barriers that have historically hindered Aboriginal people’s engagement with disability services. The results of the study demonstrate the Access Program is a successful start in increasing awareness of, and access to, the NDIS for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region, however much work remains to assist the large number of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region believed to be eligible for NDIS support who are yet to achieve access.

To view the article in full click here.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Get ready for Heart Week

One Australian is having a heart attack or stroke every 4 minutes.

This Heart Week from Monday 2 -–Sunday 8 May 2022, presents an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of heart health and for GPs, nurses and general practice staff to deliver Heart Health Checks for more at-risk Australians. It is an opportunity for health professionals and the Australian public to start a conversation about heart health and take steps to reduce their risk of heart disease. General practice teams and health professionals have a pivotal role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and have the power to change the one every 4 minute statistic by focusing on simple, routine practices that have a measurable lifesaving impact.

For more information about Heart Week 2022 click here.

Image source: Heart Foundation website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Labor releases Indigenous health policy

Labor releases Indigenous health policy

Labor have issued a media release outlining the focus of their Indigenous health policy. An Albanese Labor Government will train 500 additional First Nations Health Workers and invest in life-saving dialysis and rheumatic heart disease treatments to help close the gap in First Nations health outcomes.

Aboriginal community-controlled health services worked tirelessly to keep First Nations communities safe during the pandemic. Their workforce has been stretched to its limits and vital programs such as chronic disease prevention and First Nations health checks have had to be scaled back.

Labor will work in partnership with community-controlled and other health services to strengthen the sector and improve health outcomes for First Nations people by:

  • Training 500 First Nations Health Workers – building the First Nations health workforce, creating jobs and revitalising community-controlled health services after the pandemic.
  • Delivering up to 30 new dialysis units – so people living in the city and the bush can access lifesaving treatment for chronic kidney disease.
  • Doubling federal funding to combat Rheumatic Heart Disease – so that fewer people miss out on lifesaving screening, treatment and prevention programs in high-risk communities.

To view the Labor media release Labor will Strengthen First Nations Health in full click here.

Bibbulmun woman Corina Abraham-Howard from Perth receives dialysis at the Purple House in Alice Springs. Photograph: Photo: Mike Bowers. Image source: The Guardian.

Calls for healthcare language boost

A NT collective responsible for aiding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika manage a serious illness say appropriate health messaging could halve medical conditions in Aboriginal communities. Mr Marika recently underwent a second operation to treat his rheumatic heart disease thanks to education provided by Why Warriors co-founder Richard Trudgen.

For years Mr Marika lived with his condition without properly understanding it as language used by doctors was difficult to comprehend. Mr Trudgen said this has been a failure of the system for some time. Why Warriors aim to provide First Nations people with radio and on-demand content presented in language for this purpose.

In cases like Mr Marika’s, messaging form Western and Aboriginal medical services are not adjusted for patients who use English as a second language, if at all. Mr Trudgen said simplifying the information does little more than restrict people from the important details. “They want evidential information that shows the cause and effect right down to a biomedical level.” Why Warriors hope to secure funding to stretch their processes to First Nations communities around the country.

To view the ABC News article Yothu Yindi legend undergoes operation amid calls for healthcare language boost in full click here.

Founding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika

Founding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika. . Image source: NT News.

Why Western therapy is not the answer

Portia Walker-Fernando was 16 when she first saw a counsellor, overwhelmed by anger and distress that her brother was being bullied at school because he was Indigenous. “The racism was fairly frequent,” says Walker-Fernando, a Bundjalung woman, from the Northern Rivers of NSW, who, at 24, still carries anxiety and depression.

“As a 16-year-old who was trying to understand why, it really, really hurt. Being Indigenous and being black is something you can’t change.”

Walker-Fernando says intergenerational trauma and racism have contributed to her mental health issues, with her anxiety spiking every year about January 26. “Looking at our history and our story, there’s so much trauma embedded in that. I have a panic attack pretty much every Survival Day – or Australia Day – because of that really strong impact that it has on me,” she says. “No one’s been given the life tools to be able to heal from these traumas, so we’re still carrying them today.”

Half the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience racial discrimination report feelings of psychological distress, according to a Victorian study by the Lowitja Institute, meaning they are vulnerable to developing anxiety and depression.

To view The Age article ‘I have a panic attack every Survival Day’: Why Western therapy wasn’t the answer for Portia in full click here.

Portia Walker-Fernando from Casino pictured with her children. Photo: Natalie Grono. Image source: The Age.

Broncos support IUIH’s Deadly Choices

The Brisbane Broncos will continue to encourage Queensland’s Indigenous youth to get active and healthy, as part of its ongoing support of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health’s (IUIH) Deadly Choices preventative health program.

By prioritising healthy eating, exercise, the avoidance of tobacco and alcohol use, and ensuring individuals continue to complete an annual health check, the Club hopes to unearth and foster future talent of the calibre of current players, Selwyn Cobbo and Kotoni Staggs.

Cobbo, a proud Wakka Wakka man from Cherbourg was today joined by the Burnett’s original Broncos flyer, current and fellow Deadly Choices Ambassador, Steve Renouf to unveil a new suite of health check shirts, used as incentives to encourage local communities to visit the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane for an annual check-up.

Broncos CEO Dave Donaghy said: “Deadly Choices is an outstanding program making a real difference and we are proud of our partnership with the IUIH that now extends beyond a decade.

To view the Broncos promote ‘Deadly’ Communities media release in full click here.

Selwyn Cobbo. Image source: Broncos website.

NT AHW Excellence Awards noms open

The NT’s best and brightest Health Workers and Practitioner’s have the chance for their efforts and work to be recognised, with nominations opening for the 2022 Northern Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards.

The awards are held annually to recognise and acknowledge the significant contribution Aboriginal health workers and practitioners make to their families, communities and the healthcare system across the Northern Territory. These awards acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by our highly valued Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners workforces within the previous 12 months.

Nominations are open from Tuesday 26 April 2022 to Sunday 19 June 2022. To submit a nomination, visit the awards webpage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards – Department of Health here, or contact Aboriginal Workforce Development
using this email link or ring (08) 89227 278.

To view the NT Government Health Minister Natasha Fyles’ media release in full click here.

Aboriginal health workers, Sherryl King and Keinan Keighran, from Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service were recognised for their work at the 2021 NT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards. Photo: Charlie Bliss. Image source: Katherine Times.

Swapping the screen for nature

Model and actor Magnolia Maymuru is careful about how she spends her time. When not in the make-up chair, she retreats into nature – a habit she wishes the rest of the world would adopt, too.

Modern science may have only recently uncovered the link between exposure to nature and increased wellbeing, but Indigenous Australians such as Magnolia Maymuru have been aware of it for thousands of years. “Up here, we have connections to everything around us, from the ground to the sky,” the model and actor said.

Born in Darwin, Maymuru belongs to the Yolngu people – a group of Aboriginal clans from north-east Arnhem Land – who believe that they don’t only come from the land, they are the land, too. “We’re born into our connection [with the outdoors],” she explains. “Every time I come back from the city and hear the waves crash, it just does something to me.”

To view the Body + Soul article Magnolia Maymuru on swapping screen time for real connections with nature in full click here.

Magnolia Maymuru. Photo: Body+Soul. Image source: BodyAndSoul.

Barriers to physical activity for mob

Physical activity has cultural significance and population health benefits. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults may experience challenges in participating in physical activity. A review that aims to synthetize existing evidence on facilitators and barriers for physical activity participation experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in Australia has been undertaken.

The review identified 63 barriers: 21 individual, 17 interpersonal, 15 community/environmental and 10 policy/program barriers. Prominent facilitators included support from family, friends, and program staff, and opportunities to connect with community or culture. Prominent barriers included a lack of transport, financial constraints, lack of time, and competing work, family or cultural commitments. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults experience multiple facilitators and barriers to physical activity participation. Strategies to increase participation should seek to enhance facilitators and address barriers, collaboratively with communities, with consideration to the local context.

To view the Facilitators and Barriers to Physical Activity and Sport Participation Experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adults: A Mixed Method Review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in full click here.

Photo: IUIH. Image source: Exercise Right website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

World Immunisation Week

World Immunisation Week, celebrated in the last week of April, aims to highlight the collective action needed and to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.

The World Health Organisation works with countries across the globe to raise awareness of the value of vaccines and immunisation and ensures that governments obtain the necessary guidance and technical support to implement high quality immunisation programmes.

The ultimate goal of World Immunization Week is for more people – and their communities – to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

In a related article parents and carers are being reminded of the importance of getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19 in a new information video from the Department of Health.

The video features GP and Senior Doctor at Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (HSAC), Dr Aleeta Fejo who answers important questions about children and the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr Fejo, a Larrakia and Warumungu traditional owner and Elder, said fake stories and misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines were unfortunately very common, especially on social media.

She said it was natural for parents to have questions about giving their kids the jab. “COVID-19 is a serious illness that can affect everyone—including children,” Dr Fejo said. “Vaccines can help stop your child becoming very sick, or even dying, if they catch the virus,” she said.

You can view a three-minute video featuring Dr Fejo below.

Also related is a advice from AMA NSW: with shorter days and cooler temperatures, NSW residents are urged to talk to their GP about getting their flu jab. “Flu season usually occurs from June to September in Australia, and we urge patients to time their vaccination to achieve the highest level of protection during the peak of the season,” said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen.

“Your GP can provide you with advice on when to get your flu shot. Patients should also know that influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone aged six months and over and is free for patients most at risk. “This includes adults over 65 years and over, children under five, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people with certain medical conditions.”

To view the AMA NSW media release Flu season around the corner – time to plan click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Mob 15 times more likely to have RHD

Image in feature tile is of Tenaya Bell, one of 1000s of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the incurable disease, RHD. Image supplied to ABC News by Telethon Kids Institute.

Mob 15 times more likely to have RHD

In a media statement released earlier today NACCHO commented on a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) concerning the rate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) in comparison to other Australians. The media statement is reproduced here in full:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease than other Australians

In a report released on 12 April 2022, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) highlight the alarming findings that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with RHD than all Australians. New diagnoses of Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are also increasing. Previous research has also shown that Aboriginal children between 5 to 15 years of age are 55 times more likely to die from RHD than other Australian children.

Pat Turner, NACCHO CEO said, “ARF and RHD are preventable conditions. Despite this, too many of our communities continue to experience the effects of these diseases of disadvantage. This updated report provides further evidence that a new approach to ending ARF and RHD is needed. It is imperative the ACCHO sector now plays the lead role in identifying and implementing future solutions.”

To address some of the significant issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly in rural and remote areas, NACCHO, with funding support from the Department of Health, is co-designing a new program of activities with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector. These activities will be designed to support early detection and effective treatment of RHD and ARF and ensure services are provided in a culturally safe way, targeting highest need communities.

You can view the media statement on the NACCHO website using this link.

Image source: AIHW ARF and RHD in Australia, 2016–2020 website page.

Galiwin’ku AHP clocks up 30 years

Wanamula Dorothy Gondarra, who celebrated her 70th birthday yesterday, has shown dedication to health promotion in the Galiwin’ku community over the last three decades. During that time Wanamula has worked at Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation for almost 20 years.

AMA gives major parties ‘F’ on health

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid and Victorian emergency physician Dr Stephen Parnis where interviewed this morning on Channel 9’s Today show about the crisis in health and what Labor and the Liberal National Party are promising for health in the federal election.

Dr Omar said “what we need is a solution for our epidemic of chronic disease in the community. That means modernising our Medicare system and making sure that GPs can look after those things properly in the community and take the pressure on off our hospitals. And of course, the other thing we need is both sides of politics to get real, to understand that the ambulance ramping crisis is actually affecting people’s lives on a daily basis now in Australia. They’ve got to find a solution to work with the states, properly fund those hospitals and make sure that every Aussie who gets sick knows that when they go to the hospital, they’re going to get the care they need, when they need it.”

Dr Paris said “a whole number of things were needed, including better resourcing, and part of that means a better financial contribution from the Federal Government for hospitals. It needs better support for staffing, some of that in the short-term to ensure that staff can have time away – there is no substitute for that when you’ve got thousands of people who are burned out. And you also need the support of systems that take away pressure from hospitals, as Omar said, with general practice, but also in the area of aged care which puts an enormous amount of pressure on emergency departments and inpatient wards.”

To view the AMA’s transcript of the interview in full click here.

Calls to shelve NT alcohol legislation

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT), the Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and the Aboriginal Housing NT (AHNT) are calling on the NT Government to immediately shelve legislation that could allow take-away alcohol into more than 430 Community Living Areas, town camps and other small communities from mid-July 2022. These communities became Alcohol Protected Areas (APAs) under the 2007 Federal Intervention, and this continued under Federal Labor’s Stronger Futures legislation. The alcohol-related Stronger Futures provisions will expire on 16 July this year. Territory communities that were already ‘dry’ General Restricted Areas for many years, through their own choice, will keep that status – but the APA communities will have to apply to stay alcohol-free or the condition will lapse and they will have no restrictions.

If the Government’s amendments to the Liquor Act Bill is passed in May, it will open the floodgates to take-away alcohol unless communities ask the Director of Licensing to declare them ‘dry.’ “There has been no proper consultation, and there simply cannot be any in the short time available. Aboriginal health organisations and peak bodies did not know about the Bill,” said Mr Paterson, CEO of AMSANT. “Consultations for the proposed changes have not even begun”, Mr Paterson. “We call on the Chief Minister in the strongest terms to cease playing with Aboriginal people’s lives. High levels of alcohol consumption continue to lead to serious health and social problems in the Territory. This Bill must be withdrawn now, or the Federal Government must act.” concluded Mr. Paterson.

To view the joint AMSANT, Aboriginal Housing NT and North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency media release in full click here.

Photo: Claire Campbell, ABC News.

Deadly Choices drives positive health

The Men’s Health Golf Day marks one of Deadly Choices’ first community participation events for 2022, driving positive health behaviour from the Gold Coast’s Palm Meadows Golf Course.  The annual event brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men from across Queensland to ‘drive home’ the messages associated with healthy lifestyles, with a focus on raising awareness of mental health and encouraging men to seek out support from their local ACCHOs.  As with all Deadly Choices events, participants must have an up to date 715 Health Check.

The event will allow recently named Birmingham Commonwealth Games weightlifter and Olympian Brandon Wakeling a chance to limber up before international competition in July, joined by fellow Olympian, Australia’s fastest man and 2032 Brisbane Olympic Organising Committee member, Patrick Johnson. The Olympic feel is complemented by a distinct NRL presence, with league legends and fellow Deadly Choices Ambassadors Petero Civoniceva, Steve Renouf, Willie Tonga, Brenton Bowen and Tyrone Roberts enjoying the Gold Coast fairways.

“Mental health overarches everything we do with Deadly Choices relating to overall health and wellbeing, so when men can get on top of that, everything else seems that little bit easier to manage,” said Renouf. “These issues can blind men from their responsibilities as a son, as a husband and as a father – they become closed off and that’s when depression can take hold.”

Deadly Choices Ambassadors Petero Civoniceva, Steve Renouf, Willie Tonga, Tyrone Roberts, Brenton Bowen, plus Olympians Brandon Wakeling and Patrick Johnson joined150 men from right across Queensland to tee off this morning.

Deadly New Dads video competition

Entries are now open for the SMS4dads Deadly New Dads Video Competition, which invites soon-to-be and new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers to submit a short video (under two minutes) showcasing what they love about being or becoming a new dad.

Click here For more information. Those who enter the competition will go into the draw to win from a total prize pool of $10,000. For each category, prizes include:

  • overall winner – $3000
  • second prize – $1000
  • third prize – $500.

Entries close on Sunday 22 May 2022.

Real time prescription monitoring

Minister for Health, Natasha Fyles, says a new medicine management system is now live across the NT ensuring greater care for patients. NTScript was jointly funded by the Territory Labor Government and the Federal Government, and it provides real time prescription monitoring (RTPM) information for controlled drugs at the point of care, helping to improve clinical decision making.

Through using NTScript, Clinicians in the NT now have greater access to prescribing records, including up-to-date information about the supply of high risk medicines. NTScript will assist with the identification of people who may be at risk of harm from medicine use. This will enable clinicians to have informed conversations with patients and help reduce the risk of medication related harm.

To view the media release in full click here.

TB in Australia’s Tropical North study

The NT has the highest tuberculosis (TB) rate of all Australian jurisdictions. A study has been undertaken combining TB public health surveillance data with genomic sequencing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates in the tropical ‘Top End’ of the NT to investigate trends in TB incidence and transmission. This retrospective observational study included all 741 culture-confirmed cases of TB in the Top End over three decades from 1989–2020. The findings of the study support prioritisation of timely case detection, contact tracing augmented by genomic sequencing, and latent TB treatment to break transmission chains in Top End remote hotspot regions.

To read the research paper Tuberculosis in Australia’s tropical north: a population-based genomic epidemiological study published in The Lancet Regional Health Western Pacific click here.

L-R: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium which causes TB. Image source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. TB most commonly causes pneumonia, The Conversation. A Mantoux test for TB being administered in a Darwin Clinic – Katherine Gregory, ABC News.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS + Sexual Health Conferences

For 30 years the Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference, the leading HIV conference in Australasia, has brought together delegates from Australia, NZ, Asia, and the Pacific. Importantly, the Conference reaches beyond Australasia, with keynotes and invited speakers from around the world. This makes for an event with global and local relevance, giving delegates a global platform with access to state-of-the-art research and evidence.  ASHM coordinates the conference to disseminate new and innovative research findings among delegates from a range of backgrounds

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM)’s vision for reconciliation is that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience equity, dignity, and respect in all aspects of life. Therefore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples representation in research, policy and health education is an ongoing goal for both ASHM and the Conference, and we welcome all Indigenous delegates and submissions from Indigenous professionals. 

The four-day face-to-face conference will be held from Friday 29 August – Monday 1 September 2022 at The Sofitel Central Brisbane Centre.

For more information visit the Australasian Sexual Health Conference (ASRHA) website here.

Abstract Submission Deadline: Sunday 1 May

Early Bird Registration Deadline: Thursday 30 June

Standard Registration Deadline: Sunday 14 August

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Health Journey Mapping tools launched

Image in feature tile is by Ngarrindjeri artist Jordan Lovegrove – Karko Creations from the Lowitja Institute Learning and Development Hub website page.

Health Journey Mapping tools launched

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people often experience complex and challenging health care journeys that are culturally unsafe, leading to adverse health outcomes.

Yesterday, Associate Professor Janet Kelly of the University of Adelaide and the Lowitja Institute, launched the Health Journey Mapping tools and resources to improve the quality and cultural safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health care journeys.

Lowitja Institute CEO, Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, said the tools will help embed culturally safe practices into healthcare through a strengths-based approach, “Like most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, I know the critical importance of good health journeys and the harms caused when we experience, all too often, poor health journeys. I have experienced this as an Aboriginal woman and mother, as a nurse, and through exploring policy and research on cultural safety, or the lack of it, in mainstream health services and systems.”

The package of tools consists of three mapping tools, a handy user guide, some worked examples and introductory videos, such as the one below. You can find out more here.

To view Lowitja Institute’s media release Health Journey Mapping: embedding culturally safe practices into healthcare in full click here.

ACCHO AHW’s career blooms

Wiradjuri woman Kristy Purnell’s entry into the healthcare system amid a global pandemic has been a rewarding experience Employed as an Aboriginal Health Worker at Toowoomba’s Carbal Medical Services since September 2020, Ms Purnell has been administering COVID vaccines alongside her regular roles.

I work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical services because I want to help my community and provide health care to people that need it,” she said. “My role entails screening clients, doing annual health checks, going to community events, assisting nurses in the treatment room and promoting various programs that Carbal run.”

Ms Purnell’s passion for her role has seen her undertake a CQUniversity TAFE course in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care. She said with a Certificate III already under her belt, Carbal encouraged her to keep acquiring new skills.

“I started (the Certificate IV) last year and have done some residential schooling, which has reinforced my knowledge of comprehensive screening,” she said. “I feel that I’m learning new things that I’m able to utilise in my role on a daily basis. I enjoy sharing my new knowledge with other team members. “This course is helping me to become a confident health worker. It is giving me the skills I need to continue growing in my position at Carbal.” Ms Purnell said the course was worth pursuing for anyone interested in the field.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Kirsty Purnell’s health career blooms amongst pandemic response click here.

AHW Kirsty Purnell

Aboriginal Health Worker Kirsty Purnell. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Our Vote Our Story – 4 days left to enrol!

Your vote is your voice on the laws and decisions that affect you and your community. To vote you need to be enrolled.

If you are an Australian citizen aged 18 years or older you are required to vote in the 2022 federal election on Saturday 21 May 2022.

You must be correctly enrolled by 8:00PM local time Monday 18 April 2022. You can enrol online here or if you are already enrolled you can update you name or address here.

Exciting nursing scholarship opportunity

In collaboration with HESTA, the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) is delighted to offer four scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses to complete any of ACN’s nursing Graduate Certificates in the July 2022 intake. Information about all 20 Graduate Certificates available to this scholarship can be accessed online here.

For more information, including eligibility criteria and to apply here.  Applications are closing soon, at 11:59PM AEST Wednesday 20 April 2022.

First Nations leaders call for climate action

Peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations have released a powerful position paper on the climate emergency and health, calling for action to address pervasive racism, the privileging of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledges in climate change responses, and support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander environmental health workforce.

The need to address climate change and it impact on health and wellbeing is a major concern for members of the National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF) which is made up of 13 members including NACCHO. The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2021-31 acknowledges the impact of climate change by including healthy environments, sustainability, and preparedness, however the need for action goes beyond the scope of the Health Plan.

The impacts of climate change and global heating must always be at the forefront of planning and decision making. Accordingly, the HNLF supports the international calls for the establishment of a set of new norms that sees a warning limit goal of 1.5C rather than 2C, raising Australia’s 2030 ambitions, more equitable water management for communities, improvement in residential living standards, transition to renewable energy, and the end of fossil fuels.

The NHLF calls for all Australian governments to collaborate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and adopt a its recommendations and principles for action to bring about systemic change to the way Australia looks after the environment and addresses the impacts of climate change.

To view the Croaky Health Media article Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health leaders call for climate action click here.

Art display paying respects to the needwonnee people in southern lutruwita/Tasmania and their care for Country. Photo: Melissa Sweet. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

‘Dire’ new RHD data

Last month, the ABC Four Corners program shone a light on the ongoing failure to tackle rheumatic heart disease (RHD), calling it a ‘hidden killer’ in remote communities. It recounted the confronting story of several young women in Queensland who died from an illness that is vanishingly rare outside of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

According to new research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the situation is sliding backwards. A report published this week highlighted the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever (ARF), a precursor to serious heart disease, is rising.

At the time the Four Corners program aired, the most recently available five-year figures showed 2244 diagnoses of ARF from 2015–2019, itself a significant increase on the 1776 recorded from 2013–2017. And yet, according to the new AIHW figures, the tally now stands at 2611 diagnoses from 2016–2020, with the NT recording by far the highest prevalence at 344 per 100,000 population.

You can access the newsGP article in full here and view the AIHW’s report published this week here.

Aboriginal mother holding toddler

The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being diagnosed with acute rheumatic fever, a precursor to serious heart disease, is rising. Image source: newsGP.

New online diabetes modules

A package of interactive learning modules for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers to support people with diabetes has been launched via the National Diabetes Services Scheme. The package has been developed by Diabetes Australia to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare workers and practitioners with diabetes information and culturally appropriate resources to support people living with diabetes and their families.

Diabetes Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Manager Deanne Minniecon said the modules included interactive activities and stories, taking the user on an engaging journey as they learn more about diabetes related health complications and management strategies to support people to live well with diabetes.

The modules have been developed in consultation with expert groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clinicians, medical and research doctors, university academics specialising in diabetes and leaders in education. The SA Health & Medical Research Institute also contributed to the review process. The modules are engaging, accessible in bite size pieces, culturally appropriate and address all of the issues associated with managing diabetes, beyond the traditional scope.

You can view the National Indigenous Times article New diabetes online modules offer diabetes support and education in full here.

Diabetes Australia has partnered with Waanyi–Kalkadoon artist Keisha Leon to tell the story of diabetes and its significant impact of First Nations peoples. Image source: Diabetes Australia website.

Indigenous Marathon Project

Canberran Roxanne Jones is one of 12 Indigenous Marathon Project squad members set to run the New York Marathon. Canberra local, Palawa woman and PhD Candidate Roxanne Jones started running in 2017 and after a decline in her health in 2018, Roxanne was forced to adapt her training to include a wheelchair.

Despite her challenges, Roxanne persevered, racing in the world biggest fun run—the Sydney City2Surf in a wheelchair in 2018. She hasn’t stopped since. “I am passionate about sharing my story so that other people with disabilities, mental health or chronic conditions can see themselves represented. Representation and visibility is so important if we are to be a truly inclusive community. I want to demonstrate that [within the running and walking community], all abilities are welcome and valued”, says Roxanne.

Roxanne joins 11 other young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across Australia who have been selected to join the 2022 Indigenous Marathon Project Squad to train for the 42.2km New York City Marathon in November.

You can listen to Roxanne and Head Coach Damian Tuck’s interview on ABC Radio Drive here.

New York marathon runners on bridge

New York Marathon. Image source: ABC News website.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Support for mob to engage with NDIS

Support for mob to engage with NDIS

To increase support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIA) has engaged NACCHO to deliver the Aboriginal Disability Liaison Officer (ADLO) program until 30 November 2022. The program will provide dedicated support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in urban and rural areas to access the NDIS and use their plans.

Employed locally by ACCHOs, ADLOs work will work at a local level to build understanding of NDIS. ADLOs are generally members of the communities they work in, understand the culture and often speak the local languages. Working in partnership with the NDIA and Partners in the Community, ADLOs are a further cultural link between the Indigenous community and the system of disability related supports offered through the NDIS. The insights of ADLOs will also contribute to NDIA led co-design initiatives to improve the way NDIS works with First Nations Australians and communities.

Further information about the ADLO program, including a list of the 37 ACCHOs (NSW-13; NT-1; QLD-10; SA-5: VIC-6; and WA-2) delivering the program is available on the NDIS website here.

NACCHO CEO at Social Impact Strategy launch

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convener of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks), Pat Turner AM delivered a speech at the King & Wood Mallesons’ Social Impact Strategy launch earlier today. Ms Turner said “A whole of nation effort is required if we are to close the gap in life outcomes between our peoples and other Australians and I am really pleased to see King & Wood Mallesons stepping up to the task and making its contribution.” Themes in Ms Turner’s speech included the struggle of Closing the Gap; the Coalition of Peaks; the National Agreement on Closing the Gap; and the four priority reforms set out in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

You can read Ms Turner’s speech in full here.

Pat Turner AM

NACCHO CEO, Pat Tuner AM. Image source: The Guardian.

AMSANT CEO awarded honorary doctorate

AMSANT is very proud to recognise the significant achievement of their CEO, John (Patto) Paterson, in being awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of Arts by Charles Darwin University (CDU). John, received the honour in recognition of his leadership, commitment, and exemplary work over many decades, particularly in the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector and advocating for Aboriginal Territorians during COVID-19. John’s achievement is especially significant for the ‘AMSANT Family’ that John has led for the past 16 years as their CEO, supporting the personal and professional development of so many staff and strongly advocating for our Aboriginal community controlled health service members.

John is a proud born and bred Territorian with family ties to the Ngalakan people in Ngukurr and has worked in Aboriginal affairs in the public and community sectors since 1979 at a local, Territory and Federal level, focusing on First Nations health, housing and education. Donna Ah Chee, Chair of AMSANT said, “John’s commitment and leadership in Aboriginal Affairs has essentially been life long, and is now being rightly highlighted and formally acknowledged by CDU.”

To view AMSANT’s media release in full click here.

AMSANT CEO John Paterson in red yellow academic gown & black PhD bonnet

AMSANT CEO Dr John Paterson. Image source: AMSANT.

Beyond the Scars – RHD impacts

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) causes permanent damage to heart valves and is a leading cause of death in young Indigenous people in Australia. Currently there is no cure. Young Indigenous people with RHD experience countless encounters with health care providers and multiple hospital admissions. This is traumatic for the young people, their families and communities. Young Indigenous people already carry the scars of intergenerational trauma, a legacy of colonization. The added trauma of RHD and its social and emotional impact can further worsen health outcomes.

A Menzies School of Health Research have received a grant to explore the social and emotional needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (15–25 years) with RHD. The grant will support and build the capacity of an Aboriginal PhD student and community researcher, and build capacity of Aboriginal individuals and communities to advocate for their own needs – beyond the biomedical – that must be addressed to improve health outcomes. For further information about the research project visit the Heart Foundation’s webpage Beyond the Scars: Impacts of RHD in young Indigenous peoples here.

In a related story, RHD Australia has developed a range of RHD resources available on their website here, including the video Michael’s Story below:

Grant for syphilis outbreak guide

Among the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Research Excellence Award recipients for grants awarded in 2021 is Dr Simon Graham from the Doherty Institute at the University of Melbourne, who received the 2021 NHMRC Sandra Eades Investigator Grant Award (Emerging Leadership). Dr Graham is an epidemiologist and, through his Investigator Grant, he will be developing a community-led coordination and response guide for a syphilis outbreak in Aboriginal communities.

Dr Graham will work in the Global Outbreak Response Network at the World Health Organization in Geneva to examine how the organisation successfully coordinates and deploys specialist teams to investigate and stop an outbreak in different countries. He will also work with a cohort of Aboriginal people to develop an outbreak response and coordination guide to empower Aboriginal communities to stop outbreaks of syphilis infections.

For more information visit the NHMRC website here. You can also view a short video from the Young Deadly Syphilis Free campaign below.

Men’s heart health program trial

Research shows that a 12-week program run in UK soccer clubs (Football Fans in Training) is effective in supporting men to get to a healthier weight and sustain changes 3.5 years later. Associate Professor Quested and team created an Australianised version, Aussie-FIT, and their pilot in WA found it attracts men living with obesity and supports them to make changes to their physical activity, eating behaviour, weight, and well-being. They have also shown Aussie-FIT to appeal to men with cardiovascular disease, for whom it can play an important role in secondary prevention.

Professor Quested has received funding to substantiate the program’s longer term impact on cardiovascular health by undertaking research with a larger sample and longer follow up. The team will also determine how Aussie-FIT deliveries can be sustained in WA; implemented across other States and Territories (Queensland, Northern Territory); scaled to appeal to a wider audience (e.g., via deliveries in rugby); and identify potential adaptations with marginalised populations such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.

For more information visit the Heart Foundation’s webpage Kicking Goals for Men’s Heart Health: A Multi-state Trial of the Aussie-FIT Program here.

EOI: Policy Partnerships under NACTG

The Expression of Interest (EOI) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Representatives to the next two policy partnerships under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap are now open until COB (AEST) Friday 29 April 2022. Expressions of interest are being sought from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with relevant expertise who wish to join the next two policy partnerships on:

  • Early childhood care and development (including out of home care), and
  • Social and emotional wellbeing (mental health).

These partnerships will be established in August 2022 and represent an historic opportunity to shift the dial in these important policy areas for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. For more information on the policy partnerships, including how to apply, please visit the ‘Get Involved’ section on the Coalition of Peaks website here.

If you have any questions or require support please reach out to the Coalition of Peaks using this email link.

New process for job advertising

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 5-15-year-olds most at risk of RHD

Image in feature tile is of an RHD Australia doctor supporting RHD control programs. Photo: Emmanuelle Clarke. Image source: Australian Science Communicators website.

5-15-year-olds most at risk of RHD

Therlrina Akene woke up at her home on Yam island recently unable to walk. She and her mum Sandi were transferred via helicopter to Thursday Island Hospital for a series of medical tests. Weeks later they are still in Cairns Hospital Children’s Ward after Thelrina was diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD). Cairns & Hinterland Hospital and Health Service paediatric cardiologist Dr Ben Reeves said about a third of his patients were living with RHD.

“RHD, if left untreated, can cause structural damage to the heart, ” he said. “It’s a very sad fact that the common strep throat infection that we all develop in our lifetimes, can end up in life-limiting structural conditions in First Nations people.  Those most at risk of developing the disease are young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, aged 5–15, who are 55 times more likely to die of the disease than their non-Indigenous peers. RHD is also responsible for the highest gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians – higher than even diabetes or kidney failure.”

To view the full article in the Torres News, Edition 24 click here.

Dr Ben Reeves, Thelrine Akene, Sandi Martin and Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation CEO Gina Hogan in Cairns Base Hospital

Dr Ben Reeves, Thelrine Akene, Sandi Martin and Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation CEO Gina Hogan in Cairns Base Hospital. Image source: Torres News.

Child safety systems failing mob

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders surviving domestic and family violence are not having their needs met by child protection systems reveals a report released today. New Ways for Our Families is the first of two reports. It shows child protection responses to domestic and family violence must focus on children and women. It also reveals these responses do not adequately address all domestic and family violence issues. “Despite the overwhelming impact of child protection systems in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people’s lives, often resulting from domestic and family violence, their voices on what will support them have largely been silent,” says Garth Morgan, CEO of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak.

Professor Daryl Higgins, Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University added “No parent, carer or family plans to have their children go into child protection or youth justice. Families welcome children into their lives and communities but often the forces
of intergenerational trauma affect their ability to offer the best support to their children. And unfortunately, systemic bias and racism just make it harder for them.”

To view the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak media release in full click here.

Image source: Bendigo Advertiser.

Aboriginal prisoner mental healthcare program

Researchers from UNSW will test the effectiveness of mental health interventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. UNSW Sydney Professor Kimberlie Dean and her team have received a $1.18 million Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) grant to improve mental healthcare in prison and support the prison-to-community transition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women.

“I’m excited to have the financial support necessary to progress this important research and also to have the opportunity to build much-needed research capacity in the area,” Prof. Dean said. Prof. Dean, who is the Head of Discipline for Psychiatry and Mental Health, and Chair of Forensic Mental Health at UNSW Medicine & Health, said the project will provide an enhanced service to meet the specific cultural and community-connection needs of Aboriginal men and women being released from prison.

The intervention also has the potential to contribute to reducing the over-incarceration of Aboriginal people by reducing risk of a return to custody. In 2021, the Productivity Commission reported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults were imprisoned at 11 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians in 2019–20. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are incarcerated at an alarming rate and those in prison often suffer with significant mental health needs, which can be associated with an elevated risk of poor outcomes both before and after returning to the community, including risk of re-incarceration,” Prof. Dean said.

To view the full article from the UNSW Sydney Newsroom click here.

Professor Kimberlie Dean. Image source: UNSW Sydney Newsroom webpage.

Heart health program for First Nations dads

To address the growing burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Indigenous Australians, Professor Philip Morgan’s is heading a project that will:

  • Culturally adapt the effective ‘Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids’ family-based lifestyle program for Indigenous Australian families;
  • Test the feasibility of the adapted program with a sample of Indigenous Australian children and their fathers.

This project builds on Professor Philip Morgan’s pioneering ‘Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids’ program, which has demonstrated clinically meaningful effects on CVD risk factors (e.g., weight, diet, activity) in fathers and children. In this context, Professor Philip Morgan’s team expect that a culturally adapted version of ‘Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids’ have similar meaningful effects for Indigenous Australian families. Additionally, expected long-term outcomes include:

  • To formalise partnerships with Awabakal Aboriginal Medical Services to facilitate translation into the future;
  • Inform program refinements in advance of a major grant application to extend to rural and isolated Indigenous Australian communities to achieve widespread, lasting improvements in indigenous cardiovascular health.

For further information about the project you can access the Heart Foundation’s Improving heart health of Indigenous Australian families – ‘Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids – Indigenous’ website page here.

Addictive e-cigarettes harming youth

E-cigarettes, or vapes, are causing harm and risk introducing a new generation to smoking, warn experts from The Australian National University (ANU) following their government report into vaping. The major review found use of nicotine e-cigarettes increases the risk of a range of adverse health outcomes, particularly in youth, including taking up smoking, addiction, poisoning, seizures, trauma and burns and lung injury. “We reviewed the global evidence in order to support informed choices on vaping for Australia,” lead author Professor Emily Banks from the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health said.

Cancer Council’s Public Health Committee Chair, Anita Dessaix, said the ANU report is the most comprehensive study of all the health impacts of e-cigarettes ever published worldwide and it sends an urgent message to Australian governments. “Every week we’re hearing growing community concern about e-cigarettes in schools, the health harms and the risks of smoking uptake among young people,” Ms Dessaix said. “Now we have the world’s most authoritative independent scientific analysis showing us exactly why we’re seeing those problems. “A public health crisis is rapidly unfolding before our eyes.”

To view the ANU media release in full click here.

teenage girl vaping, face obscured by smoke

Image source: The Age.

Shared Code of conduct for 12 National Boards

A National Board Code of conduct or Code of ethics describes the professional behaviour and conduct expectations for registered health practitioners. 15 National Boards have an approved Code of conduct that applies to the registered health practitioners they regulate. These codes are an important part of the National Boards’ regulatory framework and help to keep the public safe by outlining the National Boards’ expectations of professional behaviour and conduct for registered health practitioners. Registered health practitioners have a responsibility to be familiar with and apply their relevant code.

A shared Code of conduct has been developed for 12 National Boards, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board and comes into effect on Wednesday 29 June 2022. An advance copy of the shared Code of conduct is available here and a range of resources to help health practitioners understand and apply the revised code can be accessed here.

Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health

The Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health was officially launched on 27 October 2014 at a special celebration attended by Mrs Kay van Norton Poche, Mr Reg Richardson AM and a number of distinguished Indigenous leaders in health and higher education.

The film Investing In The Future – The Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, screened at the launch and available here showcases the vision of the Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and highlights how leadership can make a real difference to health outcomes for Indigenous people in Australia.

New process for job advertising

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

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

Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Every hour of every day one person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. That’s 24 people each day – that is more prevalent than many common cancers. The whole month of April is earmarked annually to try to get some awareness of the disease out into the community, with Monday 11 April 2022 recognised as World Parkinson’s Day.

Parkinson’s is still a very misunderstood condition that affects not only the person diagnosed with it, but their family, friends and carers. Parkinson’s is a movement and mood disorder typically presenting with symptoms such as slowness of movement, muscle rigidity, instability, tremor, depression and anxiety. A diagnosis of Parkinson’s can occur at any age.

To view the April Is Parkinson’s Awareness Month article in The Hilltops Phoenix in full click here.

Image source: Southern Cross University website.

hiv@aids + sexualhealth 2022 abstract submission open

The Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS + Sexual Health Conferences, hosted by the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), is being held from Monday 29 August to Thursday 1 September 2022 on the Sunshine Coast (QLD) and will highlight new and innovative research findings among delegates from Australia, NZ, Asia, and the Pacific from a range of backgrounds from healthcare, academia, government and social.

To support the conference ASHM are extending invitations to submit abstracts. Abstracts can go towards delivering an oral presentation or a poster presentation at the conference and is a great opportunity to share the amazing work your staff/services do, or share innovative models developed in the ACCHO sector, others in mainstream can learn from.

One of the conference themes has particular sessions with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander focus, and it would be great to share some of the great work that’s happened and continues to happen in the ACCHO space relating to HIV&AIDS/Sexual Health. For those who submit abstracts and are successful, NACCHO and ASHM can support costs to attend (registration, travel, accommodation etc).

The deadline to submit abstracts is Sunday 1 May 2022. You can access guidelines for abstracts here and a template here. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to NACCHO’s Megan Campbell using this email link or Edan Campbell-O’Brien here. They would love to work with you on writing a submission and answer any questions you have. This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the work of our sector and see ACCHOs represented at these large mainstream forums.

On a related note, ASHM are also hosting the Australasian Viral Hepatitis Conference from Monday 29 May to Wednesday 31 May 2022 in Brisbane (QLD). The registration deadline closes on Sunday 1 May 2022 – please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to find out more.