NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: New Deadly Choices promotional assets launched

feature tile image of Deadly Choices Tobacco Education Program information stand; text 'New suite of Deadly Choices preventative health promotional assets launched today'

The image in the feature tile is of a Deadly Choice Tobacco Education Program information stand from the Deadly Choices section of the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) website.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

New Deadly Choices promotional assets launched

Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health sector came together in Brisbane today to assist in launching a suite of Deadly Choices preventative health promotional assets, including a series of television advertisements, aimed at limiting the number of community members from across the state taking up vaping and smoking.

Seeking to orchestrate healthier, happier communities right across Queensland, Deadly Choices will shine a light on the endemic global health concerns of vaping among youth, while also targeting the incidence of tobacco smoking among pregnant mothers, plus families living in remote communities, all key directives of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH)’s integrated statewide approach via the Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS)-Deadly Choices partnership.

The major directives of the 2023 Deadly Choices advertising campaigns will be to stress to individuals the importance of making deadly, healthy choices, not only for themselves, but for their families and for their communities as a cultural commitment. “TIS funding allows Deadly Choices to propagate its preventative health messaging around the dangers of tobacco smoking, from Far North Queensland through the Central and South-Western regions of the State, and from the North Coast all the way down to the border areas of the Gold and Tweed Coasts, Stanthorpe and Goondiwindi,” confirmed IUIH Director of Commercial Operations, Dallas Leon.

“Notably, we’ll establish strategic new partnerships with community-controlled health service organisations from Palm Island, Yarrabah, Nhulundu Health in and around the Gladstone region, North Coast, plus Goolburri Health which has an established footprint across the Darling Downs and South-West. “We’ll also strengthen our preventative health practice and messaging in areas of Queensland where Deadly Choices currently delivers health education programs in schools, on behalf of Health and Wellbeing Queensland.

Deadly Choices has previously been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for its efforts in promoting the dangers of smoking among Indigenous communities and has at its disposal an arsenal of health sector service provision experience to enhance protocols against smoking.

You can view IUIH’s media alert ‘Deadly Choices’ Formulates Tobacco Takedown for Qld Communities in full here and find more information about IUIH’s Deadly Choices program here.

Griffith’s award winning eye care model

An ophthalmology project set up at Griffith Base Hospital in NSW to improve access to eyecare services for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people living in the Western Murrumbidgee Local Health District has hit the ground running and with further support can strengthen its delivery of eyecare to the region. When an ophthalmologist and a hospital director floated the idea of establishing a visiting eye health service at Griffith Base Hospital – a six hour drive west of Sydney – little did they know that 24 months later their initiative would be nominated by the hospital staff for a NSW Government Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) Excellence Award.

At a ceremony in Wagga Wagga in June, ‘Saving Sight is our Vision’ was named winner of MLHD’s Keeping People Healthy Award, one of 15 award categories. At the time, MLHD CEO Ms Jill Ludford said it was rewarding to see the number of activities happening across the district with sincere efforts to support First Nations communities, “Improving access to eyecare services through the delivery of high quality, sustainable, affordable, regular and culturally sensitive eye services has been Griffith Ophthalmology’s focus.”

Led by Associate Professor Geoffrey Painter, one of the founders of Gordon Eye Surgery and a director of Foresight Australia, and colleague Dr Dominic McCall, a group of mostly Sydney-based ophthalmologists visit Griffith Base Hospital every four weeks to see and operate on patients from the Western MLHD. In addition, Foresight has sponsored two training courses to upskill employees from the Griffith Aboriginal Medical Service

To read the Insight article Griffith Base Hospital’s award-winning eyecare model in full click here.

eye testing training at Griffith AMS - 4 health workers

Foresight Australia has sponsored two training courses to upskill employees from the Griffith Aboriginal Medical Service. Image source: Insight.

NAATSIHWP Professional Development Symposium

The National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) is holding a professional development symposium at the Adelaide Convention Centre on Kaurna Country over Tuesday 24 and Wednesday 25 October 2023.

The symposium will consist of two full days of  of workshop-based sessions for full and student NAATSIHWP members to learn about leading-edge clinical and primary health care practices as well as social and emotional wellbeing and culturally based activities.

You can find out more about the symposium, including scholarship opportunities here.

tile: NAATSIHWP professional development symposium 24-25 Oct 2023

2023 Oceanic Palliative Care Conference

The 2023 Oceanic Palliative Care Conference (OPCC) is taking place in Sydney between Wednesday 13 September and Friday 15 September. Close to 80 scholarships have been awarded to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, palliative care workers, consumers, and carers in Australia and the Oceanic region to attend the conference. The scholarships cover registration costs and travel from as far away as Broome, Katherine, northeast Arnhem Land, PNG and Samoa.

Palliative Care Australia CEO Camilla Rowland said the cost of participating is often a barrier “and our hope is that these scholarships enable important voices to be heard and experiences to be shared. OPCC represents a critical learning and development opportunity, and we want that to influence and grow the care people receive – wherever they are.”

The theme for OPCC 2023 is ‘With the end in mind; shaping stronger health systems, delivering quality palliative care.’

Find more information about the 2023 Oceanic Palliative Care Conference click here.

tile: 2 images: Oceanic Palliative Care Conference 13-15 Sep 2023 logo & image clip board with title 'palliative care' & stethoscope

Sector Jobs

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

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

Key Date – Brain Injury Awareness Week – 21–27 August 2023

During Brain Injury Awareness Week 2023 NACCHO is sharing information about brain injury, in particular how brain injury impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Brain injury impacts many Indigenous, rural, and remote communities across Australian.

Australia’s Brain Injury Organisation, Synapse, has produced a number of Indigenous factsheets that talk about issues in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that may result in a brain injury, or be occurring because of one. The factsheets. available here, include all the most relevant and current information about brain injury and outline what supports are available. The topics covered by the factsheets include:

  • Domestic and Family Violence
  • Drug and Alcohol Abuse
  • Mental Health and Suicide
  • Physical Assault
Yarning Circle for ATSI people with traumatic brain injury

A Yarning Circle developed to bridge the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with traumatic brain injury. Photo: Edith Cowan University. Image source: NITV Radio website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Quit smoking program reaching into community

feature tile of TAC stop smoking program coordinator Jay McDonald; text 'ACCHO program draws on cultural connections to support mob reduce or quit smoking'

The image in the feature tile is of Jay McDonald, the coordinator of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre stop smoking program, makara patapa, coordinator. The image appeared in an ABC News article First Nations quit smoking program reaching into Aboriginal community to help people break the habit published yesterday, Sunday 30 July 2023.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

Quit smoking program reaching into community

Cigarettes were a constant in Tamara Style’s life for a long time. “I’ve been smoking for many years. [I started as a] young teenager, about 13 or 14, stopped while I was pregnant and then, as soon as I had my baby, taken it back up again,” she said. “It wasn’t until my daughter fell pregnant and because she lived in the same house, it was more to support her because she needed to give up.” Through the process, Ms Styles had help and support from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) via regular check-in phone calls and encouragement. “They were really supportive,” she said. It has now been more than two years since her last cigarette.

The TAC’s stop smoking program, makara patapa, draws on cultural connections to help support Aboriginal community members reduce their smoking or quit completely. The program coordinator, Jay McDonald, works around the state. “I travel to each region doing pop-up sessions, home visits and educational work in the quit-smoking space and how to use the nicotine replacement products and how to use them together in combination therapy, and just trying to give people the right tools when they’re ready to quit, to make a quit attempt,” he said.

Data from the Australian Burden of Disease Study showed that tobacco use was responsible for 20% of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The latest National Tobacco Strategy prioritised expanding and strengthening partnerships to prevent and reduce tobacco use among First Nations people.

To view the ABC News article First Nations quit smoking program reaching into Aboriginal community to help people break the habit in full click here.

Tamara Styles, park, river in background

Tamara Styles began smoking as a teen but it has now been more than two years since her last cigarette. Photo: Kate Nickels. Image source: ABC News.

Mob must be at centre of LGBTQIA+ policy

During Sydney World Pride the federal government committed to a 10 Year National Action Plan for the Health and Wellbeing of LGBTIQA+ people. This included A$26m in health research. In the announcement, the minister for health and aged care, Mark Butler, said: “While many LGBTIQA+ people live happy and healthy lives, others continue to experience discrimination, stigma, isolation, harassment and violence – all of which leads to poorer health and mental health.” A recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)  report showed this cohort is disproportionately impacted by discrimination and disadvantage. The combined impacts of colonialism, racism, homophobia and transphobia result in poorer health and mental health for this group.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are chronically over-researched. Yet there is insufficient data about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQIA+ people and mental health. The report found racism, discrimination and violence (including anticipation and fear of violence), social and cultural exclusion, criminalisation, incarceration, and exposure to grief and suicide all heighten the risk of suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQIA+ people.

Both Indigenous people and LGBTQIA+ people experience poorer health outcomes and higher rates of health-impacting behaviours. These can arise from minority stress, social exclusion, discrimination and trauma. On top of this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQIA+ people navigate the impacts of colonialism. The report also found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQIA+-led research, policy, and services are urgently needed to improve mental health and health outcomes for this group.

To view the Daily Bulletin article Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be at the centre, not the margins, of LGBTQIA+ plans and policies in full click here.

map of Australia with Aboriginal flag & rainbow flag in background

Image source: NIFVS Melbourne.

$10m to boost digital inclusion

The Federal government has announced a $10 million boost to address digital inclusion for Indigenous communities. The new strategy promises many benefits, however increased access to the cyber world also increases the risk of online dangers, especially with regard to vulnerable individuals and communities. Increasing the risk of exposure to online racism is a very real danger for First Nations adults and children, with experts warning of the negative impact this has on mental health.

Prior to the referendum, Aboriginal people were reportedly exposed to one incident of racism online per day and experts have advised that this is significantly higher than pre-social media times, where a person might have experienced an account of racism on one occasion per week. High profile members of the community have declared an increase of online racism, as debate around the referendum begins to intensify. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner have advised of a small but noticeable rise in adult cyber abuse complaints from First Nations people in the first quarter of 2023, with incidents expected to increase as we near the referendum.

Acutely aware of the situation unfolding, the eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant stated “eSafety welcomes any initiative that aims to increase the online participation, digital literacy and digital inclusion for First Nations people. But if we do not create safer and less toxic spaces for First Nations people, we are also relegating them to less digital inclusion. Our reporting schemes deal with serious intent to harm because we know that targeted, racialised online abuse is also designed to silence voices.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article Federal government funds push to boost “digital inclusion” for Indigenous communities in full click here.

NIAA app on iPhone text 'First Nations Digital Inclusion Plan' & computer screen

Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Suicide rate linked to health system shortcomings

Data showsIndigenous children and teenagers are taking their own lives at a rate three times higher than non-Indigenous youth. According to the Suicide in Queensland Annual Report 2022, by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged under 20 accounted for 15.8% of all suspected suicides by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in 2021, compared to 4.9% for non-Indigenous youth who were the same age.

Dr Mark Wenitong, who holds a number of portfolios including co-chair of the Queensland Health Aboriginal and Torres Strait Clinical Network and advising commissioner on National Mental Health Commission, shed light on the prevalence of mental health problems in First Nations communities as everything from “mild issues” right through to suicidality or psychosis. “Both those ends of the spectrum occur in our communities and the biggest background noise telling us something’s wrong is the suicide rates,” he said.

“We do have very high suicide rates in our community, particularly exaggerated in younger people, we’re talking very young – ten year olds – in places like the Kimberley.” The impact on very young people was a serious worry, he said, due to their inability to actively seek help. Some part of it, in his opinion, was a fallout of colonisation, resulting in fragmented identity and a lack of meaningful connection to modern day ideals and expectations. But what was more concerning to him were the inadequacies in the health system when it came to following up after an attempt of suicide.

The above has been extracted from an article Dr Mark Wenitong talks about the high incidence of suicide among Indigenous youth and how it can be addressed published in The Cairns Post earlier today. A related ABC News article Family’s grief throws spotlight on an Indigenous ‘suicide crisis’ in WA’s Great Southern region is available in full here.

Dr Mark Wenitong

Dr Mark Wenitong. Photo: Brendan Radke. Image source: The Cairns Post.

The Voice – an NT doctor’s perspective

Professor Anna Ralph, the Deputy Director of Research at Menzies School of Health Research at the Royal Darwin Hospital in the NT  has spoken  about her experiences with Indigenous wellbeing and whether a Voice to Parliament would help at a national level. Professor Ralph is an infectious diseases physician who conducts regular clinics and ward rounds, as well as outreach clinics to remote communities. At the Royal Darwin Hospital, 60-90% of patients are First Nations people, with 59% speaking an Indigenous language as their primary language. Professor Ralph says that there are more than 20 unique languages spoken by patients attending the hospital.

“The NT has the nation’s highest rates of self-discharge from hospital. Patients are not having a good experience of care,” said Professor Ralph. “The data shows that as interpreter use improved, self-discharge rates went down. People are getting better communication; they’re going to stay in hospital to get the treatment they need,” said Professor Ralph. “Patients’ experience of care was utterly transformed by having access to an interpreter. People who were on renal dialysis, for example, stopped skipping dialysis sessions because they now understand of the importance of it,” said Professor Ralph.

“Having a Voice to Parliament – and having a Yes vote at the referendum – would be a way to help the national psyche and a step towards reconciliation,” said Professor Ralph. “It would help to address those power dynamic issues in health care. The more that First Nations peoples are empowered in health care, the better off health is going to be,” said Professor Ralph.

To view the InSight+ article Voice to Parliament: a NT doctor’s perspective in full click here.

Online Voice lies and misinformation

The Indigenous Voice to parliament is being threatened by suspicious social media accounts and deepfake content spreading lies about constitutional recognition, a leading misinformation expert has warned. As Voice advocates escalate campaign activities around the country, including online, they are facing a barrage of incorrect and malicious claims about the proposed body’s powers, and the false claim that taxpayers will have to pay royalties and rates to its members.

Ed Coper, director of communications agency Populares, said his research showed sentiment on social media has No voices outweighing Yes voices by as much as five to one. Many Twitter accounts sharing anti-Voice content have been opened very recently and show little other content or activity. These factors are red flags for disinformation experts, and commonly indicate the accounts are inauthentic and set up using fake identities. Their express purpose can be a gaming of social media algorithms in favour of conspiracies and arguments for the No case.

Suspicious activity being tracked on Facebook could be linked to so-called “bot nets”, which are networks of fake accounts creating and sharing misinformation about the referendum question. Some anti-Voice posts have what experts consider an implausibly high number of shares among Facebook users, with many copying and sharing the same misinformation. Mr Coper said the tactics are being imported from the US, including from followers of the online conspiracy theory QAnon.

To view the Financial Review article How online disinformation is hijacking the Voice in full click here.

logos or Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram, You Tube etc

Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Balgo patients to receive dialysis on Country

The image in the feature tile is of dialysis patients in a Purple House centre in Newman.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

Balgo patients to receive dialysis on Country

Balgo WA is one of Australia’s most isolated communities. Locals needing life-saving dialysis treatment must leave their Country for towns more than 10 hours away to receive care. Purple House has plans to open a local service including a four-chair nurse-assisted hemodialysis unit operating six days a week by 2024. CEO of Purple House, Sarah Brown AM says keeping people on Country is essential, “It’s about ensuring that senior community members are home on Country for important cultural business to teach the younger generations and keep culture strong.”

Balgo man Eric Moora currently lives in Perth, where his partner receives treatment for type 2 diabetes. Without access to care on Country, Eric has flown three hours from Perth to Kununurra and then driven eight hours to get to Balgo to take part in cultural practices, “We have to go right back to the bush, back to my Country, you know, to eat,” he said. Eric also has diabetes but doesn’t need dialysis; he sees bush tucker as a way to stay healthy and avoid highly processed food contributing to his condition.

“My people eat wrong thing, you know, sugar. We need to stop the Coke, making people sick from the Coke, diabetes, all that,” Eric said.With Elders receiving life-saving treatment away from Country, Eric fears younger generations will go without the cultural knowledge that was passed onto him from Elders, “Today has changed now because we got no old people.I want my people to come back home,” he said. The dialysis unit will be one of six in remote communities, in a

To read the full ABC article Diabetes patients in remote Balgo will soon be able to receive dialysis on country here.

Eric Moora. Photo: Elsa Silbertstein. Image source: ABC News.

2023 NAIDOC Elder Awards finalists

The National NAIDOC Awards are an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who go above and beyond to contribute and fight for the preservation of their culture and community. In line with the 2023 NAIDOC Week theme ‘For Our Elders,’ the Elder Award celebrates an Elder whose dedication to people, culture and future generations has been lifelong and has left an indelible impact in their communities.

Proud Ngambri (Kamberri) Wallabalooa (Ngunnawal) and Wiradyuri Elder, Aunty Dr Matilda House-Williams is a Female Elder Award nominee for her deep roots in advocacy and activism. Aunty Matilda has been involved in Indigenous Affairs since 1963, and has played key roles in establishing Winnunga, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the Aboriginal Legal Service, and alongise her brothers, founding the Ngambri Land Council.

The awards ceremony will kick off on Saturday 1  July and will be broadcast on NITV from 7.30pm AEST. To read the NITV article, including more about the finalists click here.

Aunty Dr Matilda House-Williams. Photo: Blacklock Media. Source: NITV.

Changing conversations about lung cancer

Researchers at the University of Sydney say it is time to remove the stigma around lung cancer and to disrupt assumptions about it being solely attributable to someone’s decision to smoke. A range of other factors are at play, with lung cancer disproportionately affecting people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, those in regional and rural areas, and those with lower socioeconomic backgrounds. While public health campaigns have successfully raised awareness about the dangers of smoking, they have been accompanied by growing stigma around lung cancer. For example, a study by the Global Lung Cancer Coalition found that 28% of Australians admit they have less sympathy for lung cancer sufferers than those with other forms of cancer.

Patients undergoing lung cancer treatment have spoken out about the stigma they face alongside managing their illness and treatment. One patient said, “It’s the first time I’ve really been aware of the sort of shame attached to an illness.” Patient support groups, professional associations and peak bodies are all in agreement that we need to rethink and modernise our understanding and approach to lung cancer, smoking and stigma.

To read the full Croakey Health Media article Identifying some opportunities to change conversations about lung cancer click here

Image: CDC Unsplash. Source: Croakey Health Media.

New research on bush tucker nutrition

Rich in essential nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, and minerals, yams are gaining attention in the food industry. In a research project with the University of Queensland, PhD candidate Fawale Samson Olumide is studying Australian yams, which were a vital food for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in rainforests along the east coast. The project aims to bridge the gap between Indigenous knowledge and Western science and report on the nutritional and health benefits of the bush tucker staple.

The Yidinji community in Far North Queensland is collaborating on the project, alongside community Elder Professor Henrietta Marrie from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation. Professor Marrie said, “There is so much work we need to do to record Indigenous knowledge about the food and its use, to pass on to our younger generations.”

To read the full article click here.

Source: Food Processing.

Unpaid work during NAIDOC WEEK

With NAIDOC Week just around the corner, there is a surge in expectations for extra labour from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in workplaces. This includes the planning and organising of cultural events and experiences, which is rarely reflected in their job description. The Make us Count report found these expectations are not limited to events like NAIDOC Week. Reflecting on the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in workplaces within the Victoria public sector, female participants reported uncompensated labour is a burden.

One participant said, “The value of [Aboriginal cultural knowledge] is only when I organise NAIDOC or Reconciliation Week celebrations. The worst part is that it is up to me to drive recognition of these important events and for the rest of the year, culture and I are forgotten.”

The Healing Foundation describes ‘cultural load’ as an accumulative trauma and stress experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are navigating systemic adversity in their lives while they are also trying to succeed in their careers. The report found that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women feel overworked and undervalued in the workplace, and face discrimination and a systemic barrier to career progression. One participant said, “Unless you’re always performing at 150% or more, people don’t see you.”

Findings from the report demonstrate an urgent need for workplaces to take action to address racism and misogyny. This includes unpaid labour, short-term contracts, and workplace harassment and violence.

“I just want to be able to be in a job where I can actually do the job and then still have the capacity to give back to the community,” said a participant.

To read the full The Conversation article During NAIDOC Week, many Indigenous women are assigned unpaid work. New research shows how prevalent this is in the workplace click here. Read the Make Us Count report here.

Source: Analysis & Policy Observatory.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Torres Strait leaders want review into health service

feature tile: aerial view of Thursday Island Hospital; text 'Torres Strait leaders want a review into health service amid 'declining health', 'weekly deaths''

The image in the feature tile is an aerial view of the Thursday Island Hospital published in the ABC News article Torres Strait leaders want review into health service amid ‘declining health’, ‘weekly’ deaths yesterday, Monday 26 June 2023. Photo: Brendan Mounter, ABC News.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

Torres Strait leaders want review into health service

Leaders in Queensland’s Torres Strait Islands say a review into “avoidable” weekly deaths at the region’s hospitals is overdue but needs to be independent. In a desperate letter to Premier Annastascia Palaszczuk, three First Nations leaders raised concerns, including that at least three avoidable deaths occurred each week. They also said culturally safe frontline services had been withdrawn in the “declining health status of our highly burdened, defenceless community”.

A co-author of the letter and chair of the Torres Strait Regional Authority, Napau Pedro Stephen, said people from the Torres Strait who sought treatment at Far North Queensland hospitals “should get better and come back to our homeland” but instead have been dying. “They’re coming back in wooden boxes,” he said. In their letter, the leaders said some families had been forced to decide whether to go to Cairns for life-saving treatment, which carried the risk of “creating additional expenses for their loved ones to repatriate their remains home”.

Earlier this month, the mayor of the Northern Peninsula Area on Cape York called for an investigation into the death of a two-year-old girl who had presented to Bamaga Hospital. The mayor of the Torres Shire Council, Yen Loban, and has called for Torres Strait Islander medical experts and grassroots community members to be involved in the review. Mr Stephen said it was “frightening” to learn Queensland Health would lead the review of the health service and an independent process was the “only way to move forward. It’s not that we would just come up with problems with Queensland Health,” he said. “We’d come up with solutions.”

To view the ABC News article Torres Strait leaders want review into health service amid ‘declining health’, ‘weekly’ deaths in full click here.

Bamaga Hospital ER sign

A toddler died after presenting to Bamaga Hospital in the Torres and Cape region this month. Photo: Brendan Mounter, ABC Far North. Image source: ABC News.

ACCHOs essential to Closing the Gap

Culturally safe healthcare and social services are essential for Closing the Gap. Professor in tropical health and medicine at James Cook University, Ian Ring describes Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as some of the “best health services in Australia.”

“These services understand the important cultural issues which are fundamental to Indigenous health care provision, and crucially, provide better access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to health services in general and, of course, to the health and social services that are essential for Closing the Gap,” Professor Ring said.

The service model in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, which provide comprehensive primary healthcare, are regarded around the world as the preferred model of care. Professor Ring says where delivery of healthcare fails is the result of actions by the executive government which impacts what happens on the ground. He said, “too little funding was directed to services run by and for Indigenous peoples (National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) which have been shown to outperform mainstream services in recognising and dealing with key Indigenous issues like chronic disease and maternal health.”

The above story has been extracted from an opinion piece Ian Ring | Indigenous Voice to Parliament must include executive government was published in The Area News yesterday, 26 June 2013. You can read more from Professor Ring on the Close the Gap Facebook page here.

Puntukurna Aboriginal Medical Services Healthcare, Newman WA aerial view

Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Services Healthcare, Newman WA. Photo: Robert Frith, Acorn. Image source: North West Telegraph.

Hepatitis B treatment in remote and regional areas

Despite the effectiveness of hepatitis B care and treatment in reducing the risk of liver disease and cancer, significant gaps remain in access and Australia is not meeting National Hepatitis B Strategy 2023–2030 Strategy targets for coverage. A new study by the Doherty Institute has revealed healthcare services and treatment for hepatitis B are being unevenly distributed across Australia, resulting in disparities among individuals living with hepatitis B.

Remote and regional areas experience lower rates of hepatitis B testing, diagnosis and subsequent treatment compared to metro areas. This includes limited access to specialised healthcare services, such as liver specialists and antiviral treatment options. The study highlights the need for targeted interventions and improved healthcare infrastructure in underserved regions to ensure equitable access to care.

However, certain remote areas in the NT and Far North Queensland have achieved care uptake rates of 70% or higher. These findings highlight the positive impact of the comprehensive programs implemented to improve access to care for hepatitis B, particularly within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in areas where the challenges to health care service delivery are substantial.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital Professor Ben Cowie, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Viral Hepatitis at the Doherty Institute said that addressing geographic disparities in hepatitis B care and treatment is crucial for achieving optimal outcomes nationwide. “By leveraging the insights from the Report, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and researchers can work together to bridge the gaps in access and improve the overall management of hepatitis B across Australia,” Professor Cowie said.

You can read the Doherty Institute article Geographic disparities in uptake of care and treatment for hepatitis B across Australia in full here.

blue gloved hand holding vial with words 'Hepatitis B' & '+' ticked

Image source: Pharmaceutical Technology website.

Tamworth region health leaders celebrated

The Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service (TAMS), and Moree health leader, Donna Taylor are among the recipients of the 2023 Primary Health Network (PHN) Primary Care Quality and Innovation Awards. The awards celebrated the outstanding contributions of local health leaders, including those continuing to make a positive contribution for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes. The event recognised the efforts and achievements of individuals and organisations dedicated to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal communities and providing appropriate care to Aboriginal people in the Tamworth region.

The First Nations Health Award was won by the Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service Cardiac Rehab and Prevention program. The award acknowledges organisations that address health inequalities for First Nations communities. After a well-respected Aboriginal woman informed TAMS that the Tamworth Hospital Cardiac rehab was based in the mammography building and men are never going to go there, TAMS worked with Hunter New England Health and a local gym owner to start the extremely successful Aboriginal-led Cardiac Rehab and Prevention program.

Donna Taylor of Pius X Aboriginal Corporation in Moree won the Primary Care Leader Award, given for innovation and leadership in primary care, and demonstrating the values of ‘respect, innovation, accountability, integrity, cooperation, and recognition’. Ms Taylor has been the CEO of Pius X Aboriginal Corporation for 24 years and has been instrumental in the provision of specialist health practitioners to Moree and surrounding areas. Recognising the barriers in the community to see specialists, such as cost, travel and separation from family, Donna set herself the mission to entice specialists to come to Moree and successfully attracted and ENT, gynaecologist, rheumatologist, ophthalmologist, cardiologist, psychiatrist, paediatrician and neurologist.

You can read The New England Times article Local health leaders recognised at PHN awards the full article here.

Moree health leader Donna Taylor holding Certificate of Excellence Finalist award

Moree health leader Donna Taylor was a recipient of the 2023 PHN PC Quality and Innovation Awards. Image source: The New England Times.

WSLHD leads research on vaping in schools

The Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) has taken a significant step in understanding the issue of vaping in schools. Professor Smita Shah OAM and her team at WSLHD’s Prevention Education Research Unit undertook a study across seven high schools in Greater Western Sydney, to address the issue of adolescent e-cigarette use. More than 160 students, 130 school staff and 30 parents participated in the research, which employed an interactive, strengths-based approach, engaging students, staff, and parents to understand their perceptions and concerns regarding e-cigarette use among adolescents.

Results found an alarming prevalence of vaping among school-aged children in Western Sydney. WSLHD has called for proactive intervention measures and education programs to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the younger generation.

Key takeaways from the study includes:

  • There is no ‘one size fits all’: Schools request tailored education and engagement to address unique needs!
  • Education for young people needs to centre on effective learning approaches for tackling vaping. This means a focus on how and what young people learn, and the best ways to engage.
  • Prevention messaging needs to resonate with the children’s peer group.
  • A holistic approach to combat vaping needs to be embraced across the school, with supportive strategies, policies, and parent/staff education.
  • Focus on collaborative efforts between health and education for wellbeing-centred vaping prevention strategies.

You can read The Pulse article ‘Eye-opening’: Western Sydney Local Health district leads the way on new key research about vaping in schools in full here.

hand holding Peach Ice vape with school playground in the background

Photo: Tahlia Roy, ABC News.

Spotlight needs to be on communities not government

Government should be a spotlight on communities rather than control the spotlight, according to the Healthy Communities Foundation Australia CEO Mark Burdack. Mr Burdack said “One of the strategic shifts for government to really contemplate and think through is how to move the spotlight from government to a position where the government is a spotlight on communities.”

“How do we empower communities? And how does government generate a sense of success through the successes of communities, rather than through its own outputs and inputs? An issue surrounding governments’ community consultation is policy designed at scale, resulting in “one size fits all” solutions. We know, for example, that improving educational attainment will actually, in a lot of ways, do more to reduce the overall burden of disease, and therefore improve health and reduce hospitalisations than having a doctor in a small town,” Burdack said.

“I’m not saying it’s an either/or. What I’m saying is that we understand the dynamics, the cycle of disadvantage, and what drives those social determinants of health.” He mentioned Closing the Gap as an example of pressure on public servants to deliver improvements. “Departments are under a lot of pressure to demonstrate tangible improvements in the lives of Aboriginal people, reducing the child mortality rate, reducing the diabetes rate, and increasing the number of children in early childhood,” Burdack said. “And that pressure has a tendency or a risk of forcing people into their own lanes.”

To view The Mandarin article Government needs to be a spotlight on communities for better outcomes in full click here.

group of young adults, Healthy Communities Foundation Australia (HCFA) logo

Image source: The Healthy Communities Foundation website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Health leaders slam Big Tobacco

feature tile image: hand holding vape; text 'BIG TOBACCO SLAMMED "It's our duty to ensure young people know vaping is harmful, and those selling vapes to minors need to be stopped"

The image in the feature tile appeared in the article Maari Ma Slams Big Tobacco on World No Tobacco Day written by Stuart Kavanagh and published in the Barrier Truth yesterday Wednesday 30 May 2023.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

Health leaders slam Big Tobacco

World No Tobacco Day is a time to inform the public on the dangers of using tobacco and highlight what the World Health Organisation (WHO) is doing to fight the tobacco epidemic. NSW ACCHO Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation is rallying against Big Tobacco’s insidious influence, calling for communities to join in the battle.

Maari Ma’s CEO, Richard Weston says there is an urgent need to support those trying to quit smoking and the young from health damages caused by vaping: “Health authorities are now reporting that 99% of vapes in Australia contain nicotine, and they are being marketed towards our young people – the next generation of smokers for Big Tobacco.”

Mr Weston said Big Tobacco is targeting the next generation of smokers with sweet-smelling, coloured and flavoured vapes laden with highly addictive nicotine. Despite the federal government’s recent introduction of regulations to prohibit selling vapes to anyone under the age of 18, schools have reported an alarming rise in vaping among students. Mr Weston said the entire community has a role to play in addressing this health crisis, “We are ready to support our community to kick the addiction and prevent our children from becoming the next generation of smokers through vaping.”

You can find out more about World Tobacco Day on the WHO website here and read the Barrier Truth article Maari Ma Slams Big Tobacco on World No Tobacco Day in full here.

Racism continues to plague lives of mob

Dr Hannah McGlade, Kurin Minang human rights expert and member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, says “Australia is a racist country. It has a racist history which continues to impact on the lives of Aboriginal people. Evidence of racism in Australia against Aboriginal people is extensive.” Nearly three decades on from her 1997 analysis of the Race Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) review, Dr McGlade said “with racism and racist views being displayed overtly to Aboriginal people, including from politicians, we must ask – how far have we really come in addressing racism, a serious violation of human rights?”

The issue of racism against Aboriginal people took national stage recently over the treatment of ABC journalist Stan Grant who stood down in the face of shocking racial abuse directed towards him and his family. This abuse had intensified during Grant’s reporting of the King’s Coronation where perspectives of Indigenous peoples on the Crown were aired. Initially no one from ABC’s management spoke publicly in his defense, although they had in the past done just that when it concerned a prominent white journalist who’d experienced harassment. Stan Grant told us to keep our sympathy for those in our community that don’t have his privilege, and who are feeling alone and abandoned.

Dr McGlade said that she has recently for the first time in her life been on the receiving end of racist emails, in response her speaking out about the children at Banksia Hill Detention Centre; Aboriginal children who’d had guns pointed at their heads by police after they rioted in response to successive lockdowns, which have been declared unlawful by the Supreme Court. Dr McGlade said she knew she could simply delete the racist messages and continue her human rights advocacy in relative safety. She acknowledged, however, that this was not so for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Racism continues to plague the lives of Aboriginal people in full click here.

ABC staff outside of ABC Sydney HQs holding 'I stand with Stan' signs

ABC staff gathered outside the organisation’s Sydney headquarters in support of Stan Grant. Photo: Keana Naughton, ABC News.

Ear health vital to improve education outcomes

Up to nine in 10 Aboriginal children in remote areas experience middle ear disease, according to Ear Science Institute Australia, which left untreated can cause hearing loss and have a profound effect on language development, education and employment. Ear Science Institute Australia recently formed a partnership with Mineral Resources (MinRes) to increase resourcing to the Lions Healthy Hearing Outback program for the Nyiyaparli and Martu people in the East Pilbara region in WA. Under the partnership Ear Science Institute Australia is able to deliver an integrated service model combining telehealth with an Ear Health Coordinator providing on-the-ground logistical support to patients that need treatment.

Audiologist Lucy Mitchell took on the role of Ear Health Coordinator in March and will travel to Newman, Jigalong, Punmu, Parnngurr and Kunawarritji to tackle what she described as “a massive social justice issue”. “Aboriginal children will experience ear disease earlier, sometimes from two weeks old, they’ll experience it more severely and more frequently than non-Aboriginal children. This will have long lasting impacts throughout someone’s life because if you can’t hear, you can’t learn,” she said. “Even with mild hearing loss it can be very difficult to hear the teacher in a classroom or to communicate with family at home. Overcrowding in housing, hygiene and nutrition are all factors that can contribute to poor ear health.”

The program is run by Ear Science, Rural Health West and the Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS), with MinRes’ $600,000 commitment over three years bolstering service delivery. Nurses and Aboriginal health workers in the communities will be trained to use a video otoscope that captures photographs and video inside a patient’s ear, with the examinations facilitated by an ENT specialist 1,600km away in Perth.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Tackling the ear health gap vital to improving education outcomes for Indigenous children in full click here.

Dr Anton Hinton-Bayre, ENT Consultant Aboriginal girl's ear

Dr Anton Hinton-Bayre, ENT Consultant, at work. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Uni receives $3.5m Birthing on Country grant

Imagine being 38 weeks pregnant and having to leave your family and community behind to travel hundreds of kms to get the care you and your baby will need for the birth. Though far from ideal, this is the reality many Aboriginal women in remote communities face when it’s time to have their babies – and it’s something Southern Cross University (SCU) and its partner organisations are committed to changing.

SCU has secured a $3.558m grant from the Department of Health and Aged Care to collaboratively scope and design an innovative program for Birthing on Country with three ACCHOs. The Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme – Workforce and Maternity Services Grant will include help for Aboriginal mums-to-be to quit smoking. The project will be led by Professor Gillian Gould and Australia’s first Aboriginal Obstetrics and Gynaecology specialist, Dr Marilyn Clarke, both from the University’s Faculty of Health.

“I’m very excited to be part of this successful research grant, which will allow the Birthing on Country movement in Australia to be further explored and integrated with culturally competent smoking cessation care.” said Dr Clarke. Professor Gould leads iSISTAQUIT, a program for pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who are wanting to quit smoking. “We know that Birthing on Country has a very powerful impact on Aboriginal women, and that quitting smoking is one of the most important things they can do for their own health and the health of their babies,” said Professor Gould. “Coupling the already successful iSISTAQUIT program with a long-term plan to facilitate safe Birthing on Country will create a holistic pre-natal health plan for Aboriginal women living remotely.”

To view the Southern Cross University News article Southern Cross receives $3.5m Birthing on Country grant to improve Indigenous midwifery services and quit smoking program in full click here.

Professor Gillian Gould & Dr Marilyn Clarke holding iSISTAQUIT purple carboard frame text ' change starts with a chat - I'm helping mob to be smoke-free'

Project leads Professor Gillian Gould and Dr Marilyn Clarke. Image source: Southern University News webpage.

Study finds smoking target ‘cannot be achieved’

A plan to cut adult smoking rates in Australia to 5% by 2030 is likely to fall short by several years, the authors of new research have warned. The target, which also forms part of the recently published National Tobacco Strategy 2023–30, will not be met according to modelling carried out by the Daffodil Centre, a joint venture between Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney. Their research, available here, was published this month in the Tobacco Control journal.

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicate around one in 10 adults (10.1%) smoked in 2021–22. However, while smoking has fallen significantly in recent decades – with more than one in four adults (26%) recorded as smokers as recently as 1998 – plans to halve the current rate by the end of the decade are not on track, the article suggests.

“[The] 5% adult daily smoking prevalence target cannot be achieved by the year 2030 based on current trends,’ the authors wrote. “Urgent investment in concerted strategies that prevent smoking initiation and facilitate cessation is necessary to achieve 5% prevalence by 2030.” Professor Nick Zwar, Chair of the RACGP’s smoking cessation guidelines’ Expert Advisory Group, agrees that without further action the target is likely to be missed. However, he remains hopeful of an improved outlook. “The recently released National Tobacco Strategy 2023–2030 sets out actions, proposed by the Government at the Commonwealth level, which could change that situation,’ he said.

To view the RACGP newsGP article Smoking target ‘cannot be achieved’ on current trends: Study in full click here.

Aboriginal woman's hand holding a cigarette

Aboriginal smoking rates can be over 70% in some remote communities. In the early days after invasion Aboriginal people were paid with tobacco. Source: Creative Spirits webpage.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Key Date – Reconciliation Week 27 May – 3 June

National Reconciliation Week (NRW) runs from 27 May to 3 June each year, with the dates representing significant milestones in the fight for justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Advocates say this year’s event is especially significant due to the upcoming Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum. NRW organisers say the 2023 mission is to encourage “all Australians to be a voice for reconciliation in tangible ways in our everyday lives – where we live, work and socialise”. Each year, NRW features community events around the country that promote greater awareness and respect for First Nations culture and history and aims to strengthen the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

In the regional city of Armidale in NW NSW, the anniversary of the Bridge Walk (28 May 2000) is marked with a community event at a local bridge, drawing 200 people from around the region for a day of music, speeches and food. Co-organiser Diana Eades said attendance has grown over the past 13 years.

“It’s the biggest event in this region for reconciliation. And really what we’ve been saying, especially this year now more than ever, is it is the time for non-Aboriginal people to stand with Aboriginal people very publicly and say that we stand for justice, equality, respect. And we stand against racism and scaremongering,” she said.
To read the SBS News article National Reconciliation Week is here. What does it represent and why is it significant? in full click here.
CEO of Reconciliation Australia Karen Mundine (right) addresses Stolen Generations survivors and advocates on the first day of Reconciliation Week 2023

CEO of Reconciliation Australia Karen Mundine (right) addresses Stolen Generations survivors and advocates on the first day of Reconciliation Week. Source: Image source: Twitter / Reconciliation Australia – SBS News website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: National Sorry Day 2023

Feature tile image of Katrina Fanning; text 'National Sorry Day is about having empathy - providing support to others should not be limited to people you have personally wronged'

The image in the feature tile is of recently named 2023 Canberra Citizen of the Year – Wiradjuri woman Katrina Fanning AO PSM. The image appeared in today’s ABC News article Today is National Sorry Day, but many Indigenous Australians say they’re still being asked: ‘Why should I apologise?‘.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly. The content included in these news stories are not necessarily NACCHO endorsed.

National Sorry Day 2023

Australia marks National Sorry Day on 26 May each year, remembering and acknowledging the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed as children from their families and communities, otherwise known as the Stolen Generations. Children were taken because of official laws and government policies at the time, which aimed to assimilate the Indigenous population into the non-Indigenous community. The children were renamed, forced to stop speaking their native language, and were told their parents no longer wanted them. The policies were in effect right up until the 1970s, and many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are still searching for lost parents and siblings today.

The first National Sorry Day was held 25 years ago, commemorating one year after the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in federal parliament. The report found the forced removal of Indigenous children had caused lifelong impacts on Stolen Generations survivors and their families. Ten years later, in February 2008, then-prime minister Kevin Rudd made a formal apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; saying sorry to the Stolen Generations.

Former rugby league star and proud Wiradjuri woman Katrina Fanning says National Sorry Day is about having empathy. “Where there’s parts of our history where there’s tragedy, where there’s struggle, I feel emotions for those people,” she said. Ms Fanning said providing support to others should not be limited to people you had personally wronged. “I haven’t caused a drought, I never fought in a war, but I have empathy for the situation that fellow Australians went through and the sacrifices they made to make this country a better place.”

Ms Fanning said she felt a sense of sadness for those who did not acknowledge the Stolen Generations or want to say sorry, as they weren’t able to understand the shared history of Australia. “They don’t understand that this whole community of people exemplify what it is to be Australian, with resilience and toughness and dignity and pride,” she said. “I feel like they’re missing out on the fabric of Australia, not the other way around.” Ms Fanning said her family had been subject to similar comments about not wanting to apologise, but they tended not to react. “They lived at a time where reacting would have them arrested, have them banned from town, have them banned from school,” she said. “I see a simmer in them. I see something that they’ve had to carry, and a burden that they’ve had to shoulder for a very long time.”

To view the ABC News article Today is National Sorry Day, but many Indigenous Australians say they’re still being asked: ‘Why should I apologise?‘ in full click here.

Trauma and poor mental health linked

The link between exposure to trauma and increased risk of poor mental health is well established. Where trauma is unacknowledged, it can result in the re-traumatisation of later generations. The colonisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the oppressive practices that followed has resulted in a legacy of unaddressed intergenerational trauma. This prolonged and continuing exposure to trauma and risk factors places Indigenous Australians at a heightened risk of mental ill-health.

A paper Intergenerational trauma and mental health recently released by the Australian Government Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) aims to define the link between intergenerational trauma and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and to identify current best-practice policies and programs to address this issue.

You can view the AIHW paper Intergenerational trauma and mental health in full here.cover of AIHW Intergenerational trauma & mental health paper 2023

Butt Out Boondah tackles youth smoking

Butt Out Boondah, the Tackling Indigenous Smoking team of Grand Pacific Health, is urging young mob in Cooma, Yass, Queanbeyan and Goulburn to take a stand against tobacco use and vaping ahead of World No Tobacco Day, which is being held on Wednesday 31 May 2023. Butt Out Bondah focuses on educating Indigenous communities in the aforementioned areas about the dangers of Tobacco smoking and e-cigarettes to help in bridging the health gap.

The program addresses the pressing concern of vaping among young people in these communities, which is mistakenly seen as a safer alternative to smoking tobacco. Butt Out Boondah’s Strategic Coordinator for Aboriginal Health, Iona Marsh said World No Tobacco Day provides an opportunity to emphasise the detrimental effects of smoking and vaping.

“The concerning reality is that Indigenous young people in regions like Cooma, Goulburn, Yass and Queanbeyan are often unaware of the hazardous substances they are inhaling, and it is our duty to equip them and their parents with the knowledge and tools necessary to make informed decisions about their health,” she said. To raise awareness, the program actively engages with local primary and high schools, educating school-aged children about the dangers associates with smoking and vaping.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Butt Out Boondah tackles Indigenous youth smoking and vaping ahead of World No Tobacco Day in full click here.

Butt Out Boondah promotion stand in school grounds under a tree

Butt Out Boondah is encouraging First Nations peoples to take a stand against tobacco use and vaping ahead of World No Tobacco Day Photo: Butt Out Boondah. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Darwin, Broome, Port Hedland will be uninhabitable

Three major economic centres, Darwin, Broome and Port Hedland, are set to become uninhabitable by the end of the century, with global temperatures on track to warm by 2.7C. The destinations are just three of many in the northwestern section of Australia facing “niche displacement” in the next 70 years. New research by The University of Exeter, published in the science journal Nature Sustainability this week, calculates the human cost of climate inaction based on current insufficient policies and government inaction. Two billion people will be living with unprecedented mean average temperatures (MAT) above 29C, the report states.

MAT >29C is the point at which wellbeing scientifically declines, labour productivity and cognitive ability shrinks, negative pregnancy outcomes are produced, and mortality rates soar. 20% of Australia — about 374,977 Australians — will be impacted in this way by a 2.7C temperature increase, the report calculates. They would join a third of the world’s population, including in South-East Asia, India, Africa and South America. In Darwin, a 3C warmer world would mean that, for 265 days of the year, temperatures would soar higher than 35C. At 40C, humidity increases and temperatures become lethal, according to the Australian Academy of Science.

The University of Exeter report also explains the effects of a “wet-bulb temperature” — where temperature and humidity are combined. In temperatures above 28C (WBT) the body struggles to cool itself by sweating, and fails to do so in temperatures above 35C (WBT), which can be fatal. By limiting global warming to just 1.5C — which is the aim of the Paris Agreement — 80% of those globally at risk of rising temperatures would remain in their climate niche. But a 1.5C increase will still unleash severe and irreversible effects on people, wildlife and ecosystems, scientists warn.

To view the 7 News article Three Australian regions that will become unlivable within a lifetime due to climate change in full click here.

GYHSAC videos amplify public health message

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Aboriginal Corporation (GYHSAC) has just released a deadly public health promotion music video produced for GYHSAC by Saltwater People. The video’s message, in Language, encourages kids to keep their bodies and minds strong. The tune and accompanying music video are not only catchy but have an important health literacy message for all young mob out there.

The video was a project involving the GYHSAC Public Health team and several outside groups, including:

  • Singer / Songwriter / Producer Normey Jay
  • Patrick Mau – One Blood Hidden Image Entertainment Group (the first Torres Strait independent record label operating out of the Torres Strait Islands)
  • Yarrabah State School
  • David Mundraby – Local Language Translation

GYHSAC have thanked these groups and the incredible Yarrabah kids for their willingness to work with the GYHSAC Public Health team to help create a positive public health message, and assist GYHSAC to amplify the positive message to community and the wider social media world.

You can view the 3-minute Bina-N Wanggi music video below as well as the 1 minute Bina-N Wanggi Behind the Scenes video, which gives you a look behind the scenes of the filming and production of the music video.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Key Date – National Palliative Care Week 2023

As part of National Palliative Care Week 2023 (21–27 May) NACCHO has been sharing a range of information and resources specifically developed for for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and professional workers. The term palliative care refers to person and family-centred care provided for someone with an active, progressive, advanced disease, who has little to no prospect of cure and who is expected to pass on, and for whom the primary goal is to optimise the quality of life. Palliative care identifies and treats symptoms which may be physical, emotional, spiritual or social. Due to a person’s individual needs, the services offered can be diverse. The term end-of-life care refers to the last few weeks of life in which a patient with a life-limiting illness is rapidly approaching passing. Of note, sometimes these terms can be used interchangeably or have different definitions.

When providing person-centred care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it is important to ask the person who they would like involved in discussions about their health care as they may have decision makers or spokespersons who should be involved in all discussions and decisions regarding that person’s care. The time surrounding the end of someone’s life is precious and needs to be respected and approached in a safe, responsive and culturally appropriate manner. It is important that a person has the option to decide where they will pass, if possible. This may include a choice to be on Country, at home or in a hospital at the time of passing.

A collaboration between Palliative Care Australia and the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet with funding from the Australian Government have developed the Palliative Care and End-of-Life Care portal. The portal is designed to assist the health workforce who provide care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their families and communities. It seeks to support both clinicians and policy-makers in accessing resources, research and projects on palliative and end-of-life care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The above information has been extracted from the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet’s webpage Palliative Care and End-of-Life Care, available here. In the video below you can hear Aboriginal Community Support Worker, Chris Thorne talk about his personal experience with a family member and the value and importance of having an advance care plan in place.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Meaningful steps needed to reduce poverty

feature tile Mon 8 .5.23, image of ATSI boy reading a book; text 'If POVERTY is not reduced the impact of investment in health reform will be GREATLY UNDERMINED'

The image in the feature tile is from What is poverty? webpage of The Smith Family website.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

Meaningful steps needed to reduce poverty

If the Federal Government does not take meaningful steps to reduce poverty in Australia, then the impact and value of its investment in health reform and suicide prevention will be greatly undermined. That is a clear inference from the interim report, available here, of a Senate inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia, whose release last week was perfectly timed to influence debate around the Federal Budget.

The inquiry considered submissions from many health and medical organisations including the NACCHO and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations, cohealth, National Rural Health Alliance, Public Health Association of Australia, and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

The report illustrates many ways that poverty undermines physical and mental health and wellbeing, including through its impact on the determinants of health and access to healthcare. People are missing healthcare appointments and not accessing essential medicines, unable to afford healthy foods, and experiencing chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and suicidality as a result of poverty, the report found. Children’s physical health and development is being affected, as are family relationships.

A Salvation Army spokesman told the inquiry that “the best clinical care in the world won’t make a difference if you’re sending them out to sleep in their car afterwards”. Lifeline Australia told the inquiry that socioeconomic status has reliably been identified as a factor which impacts suicide risk. It noted that over the past decade, age-standardised suicide rates in Australia were highest for those living in the lowest socioeconomic areas.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Will the Federal Budget deliver for these key health issues? in full click here.

exterior of poor conditions of remote housing

Overcrowding in remote housing is regarded as a primary cause of rheumatic heart disease. Photo: Lucy Marks. Image source: ABC News.

BRAMS CEO wins 40under40 Award

Last Friday night at a gala dinner at Crown Perth, Cassie Atchison, CEO of Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS) was announced a winner in this year’s Business News Annual 40under40 Awards for her outstanding work in WA.

Business News senior journalist and chief judge Mark Pownall said, “Judges were looking for the entrepreneurs, the people who were willing to take a risk rather than follow the safe path, those who have stepped outside their comfort zone.”

Pat Turner, CEO of NACCHO was very proud to attend the event and said, “It was so good to see one of the CEOs from our sector receive such a prestigious award.”

Mitchell Matera, managing director of Maali Group, was announced as First Amongst Equals at the 40under40 Awards for 2023, taking the top spot ahead of a varied cohort of WA’s young business and community leaders. The proud Noongar man also won the Indigenous Business Category for his electrical, mechanical and civil contracting company, Maali Group. Mr Matera said “As a young Aboriginal apprentice, I saw that while some resource sector companies celebrated diversity, there was no real on-site support or sustainable career pathways for Indigenous apprentices. Unable to find businesses genuinely committed to employment, upskilling and career diversity for Indigenous people in the sector, I started one myself.”

View the Business News article Matera wins first place at 40u40 awards.

Cassie Atchinson, CEO BRAMS, holding 40under40 award & group photo including NACCHO CEO Pat Turner & Cassie Atchinson

40under40 award winner Cassie Atchinson, CEO BRAMS and NACCHO CEO Pat Turner (second from left in group photo) joining in the celebrations. Images from Business News.

First Nations women to speak at historic forum

150 young First Nations women will gather in Canberra tomorrow to help set an agenda for change in relation to the rights, health, safety, wellbeing and prosperity of young Indigenous women and girls. The Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Youth Forum is a precursor to the landmark Wiyi Yani U Thangani National Summit (9–11 May), Australia’s most significant gathering ever of First Nations women which will be attended by over 900 women from across Australia (90% First Nations women). The 150 young First Nations women attending the Forum will also attend the Summit.

The Forum and the Summit are designed to help First Nations women and girls reshape many of the policies and programs which impact on their lives and the lives of their families and communities. The Summit is designed for First Nations women to speak on their own terms to government, policymakers and service providers about addressing issues affecting First Nations women and girls. The Summit is the climax of the five-year Wiyi Yani U Thangani systemic change project led by the Commission’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO. Leading First Nations women’s rights advocate Michelle Deshong is co-hosting the Summit.

Commissioner Oscar said: “These young women are the next generation of First Nations female leaders. Indeed, many of them are already providing vital leadership across their communities and countries. “Around half of all First Nations people are under 25 years of age so it’s very important that we engage productively and respectfully with our young people and ensure their voices are heard and acted on.”

To view the Australian Human Rights Commission article Young First Nations women to raise their voices at historic forum in full click here.

Push to reduce stigma around FASD

As a little boy, Jazpa Pinnell was so hyperactive he’d run up and down the balconies at school, was unable to concentrate in class, and his meltdowns were so bad friends and family would tell his mum he needed a “belting”. “I was thinking I was a bad parent,” mum Sam Pinnell said. But her fears were allayed, and the Queensland teenager’s life changed for the better at age seven when he was diagnosed with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). These days, with help from psychologists, physiotherapy, occupational therapy – and an understanding of his diagnosis – the Year 11 student is described as well-mannered and respectful.

Jazpa was one of the first children diagnosed with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder at the Gold Coast University Hospital’s FASD clinic, Queensland’s first dedicated clinic for the condition, which opened in 2014. It remains one of the few clinics in Australia. Ms Pinnell is Jazpa’s biological aunt and the woman he calls mum, having cared for him since birth. “So many times they’re put into the too-hard basket or they’re expelled, they’re suspended, because the teachers do not understand that they’re not naughty, they’re not playing up, they’re just struggling to learn,” said Ms Pinnell, who founded a FASD support group. The group has a “no blame, no shame and no judging” motto.

Gold Coast FASD clinic director Doug Shelton said the issue was one for society to address, not just individual women, particularly given Australia’s drinking culture. Dr Shelton, a paediatrician, said the recommendation was for women to drink no alcohol during pregnancy to avoid FASD, but acknowledged about half of pregnancies were not planned. “If you had a precisely badly timed binge in the first few weeks of pregnancy, even if that was just one binge, and there was nothing else, that could be sufficient to cause lifelong problems with that baby,” he said. People with the disorder can also experience problems in school, getting a job, with relationships and some come into contact with the justice system.

To view the ABC News article Gold Coast family push to reduce stigma around foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in full click here.

woman's hands resting on top & base of pregnant belly

The exact number of FASD cases in Australian is unknown. Photo: Tracy Nearmy, AAP. Image source: ABC News.

National Tobacco Strategy 2023–2030 launch

Among all the talk last week about a crackdown on vaping – the most significant robacco control reforms in a decade – has been the roll-out of another major document – the launch of the National Tobacco Strategy 2023–2030, available here. A key priority of the strategy is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking and Closing the Gap. The Tackling Indigenous Smoking (TIS) program would be extended and widened – with $141m funding – to reduce both vaping and smoking among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This is urgently needed  – tobacco legally kills over 57 Australians a day. That’s equivalent to extinguishing an entire country town of 21,000 every year.

It’s still the single biggest preventable risk factor for disease and premature death. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, more than a third of all deaths are caused by tobacco. Over the past decade we have lost more than 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives due to smoking. Multiple policy failures beyond health – from poverty, education, employment, housing, family removals, dislocation and the systematic embedding of tobacco as rations in lieu of wages – mean Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately impacted by the harms of Big Tobacco.

There have been huge achievements in reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking. In 2018–19, 40% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults smoked daily, down from 50% in 2004-05. A target of 27% is achievable. But to get there we need something “extra” to accelerate those reductions. So the funding to expand the TIS program is urgently needed to have no more than 27% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking by 2030 (5% of all Australians).

To view The National Tribune article New funds will tackle Indigenous smoking. But here’s what else we know works for quit campaigns in full click here.

cover of the National Tobacco Strategy 2023-2030

Scathing report over Doomadgee woman’s death

The Queensland Health Ombudsman has released a scathing report into the preventable death of a First Nations woman at Doomadgee Rural Hospital in the state’s north-west, describing poor record-keeping, “completely unacceptable” follow-up in care and racial stereotyping. Adele Sandy, 37, a mother of four children who had been diagnosed with life-threatening rheumatic heart disease since she was a child, died at the remote hospital after previous presentations to the emergency department, only to be sent home with Panadol.

The Queensland Health Ombudsman’s report followed a Four Corners investigation last year, Heart Failure, into the deaths of not just Ms Sandy, but also her teenage niece, Shakaya George and Shakaya’s best friend, Betty Booth, who also had rheumatic heart disease (RHD) and had been turned away with Panadol from Doomadgee Hospital. Two months before Ms Sandy died, in March 2020, Queensland Health completed a review, Betty’s Story, into the failures of care for Betty Booth before she died, finding clinical risk and poor governance.

The Ombudsman’s report into Ms Sandy’s death said it was “concerned with the lack of progress” since Betty’s Story was delivered. “The tragic loss of Miss Sandy is an ongoing source of grief for the Doomadgee community which is deepened with the knowledge that many of the issues identified in the ‘Betty’s Story’ report are replicated in Miss Sandy’s care,” the report said.

To view the ABC News article Scathing report into Doomadgee Rural Hospital following First Nations woman’s death reveals clinical failures in full click here.

sign at entrance to Doomadgee Hospital, Queensland Government logo & words

Multiple women died after seeking treatment at Doomadgee Hospital, in remote north-west Queensland. Photo: Louie Eroglu, Four Corners. Image source: ABC News.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Funding to eliminate HIV transmission

feature tile, HIV under microscope; text 'Additional $19.7m to improve access to HIV, BBV and STI testing, treatment, information and care'

The feature tile includes a colourised transmission electron micrograph image showing HIV particles (in blue) budding from a white blood cell. Image source: Australian Academy of Science webpage Zero HIV transmissions in Australia by 2020.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

Funding to eliminate HIV transmission

The Australian Government is delivering on its commitment to eliminate HIV transmission in Australia, and address the health disparities experienced by LGBTIQA+ people. An additional $19.7m in the 2023–24 Budget will ensure better access to HIV testing, treatment and information, including support for the HIV workforce and to continue to address other Blood Borne Virus (BBV) and Sexually Transmissible Infections (STI).

The Government will:

  • expand access to HIV treatment for people who are ineligible for Medicare to ensure no one is left behind
  • extend the HIV testing vending machine pilot to increase access to HIV testing for students in South Australia
  • fund the Emen8 website, a critical information hub for sharing HIV information for members of the LGBTIQA+ community
  • fund the HIV Online Learning Australia program to provide up-to-date education and training for the HIV workforce
  • provide additional support for BBV and STI peaks ($2.9 million) including for the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) and National Association of People with HIV in Australia (NAPWHA) to drive the national response
  • provide funding to ACCHOs for BBV and STI testing, treatment and care services for First Nations Australians ($5.0 million).

This investment continues the implementation of the Eighth National HIV Strategy (2018–2022), and provides a platform for the important work of the HIV Taskforce, announced by the Government in December 2022, encompassing the development of the Ninth National HIV Strategy. It will bring Australia closer to its goal of ending HIV transmission by 2030.

The Government is also developing the 10 Year National Action Plan for the Health and Wellbeing of LGBTIQA+ people and will establish an LGBTIQA+ Health Advisory Group to break down barriers to accessing health care.

To view Minister Butler’s media release Eliminating HIV transmission and ensuring health equity for LGBTIQA+ Australians in full click here.

blue gloved hand holding 4 vials of blood with labels HCV,HBV, Syphilis & HIV

Image source: PHN North Western Melbourne website.

$15m+ to improve health infrastructure

Ten new major capital works projects will improve health infrastructure in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the country. Projects include building and renovating clinics, constructing houses for health workers, improving ventilation and cooling in clinics and building the overall capacity of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS). More than $15m will be provided to successful applicants through today’s announcement of Round 1 of the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme – Closing the Gap – Major Capital Works (MCW) program. These projects are the first of the 52 grants which were announced at the Joint Council on Closing the Gap last December, totalling more than a $120m investment.

The existing stock of ACCHS infrastructure is between 20–40 years old and in significant need of repair, reconstruction and/or enhancement. Ongoing rounds of capital works will provide better care for First Nations patients and attract and retain essential health workers in some of the most remote communities in Australia.

Deteriorating and inadequate infrastructure can compromise service delivery, pose safety risks for patients and staff, and inhibit efforts to attract workers. Best practice clinical care can also be compromised by the inability to accommodate an increase in patients and deliver multidisciplinary integrated care. The grants have been co-designed in partnership with NACCHO on behalf of the ACCHS sector. Once completed, the projects will provide First Nations people with culturally safe care in quality surroundings, particularly in remote and very remote locations.

To view Minister Burney’s media release $15.45 million for major capital works in First Nations communities in full click here.

old Armajun Health Service building & new health clinic completed June 2021

Armajun Aboriginal Health Service (AAHS) moved into a new building in June 2021. Image source: AAHS website.

Study highlights success of youth program

Minister for Police and Corrective Services, Mark Ryan, says a State Government funded youth program involving a partnership between Queensland Police and the Johnathan Thurston Academy has been proven to significantly reduce juvenile offending among its participants.

The University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC) conducted an independent review into the JT Academy initiative, You Got This, developed in 2021 and sponsored by the QPS. The program is designed to boost the courage and self-belief of disadvantaged young people aged between nine and 16 years. The study found significant reductions in criminal offending by at-risk teenagers taking part in the You Got This program in Cairns.

17 You Got This programs have been delivered across Queensland, including Cairns, Mareeba, Mount Isa, Townsville, Logan, Zillmere and Brisbane City. Jonathan Thurston said he is “so proud of the young people who are showing up to this program and keep showing up
for themselves.” He said, “This is an amazing group of young adults with so much potential. To see the changes they’re making in themselves and their commitment to take a different direction in life just blows my mind.”

To view the Minister for Police and Corrective Services and Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, the Hon. Mark Ryan’s media release Study finds success in Far North youth program in full click here.

Johnathan Thurstan at Yarrabah PCYC last week for YouGotThis Program

Johnathan Thurstan at Yarrabah PCYC last week for YouGotThis Program. Image source: Cairns Post.

ALOs linked to drop in hospital self-discharges

Dr Morgan Berman, an orthopaedic registrar at the hospital, said prior to the introduction of liaison officers a high percentage of Indigenous patients were self-discharging before their treatment had concluded, and in some cases even before surgeries. “Risk factors for self-discharge were younger in age, pensioners or unemployed. They were more likely to be residents of Alice Springs town camps or live in communities within 51–100km of Alice Springs Hospital,” he said. “Some Indigenous men and women are sceptical of Australia’s health care system. The ALOs played a key role brokering appropriate treatment and insured significantly fewer Indigenous patients self-discharged before they had concluded treatment.”

As part of his research, which was unveiled at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress in Adelaide this week, Dr Berman analysed patients who had been admitted to the hospital in the nine months prior to the ALOs introduction, and in the nine months following. He found there had been a 37% reduction in self-discharge among Indigenous patients.

The above has been extracted from the article Self-discharges drop by more than a third at Alice Springs Hospital published earlier today in The Chronicle.

main entrance to Alice Springs Hospital at night

Alice Springs Hospital. Image source: The Daily Telegraph.

Adequate health support in jail not a given

Aboriginal organisations are “fighting for scraps” and prisoners are crying out for better health support while authorities funnel millions into a $1.1b jail sitting idle in Victoria. The decision to build Western Plains Correctional Centre was made pre-COVID-19 when detainee numbers were increasing, Corrections Victoria Commissioner Larissa Strong explained yesterday. Inquiry commissioner Travis Lovett suggested the same amount of money could have made a huge difference to the land’s traditional owners, the Wadawurrung people. Aboriginal organisations were missing out in the meantime, he said.

Commissioners also noted prisoners had to fight to get adequate health support in jail. Commissioner Sue-Anne Hunter said detainees were “crying out for mental health facilities, putting in form after form, not wanting to complain and not wanting to upset any prison guard because they know that their form won’t get through”. Officials conceded that while they were exploring whether there could be direct Aboriginal Health Service delivery within prisons, a recently signed primary health contract had a five-year lifespan.

Ms Strong accepted it could be of great benefit to Aboriginal prisoners if they were able to serve sentences in the community. As of Monday, more than 820 Aboriginal people were in adult prisons in Victoria, representing 12.5% of the state’s entire prison population, she said. Earlier, Youth Justice officials told the inquiry they were determined to achieve zero Aboriginal young people in custody, regardless of legislative change.

To view the Kyabram Free Press article Prisoner health neglected while $1.1b jail sits idle in full click here.

main entrance of Western Plains Correctional Centre

Image source: Community Safety Building Authority, Victoria State Government website.

Vaping crackdown draws global acclaim

In the most significant tobacco and vaping control reforms in years, the Albanese Government has announced a range of measures aimed at reducing the prevalence of tobacco use, its associated harms and reducing the risk of a new generation of people becoming addicted to nicotine. The Government will work with state and territory governments to restrict the import and sale of vaping products, increase minimum quality standards for e-cigarettes to make them less appealing, reduce allowed nicotine concentrations and ban all single use, disposable e-cigarettes.

Many public health leaders have welcomed the news, including the World Health Organization’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman, a longstanding advocate for tobacco control, said in a statement: “Like plain packaging, countries around the world will be lining up to copy Australia. The Government has again stared down Big Tobacco. All companies wanted to be able to sell these products through cooperative retail outlets with years of form in selling tobacco and illegal vapes to kids.”

Dr Raglan Maddox, program lead of the Tobacco Free Program at the Australia National University, said: “We know that people who don’t smoke but use e-cigarettes are around three times as likely to take up smoking as those who don’t use e-cigarettes…these measures are a much welcome step toward accelerating reductions in tobacco use”.

Speaking ahead of his Douglas Gordon Oration at the Preventive Health Conference on Kaurna Country on Thursday, Emeritus Professor Mike Daube AO said the Government’s announcement on tobacco and vaping “is the best news the public health community has had in years”. While welcoming the vaping reforms, the Alcohol and Drug Foundation said that it is important for adequate support to be in place for people who developed a nicotine dependence through vaping.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Crackdown on vaping and tobacco industries draws global acclaim in full click here.

vapes sitting on wooden table top

Image source: Bowman Dental.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Telehealth review shows we could do better

feature tile - Dr assessing cut Aboriginal hand on computer screen; text 'telehealth a game changer for many First Nations people but review shows we could do better'

The image in the feature tile is from an article Telehealth a game changer: closing the gap in remote Aboriginal communities published in The Medical Journal of Australia on 31 March 2019.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is a platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

Telehealth review shows we could do better

Telehealth has been a game changer for many First Nations people globally, including in Australia. It has allowed First Nations people to access health care close to home – whether that’s screening for health issues, diagnosing illness or monitoring existing conditions. It has done this while minimising exposure to COVID. Telehealth uses information and communication technology to deliver health care at a distance. In Australia, this is mainly via phone and video consultations. Telehealth can be delivered by any health-care provider including doctors, nurses, and allied health or ancillary health providers. Telehealth is not a complete replacement for in-person care. But it can be used instead of some face-to-face appointments.

ACCHOs have traditionally provided primary (initial) health care and some specialist care for First Nations people in Australia. Telehealth allows them to provide a greater range of specialist services. So, this allows First Nations people access to care close to home, with optional support from an Indigenous health worker.

A recent review of telehealth for First Nations people – in Australia, Canada, NZ and the US – shows we could do better. Unreliable internet access, services designed without meaningful First Nations’ input, and concerns about establishing rapport with health workers were some of the concerns.

To view The National Tribune article Telehealth has much to offer First Nations people. But technical glitches and a lack of rapport can get in the way in full click here.

stethoscope on wooden surface wrapped around mobile phone with vector stethoscope on its screen

Image source: The University of Queensland Australia, UQ News webpage.

NT-specific solution to health staff shortages

Finding solutions to the dire challenges facing the health workforce in rural and remote areas to better support Territorians, particularly First Nations people, is the focus of the Better Health Futures Symposium being held in Alice Springs today. The Symposium will bring together the diverse perspectives and experience of influential leaders, rural and remote health experts, educators and researchers to address health challenges spanning the NT.

For instance high staff turnover, high job vacancy rates and low staff retention resulting in critical staff shortages. Plus a decline in Aboriginal health practitioners and international medical graduates, clinic closures, clients not visiting a GP and lacking care plans for chronic conditions. The Symposium is presented by Charles Darwin University (CDU) in partnership with Menzies School of Health Research, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) and NT Health.

AMSANT Acting Chief Executive Officer Dr Donna Ah Chee said the Symposium will help address major health issues, such as the life expectancy of First Nations people in the NT. “While the life expectancy gap in the Northern Territory is still unacceptable there has been substantial improvement over the past two decades, with a nine-year improvement in life expectancy for men and almost five years for women,” Dr Ah Chee said. “Our sector has been critical in leading these gains. However the progress we have made will stall if we do not urgently address the workforce crisis we are now facing. Many of our services are facing severe shortages of health professionals, leading to reduced services and temporary clinic closures.”

To view the CDU article Health workforce lift for NT in Alice Springs in full click here.

3 ATSI participants (2 young females, 1 male) at 2023 Better Futures Symposium, Alice Springs

The 2023 Better Health Futures Symposium in Alice Springs aims to build a robust rural and remote health workforce in, and for, the NT. Image source: CDU Australia News webpage.

Emerging leaders hope to make communities better

Emerging Indigenous leaders from across the Big Rivers region are among a group of 24 participants of the 2023 First Circles Leadership Program. The program aims to build leadership skills and bring new voices from remote communities to the Territory conversation on matters affecting Aboriginal Territorians.

This year, education, health services, infrastructure, housing and telecommunications will be among the topics discussed at the regional workshops, which take place in Darwin, Katherine, Nhulunbuy and Alice Springs until November. The year-long series of intensive workshops culminate in the group addressing all Ministers in the Northern Territory Government Cabinet, presenting ideas on policies, projects and initiatives that could positively impact their communities.

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Selena Uibo, a First Circles graduate herself, said he had learned firsthand how important this program was in “fostering the next generation of Aboriginal leaders. The program gave me an invaluable opportunity to hone my leadership skills and to work with Government at a grassroots level,” she said. “I look forward to supporting new voices to join the conversation about how to improve lives in remote communities.”

To view the Katherine Times article Emerging leaders hope to ‘make communities better for everyone’ click here.

2023 First Circles Leadership Program participant Leon Kinthari from Wadeye

Leon Kinthari from Wadeye said he joined the 2023 First Circles Leadership Program in a bid to build his skills. Image source: Katherine Times.

World-first framework for remote nursing

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) congratulates the Government, the National Rural Health Commissioner and all the professional bodies that have worked together to release the National Rural and Remote Nursing Generalist Framework 2023–2027. This Framework supports registered nurses to work to their full ability in rural and remote healthcare settings.

“We see this as a step in the right direction in building a multidisciplinary model of care in rural and remote settings,” said Alliance Chief Executive Susanne Tegen. “We would like to congratulate and we appreciate the work of Minister Emma McBride and Assistant Minister Ged Kearney in working with grassroots nurses, medical and allied health professionals – including dentists, paramedics and pharmacists – to bring sustainable solutions to the healthcare inequities seen in rural Australia,” said Ms Tegen.

The Alliance advocates for the Primary care Rural Integrated Multidisciplinary Health Services (PRIM-HS) model, which is an evidence-based and community-led policy and funding solution to support primary care where markets are failing or communities are without medical and healthcare services. It aims to overcome the professional, financial and social barriers to working rurally. The Framework aligns with the Alliance’s advocacy efforts to bring this multidisciplinary model of care to rural communities and we seek government funding and support to promote PRIM-HS nationwide.

You can view the NRHA media release More support for nurses under world-first framework for rural and remote nursing in full click here.

Fewer kids in detention but more support needed

The number of young people coming into contact with the criminal justice system has fallen in the past five years. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be over-represented under youth justice supervision in every state and territory, according to data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Indigenous people aged 10-17 are about 24 times more likely to be in detention than other young people. On an average day in 2021-22, almost two-thirds (60%) of people aged 10-17 in detention were Indigenous compared with almost one-third (32%) of adults in prison, the report found. Palawa elder and Amnesty International Australia Indigenous advisor Rodney Dillon said the underlying causes of poverty and inequality needed to be addressed.

Arrernte/Luritja woman Catherine Liddle is the CEO of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, the peak body that represents Indigenous children in out-of-home care. Ms Liddle said research has consistently shown Indigenous children were more likely than other Australian children to be in out-of-home care, which is a major contributing factor to coming into contact with the criminal justice system. “What we need to do is be putting the dollars into early intervention and looking at ways that we strengthen families so that children don’t hit child protection systems, but rather have the supports that they and their families need,” she said.

To view The Islander article Fewer kids in detention but more support needed click here.

children's hands on bars - one set of hands are Aboriginal

Image source: Law Society of NSW Journal Online.

GRAMS launch competition for No Tobacco Day

As World No Tobacco Day approaches, the Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (GRAMS) has thought of a unique approach to tackle smoking in the community with a recipe competition and free cookbook. GRAMS has launched the recipe competition to coincide with this year’s World No Tobacco Day theme of We Want Food Not Tobacco, and are seeking the community’s best recipe entries.

The competition began on Tuesday 7 March and will end on Friday 21 April, with a Tackling Indigenous Smoking Cookbook to be released on Wednesday 31 May during World No Tobacco Day. GRAMS is asking the community to ditch the smokes and get their recipes into the competition, with weekly prizes for the winning recipe. Recipes include family favourites, healthy snacks, sauces and traditional food.

Tackling Indigenous Smoking acting co-ordinator Brent Walker said anyone could submit a recipe and he hoped to see a variety of healthy, traditional food from the local area such as bush fruits, herbs and spices. Mr Walker said GRAMS took up the idea to raise awareness that cigarettes were not that important and to send a message to give up smoking. “It’s making parents and adults aware that providing food for their kids is more important than buying smokes, they’re getting expensive and kids are going to school hungry,” he said.

To view The West Australian article Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service launch recipe competition for World No Tobacco Day in full click here.

GRAMS employees Brent Walker, Levi Thorne and Neau Simpson

GRAMS employees Brent Walker, Levi Thorne and Neau Simpson. Photo: Tamati Smith, Regional Hub. Image source: The West Australian.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Birthing service reduces preterm births by 38%

feature tile text Birthing in Our Community services reduces preterm birth rates for ATSI babies by 38%

The image in the feature tile is from an article Indigenous-led birthing program gains international recognition published in the National Indigenous Times on 1 April 2021.

The NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News is a platform we use to showcase the important work being done in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on the work of NACCHO, NACCHO members and NACCHO affiliates.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector, broadly.

Birthing service reduces preterm births by 38%

A birthing service established by three SE Queensland health organisations has reduced preterm birth rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies by 38% and demonstrated significant cost savings to the health system. Results published in the Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific this week highlighted improved outcomes for women having a baby through the Birthing in Our Community (BiOC) service. The reduction in preterm birth rates meant that women accessing the program required fewer costly interventions, procedures and neonatal admissions, resulting in savings of $4,810 per mother/baby pair. Additionally, the BiOC service reduced two thirds of women’s out of pocket costs by bringing the service closer to home.

The cost-effectiveness study concluded that replication of the BiOC service across Australia has the potential to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies born preterm by 965 each year, thereby potentially saving the Australian health system $86,994,021 per annum. The BiOC service and model of care was established in 2013 by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane and Mater Health in Brisbane in response to a need for women who are pregnant with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander baby to access culturally and clinically safe care throughout their pregnancy and at birth.

Ms Renee Blackman, ATSICHS Brisbane CEO, said that “the success of the BiOC service shows what can be achieved when partners work together with a shared vision and a commitment to Aboriginal-led models of care”.

You can view the medianet. article Improved birthing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families generates savings to the health system in full here and the The Lancet Regional Health Western Pacific research paper (The Lancet Regional Health Western Pacific article Birthing on country service compared to standard care for First Nations Australians: a cost-effectiveness analysis from a health system perspective) in full click here.

IUIH tile Birthing In Our Community, ATSI mum and baby

Image source: Birthing in Our Community North Facebook page.

Disproportionate impact of diabetes on mob

Diabetes WA is calling for greater recognition of the disproportionate impact of diabetes on Aboriginal Communities in WA. Aboriginal West Australians are at far greater risk of diabetes and diabetes-related complications than any other community in the State. Aboriginal West Australians are nearly 40 times more likely to have major lower limb amputation. Aboriginal people living in remote areas have 20 times the incidence of end-stage renal disease compared with the national average. Cataract and diabetic retinopathy continues to be the leading causes of vision loss in Aboriginal people in WA. The diabetes gap is also generational.  Type 2 diabetes in children, once rare, is on the rise.

Gestational diabetes, also more common in Aboriginal Communities, is the fastest growing type of diabetes in WA, with many women remaining undiagnosed while diabetes silently impacts their unborn baby. In some remote communities, 60–70% of people over the age of 65 have type 2 diabetes. Too many older Aboriginal people are living with preventable disabilities as a result of diabetes and its silent damage.

Project Lead for Diabetes WA, Natalie Jetta, is an experienced Aboriginal Health Professional. She says training Aboriginal Health Professionals will make diabetes education more accessible and more culturally safe for Aboriginal West Australians. “We know that Aboriginal Health Professionals are best placed to talk to people within their own Community, because they already have the respect, trust, knowledge and connection they need to nurture their clients,” Natalie says. “We have now trained 20 Aboriginal Health Professionals employed by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector to deliver the Diabetes Education Self Yarning (DESY) program. This will improve the cultural security of this diabetes education program and enable it to be delivered on Country across WA.”

To view the News Medical Life Sciences article Diabetes WA calls for greater recognition of diabetes impact on Aboriginal Communities in full click here.

6 Aboriginal female graduates of the Diabetes WA Diabetes education program - Diabetes Education Self Yarning (DESY)

Graduates of the Diabetes WA Diabetes education program – Diabetes Education Self Yarning (DESY). Image source: News Medical Life Sciences.

Jury is in on vaping – time for action

The jury is in on the harms of vaping, with a new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia today providing the most comprehensive review yet on the health impacts of e-cigarettes. Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Professor Steve Robson said the findings of the study leave zero room for confusion about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping. “It’s time for stronger, strictly enforced regulations so we can avoid another public health crisis like tobacco,” Professor Robson said.

“Vaping is not harmless, it is not safe, it is not part of tobacco control. It has become a scourge in our schools, with parents and educators reporting that it has got out of hand. And we are seeing adults and children alike suffering as a result of vaping.” Risks identified in the review include addiction, poisoning, especially in small children, seizures and loss of consciousness caused by nicotine overdose, headache, cough, throat irritation, and burns and injuries, largely caused by exploding batteries.

Another major risk identified by the study was that young non-smokers who use e-cigarettes are around three times as likely to go on to smoke regular cigarettes, compared to young people who did not use e-cigarettes. “Vaping products are a gateway to smoking for young people and there are significant risks from vaping that warrant much stronger regulation. For example, we know many products marketed as not containing nicotine have been found to contain nicotine and products have also been found to contain prohibited chemicals that can cause serious harm, like vitamin E acetate and diacetyl, which can cause serious damage to the lungs.”

To view the AMA’s media release Jury is in on vaping and associated harms – time for action in full click here.

cloud of vape smoke obscuring most of man's face

Image source: ABC News.

RACGP says international medical graduates needed

As Australia’s health system faces a crisis, amid a growing shortage of GPs and mounting pressure on both primary and secondary care services, the RACGP is calling on the Federal Government to support international medical graduates (IMGs). College President Dr Nicole Higgins said the workforce shortage is a significant part of the crisis, and that it is widespread, from general practice to pharmacy and nursing.

She said IMGs could help to address the issue in the short-term, and that many are eager to work in Australia, but are being held back and becoming disillusioned by red tape and a lack of support. “Rural and remote communities are particularly affected,” Dr Higgins said. “But there is a simple solution to boost the number of GPs in the short-term: we can and should be doing much more to attract IMGs to Australia, and to support and retain them as valuable community members. This includes cutting red tape and making the application process easier for doctors who want to work in areas of need.”

To view the RACGP newsGP article IMGs a ‘simple solution’ to boost GP numbers: RACGP in full click here.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins says barriers to overseas doctors wanting to work in Australia make no sense amid crisis. Photo: Jono Searle/AAP Photos. Image source: Bunbury Mail.

Sector Jobs

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

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

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, says every year in March, Australians come together to mark Harmony Week, culminating in the observance of the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the 21 March. Australia is one of the world’s most successful multicultural nations. We are home to the world’s oldest continuous cultures as well as migrants from nearly 200 countries.

This week schools, workplaces and community groups will reflect on this diversity by participating in events across the country and nearly 7000 people from more than 120 countries will become new citizens. Multiculturalism is integral to our national identity- but we cannot take it for granted. This International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination marks 75 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and focuses on the urgent need to combat racism and racial discrimination.

To view Minister Giles’ media release Harmony Week and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in full click here. You can find more information about International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the United Nations website here.

tile text International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination March 21

Image source: Ontario Nurses’ Association website 14 March 2023.

World Down Syndrome Day

Today, Tuesday 21 March 2023, is World Down Syndrome Day. World Down Syndrome Day aims to celebrate the progress that has been made over the last 50 years and, in particular, over the last 10 years. Progress is often made in small steps, sometimes pausing to review our journey, but always aware of how far we have come and the difference that our small steps make to the day-to-day life of people living with disability.

As part of the worldwide celebrations, World Down Syndrome Day lights up buildings of significance. This is referred to as ‘Light up a Landmark’. Buildings that have been lit up previously, include: Palais des Nation – UN Geneva; The Empire State Building – NY; Eiffel Tower – Paris; Tower 42 – London and Belfast City Hall – Ireland. Once the buildings are lit up, images are taken and shared on Social Media to build awareness and engagement throughout the world. This year the iconic Canberra Grammar School Quad will be the first in Australia to take part in this international event!

Dietitians Week 20–26 March 2023

Today is Day 2 of Dietitians Week 2023. When it comes to managing health through food and nutrition, a dietitian should be your first port of call. Ongoing and specialised education ensures dietitians are the reliable choice for life-changing food and nutrition support. Because we all have our own unique goals, challenges and lifestyles, Accredited Practising Dietitians understand that our health is not a one-size fits all approach. They are trained to offer personalised health advice that is fine-tuned to a person’s specific needs.  Dietitians Australia has an Indigenous nutrition role statement, available here, which listed the knowledge and skills of an APD working in the area of Indigenous nutrition.