As Australia finds its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons learned about our health systems must not be lost. The Australian Government must use next week’s Federal Budget to commit to measures that ensure our health systems are resilient and effective now and beyond COVID-19. “We know areas of our health system are failing Australians, and we cannot continue the business as usual approach to funding,” AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said today.
“There continues to be unmet need for health services in the community, and the ongoing need for further investment in our health care system to ensure services are accessible and affordable for patients is only going to increase.” The AMA has identified key areas that need immediate funding commitments in the upcoming Budget – permanent telehealth; public hospitals; aged care; general practice; private health insurance; and Indigenous health. Dr Khorshid continued, “The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how crucial our front line health workers and health services are, and how vital it is for them to be properly resourced and supported.”
Dr Simon Quilty has specialist skills in a range of fields so he can treat patients with complex conditions. Photo: Stephanie Zillman. Image source ABC News.
Your Health 2030 project
What would need to happen for all Australians to enjoy good health by 2030?
A team of public health experts across the country have put together a project answering this question, in collaboration with VicHealth, and they have published the results in a supplement in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Ray Lovett, Aboriginal epidemiologist at ANU and director of the Mayi Kuwayu Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing spoke with Hilary Harper on ABC Radio National Life Matters about how culture is key in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Australian Government Department of Health has released a COVID-19 vaccination – Fact sheet – Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples). This easy-to-read fact sheet outlines the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines and what to do if you feel them.
Globally, an estimated 23 million miscarriages occur every year. Despite the personal toll involved, many miscarriages are managed in relative isolation. Private grief and misconceptions can lead to women and their partners feeling at fault or managing alone.
Similarly, in the health-care system and broader society, the continuing conviction that miscarriages are unavoidable and the requirement, enshrined in many national guidelines, that women must have recurrent miscarriages before they are eligible for investigation or intervention has created a pervasive attitude of acceptance of miscarriage, urging women to “just try again”.
For too long miscarriage has been minimised and often dismissed. The lack of medical progress should be shocking. Instead, there is a pervasive acceptance. Not all miscarriages could be avoided, but the insidious implication that miscarriage, like other women’s reproductive health issues, including menstrual pain and menopause, should be managed with minimal medical intervention is ideological, not evidence based. Miscarriage should be a major focus for the medical research community, for service providers, and for policy makers. The era of telling women to “just try again” is over.
The early closure of the Voluntary Dental Graduate Year Program and the Oral Health Therapy Graduate Year Program by the Australian Government adversely impacted NSW Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs). This led to the co-design of a small-scale oral health therapy graduate year program for ACCHOs known as the Dalang Project. This project has enabled oral health therapists to engage with local Aboriginal communities and implement culturally competent, practical and evidence-based oral health promotion activities.
For an overview of the Dalang Project and its evaluation click here.
Image source: The Conversation.
New 715 Health Check resources
A range of community resources, including flyers, posters, animation, podcasts, social tiles, video stories, templates and more have been developed to support organisation promoting 715 Health Checks.
Amnesty International Australia and Balunu Healing Foundation have called on the NT government to give kids a chance at breaking the cycle of disadvantage and crime by diverting them into culturally appropriate programs that address the underlying intergenerational trauma which too often leads to crime, instead of condemning them to the quicksand of the youth justice system.
Amendments to the youth justice act due to be debated this week in Parliament will prevent kids from accessing Indigenous-led diversion programs which are highly effective in addressing recidivism. The NT’s own statistics show that more than 70% of children who complete a diversion program do not reoffend within 12 months of completion.
To view Amnesty International Australia’s media release in full click here.
Children in the Don Dale juvenile detention centre in Darwin. Photo: Helen Davidson. Image source: The Guardian.
World Hand Hygiene Day 2021
ThemSAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands global campaign was launched in 2009 and is celebrated annually on 5 May (World Hand Hygiene Day). The campaign aims to maintain global promotion, visibility and sustainability of hand hygiene in health care and to ‘bring people together’ in support of hand hygiene improvement around the world.
For World Hand Hygiene Day 2021, WHO calls on health care workers and facilities to achieve effective hand hygiene action at the point of care. The point of care refers to the place where three elements come together: the patient, the health care worker, and care or treatment involving contact with the patient or their surroundings.
Yesterday proud Yorta Yorta woman Dr Summer May Finlay, Public Health Association of Australia Vice President for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Health Lecturer at the University of Wollongong spoke with Dr Norman Swan on the ABC Radio National On Health Report about the importance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) being run by and for Aboriginal people. Dr Finlay said this element was often missing in mainstream health settings with policy being developed at the Primary Health Network, state or commonwealth level by non-Aboriginal people who don’t know Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities or culture.
Dr Finlay said “what we actually need is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people leading the way in this space like we’ve got with the Coalition of Peaks around the Closing the Gap framework – the new Closing the Gap Framework has strong Indigenous leadership right at the top, and that needs to be emulated throughout the entire health system if we are to take a true cultural determinants of health approach. We need to make sure ACCHOs and other Aboriginal organisations are appropriately resourced to meet the needs of their communities and also trusted to be able to deliver to their communities, because they know their communities best.”
Image in feature tile sourced from Australian National Audit Office website.
What is our path to health for all?
Yesterday a supplement to the Medical Journal of Australia called Australia in 2030: what is out path to health for all? was released. The authors claim Australia has a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to create a healthy, sustainable, equitable and prosperous future by taking bold action to build back better, fairer and greener following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Finlay who co-authored chapter 2: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander connection to culture: building stronger individual and collective wellbeingof Australia in says “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have long understood the role that culture plays in health and wellbeing. All programs and policies aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to take a cultural determinants approach. This can only be done through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership.
All organisations funded to deliver services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to be resourced to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their representative bodies in the development of the programs and policies. When the cultural determinants of health become core to policy and programs, trauma and racism will likely decline, and we will see a significant shift in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Without acknowledgement of the cultural determinants of health, we will probably never see justice or ‘close the gap’.”
Improving cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care users can improve access to, and the quality of health care. This means a health system that respects Indigenous cultural values, strengths and differences, and also addresses racism and inequity.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a two page summary of the key findings of the Cultural safety in health care for Indigenous Australians: monitoring framework (the Framework). The Framework aims to measure progress in achieving cultural safety in the Australian health system. For this purpose, cultural safety is defined with reference to the experiences of Indigenous health care user, of the care they are given, their ability to access services and to raise concerns.
Image source: General Practice Training Queensland website.
High rates of preventable hospitalisations
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care’s recently published Fourth Atlas of Healthcare Variation has raised questions about the equity and quality of our health system with significant differences in the services provided across geographic and socio-economic areas. The report found a high rate of potentially preventable hospitalisations among people living in remote and socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, and among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These high rates occurred in all five conditions examined in the Atlas: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kidney infections and urinary tract infections, cellulitis, heart failure, and diabetes complications.
The Commission’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Anne Duggan said many of these hospitalisations could be prevented by the implementation of evidence-based care plans that ensure earlier intervention, better disease management and better coordination of care.
Targeted early years support essential
The national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, SNAICC (the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care), has welcomed the Australian Government’s recent announcement to increase investment in early childhood education and care. Early years services are critical to improving outcomes for children before they start school and set them on a journey for success throughout their lives. The promise of increased subsidies for families with two or more children in childcare will help to make early education more affordable and accessible for many families.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Australian Nurses and Midwifery Federation have joined forces to call for the fast tracking of one of the key recommendations from the royal commission into aged care, and that is the provision of around the clock nursing care. The Federal Budget next week is expected to contain an extra $10 billion for aged care, over a four-year period. But that’s far short of the sector’s call for an extra $20 billion a year. Dr Omar Khorshid, President of the AMA spoke to Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast earlier today about wanting the Government to put in place legislation that would enforce ratios of registered nurses at aged care facilities.
Dr Khorshid said “it’ll change everything about how our nursing homes operate. I think most Australians would be very surprised to hear that you don’t necessarily need to have a nurse present in a nursing home, looking after the needs of significant numbers of elderly Australians with significant health needs. We saw so many terrible examples during the royal commission of where care was unable to be provided due to the lack of staff. Now, the only way to ensure that the facilities with Australians with high needs do have enough nurses is to mandate ratios of staff to nurses, including the highest trained nurses in that sector which are the registered nurses. And we are calling on Government to make a commitment in the budget to make that a reality as soon as possible for elderly Australians in nursing homes.”
Image source: Industry Skills Advisory Council NT website.
Push back against NT youth bail crackdown
Indigenous members of the NT Labor Party have urged their own government to reconsider proposed changes to youth bail laws, telling Chief Minister Michael Gunner his team is stoking “racist community attitudes” by using tough-on-crime rhetoric. Labor last month flagged what it described as “tougher than ever” consequences for alleged offending, in the face of continued pressure over property crime and a fresh push by the Country Liberal Party opposition to wind back changes made after the youth detention royal commission.
The government’s changes have been backed by NT Police and the police union, but condemned by the youth detention royal commissioners, human rights organisations and Aboriginal legal and health services. In a letter obtained by the ABC and addressed to the Chief Minister, the Indigenous Labor Network of the NT calls for a stop on what it says are “regressive changes” that would disproportionately affect Aboriginal young people. The letter says the government’s plans contradict royal commission recommendations as well as parts of Labor’s own draft Aboriginal Justice Agreement, which is aimed at reducing reoffending and the imprisonment rate of Indigenous Territorians.
Indigenous Labor Network chairperson Thomas Mayor wants the Labor Party to reconsider the proposed youth bail changes. Photo: Mitchell Woolnough. Image source ABC News website.
International Day of the Midwife
International Day of the Midwife is celebrated each year on 5 May. This is a chance for midwives to celebrate their profession and for all of us to recognise their work and contribution to maternal and newborn health. Midwives put women and the family at the centre of care and at the heart of every decision, empowering them to be genuine partners in their care and improving their care experience. The significance and importance of providing women, their partners and families with compassionate care cannot be underestimated.
The Fred Hollows Foundation, ANTaR National, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), the Diversity Council Australia (DCA) and Australia’s first Aboriginal ophthalmologist Associate Professor Kris Rallah-Bakerare are together calling for the government to commit to a referendum on a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament (the Voice) once the model for the Voice has been settled. The call comes after The Foundation, ANTaR, RANZCO and DCA made submissions to the Australian Government’s Indigenous Voice co-design process.
The Fred Hollows Foundation CEO Ian Wishart said “Fred Hollows believed ‘inequity diminishes us all’ and this couldn’t be more glaring than when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. More than 50 years after being granted the right to vote, Australia’s First Nations still do not have a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament which would give them a say in laws and policies that affect them. A Voice to Parliament designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is a vital step towards social justice reform. A constitutionally enshrined Voice would ensure First Nations Peoples will always be able to provide frank and fearless advice to the government.”
Image source: UNSW Sydney Newsroom. The image in the feature tile is from the SBS NITV News website.
Prevention key to health crisis
The AMA has made a submission in response to the Department of Health’s draft National Preventive Health Strategy, welcoming many parts of the draft strategy while also calling for strengthening specific measures targeting social determinants of health. The National Preventive Health Strategy, due to be finalised mid-year, forms part of the third pillar for mental health and preventive health as outlined in Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan.
Currently only 1.7% of the health budget is invested in preventive health. The AMA supports the draft Strategy’s proposal to increase that to 5% of health funding by 2030. “The AMA welcomes the draft Strategy as a leading example of collaborative, evidence-based policy work and is pleased to be involved in genuine engagement with the Government during its development,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.
“We know a person’s health is shaped by social, economic, cultural and environmental conditions in which they live. Prevention is key. Investing just 1.7% of the health budget in preventive measures is woefully inadequate and far below the example set by similar countries in the OECD. The AMA’s submission calls on the Government to implement a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and a volumetric tax on alcohol to source revenue for increased funding, rather than taking from other areas of the already-stretched health budget.”
It was “very, very scary” being pregnant at 16 years old for Mackapilly Sebasio. The Torres Strait Islander Erubian woman felt she would be judged if she went to her local hospital. “It’s really hard to ask for help or get that support you need, when you’re with a [non-Indigenous] different organisation,” Mackapilly says. “You feel you’re being judged, or you’re not speaking proper. But when you’re around other Indigenous mothers and people that understand how you feel, it just makes you feel a lot better.”
It was thanks to the Birthing in Our Community program, which provides Indigenous-led birthing programs and support services for women who are pregnant with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander baby, that “changed everything” for Mackapilly.
Mackapilly Sebasio with her three children, Seini, Melanie-Ann and Sunni. Image source: ABC News website.
Childhood immunisation rates break records
Australian parents continue to show their confidence in vaccinations, with record rates of childhood immunisations in the first quarter of 2021. For the fourth consecutive quarter, the coverage rate for five year olds has increased to a historic 95.22%. This surpasses the national aspiration of 95%, and gives Australia the herd immunity needed to stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.
It is also well above the estimated World Health Organization international average immunisation coverage rate of 86% for five year olds, making Australia a world leading vaccination nation. The highest coverage ratecontinues to be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at five years of age – an impressive 97.26%. The vaccination rate for two year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children increased to 91.73%t, while for one year olds it was 93.7%.
Queensland Health’s Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Adjunct Professor Shelley Nowlan, has taken on a new role as Deputy National Rural (NRH) Health Commissioner, which will see her play a key role in the Federal Government’s agenda to increase access to rural health services and address rural workforce shortages.
Federal Rural Health Minister, Mark Coulton, and NRH Commissioner Professor Ruth Stewart welcomed the engagement of Professor Nowlan, as a second NRH commissioner. “By engaging two Deputy Commissioners to provide expert advice on allied health, nursing, and Indigenous health disciplines and making the National Rural Health Commissioner a permanent office, we are ensuring rural challenges receive the attention and the expertise they deserve.
The Select Committee on the effectiveness of the Australian Government’s Northern Australia agenda, Final Report, tabled 28 April 2021 has recommended:
investment in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce to continue development strategies, including in innovative community roles and in leadership positions.
continued expansion of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service models of community governance.
Ms Marion Scrymgour, CEO, Northern Land Council, emphasised that development in Northern Australia ‘cannot be successful unless it properly acknowledges Aboriginal rights and interests, engages fully with Aboriginal people as partners rather than just another stakeholder’. Ms Scrymgour stated that Aboriginal people must be placed ‘at the centre of the policy framework in regional and remote areas’.
To view the final report of the Select Committee on the effectiveness of the Australian Government’s Northern Australia agenda click here.
Image source: Austrade.
Is it really the end for Dan Murphy’s?
After a five-year saga involving court challenges and political twists, the Woolworths has abandoned its plan to set up its first Dan Murphy’s store in Darwin. Woolworths is now in the process of a demerger with Endeavour Drinks Group, the company that oversees the Dan Murphy’s portfolio.
While Woolworths says it won’t pursue a large-scale liquor outlet at the same location, it’s CEO Brad Banducci, says there’s no guarantee its subsidiary won’t propose an alternative Darwin site, if and when it becomes an independent entity, “As to whether there’s a future Dan Murphy’s in Darwin, that would be up to the Endeavour Group.”
Helen Fejo-Firth was fiercely opposed to the Dan Murphy’s proposal. Photo: Emilia Terszon. Image source: ABC News website.
Lung Health Awareness Month
Since 1990, Lung Foundation Australia (LFA) has beenpromoting lung health and early diagnosis, advocating for policy change and research investment, raising awareness about the symptoms and prevalence of lung disease and championing equitable access to treatment and care.
May is Lung Health Awareness Month. With 1 in 3 Australians affected by lung disease, LFA is asking the community to start taking their lung health seriously and know the early signs and symptoms. Early diagnosis is critical and the LFA wants you to encourage your community to take two minutes to complete its new Lung Health Checklist.
AMA is urging all Australians to get their seasonal flu vaccination now, with general practices across the country having recently received stock ahead of the upcoming flu season. “Winter is coming, and influenza remains a very serious illness, particularly for the vulnerable members of our community,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.
“Thousands of Australians are admitted to hospitals with influenza complications each year. Last year we saw record flu vaccinations, which was fantastic. We need to do the same again this year. The message is simple: get your flu vaccine now.
“There were significant social distancing measures in place last year that not only helped keep COVID-19 at bay, they also meant that cases of influenza were down significantly from previous years. Influenza has not gone away and with life now largely returning to normal, we mustn’t become complacent.”
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
WA Young Person of the Year, AHCWA employee
A Nollamara resident’s dedication to strengthen young people’s connections to Aboriginal culture has been recognised. Whadjuk Noongar man Derek Nannup, 23, was named WA’s Young Person of the Year at the 2021 WA Youth Awards last week.
Mr Nannup is working in sexual health education at the Aboriginal Health Council of WA and is on the Mirrabooka Police District Youth Advisory Group and the Youth Educating Peers Reference Group. He also worked as a support worker for children in care at Wungening Aboriginal Corporation and was the Indigenous Cultural Program Coordinator at Wesley College.
Mr Nannup also established the Boorloo Indigenous Youth Yarning Circles, a space for young people to practice traditional healing, discuss culture and community issues. The Nollamara resident said the award was not just about him but a recognition for his people and the Noongar community. “I’m really honoured to have been acknowledged as WA Young Person of the Year … that means a lot,” he said. “A lot of the mob have said ‘you’ve got leadership quality’ but all I’m really doing is listening to my Elders, doing and practicing my responsibility and obligations as a Whadjuk Noongar. It shows how far we’ve come together, we’re still a long way to go but hopeful.”
To read the full article in the Stirling Times click here.
Derek Nannup, 23, WA’s Young Person of the Year. Image source: Stirling Times.
Healthy ageing study for older Aboriginal people
Are you an NSW-based service that works with older Aboriginal people?
Would your service like to be part of research that shows how important community programs are for older Aboriginal people?
The Ironbark Project is a healthy ageing study for older Aboriginal people (45 years+). NSW-based services that work with groups of older Aboriginal people are invited to be part of this study involving Aboriginal-led community programs that improve social and emotional wellbeing, strength, mobility and independence, and prevent falls. Funding and training are provided to run the weekly community program with Elders.
Join an online information session 11 AM – 12 PM Monday 26 April 2021 to find out how you can be involved in the Ironbark Project.
Minister for Indigenous Essential Services Chansey Paech said a $28 million Territory Labor Government investment will help to shore up water security in Aboriginal communities across the NT. Tailored projects in ten remote communities will improve water quality and supply infrastructure, prioritising areas of critical need. The funding, $7 million per year for four years, will support initiatives to manage immediate problems and a long-term plan to tackle complex water supply issues. These include new bores, network upgrades, improved water disinfection systems, and the installation of meters to monitor and reduce water usage. The identified projects, tailored to address community-specific issues, will begin in Laramba, Engawala, Yuendumu, Epenarra, Imanpa, Atitjere, Warruwi and Numbulwar in the first year of the program; with works in Angurugu and Beswick to follow.
Priority Reform One of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap is about building and strengthening structures to ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with governments on Closing the Gap at every level.
We want to see new formal partnerships established across the country at state and territory and regional levels between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives and governments on closing the gap which reflect elements consistent with the Partnership Agreement.
Where there are existing partnerships, we want them strengthened to ensure that representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are chosen by those communities and are properly supported to share decision making about closing the gap in their locations.
You can view a new video animation for Priority Reform One here.
Mental health care – like hunting for unicorns
Numerous inquiries have analysed the barriers of cost and access to receiving mental health care, but these problems persist. This is particularly the case for people who experience the ‘missing middle’ – their case is too complex for a GP but not severe enough for hospital admission. One reader told Guardian Australia: ‘Finding a good psychologist or psychiatrist who bulk-bills and has appointments available is like hunting for unicorns while blindfolded.’
To view The Guardian article ‘Like hunting for unicorns’: Australians on the search for adequate, affordable mental healthcareclick here.
Image source: VentureBeat website.
SA – Adelaide – Flinders University
PhD scholarship x 1 (3 years) – Adelaide
Flinders University is seeking an outstanding candidate for a PhD scholarship for an Australian Research Council Project entitled: Contemporary lessons from a history of Aboriginal, women’s and generalist community health services in Australia 1970-2020. This exciting project is a partnership between Flinders University, the University of Sydney, La Trobe University, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), The Sydney Local Health District, Paul Laris and Associates and Tony McBride and Associates.
Any area of study relevant to the project will be considered, including one with a focus on the emergence of Aboriginal Community-Controlled health organisations as part of the broader community health movement. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates are strongly encouraged to apply for this aspect of the project.
For further details about the position, including how to apply click here.
A new report published by Lowitja Institute provides a blueprint for placing culture at the core of policies affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, showing how the cultural determinants of health can be implemented into policy and practice.
Lowitja institute CEO Dr Janine Mohamed said the report Culture is key: towards cultural determinants-driven health policy outlines how culture is a protective factor for health and wellbeing and needs to be integrated and valued within health policy frameworks and programs, and also in broader government policies. “For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the cultural determinants are an essential part of our identity and are protective factors of health and wellbeing, anchored in ways of knowing, doing and being that have continued for tens of thousands of years,” she said. “However, this holistic concept of health is often neglected in government approaches to our health and wellbeing because it does not align with dominant culture or western perspectives and is not understood or fully appreciated by policymakers,” she said.
Dr Mohamed said the new Closing the Gap National Agreement and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan refresh offer a unique window of opportunity for the government to invest in cultural determinant-driven whole-of-government policy.
To view the Lowitja Institute’s media release in full click here.
Lowitja Institute is hosting a webinar on Thursday 29 April 2021 to support the release of the report. For more details or to register for the webinar, click here. For more information about the report or to arrange an interview with Dr Janine Mohamed, please contact Amy Hofman on 0405 114 930.
Allorah Saunders, whose health care is provided by the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation Medical Service in western Sydney. Photo: Steven Siewert. Image source: Oxfam Australia.
Mental health & suicide prevention interim report
The House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention (the Select Committee) has released its interim report. The Committee’s interim report includes an update on the Committee’s activities to date, and emerging themes identified through recent reports into Australia’s mental health system and engagement with the Productivity Commission, National Mental Health Commission and Department of Health.
Chair of the Committee, Dr Fiona Martin MP, said ‘The interim report provides a snapshot of the breadth of work underway on mental health and suicide prevention. It also identifies some areas that the Committee feels need further examination as the inquiry progresses. These areas include the divide between public and private mental healthcare, coordination and funding of mental health services, affordability, the growth of telehealth and digital services in response to COVID-19, and the role of professional bodies in advocating for, regulating and supporting the workforce.’
“We can all be superheroes, we can save the world, we’ve just got to care enough to do it,” says JK-47, the 23-year-old rising star of Australian rap on what he is trying to communicate through his music. He is one of the passionate change makers who answered the call the ABC put out for young people to tell them how they are coping with a world that is increasingly scary.
It is hard not to feel disempowered in the face of stories about climate change, racism, new wars, and now global pandemics — particularly when you are young. However, the teenagers and 20-somethings featured in the article have discovered a way to create the future they want to grow into.
JK-47’s debut album Made For This features lyrics about the daily injustices First Nation people face. Photo: Kiarney Mulyono. Image source: ABC News website.
Healthy sexual relationships campaign
WA’s new HealthySexual campaign is all about preventing, testing, treating and talking to minimise the personal and social impact of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). With outbreaks of infectious syphilis occurring in metropolitan, regional and remote parts of the state and notifications rising over the past five years, it’s a timely reminder to be aware of and talk about sexual health.
In 2020, notifications of infectious syphilis in WA were 26% higher than the previous year. The Department of Health’s Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program Manager, Lisa Bastian said outbreaks of STIs over much of the state had placed populations at risk and prompted a more mainstream prevention campaign for the general community. She said an outbreak that started in the Kimberley region in June 2014 had spread to the Pilbara in February 2018 and the Goldfields in January 2019.
To view the Government of WA Department of Health’s media release click here.
Image source: Government of WA Department of Health.
Deaths in custody, every family has a story
A detective visited the parents of a young Aboriginal man; a warrant had been issued for their son’s arrect. ‘We’re going to get your son; he’s going to be locked up,’ the detective told them. ‘But if you get him to come around now, I can guarantee you that the arrest will be a non-eventful process. He won’t be harmed; we’ll put him into custody, he’ll serve his time and then he can get on with his life.’
The request went against their instincts, but the parents agreed. When their son arrived, however, the promise fell through. ‘They grabbed him, ruffed him up and smashed him into the fence, causing a head injury,’ Professor Peter O’Mara, a Wiradjuri man and Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP. ‘That young man then went into the system. Approximately one week later, he died.’
On average, one Aboriginal life is lost in custody every three weeks. Image source: newsGP.
Stan Grant has written an in-depth analysis of the reasons for Aboriginal deaths in custody in his article Aboriginal deaths in custody reflect the poor health of Australia’s democracy. His article begins with some frightening statistics ‘3% of the population comprise nearly 30% of those behind bars. Look closely and it becomes even more alarming. In WA, 40% of prisoners are Indigenous. In the NT, it is more than 80%. Among youth it is even worse. Half of all children in detention nationally are Indigenous. In the NT, more than 90% of all juveniles detained are black.’
‘Despite the recommendations of the royal commission, we are going backwards. The number of Indigenous people imprisoned has increased 100% in the past three decades. Since 1991, more than 400 Indigenous people have died in custody. Thirty years after the royal commission, things are worse.’
Banners at the black deaths in custody Photo: Mitch Abram. Image source: ABC News website.
Young people staying away from jail
Corrie Bell didn’t think he’d make it to his 28th birthday. He’d been taken away from his parents at the age of 15 and didn’t have a lot of hope. “All my life I’ve been living in prison… mentally and emotionally, you know feeling caged in and trapped,” he said. Corie’s a Ngunnawal Kamilaroi man from Campbelltown in south-west Sydney. He told Triple J Hack he had a really rough childhood. “Drugs, alcohol, crime, domestic violence… was very frequent within my family home,” Corie said.
Corie says what he really needed as a kid to keep him out of trouble was stability and guidance from positive role models. Instead he had cops following him, dealers for mates and a bunch of trauma he was trying to drown out. By 18, Corie was sent to jail for robbery and reckless wounding. He says he was so drunk he didn’t even realise where he was.
To view the Triple J HACK article What do young people need to stay away from jail? in full click here.
Uncle Glenn (front) says ‘The Glen Centre’ adopts a holistic approach to rehabilitation, with a focus on integrating Indigenous culture and spirituality. Image source: ABC News website.
In a related story, Amnesty International Australia have expressed disappointment that the Committee charged with investigating the proposed youth justice amendments in Queensland has recommended the amendments pass, despite its own report being full of evidence that they will do nothing to address youth crime. The youth justice amendments seek to take a punitive approach to young children who often have complex needs the justice system is ill equipped to address, and which ultimately condemn these kids to life in the quagmire of the criminal justice system. Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Campaigner Maggie Munn gave evidence at the committee hearings.
To view Amnesty International Australia’s media release click here.
Youth detained in a Darwin prison. Image source: ABC News website.
Acceleration of efforts to reduce overincarceration
The Joint Council on Closing the Gap met today and acknowledged the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and agreed that joined up work between all governments in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives is critical to reducing the rate at which Indigenous people are incarcerated, and thereby reduce deaths in custody. Given the urgency and enduring nature of this issue Joint Council agreed to the high priority of accelerating the critical work to establish a Policy Partnership on Justice with the aim of reducing youth and adult incarceration.
Patricia Turner AM, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks said “It’s vital that governments, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, are taking urgent and decisive steps to address the overincarceration of our peoples. For the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives will be at the table with Ministers, Attorneys’-General, government officials, corrections, policing, housing and health under a formal shared decision making arrangement.”
To view the Coalition of Peaks media release click here.
Photo: Getty. Image source: BBC News website.
Aboriginal people still dying in custody
Aboriginal man David Dungay Jr died in a Sydney prison cell in 2015 after officers restrained him to stop him eating biscuits. During the struggle, he was pinned face-down by guards and jabbed with a sedative. Video later shown at his inquest captured his final moments: his laboured breathing and muffled screams under the pack of guards. “I can’t breathe,” he yelled repeatedly.
His case has parallels to that of African-American man George Floyd, whose death triggered global protests against racism and policing in the US. The Black Lives Matter movement also threw a spotlight on Australia’s own incarceration of indigenous people and their deaths in custody.
This week marks 30 years since a landmark inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody. The royal commission made hundreds of recommendations to address the crisis. But three decades on, the situation has worsened. Central to the problem is overrepresentation. Indigenous people are about 12 times more likely to be in custody than non-indigenous Australians.
That reality, a product of systemic problems and disadvantage faced by Aboriginal people, has prompted fresh anger over a lack of action. “The system is continuing to kill us and no one’s doing anything about it,” Paul Silva, the nephew of David Dungay Jr, said at a rally this week.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth spoke with Dan Bourchier, ABC Radio 666 Canberra ‘Afternoons’ yesterday about the 30-year anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and intergenerational healing.
Fiona Cornforth said “it is an important time to do that reflecting. Though it’s something we carry every day, I think, as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Unfortunately, we’re at a point now where we’ve lost hope in recommendations being fully implemented, despite all our voices being in these reports over time and people being generous and courageous to put forward their stories, time and time again. Where the solutions are in community, the solutions are given up as important by those with lived experience. But the powers that be and the complex system, the incarceration system, and all the service providers, the big web just can’t seem to get these recommendations out of the too hard basket.”
The Morrison government has decided to delay introducing mandatory independent assessments (IAs) for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), in a move strongly welcomed by disability groups.
New NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds said earlier this week that she would not be making any decisions around in IAs legislation until an IA trial was finished and the government could examine the feedback. While people currently need to get reports from multiple health providers of their choosing to assess their NDIS eligibility, the new mandatory assessments will be conducted by NDIS-appointed healthcare professionals using standardised tools.
The decision to introduce IAs has been met with overwhelming opposition from disability advocates, who say the process does not adequately capture the complexity of a person’s support needs and will lead to unfair outcomes for people with disability. Reynolds acknowledged the “significant feedback” IAs have already received, and said she would be consulting across the country with as many stakeholders as she could. Disability groups – who feared people would disengage from the scheme entirely because of their unwillingness to engage with IAs – strongly welcomed the minister’s comments.
To view the Pro Bono Australia article in full click here.
Image source: Pro Bono Australia News website.
The more that have the vaccine, the safer we’ll be
NACCHO CEO and lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner and NACCHO Deputy CEO, Dr Dawn Casey received their first AstraZeneca vaccines at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services last week. “The more people have the vaccinations, the safer we will be,” said Pat. “We’ve managed to keep our community free of any deaths from COVID-19 to date and we want to continue that outstanding record.”
Contact your local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation or GP to find out when you can receive your vaccine and to ask any questions you may have. To view the Pat Turner’s video click here.
Review of kidney transplant wait-listing
Research has confirmed poor access to wait-listing for kidney transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians from the NT. The study found causes of delays to wait-listing included: failure to attend appointments due to competing priorities and communication barriers, access and navigating complex pathways to specialist services, transport, co-morbidities requiring multiple tests and multiple specialty services, and pressures on dialysis and hospital bed capacity.
The study concluded that barriers to wait-listing for kidney transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are complex and can be addressed by redesigning healthcare provision, including increasing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce to provide education and patient navigation of the healthcare system and improve communication, streamlining investigations and coordinating specialist services.
A study has been undertaken to determine what lessons can be learned from the Victorian Aboriginal Spectacles Subsidy Scheme (VASSS). The VASSS, which started in July 2010 and has operated continually since, aims to improve access to visual aids and eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians.
An estimated 10,853 VASSS cofunded visual aids were delivered over the first 6 years of the scheme. During that time the mean annual number of comprehensive eye examinations provided within services using VASSS grew 4.6-fold faster compared with the 4 years preceding the VASSS. VASSS achievements were attained through collaborations, flexibility, trust and communication between organisations, all facilitated by funding resulting from evidence-based advocacy.
Access to visual aids and eye examinations by Aboriginal Victorians has improved during the operation of the VASSS, with associated direct and indirect benefits to Aboriginal health, productivity and quality of life. The success of the VASSS may be replicable in other jurisdictions and provides lessons that may be applicable in other fields.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the of the Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody(RCIADIC) and numerous stakeholder organisations have released statements condemning the continued failure of governments to implement all of the report’s recommendations.
The Partnership for Justice in Health (P4JH) said it stands in solidarity with the grieving families and communities of loved ones who have died in custody due to a failure of governments to effectively implement the clear and comprehensive recommendations outlined in the RCIADIC report. The P4JH said all levels of government must reflect on the loss and grief that could have been prevented had they acted on the recommendations as a matter of priority in 1991 and in the years since. “We are sending our strength to those families and friends whose grief and trauma is compounded by that continued failure of Australian governments to act with resolve and commitment,” said the P4JH co-chairs Dr Janine Mohamed, CEO of the Lowitja Institute and Karl Briscoe, CEO of the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP). To view P4JH’s media release click here.
Indigenous Allied Health Australia(IAHA) released a statement acknowledging the deep loss and grief of families and friends whose loved ones have passed away while in custody, both before and since the RCIADIC report. IAHA said ‘we are at our best when we go beyond empathy and act to reduce the causes of that grief and loss. We must do that now.’ IAHA called for the full implementation of the RCIADIC report’s recommendations. To view the IAHA’s media release click here.The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) said that ‘Aboriginal deaths in custody continue to occur to this day – and the over-representation of our people in custody – is a national travesty. This is an abject failure of Australian governments. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer unacceptably high levels of physical illness, mental illness and suicide. There is ample evidence that grief, stress and trauma make us sick and incidents such as ongoing deaths and over-representation – further add to the burden of health and disadvantage. Racism and unconscious bias – institutional, systemic and individual – is an unacceptable fact of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Culturally safe services can support service providers to confront and understand cultural difference and deliver effective and safe services to our people.’ AIDA called on all governments to accept, and to address racism and unconscious biases that are embedded in police, prison, legal and health systems. To view AIDA’s media release click here.The National Native Title Council(NNTC) similarly said that three decades on from the RCIADIC report the rate of Indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody continues to be one of our country’s greatest shames. The NNTC referred to research from The Guardian that found Indigenous peoples who died in custody were “more likely to not have been charged with any crime” and were “three times more likely to not receive all required medical care, when compared to non-Indigenous people”. The Royal Commission made 339 recommendations, of which more than one hundred have not been implemented. To view the NNTC’s media release click here.
Change the Record says it is a national shame that in the three decades since the RCIADIC report, state, territory and Commonwealth governments have failed to implement the majority of the report’s recommendations – and as a result ‘our people are still dying at horrendous rates.’ To view the Change the Record’s media release click here.
Human Rights Watch agreed that the Australian government’s continued failure to address Indigenous deaths in custody tarnishes the country’s rights record and global standing. To view the Human Rights Watch article click here.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said: “Today is a historic and shameful day for our nation. Thirty years ago, the landmark report of the RCIADIC revealed the full extent of the danger that our justice system presents to First Peoples, and laid out the path we needed to take to make things right. Thirty years on, and things are much worse – with incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more than doubling in relative terms. Our leaders have been missing in action on this issue. They have failed to implement many of the report’s 334 recommendations, and they have failed to show care and compassion for First Peoples by changing an unfair and unjust system.” To view Oxfam Australia’s media release click here.
Thirty years ago Robert Tickner AO, the Aboriginal Affairs Minister in the Hawke government, presented the RCIADIC report to the national Parliament. Now as the Chair of the Justice Reform Initiative he said “It is to our great shame that 30 years later, we have progressed so little. We cannot wait another 30 years for real change.” The report made 339 recommendations, including that imprisonment should only occur as a last resort. This recommendation was adopted by all Australian Governments including by every State and Territory Government from all political persuasions. This support was given on the back of incontestable evidence that jailing was failing Aboriginal people. To view the media release click here.
Cairns ACCHO gives students a strong start
Commencing on 22 April, six students in Year 11 from Bentley Park College and Trinity Bay State High School, will start a school-based traineeship at Wuchopperen Health Service (Wuchopperen) to kickstart their health career with 100% Indigenous owned and operated Group Training Organisation, Australian Training Works Group (ATW), leading the recruitment drive.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traineeship Program, ‘Strong Start’, will give Indigenous youth a head start, achieving a nationally recognised qualification and on the job training while completing year 11 and 12. “By allowing students to gain work skills while completing school, they’re able to work towards a goal, whether that be higher education or transition to work,” says Rachael Ham, Deputy CEO at Wuchopperen. To view the media release in full click here.
L–R: Tony Marten (owner & Managing Director at Australian Training Works), Wendy Burke (Director of Health Services at Wuchopperen), Rachael Ham (Deputy CEO at Wuchopperen).
Health sector’s role in deaths in custody
As Australia marks the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) the health sector has been urged to reflect on whether it is part of the problem or offering solutions. Associate Professor Megan Williams, Wiradjuri justice health researcher and educator, has identified multiple areas where the sector has failed to address the health needs of prisoners.
Professor Williams says ‘justice is essential for health, for all people in Australia. How we disregard the Royal Commission recommendations is as sick as how we treat First Peoples. $40 million, three years of testimony and evidence about 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody in the 1991 final report and 339 recommendations. But what about deaths since? More than 474. Barely a family have not been affected by Aboriginal deaths in custody, police brutality, poverty or racism. It’s time to make a list of all the government frameworks that overlook, minimise, forget, ignore, exclude, tokenistically mention or silence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison, and all people in prison.’
End Black Deaths In Custody rally in Naarm Melbourne to mark 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Photo by Marie McInerney. Image source: Croakey.
Raising criminal responsibility age urged
National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO have urged all Australian governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility as a matter of priority. A report commissioned by a meeting of Attorneys-General in July last year recommended that all jurisdictions raise the age and ensure younger teenagers are not held in detention. Recent reports have suggested that Australian Attorneys-General are considering raising the age from 10 to 12. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14-years-old as a minimum. As we mark 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its report, it’s important to acknowledge that Indigenous children account for 58% of young people being held on remand and 48% of young people in sentenced detention.
To view the Australian Human Rights Commission media release in full click here.
Image: Chris Devers, Flickr. Image source: newmatilda.com.
Mega prison raises fears for prisoner health
Governments often hail the economic benefits that new or expanded prisons bring to regional communities. But what are their health and social impacts? These issues are investigated as part of Croakey’s new Rural Health Justice series. In the feature article launching the series, journalist Linda Doherty explores how Australia’s newest mega jail, the Clarence Correctional Centre (CCC), near Grafton, NSW is affecting the health and wellbeing of prisoners, their families and the local community.
Around 60% of the 155 women prisoners in CCC have dependent children and one-third are Aboriginal women, according to SHINE for Kids which advocates for the human rights of children with a parent in prison, transports children to jail visits, runs evidence-based parenting, cultural and education courses in 27 jails in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, ACT and WA, and funds tutors for primary school children.
Like many of the 339 recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody that have been ignored by governments, recommendation 168 resonates for the parents in the new CCC facility. It says: “…where possible, an Aboriginal prisoner should be placed in an institution as close as possible to the place of residence of his or her family.”
One of the Storytime books created by parents in prison for their children. Image source: SHINE for Kids.
Increasing vaccine take-up in remote NT
In East Arnhem Land, the Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation said only 129 of about 5,600 eligible people had received the AstraZeneca vaccine since the rollout began in the region at the start of April. Chief executive Eddie Mulholland told the ABC he expected that number to be higher, but people were now becoming even more reluctant because people are hearing reports of rare blood clotting among recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The NT’s peak Aboriginal health service is working on a plan to improve the take-up of COVID-19 vaccines after reports of growing reluctance in remote areas. A spokeswoman for the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT said details will be released early next week.
All adults in remote communities are eligible for vaccination under phase 1b of the rollout. Photo supplied by: Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: ABC News website.
COVID-19 radio ads in language
The Australian Government Department of Health has produced a collection of translations of the radio ad, ‘Living the new normal’, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. To access the collection click here.
Health system needs to learn from patient experience
The health system in Australia would benefit significantly by paying more attention to the lessons learned from patient experience, the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) says. This is a key message from the latest edition of the Health Voices ejournal which covers the recent Shifting Gears Australasian summit conference of the CHF.
“The value of learning from experience was given fresh power at the inaugural Australasian summit last month,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said. “As the conference heard more than once, health consumers, particularly those with chronic conditions are more likely to have deeper knowledge of their overall care than any one health professional dealing with a single aspect of their care. There is much to learn, including from such community-centred programs as the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation success in countering COVID-19.”
To view the Consumes Health Forum of Australia media release click here.
Stop mass incarceration to prevent deaths in custody
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO said Australia must stop the “mass incarceration” of its Indigenous people or else deaths in custody will continue to occur.
Commissioner Oscar said her thoughts are with all the families who have lost loved ones over recent months, and in the 30 years since the Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was handed down. She said systemic reform is long overdue, and Australian governments must enact every recommendation of the royal commission.
“The fact that imprisonment rates have increased markedly since the royal commission shows Australia has failed to build a just relationship with First Nations peoples. It is a deep national shame,” Commissioner Oscar said.
Read the media release from the Australian Human Rights Commission here.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s article on Closing the Gap
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia would like to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders for the way they have managed one of the most difficult and challenging years of our time.
The leaders have demonstrated the leadership, resilience and community that have guided Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout significant adversity during 2020, that is sure to leave an enduring legacy for future generations, and one that is recorded in the 2021 Close the Gap Report.
The 2021 Close the Gap Report – Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe (released on Thursday, 18 March), showcases how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and peoples responded to critical health crises in 2020 – devastating bushfires and climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and the mental health emergency facing First Australians.
This year’s report was produced by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s community controlled national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, on behalf of the Close the Gap Steering Committee.
Latest ANTaR Blog from Paul Wright: Nationhood, Recognition and the deadly incarceration pandemic
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. Australia in 2021 is a Dickensian periodical morphing into a ‘choose your own adventure’ where the state of things is entirely open to your worldview.
While it is understandable to be consumed by the drama of slow vaccination rollouts, rapid COVID outbreaks, sexual abuse scandals, and the return of the perennial Australian favourite soap opera that is our football seasons (pick your code here(link is external) or here(link is external)), it is sadly all too easy to have missed that in the same period a spate of First Nations deaths in custody have been reported, in the macabre irony that we are nearing the 30th Anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (link is external)(RCIADIC).
“For the vast bulk of our people the legal system is not a trusted instrument of justice. It is a feared and despised processing plant that propels the most vulnerable and disabled of our people towards a broken and bleak future.”
Paul is ANTaR’s National Director and has experience working in both Government and non-government sectors – covering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, health, immigration and social services. Paul studied politics and international relations at the University of Canberra and has a Masters of Strategic Studies from the Australian National University. Prior to his role with ANTaR, Paul was the Executive Officer for the Close the Gap Campaign Secretariat and the National Health Leadership Forum at the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Two local mature aged students have been awarded scholarships to complete their nursing degree with Flinders University in honour of Loxton-born nurse Kirsty Boden.
Third-year Flinders University students Tammy Stephenson and Hollie Bullock are the 2021 recipients of the Kirsty Boden Nursing Memorial Scholarship which grants them $10,000 towards their studies at the University’s Renmark campus.
The annual scholarship is supported by a grant from the Government of South Australia and is named in honour of Kirsty Boden, a young nurse who tragically died in the London Bridge Terror attacks in 2017.
Ms Stephenson, of Monash, and Ms Bullock from Loxton, say they are only able to pursue their nursing studies because the course is offered close to home.
“If nursing wasn’t offered through Flinders rural campus in Renmark, I would not have been able to undertake my nursing degree,” Hollie says.
“Being only 45 minutes from home means I can attend contact hours at uni easily. Studying at Renmark has so many benefits. You feel like a big family having smaller class sizes and the same lecturers for numerous topics, so you build very close relationships.”
To read the Flinders University media release clickhere.
Ms Hollie Bullock from Loxton – Nursing Degree Scholarship candidate.
2021 WA Youth Awards highlight the best, brightest and the most dedicated
Youth Minister Dave Kelly said Derek Nannup, 23, of Nollamara has been formally recognised as Western Australia’s Young Person of the Year at the 2021 WA Youth Awards.
Derek is a proud Whadjuk Noongar man who has dedicated his life to strengthening cultural connections for young Aboriginal people. He has worked at Wesley College as the Indigenous Cultural Program Coordinator, with Wungening Aboriginal Corporation as a support worker for children in care and is currently employed at the Aboriginal Health Council of WA working in sexual health education.
Holistic and healthy childbirth for Indigenous women
Australia is generally a good place to have a baby, but Indigenous babies are more likely to be born prematurely, and their mums are less likely to attend medical appointments during pregnancy or be breastfeeding by the time they leave hospital. Aboriginal communities say part of the solution is ‘culturally safe maternity care’ that goes beyond just managing a woman’s physical needs.
NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding grant applications OPEN!
Attention NACCHO members! NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grant applications are NOW OPEN!
IBSF offers funding to eligible Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) to help address:
basic establishment costs, and/or
business and technical challenges in registered and delivering services under the NDIS
Grants of $20,000 are available for up to 100 member ACCHOS.
ACCHOs have been contacted via email with information about the grants and how to apply.
Applications close on the 14 May 2021. Please contact the NDIS Ready team email@example.com if you have any questions.
Australia made a plan to protect Indigenous elders from COVID-19. It worked
Washington Post story is all praise for us on how effectively we have managed to keep COVID-19 out of our communities!
From Alaska to the Amazon, Indigenous people are more likely to get sick with or die of covid-19, as the pandemic magnifies deep-rooted health and socioeconomic inequities.
Not only have Indigenous Australians recorded far fewer infections per capita than their global counterparts, they are six times less likely than the wider Australian population to contract the coronavirus, government data shows.
There have been no cases in remote communities, and not a single Aboriginal elder has died. Of the 149 cases involving Indigenous people since the start of the pandemic nationwide, few were serious enough to require hospitalization. By contrast, covid-19 is killing Native Americans at a faster rate than any other group in the United States.
Dawn Casey, who co-chairs a government task force established to develop a virus plan for Indigenous communities, said Aboriginal doctors expressed alarm during weekly meetings at the number of flights arriving from countries where the virus had taken hold. “We could see what was happening overseas,” she said. “If it got into remote communities, it would wipe them out.”
Pat Turner, chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization, wrote to state and federal leaders in March 2020, asking them to use their powers to order the closure of remote communities to stop visitors from entering. Accordingly, the communities were sealed off.
“I think increasingly the Australian government is looking at the Aboriginal-controlled model and seeing they can be really effective,” said Jason Agostino, an epidemiologist and medical adviser on Aboriginal health.
To read the full story in the Washington Post click here.
Join Dementia Australia in calling on Governments to commit to action
Dementia Australia is calling on the Australian Federal Government to act with urgency in response to the Final Report, Care, Dignity and Respect of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
An estimated 472,000 Australians live with dementia. Without a medical breakthrough, this is expected to increase to almost 1.1 million in 2058. I want dementia to be core business for government #dementia #auspol
Dementia is one of the largest health and social challenges facing Australia and the world. As well as being the chronic condition of the 21st century it is a debilitating, progressive and ultimately terminal disease and the second leading cause of death of Australians annually and the leading cause of death of women. Many Australians living with dementia require care, whether this is in their own home, or in an aged care setting – 68 per cent of people living in care have dementia. This of course includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Australians.
Since September 2018 people living with dementia, their families and carers have entrusted the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety with their views, personal experiences and often traumatic stories. The Royal Commission’s Final Report captures the essence of those issues and demonstrates that the Commissioners have listened.
Dementia Australia’s Roadmap for Quality Dementia Care has been shared with all sides of government in the lead up to the release of the Royal Commission’s Final Report and the 2021-22 Federal Budget.
The Roadmap is the product of extensive consultations with people living with dementia and reflects all of the recommendations in relation to dementia made in the Royal Commission’s final report.
We encourage you all to join this plea to the Federal Government to implement this much required Roadmap.
The page features draft social media posts and tiles, letter and email templates, scripts and guides for calls and meetings and many more resources.
Thank you in advance for any support you can provide and should you have any questions please contact Alex Shaw – 03 9816 5731 or Alex.Shaw@dementia.org.au
Joint Council on Closing the Gap will discuss progress and implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap
The Joint Council on Closing the Gap will meet Friday 16 April to discuss the progress and implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap that came into effect in July 2020.
The Joint Council will discuss:
the impact of COVID-19 on all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the success of the partnership approach between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and governments in responding to the pandemic.
the release of the Joint Council’s response to the first annual Partnership Health Check report of the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap assessing the successes and challenges faced by the Partnership since it came into effect in 2019. The Health Check reflects the commitment of all parties to put in place actions and formal checks over the life of the 10-year Partnership Agreement to make sure that the shared decision-making arrangements strengthen over time, including revisions to the Joint Council Terms of Reference and development of a risk register.
the release of its Joint Communications Strategy to ensure engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to build their awareness and ownership of the National Agreement and to assist them to talk to governments about how to apply the commitments to communities and organisations across the country.
the next stages of the Strategic Plan for Funding the Development of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Sector (Strategic Plan) to guide investment from the joint funding pool committed by governments to support Priority Reform Two of the National Agreement, investment priorities for the Health and Disability Sectors.
revised Family Violence target and a new Access to Information target which reflect a commitment in the National Agreement to develop these two targets within three months of the Agreement coming into effect.
allowing more time for the development of Sector Strengthening Plans and Place-Based Partnerships to facilitate community and organisation engagement.
Australian consensus STI testing guideline for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Australasian Society for HIV Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (2020) Australian consensus STI testing guideline for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Sydney: This national consensus testing guideline for sexually transmitted infections, is for use by primary care clinicians working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Delivering more Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in the NT
The Australian Government is investing $8.75 million over four years to provide additional health services in the Northern Territory as part of its commitment to strengthen Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. Delivered through the Northern Territory Pathways to Community Control program (NT P2CC), the funding will provide First Nations people with access to effective, high quality, comprehensive and culturally appropriate primary health care services.
This investment builds on the $4 million already committed for transition activities occurring in West Arnhem, demonstrating the strong partnerships that exist between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Government and other key members of the NT Aboriginal Health Forum, including the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT). Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, said community driven approache s to delivering health services were delivering major benefits for First Nations people.
Have Your Say – Participate in Survey to Contribute to National Evaluation
Indigenous Eye Health at The University of Melbourne is asking people who work in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector to participate in an anonymous survey as part of a national evaluation.
The survey asks questions about your experience working in the sector, what kinds of activities you’ve seen or been involved with at a regional level, what changes have happened over time, what has supported this work and what more is needed to improve eye care and eye health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It takes around 20 minutes to complete the survey.
Those who complete the survey can go into the draw for a ‘Check Today, See Tomorrow’ Diabetes Eye Care T-Shirt or a pair of Deadly Eyewear Sunglasses (there are 20 of each to be won!).
The survey is being run by independent evaluators from ARTD Consultants. If you would prefer to complete the survey over the telephone you can do this by contacting Rachel Aston from ARTD at firstname.lastname@example.org
Deaths in custody: Canberra Aboriginal health leader calls for justice system overhaul on royal commission anniversary
A new royal commission is needed into Canberra’s jail, the Alexander Maconochie Centre, to reset the entire system, says Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services chief executive Julie Tongs.
“The whole system needs an overhaul. By focusing on the AMC, that then brings in the whole of the justice system,” she said.
“I’m always concerned there’s going to be another death in custody.”
Read the full story released in the Canberra Timeshere.
Winnunga Nimmityjah chief executive Julie Tongs is fearful another Indigenous life will be lost in custody. Picture: Elesa Kurtz
AMA Media statement: Time for Calm and Clear Information on Vaccine Rollout
Australians should trust the advice of the experts when deciding on their COVID-19 vaccination, AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said today.
“The AMA has supported the decisions made by independent scientific experts – the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) – to keep Australians safe throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr Khorshid said.
“The Federal Government has also accepted this advice. While the changed advice about the AstraZeneca vaccine may seem confusing, and further delays to the rollout are frustrating, Australia is in the very fortunate position of being able to watch and learn from the experiences overseas.
“Communicating in this rapidly changing environment has been a challenge for the Government but it is critical for Australia’s future that public confidence in the vaccine program is maintained.
“The patient-GP relationship is one of the most trusted and important relationships in every person’s life.
“Your GP will give you the best advice about any medicine or vaccine. They will offer you what they believe to be of medical benefit to you and explain any risks and benefits of having or not having the treatment.
“They will ask you if you need any clarification and answer your questions. You can then decide whether you want the treatment.
“This is the same as for any treatment whether it is an antibiotic, surgery or a vaccine.
“GPs are guided by Government advice about AstraZeneca, and the risks for the under-50 cohort – most of whom would not be eligible for the vaccine until later this year anyway.
“The advice around the incredibly rare but serious thrombotic events associated with AZ vaccination has made decision making more difficult for those under 50 who are currently eligible for the vaccine. The AZ vaccine remains very safe and effective, and access to the alternative, preferred Pfizer vaccine is likely to be delayed.
“Our advice for Australians with questions is to make an appointment with their GP for a full discussion about the possible risks and benefits of having the vaccine, or of not having it, taking into account of their own specific circumstances.
“There has been some talk about doctors being concerned about potential litigation from side-effects of any vaccines. Please be assured that all registered doctors are fully covered – your GP is more concerned with your health.”
Do you think the state of epilepsy care in Australia could be improved?
Do you believe there is enough support, resources and information available?
Epilepsy Smart Australia invites you to participate in an online survey to better understand your needs and the gaps that exist in epilepsy services and supports in Australia. The survey is open from April 1st to May 31stand should only take you 20 minutes.
This research is being conducted as part of the Epilepsy Smart Australia Program Pilot and will be managed in conjunction with independent consultant KPMG. Your responses will remain anonymous.
A training program designed for professionals working in community services, health and education who provide services to children, youth, adults and families who have experienced trauma by Complex Trauma Training WA.
The ‘8 principles of trauma-informed practice’ will be discussed and practical strategies to implement these in various contexts will be explored.
Learning outcomes for this course:
Define complex trauma.
Discuss the immediate and long term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s).
Identify the impact of trauma on: brain development, attachment and memory.
Define Trauma-Informed care.
Discuss 8 Principles of trauma-informed care.
Apply an understanding of trauma-informed care to create safe environments and build strong relationships with children, youth, adults and families you work with.
Apply an understanding of trauma-informed care to support workers, including self-care strategies to manage secondary traumatic stress (vicarious trauma).
Identify resources & further professional development to implement trauma-informed practices in your workplace.
To know more about the training and to register click here.
We are excited to announce that the NDIS Ready Indigenous Business Support Funding (IBSF) grant round will be opening soon!
IBSF offers funding to eligible ACCHOs to help address:
basic establishment costs, and/or
business and technical challenges in registered and delivering services under the NDIS.
Grants of $20,000will be available for up to 100 member ACCHOs. ACCHOs will be contacted shortly via email with information about the grants and how to apply.
Image source: AbSec website.
Outcry over fifth death in custody in a month
The fifth Indigenous death in custody in a month has provoked an outcry by Aboriginal leaders after a 45-year-old maximum security inmate died in a WA prison. The prisoner from WA’s Casuarina Prison, who has not been publicly identified was taken to the secure wing of Fiona Stanley Hospital in southern Perth where he underwent a medical procedure and was placed in intensive care where he died.
Among the outcry from Indigenous leaders, Victoria’s first Aboriginal politician, Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe posted on Twitter that the man was “the 5th Aboriginal person to die in this country’s criminal legal system since the start of March. The pain is never ending! No justice, no peace!!,” she wrote. Since 1991, almost 500 Indigenous Australians have died in prison or in the custody of police.
Indigenous Senator Lidia Thorpe (above at an Invasion Day rally in January) has protested at the fifth death in custody in a month. Picture: Darrian Traynor. Image source: news.com.au
Fears new NDIS assessments not culturally safe
Submissions to a parliamentary inquiry have raised concerns that controversial proposed changes to the NDIS will not serve people from Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. A parliamentary committee examining controversial independent assessment reforms under the NDIS has been warned about the potential impact of changes on Indigenous and culturally diverse communities.
The inquiry is looking into the proposed changes intended to overhaul the evaluation process for determining an individual’s eligibility for support and funding under the disability support scheme. Currently, people with disability are required to submit evidence from their own experts such as specialists for evaluation by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
The reforms would instead see participants undergo an “independent assessment” from an allied health professional employed by contracted providers – paid for by the Australian government. Critics claim the move is a cost-cutting exercise that will leave participants worse off and undermine their control over the support they receive – a claim strongly denied by the government.
Ngarrindjeri Wirangu woman and artist Jackie Saunders lives with FASD. Image source: SBS News website.
Funding boost for Indigenous healthcare provider
FIRST Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing has received nearly $2 million to expand its services. The Frankston-based Indigenous healthcare provider’s CEO, Karinda Taylor, said the funding would “ensure that first nations’ people are provided with culturally safe services that meet the health and wellbeing needs of local communities”. The funding was secured through the federal government’s Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme. and is expected to fund service expansion and minor capital costs until 2023.
Dunkley MP Peta Murphy said, “the City of Frankston is home to one of the fastest growing indigenous populations in Victoria. This funding will allow First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing to continue their crucial work and expand their local services. I’m proud to have lobbied the federal government for this additional funding”.
FIRST Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing’s Naaz Stojkova & Karinda Taylor with MPs Peta Murphy & Paul Edbrooke. Image source: Bayside News.
Crusted scabies NT study
Scabies is listed as a neglected tropical disease by the World Health Organization. Crusted scabies affects vulnerable and immunosuppressed individuals and is highly contagious because of the enormous number of Sarcoptes scabiei mites present in the hyperkeratotic skin. Undiagnosed and untreated crusted scabies cases can result in outbreaks of scabies in residential facilities and can also undermine the success of scabies mass drug administration programs.
Crusted scabies became a formally notifiable disease in the NT in 2016. A 2-year prospective study of crusted scabies cases notified between March 2016 and February 2018, with subsequent follow up for 22 months has been conducted. Demographics, clinical and laboratory data, treatment and outcomes were analysed, with cases classified by severity of disease.
The study concluded that crusted scabies can be successfully treated with aggressive guideline-based therapy, but high mortality remains from underlying comorbidities. Reinfection on return to community is common while scabies remains endemic.
Sarcoptes scabiei mite under a microscope. Image source: Managing Crusted Scabies in Remote Communities 2017 Edition.
The Lucky Country – but not for all
Australia’s lack of action on climate change, treatment of Indigenous people and the ongoing detention of refugees have been singled out for criticism in Amnesty International’s annual report into the state of human rights around the world: Amnesty International Report 2020/21 – The State of the World’s Human Rights. The report highlighted widespread public support for raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, and Australian law makers reluctance to move on an important reform which would have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous children. “Australians like to see ourselves as living in the lucky country, and that’s true for the privileged among us, but there are swathes of our community who are unable to access justice and the basic rights to which we’re all entitled,” Amnesty International Australia National Director, Samantha Klintworth, said.
To view Amnesty International Australia’s media release in full click here.
Image source: Street Smart Action Against Homelessness website.
Check yourself, before you wreck yourself
A major push to improve the health of the Indigenous community was launched by the Australian Government last month, with a focus on increasing Annual health checks. Backed by a new radio advertising campaign delivered in five Aboriginal languages: Kriol, Yolngu Matha, Warlpiri, Arrernte and Burarra, the Government is encouraging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to see their GP and have a 715 health check.
The health check, listed as item 715 on the Medicare Benefits Schedule, is tailored specifically to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages. It is free and available every nine to twelve months. Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt said the health checks are an opportunity for early intervention, prevention and chronic disease management for all age groups.
In one of the campaign’s latest resources comedian Sean Choolburra urges mob to get a regular 715 health check. After completing his 715, Sean says there’s nothing to be afraid of. “It was what I expected – I had my hearing checked, my eyesight checked, and I thought my eyesight has been getting worse, but apparently Dr. Prabash says I have great eyes. No joke, I do have great eyes,” says Sean. “I’d love to bring my kids in because they seem to not hear me. And they don’t seem to see their clothes all over the floor and their empty cups. I think they’re the ones who need their eyes and hearing checked!” Sean jokes.
Further information, including resources for patients and health practitioners is available here.
To view the Minister for Health’s media release click here and to view the Sean Choolburra case study click here.
Comedian Sean Choolburra. Image source: Department of Health.
Suicide rises linked to disasters
NSW suicide deaths data released today highlights the need for immediate action to address distress in our community and future-proof against disasters. According to the NSW Suicide Monitoring and Data Management System there have been 104 suspected or confirmed suicide deaths reported in NSW from 1 January to 31 January 2021. This is significantly more than the number of deaths reported within the same period in 2019 (75) or 2020 (81). Suicide Prevention Australia, CEO, Nieves Murray said, “Any increase in deaths by suicide is a tragedy. The ripple affect across families, workplaces and communities is unfathomable. “The past year has presented many trying circumstances across NSW communities including droughts, bushfires and COVID-19. This has increased risk factors for suicide such as financial distress and unemployment.
To view the Suicide Prevention Australia media release click here.
Image source: Psychiatric Times.
COVID-19 vaccine priority groups
In this video, Professor James Ward explains why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be some of the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Professor Ward says he’s heard some concerns regarding which vaccine people will get and why the vaccine is being rolled out to our mob first. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, like other Indigenous peoples around the world, will be some of the first to receive the vaccines. This is solely to protect our Elders and those in our communities with underlying health conditions. Without the vaccine, our population will remain susceptible to COVID-19. When it’s your turn to be vaccinated, you’ll have access to whichever vaccine is available at that time. There’ll be enough vaccine doses for everyone in Australia.
VIC or ACT – Melbourne or Canberra – Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA)
Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health x 1 PT (4 days/week)- Melbourne or Canberra
The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) is the peak body representing the interests of over 28,000 physiotherapists in Australia. It does so by advocating for access to quality physiotherapy services, providing leadership in the wider health landscape, creating lifelong learning opportunities for members, and promoting the value of physiotherapy to the community.
The Senior Advisor – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (ATSIH) is responsible for the development and implementation of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health policy and advocacy initiatives, including the implementation of our Reconciliation Action Plan (2021-23), Physiotherapy Cultural Safety Action Plan and our involvement in the Close the Gap (CtG) Campaign.
To view the job description and to apply click here. Applications close Wednesday 14 April 2021.
NSW – Sydney – The University of Sydney
Senior Ad (identified) x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Sydney – CLOSING DATE EXTENDED
The Centre for Kidney Research are seeking a Research Assistant (Identified) to work on a project alongside a team of researchers and educators. This project aims to develop clinical practice guidelines on the management of chronic kidney disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the management of kidney stones.
You will join the project at an interesting stage and will be responsible for actively contributing to research activities for the project including, building relationships and engaging with Aboriginal people and communities to ensure that the clinical guidelines are incorporating community needs and promoting awareness of the guidelines to improve the management and prevention of kidney disease.
This role is primarily located at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead in Sydney but will be required to spend short periods in rural and regional Australia.
To view position descriptions and to apply click here.Applications close midnight Sunday 18 April 2021.