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.
107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines: Pat Turner on ABC The Drum
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks was on the panel of speakers for the ABC The Drum last evening and spoke on a couple of topics including the First Nation’s success with COVID-19 and the vaccines rollout, COVID-19’s northern exposure to PNG outbreak, the Federal Government launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in Canberra today encouraging people to move to regional Australia and the Closing the Gap update amongst others.
The Deputy PM is promoting a migration to regional Australia – but are the towns prepared to handle more people? What happens if not?
Pat said, “Experience from other First Nations in US and Canada shows high vaccine uptake occurs when the rollout is led by First Nations peoples and there is community control. Due to our success in controlling the outbreak we’re in a position which allows our services to have a flexible approach to the vaccine rollout.
“Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were on the front foot with controlling COVID-19, we are on the front foot with the vaccine. We have advocated to ensure our communities are among the first to be offered the vaccine. We know the devastation COVID-19 can cause due to the high number of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and the potential rapid spread in crowded housing.
“We have 107 ACCHOs who will participate in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from 1b in late March. This includes many rural and remote ACCHOs, ensuring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to the vaccine if they choose to, regardless of location.
“We need flexibility in the way the vaccine is delivered in communities, especially in remote and very remote setting. NACCHO has been working with the Australian Government to ensure that, where appropriate, this flexibility exists. While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.
“ACCHOs are highly experienced at vaccine roll-out. Five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the highest coverage of vaccine uptake in the country and in 2020, almost 80% of people over 65 had the Fluvax.
“We have ensured there is targeted monitoring of safety of the vaccine among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the AusVaxSafety program.
“The Australian Government has announced over $14 million in funding to support the roll-out of the vaccine in ACCHO. However, services are yet to receive this funding.
“We know that the best information comes from locally developed communication materials from the ACCHO sector. This was key to the success of the COVID-19 response.
“The communication materials developed by the Government are a good source of factual and up to date information, but we need to support our services to adapt these to local communities needs.
“NACCHO has worked closely with the Government, including the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) to ensure that restrictions on medicine advertising do not stop our sector from doing what they do best – developing and distributing effective health promotion and engagement campaigns for their communities.”
Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Erin Parke. Image source: ABC News website.
National Close the Gap Day 2021
“It will be two years since the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect and we are seeing a radical change across the country.
“The new formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.
“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
General Practices join the Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine rollout
More than 1,000 general practices will join the COVID-19 vaccination program from next week further strengthening the Commonwealths capacity, and ensuring an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country.
Services will come online from 22 March and progressively increase in number to more than 4,000 by the end of April – as part of Phase 1B of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine program.
This staged scale up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, and as more vaccine becomes available more services will come online.
Over 100 Aboriginal Health Services and 130 Commonwealth operated GP-led Respiratory Clinics, who have been instrumental partners in the COVID-19 response to date will also be progressively added as additional vaccine providers.
This rollout for Phase 1B complements the significant vaccination program underway to protect our most vulnerable citizens in Phase 1A, with approximately 200,000 vaccinated by the end of Tuesday.
Australians eligible for Phase 1B will be able to find a vaccination provider through the new national vaccination information and location service, at the Department of Health website.
This will enable people to locate their nearest general practice providing General Practice Respiratory Clinic vaccinations and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment.
To read the full media release by the Hon Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health and Aged Care click here.
ATAGI statement in response to European decisions about the Astra Zeneca vaccine
Australia’s regulatory body for vaccines Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement to not suspend Astra Zeneca vaccine yesterday.
Could we mix and match different COVID-19 vaccines?
The COVID vaccine rollout is now underway in Australia and around the world. It’s incredible we’ve been able to develop and produce safe and effective vaccines so quickly — but the current crop of vaccines might not protect us forever. Fortunately, researchers are already developing and testing booster shots. So what are booster shots, and when might we need them?
The first time you give someone a dose of vaccine against a particular infection, it’s called a prime. You’re getting your immune response ready to roll.
Each time you give another dose against that same infection, it’s called a boost. You’re building on immunity you already have from the first dose.
To read the full article in the Conversation click here.
Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities
Interesting research paper released in the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin: Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities: an analysis of reach, shares, and likes. By Hefler M, Kerrigan V, Grunseit A, Freeman B, Kite J, Thomas DP (2020).
Therapeutic Goods adverse events following immunisation
This instrument specifies certain therapeutic goods information relating to adverse events following immunisation that may be released to specified bodies and persons for the purpose of ensuring meaningful and effective participation in meetings on vaccine safety to support the safety, quality and safe use of vaccines in Australia.
Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it. Commissioner Tan released a concept paper detailing key components that need to be included in the Framework and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan.
The plan was launched ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also known in Australia as Harmony Day, which occurs this Sunday. Commissioner Tan said: “Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia, and we need to treat it as such. Too many Australians are regularly the targets of racism. “It is time we dealt with the scourge of racism in the same way we deal with the scourge of domestic violence, or the scourge of child abuse. On those issues we have longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments with three-year action plans.
To read the media release by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Concept Paper for a National Anti-Racism Framework clickhere.
Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021: Policy Brief
Since 2010, the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee has developed an annual report on action that needs to be taken to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood. The time for governments to deliver has long passed.
The Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe report presents solutions and showcases the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, youth and organisations throughout critical health crises in 2020.
The report features strengths-based examples in addressing the most complex of challenges. These include climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing need for social and emotional wellbeing services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a result of these events, and pre-existing effects of colonisation and inter-generational trauma.
Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an entirely preventable permanent disability. FASD includes a range of physical and neurological impairments, occurring due to brain damage caused by exposing a fetus to alcohol during pregnancy. As a spectrum disorder, FASD manifests in a range of ways, and conditions can range from very mild to severe.
Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Tabled 17 March 2021.
The committee received a wealth of information and evidence throughout the inquiry and thanks all those who participated, especially those with lived experience who had the courage to share their experiences and knowledge with the committee. As a result, the committee has made 32 recommendations, which aim at significantly improving the prevention, diagnosis, and management of FASD.
Effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of FASD, strategies for optimising life outcomes for people with FASD and supporting carers, and the prevalence and management of FASD, including in vulnerable populations, in the education system, and in the criminal justice system.
To read the full report released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, click here.
Image source: UNSW Sydney National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre.
Hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
Identifying hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Indigenous children in their first four years would change lives forever, says Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong.
Describing himself as a proud Worimi man, Dr Kong said early intervention – such as checking children’s ears at every opportunity – would contribute to closing the gap in education, employment and health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong
COVID-19 crisis in PNG amid vaccine rollout concerns in Australia
Australia has announced emergency COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea (PNG) in response to fears of a “looming catastrophe” that could devastate the nation and its healthcare system and that also threatens communities in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.
Amid dire warnings from PNG and Australian health experts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that Australia would urgently supply 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Australia’s stock to start vaccinating PNG’s essential health workforce.
Torres Strait Regional Council Mayor Philemon Mosbytold ABC radio today that it could be “catastrophic” for local communities if the emergency wasn’t handled properly; however, others are hopeful the crisis can be averted, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner.
“Our people are very much aware in the Torres Strait about the dangers of COVID and they’ll be taking every precaution,” Turner told ABC TV’s The Drum, saying she had “every confidence that Queensland Health will be able to manage this and control the movement of people, with the cooperation of the Torres Strait Island leadership”.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
Do you work with or employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers or Practitioners?
Diabetes is a significant health issue facing Indigenous Australians. The delivery of culturally safe health services, including by appropriately skilled Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners, is vital to efforts to reduce the present and future burden of diabetes.
Marathon Health are currently looking at diabetes-specific educational opportunities for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners. We want to know where they get the information they need to enable them to provide diabetes care.
Your participation in this brief survey is entirely voluntary and your time is greatly appreciated. The results will be used to inform current availability of diabetes-related education and to identify opportunities in this area.
Please click the link to the survey to get started here.
Community-led action – the key to Close the Gap – AHHA
The 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report, released today, highlights the importance of strength- based, community-led approaches to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to show resilience in the face of poorer health outcomes, the effectiveness of strength-based, community-led action could not be clearer,’ says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association spokesperson, Dr Chris Bourke.
‘The case studies in this year’s report showcase the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations throughout some of the biggest challenges of 2020, from bushfires to pandemics.
‘Community Controlled Organisations and Health Services successfully kept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was six times lower than the rest of the population. These community-led organisations will have a significant role to play in rolling out the COVID vaccine this year.
‘In July 2020, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, signed by all Australian governments and the Coalition of Peaks, signified a new way forward with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in control at the decision-making table for the first time.
‘The recommendations in this year’s report call for structural reform, self-determination and ongoing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led initiatives.
‘This year’s report solidifies the importance of the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations, to deliver culturally safe care and localised solutions,’ says Dr Bourke.
AHHA is a member of the Close the Gap campaign, an Indigenous-led movement calling for action on health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Close the Gap Campaign report is available online.
Close the Gap campaign poster by Adam Hill. Image source: ResearchGate.
First Nations women left behind in cervical cancer elimination
Australia is tracking to become one of the first countries to eliminate cervical cancer, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women will miss out unless we act urgently to change this, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) and Cancer Council New South Wales (CCNSW). Lead researchers, Associate Professor Lisa Whop (ANU) and Dr Megan Smith (CCNSW) and colleagues are calling for inequities to be addressed.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of anal cancers and genital warts. To reach elimination, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a strategy with three targets to be met by every country by 2030.
Read the full media release by Australian National University here.
Image source: MedPage Today website.
Closing the Gap vital to ensure health equity – AMA
The disparities between the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians continue to fall by the wayside and closing the gap is vital to
ensure health equity in this country, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said today.
On National Close the Gap Day, the AMA encourages all Australians to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The AMA has actively called on the Government to address health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that stem from the social and cultural
determinants of health.
“Closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people is everyone’s business: it is a national issue in which every individual,
organisation and group in Australia can play a role,” Dr Khorshid said.
“Every person’s health is shaped by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions in which they live.
“Addressing the social and cultural determinants of health is vital if we want to see vast improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This is a national priority.
The theme of International Women’s Day 2021 (Monday 8 March) ‘Choose to Challenge’, highlights the power of challenge in any environment, with an emphasis on calling out gender bias and equality. Celebrating all that is ‘girl power’, fierce females, and women who advocate for their people is what this day is all about. First Nations women are pioneers when it comes to advocating for equality — not just standing up against sexism and misogyny, but racism too.
To celebrate IWD 2021, journalist Jennetta Quinn-Bates made a list of First Nations women who are making waves in their chosen industries and professions, and definitely “Choose to Challenge” in their everyday lives and careers. Jennetta said they’re the ones we look to for inspiration to keep us going. The ones who’s pages we head to when there are important matters involving our communities, knowing they’ll be doing their best to use their voices. They’re the ones who aren’t afraid to speak up for the mob, to be proud, and to continue the journey our ancestors started.
NT Minister for Health, Natasha Fyles, says Manayingkarirra Primary Health Centre in Maningrida has been handed over to Aboriginal control, as part of the Territory Labor Government’s commitment to local decision making. Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation are now overseeing the delivery of health care services for the community, and surrounding homelands in Central Arnhem Land. Maningrida is one of the Territory’s busiest remote health centres. It carries out 4,000 consultations per month for more than 2,700 residents.
To view the NT Minister for Health’s media release in full click here.
Manayingkarirra Primary Health Care Centre, Maningrida. Image source: West Arnhem Regional Council website.
To view a statement from Charlie Gunabarra, Chairperson of Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation regarding the importance of this transition to the Maningrida community click here.
Charlie Gunabarra, Chairperson Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: West Arnhem Regional Council website.
Vaccine rollout to support Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples
The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) have said that as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have an increased risk of acquiring and developing serious outcomes from communicable diseases due to multiple factors it is critical that the COVID-19 vaccine program is designed and delivered in a manner which is accessible, inclusive and culturally safe. This includes ensuring communications are developed and targeted for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and that information and services are delivered in appropriate languages and formats and within appropriate facilities and locations.
A comprehensive vaccine implementation plan (the Plan) has been developed in consultation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19, and with state and territory governments. This Plan has been built on principles aligned with the Management Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Populations, including shared decision-making between Governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; community control and cultural safety across the whole-of-population system.
To view the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt’s media release click here.
Image source: UNSW Sydney Newsroom website.
Indigenous groups want bigger role in aged care
The final report from the Aged Care Royal Commission found one major area of concern is the plight of elderly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Indigenous-run service providers say they’re hopeful the government will act on a key recommendation from the report, to give them a more prominent role in running aged care for First Nations people.
You can listen to the segment on the ABC The World Today featuring Features Jody Currie from The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service Brisbane and Jayne Lawrence from Charles Sturt University here.
Image source: Industry Skills Advisory Council NT website.
Doctors combat vaccine hesitancy in Aboriginal communities
Indigenous Australians are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and doctors fear vaccine hesitancy could increase the risks. There are more than 14,000 kms between Mparntwe (Alice Springs) and the Navajo Nation in the United States desert, but the regions have much more in common than red sand. Indigenous peoples in North America share many cultural and family values with the First Peoples of Australia and suffer similarly poor health outcomes from colonisation, a connection that has brought the two groups together for generations.
Now, one of the places in the US hit hardest by COVID-19 is playing an important role in helping combat vaccine hesitancy amongst First Nations folks in remote Australia. “The [Northern Territory has] had no direct experience of the devastation this virus causes. We’ve only had images from elsewhere,” said Dr John Boffa, chief medical officer at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. Indigenous Australians are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 due to the prevalence of underlying health issues such as diabetes, rheumatic heart disease and kidney disease ― a burden they’ve been forced to bear since colonisation. Crowded living conditions can also increase risks.
This time last year Indigenous people over 50 were advised to stay home “to the maximum extent practical” and rural communities were locked down completely. At the start of the pandemic, many Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) didn’t have enough PPE and there were fears a COVID-19 outbreak would rob Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people not only of their lives, but of their elders, language and cultural practices too. The biggest challenge ahead, according to Boffa, is convincing First Nations people it’s safe and still important to get inoculated. His team is planning a Zoom call with Navajo leaders so that local elders and community members can hear about the Americans’ experience with the jab.
The House of Representatives Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Preventionrecently launched an inquiry. The committee will examine the findings of the Productivity Commission Inquiry Report into Mental Health, the Report of the National Suicide Prevention Officer, the Victorian Royal Commission, the National Mental Health Workforce Strategy and other recent strategic reviews of the current mental health system, taking into account the 2019 bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic and the capacity of the mental health workforce to respond to such events. The Committee will also consider other matters not addressed by these recent reviews.
The Committee would welcome your organisation’s views and invites you to make a submission addressing any or all of the Terms of Reference.
Further information about the inquiry is available here. For detailed information on preparing a submission, including information about parliamentary privilege and requests for confidentiality, click here.
Submissions should be submitted to the Committee by 24 March.
Image source: UNSW Sydney Newsroom website.
NT Generational Change Impact Report released
Minister for Youth and Children, Lauren Moss, said the Generational Change Impact Report released today marks the halfway point of the NT Government’s multi-targeted reform program. Keeping Territory children and families safe, thriving and connected are the cornerstones of the Report, with data indicating that we are heading in the right direction. Highlights include decreases in the rate of children in care and child protection notifications, including: A 39% decrease in the rate of Aboriginal children substantiated for child abuse and neglect – going from 63.5 per 1,000 children substantiated in the NT in 2016–17 to 38.6 per 1,000 children in 2018–19. The proportion of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in the NT continues to be well below the Australian rate. In 2018–19, 36.6 per 1,000 Aboriginal children in the NT were in out of home care compared to 54.2 per 1,000 Aboriginal children Australia wide.
To view the Minister Moss’ media release click here.
Image source: Katherine Times.
Health literacy and equity research findings
Croakey have published a special edition with the title ‘Equity and health literacy: Using emerging evidence to inform the development of the National Preventive Health Strategy’. The authors note that ‘health literacy’ has multiple definitions that encompass individual, population and environmental health literacy – with the underlying tenet being that it is critical for health and health equity, and is a social determinant of health.
The literature on equity and health literacy is relatively diffuse, often lost across multiple sectors and with limited systematic research that provides clear, actionable processes by which health literacy can drive health equity forward, they say. Hence, emerging evidence is often inaccessible to policymakers and poorly utilised by health practitioners in clinical settings. This special edition aims to address “the knowledge deficit around equity and health literacy”.
This special edition resulted from a partnership between the journal and the NT Primary Health Network, and five guest editors. It led to an “overwhelming” response and 21 papers accepted for publication. “To our knowledge, this special issue is the largest collection of articles dedicated to the topic of equity and health literacy, ever published in an Australasian peer‐reviewed academic journal,” the authors say. “We encourage Minister for Health, Expert Steering Committee, senior bureaucrats and policy staff to actively engage with the content of this special issue and purposively embed key findings into the National Preventive Health Strategy.”
Fear for pets – barrier to leaving family violence
A woman’s decision to leave a violent and abusive relationship is a complex process. She first needs to consider the risks to her and her children. Paradoxically, taking that step towards safety is also the time of greatest danger of homicide, sexual assault and increased violence. Pets and service animals are also a part of the lives of many families. This means they are an important part of the decision-making process when women consider leaving a violent situation.
The pets may be a critical source of therapeutic support, but they may also be at risk of harm and used to exert control over people (“you leave and you won’t see those animals again”). Animals’ central role in family life means many victim-survivors of family violence are reluctant to leave because they fear their pets will be harmed. To combat this, a family violence motion has been presented in the Victorian parliament that seeks to recognise animal abuse as a form of family violence. If all elements were adopted, it would increase the safety of women and children.
To view the full article in The Conversationclick here.
Image source: Warlukurlangu Artists of Yuendumu website.
International Women’s Day 2021
Yesterday (8 March 2021) was International Women’s Day 2021. June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner released a statement saying “Today, my team and I, at the Australian Human Rights Commission, are celebrating the power and potential of all our deadly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls across Australia. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is, ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world’.”
“This theme makes me think about all our women and girls who carry the determination, knowledge and wisdom from an ancient lineage of matriarchs. Our ancestral mothers—who walked this land for millennia—have always shown remarkable leadership in nurturing and growing our societies into the oldest living civilizations on earth. Throughout this span of time our women and peoples have led through and beyond crisis. We know how to survive and thrive.”
“That legacy and all our women and girls’ diverse strengths, expertise and lived experiences are held within the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Report and Community Guide, which can be accessed here. It is the first report to hear from our women and girls as a collective since 1986. Wiyi Yani U Thangani was brought into being because of your voices. It belongs to you, to all our First Nations women and girls.”
To view June Oscar’s statement in full click here.
In another article, University of Queensland academic, Associate Professor Chelsea Watego looked at the absence of Indigenous voices on International Woman’s Day 2021. She said the cancellation of a number of invitations for her sit on panels showed how Indigenous woman is only ever a subset of the category of woman when convenient. To read this article in full click here.
University of Queensland academic, Associate Professor Chelsea Watego. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.
AHW first in Kimberley to receive COVID-19 vaccine
An Indigenous health worker has become the first resident of northern WA to receive a COVID-19 vaccination as the rollout extends across the state. Nyikina Nyul Nyul woman Emily Hunter has been working on the frontline during the pandemic as a senior nurse at Broome Hospital. After receiving the Pfizer jab, she said she hoped to the be first of many residents in the region to be vaccinated. “I’m quite proud to be the first person in the Kimberley,” she said. “Twelve months ago everyone was terrified about what was going to happen and no one knew anything about COVID-19. I hope others follow suit as well.” To view the ABC News article in full click here.
Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Erin Parke. Image source: ABC News website.
SA – Adelaide – CRANAplus – improving remote health
Registered Psychologist/Senior Psychologist x 1 PT or FT – Adelaide
CRANAplus is the peak professional body for health professionals working in remote and isolated areas across Australia. They exist to ensure the delivery of safe, high quality primary healthcare to remote and isolated areas of Australia. CRANplus is an affordable, grassroots, not-for profit, membership based organisation that has provided nearly 40 years of education, support and professional services for the multi-disciplinary remote health workforce. CRANAplus is a values-based organisation, that genuinely embraces diversity, flexibility, and innovation in everything they do.
CRANAplus has a vacancy for a Registered Psychologist/Senior Psychologist (Mental Health & Wellbeing Service) who will be responsible for the development and delivery of high-quality psychological and wellbeing support services to health professionals and their families, across rural and remote communities in Australia.
To view the position description and to apply click here.Applications close Sunday 28 March 2021.
National Day of Women Living with HIV
Today (Tuesday 9 March), the National Network of Women Living with HIV (Femfatales), celebrate the 6th National Day of Women Living with HIV. This year’s theme ‘Taking Control of Our Health’, reminds all women, regardless of our HIV status, to focus on our own health and wellbeing. The day is being hosted by the National Association for People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), Australia’s peak non-government organisation representing community-based groups of people living with HIV across Australia. To view the NAPWHA Femfatales media release click here.
During the recent and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have neglected or postponed our sexual and reproductive health checks. Now is the time to resume our crucially important health tests, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, cervical screening tests, breast checks and sexual health screens including a HIV test, said Ms Katherine Leane, Chair of Femfatales. Information about some of the key issues for women living with HIV can be accessed on the National Association for People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) website here.
You can view a special HIV is: Just a Part of Me video release featuring Jane Costello (CEO of Positive Life NSW), Natasha Io (Board Member of Positive Life NSW), and Michelle Tobin (Aboriginal woman of the Yorta Yorta Nation who is also a descendant of the Stolen Generation) here.
Michelle Tobin, Aboriginal woman of the Yorta Yorta Nation and descendant of the Stolen Generation.
Kidney Health Week – 15–21 March
With 1 in 3 Australians adults at risk of kidney disease, this Kidney Health Week, Kidney Health Australia is calling out to all Australians, particularly those living with diabetes and/or hypertension, to get a Kidney Health Check. Last September Kidney Health Australia launched its early detection campaign, #nofilter, featuring Shane and his family. Shane was diagnosed with kidney disease following detection of high blood pressure. The campaign showed the impact dialysis had on his and his family’s life. Tragically, Shane passed away from a heart attack in December 2020, at just 48 years old.
As a tribute to him, his wife Jodie and five daughters will be featuring in the campaign during Kidney Health Week to carry on the fight in Shane’s name and get the message out about early detection. While the campaign does carry a heartbreaking message about Shane’s battle with kidney disease, it also carries a message of hope – that if caught early enough, Progression of kidney disease can be slowed down or even stopped.
For more information about Kidney Health Week 2021, Monday 15 March to Sunday 21 March click here.
Pilbara Aboriginal Health Alliance launch
The Pilbara Aboriginal Health Alliance (PAHA) is a partnership between the three Aboriginal Community Health Organisations (ACCHOs) based in the Pilbara region of WA, namely, Mawarnkarra Health Service; Wirraka Maya Health Service; and Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (Member ACCHOs). The priority for PAHA and its Member ACCHOs is to improve the health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families and communities, in the Pilbara region.
The Member ACCHOs met in June 2019 to discuss the re-establishment of a Pilbara Aboriginal Health representative body. It was agreed that PAHA would be established to advocate for and represent the Members ACCHOs. An interim Coordinator was appointed in February 2020 to undertake the actions required to set up PAHA; coordinate PAHA meetings; and carry out the directions of the PAHA Directors. The greatest concerns to PAHA are the life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in the Pilbara; the chronic diseases impacting families; providing access to holistic health services; the impact of grief and loss on families; and increasing the level of health services and programs available to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The launch of PAHA will take place on Friday 19 March.
World Hearing Day events and resources support Indigenous ear health
March 3, is World Hearing Day and Hearing Australia’s Hearing Assessment Program — Early Ears (HAPEE) program is holding a series of events throughout the week with its spokespeople, singer-songwriter Emma Donovan and Play School presenter and actor Luke Carroll.
The events aim to reach out to communities across the country to raise awareness of the importance of good hearing health for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children starting school for the first time. To coincide with this HAPEE is also releasing a range of resources to support parents and carers and provide primary health and early childhood education workers with the tools for local engagement.
A highlight event will be a live webinar from 11am to 12pm on World Hearing Day for Koori maternity service workers, presented in conjunction with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), and featuring Emma Donovan. Topics to be presented include hearing and speech development in utero and beyond, why it’s important to look after ear/hearing health, the long-term impacts on learning, the main ear issues that impact ear and hearing health, and an overview of some tools that are available to help assess kid’s hearing.
“It’s never too early to get your bub’s hearing checked,” said Emma. “My daughter has had so much help and support for her hearing issues through the HAPEE program. I am proud to be a spokesperson and to help make a difference for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids.”
HAPEE has developed a new community toolkit for organisations, primary health services and early child education workers to provide support, training, and resources to help share key messages and the benefits of the program to parents and carers in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Resources can be downloaded here.
New 2020 Otitis Media Guidelines available
To mark World Hearing Day (3 March 2021)the Centre for Research Excellence in Ear and Hearing Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children have launched the new 2020 Otitis Media Guidelines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children (“2020 OM Guidelines”). You can view the OM Guidelines via thewebsiteand mobile app, which is free to download via the Apple App Storeor Google Play. These guidelines provide interactive, engaging and culturally appropriate best practice up-to-date information on the prevention, diagnosis and management of otitis media.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience some of the highest rates of otitis media (OM) in the world. If left without appropriate care, OM can cause conductive and/or permanent hearing loss and is associated with language delay, speech problems, high vulnerability on entering school, social isolation, poor school attendance, and low education and employment opportunities. Hearing loss and otitis media rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are well above the level considered a ‘public health crisis’ by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The 2020 OM Guidelines mobile app and website have been designed to build on the Guidelines themselves and act as a multimedia tool for primary health care providers, with:
a step-by-step guide to assist with diagnosis
user-friendly algorithms to assist with clinical decision making based on diagnosis
audio recordings in top end Aboriginal languages to assist with communication
educational videos for health workers, families and children
otitis media otoscopy image gallery and quizz
condensed Otitis Media Guidelines with graded evidence and links to publications.
Support for Anti-Racism Framework
In a report published in February, the Senate inquiry on ‘issues facing diaspora communities’ recommended funding the development of a comprehensive national anti-racism framework and to consider resourcing the Race Discrimination Commissioner to reinvigorate the existing National Anti-Racism Strategy.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan spoke to Nine newspapers about why funding both pieces of work is important.
To read the article in the Sydney Morning Heraldclick here.
Image source: The Guardian.
Improving COVID-19 vaccine rollout engagement with diverse communities
A UNSW Sydney-led research team has made recommendations about how to better engage with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) communities for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The researchers, led by Associate Professor Holly Seale of UNSW Medicine & Health, examined the challenges faced in communicating and engaging with people from CaLD communities, as well as strategies that are needed to enhance the rollout of the vaccine program for these communities.
The team conducted stakeholder interviews with key representatives from government and non-government organisations and released a summary of their findings. The research findings are being presented to state and federal committees to help inform the COVID-19 vaccination program going forward.
Key takeaways from the aged care royal commission’s report
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report into aged care has laid out an extensive plan to overhaul Australia’s aged-care system. Among the 148 recommendations, the report calls for a new system underpinned by a rights-based Act, funding based on need, and much stronger regulation and transparency.
Over two years, through more than 10,500 submissions and 600 witnesses, the two commissioners heard extensive evidence of a system in crisis. The top four takeaways from the landmark report include:
1. Australia needs a rights-based aged-care system: In its recommendations, the final report highlights Australia needs a new Aged Care Act to underpin reform. The new Act should set out the rights of older people, including their entitlement to care and support based on their needs and preferences.
2. The system needs stronger governance: Ineffective governance and weak regulation of aged care must end. The final report calls for much stronger governance, regulation of the quality of care, prudential regulation, and an independent mechanism to set prices.
3. We need to improve workforce conditions and capability: The final report makes numerous important recommendations to enhance the capability and work conditions of formal carers. It calls for better wages and a new national registration scheme for all personal care workers, who would be required to have a minimum Certificate III training.
4. A better system will cost more: The final report makes a series of complex recommendations about fees and funding, with the commissioners diverging in view as to the specific arrangements. But essentially, the proposed new funding model would provide universal funding for care services, such as nursing.
Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin releases new publications
The Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin has released a number of new publications:
Walking the talk: Evaluating the alignment between Australian governments’ stated principles for working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health contexts and health evaluation practice: Luke JN, Ferdinand AS, Paradies Y, Chamravi D, Kelaher M (2020). To view the abstract/article click here.
‘Strong Men’: Aboriginal community development of a cardiovascular exercise and health education program: Biles B (2020). Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Charles Sturt University: Bathurst, NSW View abstract: ‘Strong Men’: Aboriginal community development of a cardiovascular exercise and health education program. To view the thesis click here.
Aboriginal community controlled health organisations address health equity through action on the social determinants of health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia: Pearson O, Schwartzkopff K, Dawson A, Hagger C, Karagi A, Davy C, Brown A, Braunack-Mayer A (2020). To view the abstract/article click here.
Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (2020) Better healthcare in hospitals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people [webinar] Canberra: This webinar focused on better healthcare in hospitals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during NAIDOC week. During this webinar, participants heard about the latest research from Australia and North America. To read the article click here.
Baseline liver function tests and full blood count indices and their association with progression of chronic kidney disease and renal outcomes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: the eGFR follow-up study. To view the study click here.
Costing the scale-up of a national primary school-based fluoride varnish program for Aboriginal children using dental assistants in Australia: Skinner J, Dimitropoulos Y, Rambaldini B, Calma T, Raymond K, Ummer-Christian R, Orr N, Gwynne K (2020). To view the abstract/article click here.
Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System – Final Report
A range of organisations, including Beyond Blue, Mental Health Australia, Suicide Prevention Australia and The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) have welcomed the release of The Royal Commission recognises the strength of people living with mental illness or psychological distress, families, carers and supporters, and members of the workforce who have contributed their personal stories and perspectives to this inquiry.
Inappropriate medical advertising exploits vulnerable people
Advertising that promotes unrealistic body images or depicts normal human conditions and experiences as pathological conditions requiring medical treatment can exploit vulnerable people and lead to mental ill-health, the AMA said today. Releasing the AMA Position Statement on Advertising and Public Endorsement, AMA President Dr Khorshid said doctors should ensure than any advertising they take part in, including via social media, assists informed patient choice and does not undermine it.
“Inappropriate advertising can lead people to use products or services indiscriminately or unnecessarily, potentially resulting in physical, psychological or financial harm,” Dr Khorshid said. “The AMA is troubled by medical advertising practices that promote unrealistic body images, particularly where these concerns relate to common features of the human lifecycle.”
Healthy North Coast is working with residential aged care facilities (RACFs) and general practice clinics to help them plan for and deliver COVID-19 vaccines across the North and Mid North Coast region, as part of the Commonwealth’s national rollout. Almost 30,000 Australians have been vaccinated to date, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt, including 8,110 aged care and disability residents throughout 117 care facilities.
In a media release on Monday, Minister Hunt said that both the state and territory teams alongside the aged care in-reach teams are ramping up their operations, with more vaccines being distributed across the country in the next week. Last week, Healthcare Australia’s clinical workforce, who are contracted to deliver the RACF COVID-19 vaccine rollout, started delivering vaccinations in Northern NSW aged care.
To read the media release by Health North Coast and the Australian Government’s PHN Program click here.
As a senior audiologist with the Top End Health Service’s Hearing Services Outreach Program Salimon Joseph spends a lot of time visiting remote communities helping Aboriginal Territorians – and he loves it. “I get to see my patients in their comfort zone,” Mr Joseph said of his trips to communities, where he undertakes hearing assessments for all the children who has been referred to the program.
For Hearing Awareness Week (1-7 March 2021) and World Hearing Day(3 March 2021), Mr Joseph wants to pass on to Territorians everywhere to look after their ears and their hearing. Almost half (49%) of childhood hearing loss is preventable, as is over a third (37%) of adult hearing loss. During his remote trips, Mr Joseph and the outreach team share ear disease prevention tips with parents, including ensuring children get their ears checked regularly; wash their face and hands and blow their nose frequently; have a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables; keep vaccinations up to date; avoid smoking around kids and ask parents and carers to teach kids not to stick anything in their ears.
You can have a hearing loss if you often ask people to repeat themselves; turn up the volume of the radio or television; have difficulty following conversations in noisy places; have difficulty in understanding what is said over the phone; have a problem in hearing sounds like an alarm or a telephone ringing and are told by people that you speak loudly or experience tinnitus.
To read the media release by the Northern Territory Government click here.
Illustration: Eric Lobbecke. Image source: The Australian.
Specialised aged care needed for Stolen Generations survivors
The Healing Foundation has welcomed the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission Final Report that recognise the specialised aged care needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including urgent trauma-aware and healing-informed services and care.
The final report notes that ‘… trauma-informed approaches are particularly important to the care of [survivors] of the Stolen Generations. By 2023, all Stolen Generations survivors will be aged over 50 years and potentially eligible for aged care services. Their childhood experiences further compromise their ability to seek services and should dictate and inform how such services should be provided’. The recommendation for a new Aged Care Act acknowledges that ‘…Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are entitled to receive support and care that is culturally safe and recognises the importance of their personal connection to community and country’.
To view the Healing Foundation’s media release click here.
Miranda Campbell-Roberts holding a photo of herself when she was six years old. Picture: Michael Marschall. Image source: The Stolen Generation blog.
QLD/ACT/NT – Brisbane, Canberra or Darwin – Aboriginal Hostels Limited
General Manager x 2 FT – Brisbane, Canberra or Darwin
Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) provides a cost effective national network of safe, comfortable, culturally appropriate and affordable accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who need to live away from home to access services and economic opportunity. AHL is seeking to fill the following two Senior Executive Service Band 1 positions:
General Manager, Business Development & Employment – to lead innovative business transformation and cultural change
General Manager, Operations – to lead the AHL hostel service delivery
Both General Managers will be key members of the AHL Executive team, working closely with and supporting the CEO and the Board of Directors.
To view the GM Business Development & Employment position description click here, and to view the GM Operations position description click here.
Applications for both positions close Tuesday 6 April 2021.
Close the Gap Campaign Report Launch Via Webinar
Webinar/report launch on National Close the Gap Day (18 March 2021).
The invite and registration link will follow soon. Please join in the launch and share across your socials.
Thirteen years after then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations and set up the closing the gap targets, what needs to change?
Donnella Mills, Chair of the NACCHO, says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander power is a key factor in improving health outcomes. Donnella says change is happening, and that when it comes to closing the gap, optimism is ‘in her DNA’. To listen to the radio interview with Donnella Mills on ABC Saturday Morning with Kate O’Tooleclick here.
rally on 11th anniversary of the National Apology to Stolen Generations in Sydney in 2019. Image source: SBS News website.
Calls for national memorial & healing centre
The Healing Foundation is calling on the Federal Government to establish a National First Nations Memorial and Centre for Healing in Canberra and a doubling of the core Commonwealth Grant that funds the Healing Foundation’s work to support Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants. In ‘Healing the Nation’ – The Healing Foundation Pre-Budget Submission 2021–22 – the Foundation is also calling for new funding for a range of initiatives to progress the healing of Stolen Generations survivors – including reparations, tailored trauma-aware and healing-informed support for ageing and ailing Stolen Generations survivors, and better access to historical records for survivors; and a National Healing Strategy to address the impact of intergenerational trauma.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said a National Memorial for First Nations people in the nation’s capital is long overdue, “A National First Nations Memorial, which incorporates a Healing Centre, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, would send a strong message to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – and all Australians – that the Federal Government is serious about reconciliation and righting past wrongs.”
You can access the Healing Foundation’s Pre-Budget Submission 2021–22 here and view their media release in full here,
Image from the Healing Foundation’s Intergenerational Trauma Animation.
Still telling stories 13 years on from the Apology
February 13 each year marks the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, who suffered trauma because of past government policies of forced child removal. Many of these removals occurred as the result of laws and policies aimed at assimilating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population into the predominately white community. Stolen Generations survivors are some of Australia’s most vulnerable people and many have kept their stories and experiences secret for many years, even decades.
One such story comes from Stolen Generations survivor Aunty Julie Black, a 64-year-old Barkindji woman, who was taken from her mother shortly after birth. Aunty Julie’s story is heart breaking and courageous and reminds us that behind the Stolen Generations policies there were people, and children, who are still alive and in need of support. To acknowledge the Apology Anniversary, you can watch Stolen Generations survivor Aunty Julie Black’s story here.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said it is important to commemorate this significant moment in national healing, acknowledging the wrongs of the past, while reflecting on the work that still needs to be done to address the impacts of unresolved trauma, “It’s important that we as a nation provide a safe environment for Stolen Generations survivors and their families to speak for themselves, tell their own stories, and be in charge of their own healing. Assimilation policies that led to the Stolen Generations continued right up until the 1970s and many of those affected by the trauma are still alive today.
To view the Healing Foundation’s media release The Healing Foundation continues telling the stories of Stolen Generations survivors 13 years on from the Apologyclick here.
Barkindji woman Julie Black was taken from her mother shortly after she was born. Image source: Healing Foundation.
A long way from the Stolen Generations
The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians issued a media release on Saturday 13 February 2021, a day marking the 13th anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations. Minister Wyatt met with Wiradjuri Elder Isabel Reid, one of the oldest living survivors of the Stolen Generation in January 2021, “Isabel’s story is just one of tens of thousands of children who were forcibly removed between 1910 and 1970 by Australian governments. This is undoubtedly one of the darker chapters in our nation’s story. On this day I reflect upon the words of the Apology – because they serve as an important reminder of the journey we have all walked – a significant moment on the path to reconciliation – an acknowledgment of our shared history – the importance of our contribution to this national story. It is a story that in parts is raw and painful – and it is a story that in other parts shows that our resilience and determination, built up over 65,000 years, lives and grows in strength today.”
To view the Minister Wyatt’s media release click here.
SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle says the 13th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations on 13 February is an historic day for Australia in acknowledging the wrongs of the past, but the impact of child removal on First Nations children and families continues decades on, “In 2008, the Australian government finally said sorry for unjustly removing generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families – breaking up families and communities and leaving a legacy of intergenerational trauma for our peoples. We feel for our families on this day. The stories of the Stolen Generations are something that we all carry with us. They are our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents and our brothers and sisters. The Apology was only the first step in truth telling for our nation. Failures to adequately incorporate First Nations perspectives into policy and to support healing for families continue to impact our communities.”
To view SNAICC’s media release SNAICC Calls on Governments to Commit to Supporting First Nations Children and Familiesclick here.
Image source: Meanjin Quarterly.
Improving social media health information survey
A research project is being conducted by researchers at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University. The aim of the project is to develop Principles for Health Information on Social Media (PRHISM) to assess and help improve the quality of health-related information provided on social media. The PRHISM team are looking for individuals with experience in media, communications and/or social media who currently work for a health-related organisation to take part. Participation involves completion of three 20 minute online surveys. There will be a two to three week gap between each survey and the total time commitment will be approximately 60 minutes over six to nine weeks.
If you are interested in taking part or would like more information you can register your interest and read more about the study via the following link.
Yorta Yorta rapper Briggs has teamed up with Illustrator Molly Hunt to create Covid-19 health messaging for First Nations communities. Image source: NITV website.
Closing the Gap reporting
Historically, the Australian Government has released a Closing the Gap report in February to coincide with the anniversary of the National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, together with a statement to Parliament. This will change under the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which came into effect in July 2020. Under the new Agreement, all parties including the Australian Government must deliver an Implementation Plan on Closing the Gap within 12 months, and report annually on the actions they are taking to achieve the targets. Consistent with the new National Agreement, the Australian Government will release its Closing the Gap Implementation Plan in July 2021 and report annually in the Spring sitting period thereafter.
To view the Minister for Indigenous Australians’ Closing the Gap media release click here.
Image source: Rev’d Dr Lucy Morris blog.
Close the Gap Campaign refuses to be left wanting
The Close the Gap Campaign looks forward to seeing a comprehensive report on the refreshed targets for Closing the Gap by July 2021. The campaign notes the announcement that the release of the Closing the Gap data has been pushed back to July in order to allow a full reporting year since the signing of the new National Agreement with the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap. The Close the Gap Campaign expects to see the PM and Minister Wyatt release the data in July, including a full analysis of what governments plan to do to reform and address the ongoing inequality. “While we understand the need for a change in timeframe to allow a year since the signing of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, this cannot be used as an excuse to kick the can down the road,” said Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chairs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO and National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners CEO Karl Briscoe.
To view the Close the Gap Campaign media statement click here.
Kathy Freeman. Image source: ANTaR website.
Speaking from the Heart podcast
Why is a constitutionally-enshrined Voice to Parliament critical to Australia’s journey towards reconciliation? Will Australia accept the ‘gift’ that is the Uluru Statement from the Heart? And is acknowledging history (and learning from it) an opportunity to build a more inclusive, more truly Australian national identity? On the second episode in a Policy Forum Pod mini-series on Indigenous wellbeing, co-chair of the Prime Minister’s Referendum Council Pat Anderson AO joins hosts Professor Sharon Bessell and Dr Arnagretta Hunter for a remarkable conversation about healing, history, and having the courage to call for change. Listen here.
Ground-breaking Aboriginal Strategic Framework
Minister for Correctional Services of SA, Vincent Tarzia said in an Australian first, the Department for Correctional Services (DCS) has released a ground-breaking Aboriginal Strategic Framework (ASF) 2020-2025. The ASF is the first of its kind in the nation to encompass the needs of prisoners, offenders, staff and community. It provides a culturally informed and tailored approach to address the needs of Aboriginal prisoners and offenders and ensures that DCS programs, policies and supports are culturally safe. The framework was informed through consultation with prisoners, staff and the community and outlines three components to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people: 1. Ensure access to programs and services that are responsive to the unique cultural and gendered need of Aboriginal prisoners. 2. Build a culturally competent and responsive workforce. 3. Increase Aboriginal economic participation and strengthen partnerships with organisations, businesses and Aboriginal communities.
NT Shadow Minister for Alcohol Policy, Gerard Maley, says the Gunner Government’s own study shows that total alcohol consumption only dropped in regions where Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors (PALIs) were stationed at bottle shops, and saw no decline in areas PALIs don’t man takeaway liquor outlets, “This data does not support a minimum floor price – this data supports the use of Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors. The government’s own report shows areas with Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors had lower total alcohol consumption, and where there were no PALIs there was no drop in consumption. Yet the report states that this success was due to the minimum floor price.”
Noi.heen.ner is an event focused on bridging the gap between the Tasmanian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community. The event’s name means ‘in good spirits’. Reconciliation Council Tasmania co-chair Bill Lawson AM said the event was about building curiosity and a warm dialogue about Aboriginal culture in the Tasmanian community, “I think a lot of Tasmanians have been curious for a long time but have been cautious to get involved as they don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. I think things, festivals like this, they’re a safe place for people to come and hear a Welcome to Country, be involved in a smoking ceremony, and realise it’s not all as we think, and that we have things to learn.
To view the Noi.heen.ner marks a ‘good spirited’ connection of cultures article published in The Advocate click here.
Cruze Smart-Pitchford, 12, painting mother Karen Smart-Pitchford with ochre before a welcome to country ceremony at the Noi.heen.ner event. Image source: The Advocate.
Broncos ‘Deadly’ Health Plan for 2021
Brisbane Broncos CEO Paul White and players Kotoni Staggs and Patrick Carrigan, plus club legends and Deadly Choices Ambassadors Steve Renouf and Petero Civoniceva have announced the Broncos ‘Deadly’ Health Plan for 2021.
Equipped with the most comprehensive suite of Brisbane Broncos Deadly Choices Health Check shirts ever produced in the 10-year history of its partnership with the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Service providers from throughout Queensland will be able to maintain strong and essential connections with the people that matter most.
The 2021 Broncos Deadly Choices preventative health campaign, instigated by IUIH, represents a calculated response to the global, COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, the empowerment of individuals and families to take control of their own health through the maintenance of regular health checks remains a top priority. “Our Deadly Choices partnership with the Brisbane Broncos has netted some amazing health successes over the last decade and we see the club’s role in the anticipated delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination as an evolutionary shift forward,” said IUIH CEO Adrian Carson.
Indicative of the direct impact Deadly Choices is having in communities, Queensland has the highest number and the highest rate of use (40%) of 715 heath checks of any State or Territory in Australia. This statistic isn’t lost on the CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane, Jody Currie who is already excited by the New Year acquisitions, “The Broncos-Deadly Choices partnership provides a very strong community engagement tool to enhance positive health messaging and continue to encourage health checks among Indigenous communities right from right across South East Queensland”.
Gunggari and Gubbi Gubbi man Steve Renouf holds the record for the most tries for the Broncos. Image source: Deadly Choices website.
Sexual Health Week
Sexual Health Week, 4–21 February 2021, is an opportunity to celebrate and discuss sexual health in all of its facets, and during this week the WA AIDS Council (WAAC) has shared some advice on how you can make sure you’re looking after your sexual health.
Size is an issue – did you know that 70% of men who do not like wearing condoms are wearing the wrong size? Contrary to popular belief, condoms are not one-size-fits-all. And this small misconception is one of many that get in the way of people being able to have the most fulfilling, healthy and enjoyable sexual life possible. For many people, young and old, they got more of a sex education watching Sex Education on Netflix than in any sex-ed class in school. There is a pervasive thought that you need to pick between pleasure and safety, protection versus orgasm, as if they are opposites when they are very much not.
WAAC has partnered with the Department of Health to provide small grants of up to $1,000 to organisations and services working in regional and remote parts of WA. The grant enables organisations the opportunity to run sexual health programs that they would not have been able to run without funding.
This year they have been able to provide the grant to four organisations, including NACCHO members Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS), who will run a project to increase sexual health testing with young people and increase their knowledge, and Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (GRAMS) who will travel over 1,200kms around the Mid West to educate young people about sexual health and offer testing services.
To view the full article It’s Sexual Health Week – when did you last check your sexual health?click here.
One in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience chronic ear disease in Australia. Luke Carroll (Actor and Playschool Presenter) and Emma Donovan (Musician), who are both parents, have joined the Hearing Australia campaign to help promote the importance of HAPEE Ears For Early Years.
Hearing Australia’s ongoing ‘Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears’ or HAPEE, is a result of a $30 million investment by the Australian Government to reduce the long term effects of ear disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children not yet attending full time school are eligible for a free hearing check, and this service is now available across the country, as the program has expanded to care for more communities in urban, regional and metro areas.
Gumbaynggirr, Dhungatti, Yamatji and Bibbulman woman, Emma Donovan is urging other parents and carers to have their children’s ears checked regularly. Emma’s youngest child’s hearing loss was detected early. Wiradjuri man, acclaimed actor and father, Luke Carroll, has a similar message for parents and carers,
“I think it’s extremely important for kids to get their hearing checked. It helps with their speech and their growth as a young person.
To view Hearing Australia’s press release click here.
Emma Donovan with daughter Jirriga & Luke Carroll with son Enzo. Image source: Hearing Australia.
Ophthalmologists call for Voice to Parliament
The Fred Hollows Foundation, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), and Australia’s first Aboriginal ophthalmologist Associate Professor Kris Rallah-Baker have joined forces to call for a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution. The call supports From the Heart’s Week of Action to promote the Uluru Statement from the Heart and advocate for a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Voice to Parliament.
“As a Nation, Australia is far behind other former British colonies in addressing issues that remain as a consequence of the dispossession and occupation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, which began on 26th January 1788 and has not yet ended,” Associate Professor Rallah-Baker said. “These issues affect us all today and are not a dark and distant memory – they affect the very fibre of who we are as a Nation. Without appropriate address we can never truly decolonise and heal the scars that haunt our collective psyche. The Uluru Statement from the Heart lays out a sensible and collaborative pathway required to move forwards and make Australia truly a place of the ‘fair go’.”
Dr Kris Rallah-Baker, a Yuggera & Biri-Gubba-Juru/Yuggera man, became Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist. Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation.
Pharmacists integral to health outcomes
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) has called on the Federal Government to implement four strategic measures in its 2021–22 Budget Submission that will enable pharmacists to significantly improve health outcomes for Australians. Among the PSA recommendations for the 2021–22 Federal Budget is a rebate for non-medical health professionals, such as pharmacists, for their attendance at case conferences (this will foster better collaboration and enhanced safe and quality use of medicine outcomes for patients), the establishment of a digital nationally coordinated pharmacovigilance system for primary care and funding of pharmacists within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
PSA National President Associate Professor Freeman said these recommendations provide an opportunity for the government to take action to reduce medicine-related harm and utilise the skills of pharmacists to improve health outcomes for Australians. “Pharmacists are approachable, knowledgeable and highly trusted within the community and the Australian public want to see the skills of pharmacists put to full use,” he said.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is urging pharmacists to join Australia’s fight against COVID-19 by taking up the Federal Government’s call to assist in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination program to the community. Community pharmacists will join with other healthcare professionals such as GPs to administer the COVID-19 vaccine for the community from Phase 2 of the Commonwealth’s COVID strategy.
The PSA is encouraging pharmacists to respond to the Government’s Expression of Interest (EOI) to be trained and equipped to assist in vaccinating Australians against the coronavirus. “COVID-19 has dramatically changed our lives and pharmacists have supported our community on the frontline – I am confident community pharmacists will step up to join Australia’s vaccination workforce, just as they have done throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” PSA National President Associate Professor Freeman said.
To view the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s media release click here. and to view the related Minister for Health and Aged Care’s media release click here.
Image source: Pharmacy Magazine.
Find Cancer Early campaign
Published Australian research shows that people living in regional Australia are 20–30% more likely to die within five years of a cancer diagnosis than people living in metropolitan areas. Previous research in WA shows regional people present at the GP at a later stage because they are less aware of cancer symptoms, more optimistic, more laid back, less willing to seek help and sometimes make excuses for not seeking help, therefore resulting in later stage cancer diagnoses.
Cancer Council WA have launched a new mass media campaign, Regional Champions, through their Find Cancer Earlyprogram to highlight some of the lesser known symptoms of cancer to motivate regional West Australians to seek medical advice earlier. Putting off seeing your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker could be costly. 62-year-old Derek Chapman from Donnybrook, one of six regional champions featured in the campaign said “When you’re out here you can’t muck around. Stop making excuses for symptoms.”
The campaign began on Sunday 31 January appearing on regional and Aboriginal television stations across WA as well as regional and Aboriginal radio stations, regional newspapers, Facebook and YouTube.
A recently launched first-of-its-kind program will help reduce gambling harm in Indigenous communities across NSW by creating a safe space online. The Talking About Gambling(TAG) project will be community driven and has been designed by experts at NSW Aboriginal Safe Gambling Service and The Australian National University (ANU), along with other research partners. According to Dr Megan Whitty, gambling is often referred to as the “hidden addiction” in Indigenous communities. But starting an open and honest discussion can help break down some of the stigma so communities can identify if gambling is a problem, and how it could be addressed.
To read the ANU media release about this project click here.
Image source: ABC News website.
NCSR Cervical Program survey
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health (DoH) is conducting an independent review of the performance and operation of the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) in relation to the Cervical Program. The scope of the current review does not include the Bowel Program which may be included in a future review.
DoH is seeking your support for this review by completing this survey and forwarding it to your members for their completion. You can access a letter from Andrew Gately, Assistant Secretary, National Cancer Screening Register Branch with further information about the review by clicking here.
PwC is conducting this survey via Qualtrics. Your participation in this survey is voluntary. The survey should take approximately 10–15 minutes to complete.
Please provide your responses by 5 February 2021.
Please follow this link to participate in the NCSR Review Survey.
Image source: The University of Sydney website.
Mental illness far higher in bush
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that reside in rural Australia, the risk factors associated with remote living are perpetuated by intergenerational trauma and unaddressed socioeconomic deprivation. As a result, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 12–24 years on average are three times as likely to be hospitalised with a mental health illness than non-Indigenous young people of the same age.
Mental health-related services, where they do exist, predominantly rely on locum professionals that work on a varying, fly-in-fly-out basis. The irregularity of these services contributes to low community participation, voiding citizens of the stable and consistent support required to address mental health issues. In 2016–17, 81 in every 1,000 people in remote areas accessed Medicare-funded mental health services, compared to 495 per 1,000 people in major cities.
To view the Independent Australia article in full click here.
Image source: Triple J Hack podcast website.
Poor mental health an incarceration risk
Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are 18 times more likely to be in custody and 17 times more likely to be on a community based supervision order than non-Indigenous young people. Successive reports over decades have shown troubling rates of incarceration among young Indigenous people.
A Productivity Commission report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing released in December 2020 found that while most Indigenous people had never been in jail, they faced more risk factors that made it more likely, including unemployment, low socioeconomic status and poor mental health.
To view the full article click here. A related article argues that waiting for solutions to youth incarceration is a choice by government to invest in hurting kids and making communities less safe in the meantime – to read this article in The Guardianclick here.
Image source: The Conversation website.
Beyond Blue supports healing and unity
Beyond Blue supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart and have said they will continue to play our part in supporting Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing by listening to First Nations people, advocating for culturally appropriate policies and services led by them, and encouraging action to address racism and Close the Gap. Beyond Blue says they want to see institutional and intergenerational disadvantage meaningfully addressed.
To view the full article, including a traditional Ngangkari healing story click here.
Image source: Beyond Blue website.
Virtual care survey
What has been your organisation’s experience of virtual care?
With a view to producing a report based on the results, Telstra Health is conducting a survey to understand the different organisational experiences of virtual care, particularly since the pandemic. For example, perhaps you’ve recently increased the number and range of virtual care services provided but you don’t know what to do next to maintain them. No matter your organisation’s situation, the team at Telstra Health wants to hear from you! They will explore how to support Australian healthcare providers with delivering effective and efficient virtual care solutions.
Telehealth consultations with GPs are booming among urban and rural patients since the Government introduced temporary Medicare Benefit Scheme (MBS) support in March last year – and authors of a new report analysing GP visits at 800 practices across Australia argue the MBS changes should be permanent.
Professor Andrew Georgiou and his co-authors found that phone consultations with GPs in NSW and Victoria climbed from zero during 2019 to more than 138,000 per week between January and September 2020. Despite the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers found that people consulted GPs more often from January to September 2020, than they did in the same period in 2019. “We think much of that is because people could access telehealth,” said Georgiou, from Macquarie University’s Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research.
Since its establishment with funding from the Australian Government in 1999, the Public Health Information Development Unit (PHIDU) has been committed to providing information on a broad range of health and other determinants across the lifespan. Located at Torrens University Australia since November 2015, PHIDU’s emphasis continues to be on the publication of small area statistics for monitoring inequality in health and wellbeing and supporting opportunities to improve population health outcomes.
Since 2008, PHIDU has offered free online access to a comprehensive range of current (and some historical) data at national, jurisdictional, regional and small area levels for Australia. Socioeconomic and geographical variations in health are highlighted in interactive atlases and graphs, and supported by data tables and metadata. This web-based source of data on health and its determinants is unique in Australia, and has been acknowledged internationally by agencies such as the World Health Organization. To access the Indigenous Social Health Atlas of Australia click here.
Image source: Indigenous Social Health Atlas of Australia website.
Support for COVID-19 vaccine ads in language
The Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) in the East Pilbara region services thousands of Martu and Nyiyaparli people who will be among the early recipients of the vaccine when it rolls out in coming weeks. The WA Government, which is working with the Commonwealth on the rollout, said that vulnerable patient cohorts such as people in Aboriginal communities would receive the vaccine early after frontline workers in health care, quarantine facilities, and airports.
The new PAMS clinic in Newman services thousands of mainly Martu and Nyiyaparli people. Image source: ABC News website.
VIC – Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd
Rumbalara is one of the largest providers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health services in Victoria. Rumbalara currently have a number of vacancies within their Health & Wellbeing services area and their Justice & Community services area. Their Health & Wellbeing services provide community members with a full range of services to help address general health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, poor diet and nutritional health, eye health, ear health, contagious diseases, drug and alcohol related issues, mental health and emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Rumbalara’s Justice & Community Services have two vacancies based at its Shepparton office.
Mooroopa Health Promotion Coordinator x 1 FT Aboriginal Health Practitioner/Aboriginal Health Worker x 1 FT Nurse – Lead Chronic Care Coordinator x 1 FT
Shepparton Aboriginal Family Violence Team Leader x 1 FT Aboriginal Family Violence Practitioner x 1 FT
To view position descriptions for the jobs based in Mooroopna click here and for those in Shepparton click here.
Applications close Tuesday 9 February 2021.
National Condom Day – Sunday 14 February
The countdown has well and truly begun, with only 12 days until on National Condom Day and NACCHO is running a fun contest to drive awareness around safe sex and condoms.
Watch this video by Her Rules Her Game Kimberly Aboriginal Medical Services Council for some great inspiration, then unleash your creativity and submit a PHOTO/VIDEO showing your best condom hack and/or send us your BEST SLOGAN on using condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections.
Email your entries to email@example.com with the subject line “Condom hacks & slogans” by Wednesday 10 February 2021.
You can also upload your creations on your social media pages. Make sure to tag us so we can keep sharing your cool posts.
We have some AMAZING PRIZES from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sporting teams and businesses for the top entries:
a signed NRL Indigenous All Stars football. PRICELESS!
The critical importance of First Nations media for the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities has been highlighted in submissions to a Senate inquiry into media diversity in Australia. However, the sector is under pressure on multiple fronts, according to a detailed submission by peak body First Nations Media Australia (FNMA), which says operational funding provided by the Federal Government has remained virtually unchanged since 1996 despite numerous reviews urging increased funding for the sector.
The FNMA submission highlights many ways in which First Nations media, including radio, TV, newspapers and online sites, affect the social determinants of health, and says the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates the sector’s capacity to deliver timely, relevant information and to address misinformation. “Communities turned to First Nations media services as trusted sources of information, particularly amid conflicting reports shared through social media and other networks,” the submission says.
The Bega Gambirringu Health Service, Kalgoorlie (WA) has created a 20 page booklet to support and educate Aboriginal people and communities about tobacco use. The booklet is filled with colourful infographics and photos and contains a wealth of information about: tobacco history; what’s in a cigarette; how smoking makes you sick; health effects of vaping/e-cigarettes; smoking during pregnancy; second-hand smoke; the financial cost of smoking; benefits of quitting smoking; understanding why you smoke and how to quit. You can access a copy of the booklet here.
Cover of Bega Garnbirringu Health Service’s Tackling Indigenous Smoking booklet.
Game changing heart monitor
With Indigenous Australians 20% more likely to experience heart or circulatory diseases than non-Indigenous people according to the Medical Journal of Australia. The risk is especially evident among younger people, with Indigenous Australians between 30 and 39-years-old over three times as likely to die from heart disease than non-Indigenous Australians.
New devices like the S-Patch Cardio can ease the strain on Aboriginal Medical Services and ACCHOs. S-Patch Cardio, a simple, lightweight, medically proven heart rate diagnostic device is set to be distributed and delivered through a 100% Indigenous-owned company, Supply Aus. Contracts with both Samsung (creators of the S-Patch Cardio) and Sigma Healthcare (a network of independent and franchised pharmacies throughout Australia) will see Supply Aus source and distribute the life-saving device across Australia. Through Sigma, Supply Aus will be able to use National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) members to provide a range of fairly priced health items to Indigenous communities.
NITV Radio have produced a podcast called What is birthing on country and why is it crucial for Aboriginal women? about the role and training of doulas (childbirth companions) in the community as part of the Caring for Mum on Country project.
The podcast features Kerri-Lee Harding from the SBS National Indigenous Television (NITV) Radio program in conversation with Dr Sarah Ireland, midwife and researcher from the Molly Wardaguga Research Centre at the Charles Darwin University, in the NT and other experts on the Caring for Mum on Country project.
Smoking Ceremony, Welcoming Waminda Goodjaga’s on Yuin Country. L–R; Gemmah Floyd, Elizabeth Luland, Patricia De Vries and their babies. Image source: Waminda South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation.
Senior Australian of the Year
Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM from the NT, has been named the Senior Australian of the year for 2021. Dr Ungunmerr Baumann was recognised for her contribution to children’s education, demonstrating an admirable commitment to making Australia a better place. Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said Dr Ungunmerr Baumann had gone above and beyond in her service to education in the Top End. “Miriam-Rose became the first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher in the NT in 1975, and later served as the principal of the Catholic school in her home community,” Minister Colbeck said. “She is a renowned artist and a strong advocate for visual art to be a part of every child’s education.”
To view the Minister Colbeck’s media release click here.
Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM is the 2021 Senior Australian of the Year recipient. Image source: Salty Dingo.
Criminal justice approaches prioritising health
Dr Jill Guthrie has been given one of Australia’s highest honours for significant service to Indigenous health, including her work on reducing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contact with the criminal justice system. Dr Guthrie, a descendant of the Wiradjuri people of Western NSW, was one of three academics from The Australian National University (ANU) who have been appointed a member of the Order of Australia (AM) in this year’s Australian honours.
Dr Guthrie’s work has led the way in crafting innovative evidence-based approaches to criminal justice that prioritise the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. The epidemiologist recently led a justice reinvestment project in her hometown of Cowra which redirects funds from prisons to holistic initiatives and services to address the causes of offending and keep those at risk of incarceration from coming into contact with the criminal justice system.
Dr Jill Guthrie. Image source: Institute of Public Administration Australia.
Collaboration across health practitioners
As part of delivering holistic healthcare, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners work with many other health professionals to protect the public, and especially their communities. In the podcast Collaboration across professions: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners Tash Miles from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) talks to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners and their colleagues about what collaboration across professions looks like and what it means to them, the community, and the potential for the future.
Tash has an insightful discussion with Renee Owen, Program Manager, Aboriginal Health at Barwon Health; Mandy Miller, midwife, Koori Maternity Service, Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative; Dr Ed Poliness, GP, Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative and Damien Rigney, registered nurse and Aboriginal Health Practitioner, Aboriginal Health Council South Australia. Each guest brings a range of perspectives, centred around a strong connection and acknowledgment of the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners in our healthcare system.
The North West Hospital and Health Service. Image source: The North West Star.
Lived experience of suicide
The Seedling Group and The Lived Experience Centre, in collaboration with Black Dog Institute have produced a report ‘We are Strong. We are Resilient. But we are Tired’ – voices from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre Yarning Circles. The report aims to present the findings and outcomes from several virtual yarning circles used to explore lived experience and build upon the existing work to better understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lived experience of suicide. Information was gathered to understand: what has helped; how interventions have helped divert a suicide crisis; who was available to help; and what healing has looked like.
Gundjeihmi hand stencil. Image source: Independent Australia website.
NT alcohol policies reduce ICU admissions
Alcohol misuse is a disproportionately large contributor to morbidity and mortality in the NT. A new study, The effect of alcohol policy on intensive care unit admission patterns in Central Australia: A before–after cross-sectional study, examines the effect of a raft of alcohol legislation reforms that came into effect in the NT in 2018, as part of the NT Government’s Alcohol Harm Minimisation Action Plan. The reforms were based on recommendations from the Riley Review for an integrated alcohol harm reduction framework and included a minimum unit price for alcohol, the introduction of Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspection Officers and a Banned Drinkers Register.
The introduction of alcohol harm limitation policies in Central Australia has had a marked effect on critical health figures, with a 38% relative reduction in Hospital Intensive Care Unit admissions associated with alcohol misuse, as well as a marked reduction in trauma admissions.
Below is an extract from an opinion piece about Australia Day and Aboriginal mental health written for The Standard by Jill Gallagher, a proud Gunditjmara woman and CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO).
Celebrating Australia Day should be inclusive of all, but we feel excluded. Australia’s First Peoples have endured 233 years of ongoing colonial oppression where we lost lives, language, culture and kin. The impacts of intergenerational trauma by Stolen Generations lives with us every single day. Ongoing pain and hurt, racism and disadvantage, poverty, poorer health and wellbeing and a lack of housing. Not to mention, we live in a world that often chooses not to see or value people of colour. I do not understand why it is so hard for people to understand why we as First Peoples of this country cannot be happy celebrating Australia Day on this day of hurt and disrespect. We need to continue to fight for a change of date.
As the state begins to emerge from COVID-19, mental health remains our greatest challenge. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Victoria are three times more likely to experience high or very high levels of psychological distress. Victoria also has the second highest rate of “high to very high” levels of psychological distress in 39% of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Australia Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018). We know there is a strong link between trauma and poor mental health.
Amongst the Stolen Generations, 40% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 plus have poor mental health because of the trauma of removal. This costs us on many levels. Mental health and related conditions have been estimated to be as much as 22% of the health gap (Global Burden of Disease Report 2003). The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic make existing conditions even worse for vulnerable Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities.
A newly formed coalition of health and technology experts is calling on the Australian Parliament to force Big Tech companies to reveal the true extent of COVID-19 misinformation. In a letter sent to the Australian Parliament, the coalition warns unchecked misinformation risks Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. They have called on politicians to introduce a Big Tech ‘Live List’, which details the most popular coronavirus-related material being shared online. The coalition, led by Reset Australia , includes the Immunisation Coalition, the Immunisation Foundation of Australia, Coronavax and the Doherty Institute. “Rampant misinformation on social media is hampering Australia’s COVID-19 efforts and may deter widespread take up of the future vaccine,” said Chris Cooper, executive director of Reset Australia, the local affiliate of the global initiative working to counter digital threats to democracy and society.
To view the Reset Australia media release click here.
Image source: Forbes website.
Health scholarships open to regional SA students
Students studying a range of health courses in country SA are being encouraged to apply for scholarships worth up to $20,000. The latest initiative forms part of the SA Health’ 2021 Rural Health Undergraduate Scholarship program. Largely, it seeks to have students working in rural and regional areas of SA and in turn prosper these settings in the long-term.
SA Health’s Rural Support Service executive director Debbie Martin said six undergraduate scholarships. will be available to students who demonstrate a strong commitment to continue their future professional practice in regional areas. “We encourage all year 12 students and new and continuing university students who reside in regional areas to apply for the scholarship,” Ms Martin said. “Scholarship recipients are awarded $5,000 per year for up to four years of their study to help support them while learning.” Successful recipients will be required to work in regional health service settings once graduated, equivalent to the number of years they received funding.
To view the The Times on the Coast article in full click here.
Image source: The Advertiser.
AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarships – last chance
Applications close soon for a scholarship that helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students balance work, study and family life. The AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship provides $10,000 a year to already enrolled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students for the remainder of their degree. Over the past 27 years, the Scholarship has supported 30 Indigenous medical students, including Australia’s first Aboriginal surgeon, Professor Kelvin Kong.
The 2020 recipient, Lloyd Diggins, was able to use his scholarship to cut down on his working hours, which were restricting his study time outside of classes and his ability to work on country. Mr Diggins, a Wongi man who grew up on Whadjuk and Wardandi Noongar countries in Western Australia, is a physiotherapist, but decided to retrain as a GP after seeing the needs of remote Aboriginal communities. “The scholarship has also allowed me to learn on country. The way I will think and work as a doctor has been changed by the Elders and local Aboriginal people I’ve been able to care for and learn from.”
Researchers from the Matilda Centre are seeking feedback on a recently developed resource to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. This research is being done to learn more about the new Cracks in the Ice online resource developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This resource aims to provide trusted and evidence-based information and resources about crystal methamphetamine to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.
If you, your mob or community has been impacted by ice, or if you are a health professional in this space, make your voice heard and help make sure this resource meets the needs of the community!
The survey is open to people who are: aged 18 years or more; currently living in NSW, SA or WA; identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. The survey will take approximately 15 to 30 minutes, with participants also having the option to provide further detailed feedback in a telephone interview. All participants will go into the draw to win a grocery only voucher valued at $50.
For further information on how to provide your feedback click here.
Image source: The Conversation.
Fully funded data analyst course
The Digital Skills Organisation (DSO) is an initiative led by the Department of Education Skills and Employment as part of the Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package. Indigenous-owned business Goanna Education has been selected by the DSO to trial and test innovative solutions to train and drive employment for junior data analysts. Data Analytics is the science of being able to tell an accurate story from a set of data. It involves the use of powerful tech systems to organise, format, and model data in order to glean useful information.
Goanna Education is looking for Indigenous candidates over 18 years of age who are looking to pursue a career in tech. Applicants don’t need any previous experience. For further information about the 21 week course starting on 1 March 2021click here.
VIC – Melbourne – Children’s Ground
Manager People & Culture x 1 PT (Initial Fixed Term) – Melbourne (possible occasional travel to NT)
Children’s Ground operates in Central Australia and across the Top End, with support provided by a Melbourne-based Shared Services team. With the organisation growing, following a review of the People & Culture function this position will be key to ensuring Children’s Ground recruits and retains staff who deliver on its vision and approach. Children’s Ground has a small People & Culture team working with the Director Children’s Ground Operations to implement the overall People & Culture (P&C) Function. The team includes the Recruitment/Human Resources Coordinator in Central Australia, Volunteer Coordinator (voluntary), P&C volunteers and this new position of Manager of People & Culture.
To view the position description click here.Applications close Monday 15 February 2021.
The Healing Foundation CEO, Fiona Petersen, spoke with Virginia Trioli on ABC Radio Melbourne ‘Mornings’ today about the importance of Stolen Generations history being taught as part of the Australian school curriculum. Fiona said the Healing Foundation encourages school communities to engage with survivors in their local area to learn about not just what happened when they were removed and the follow-on effects of that, but also how they and their families have been overcoming what happened. Fiona agreed that if Stolen Generations history is taught more broadly in schools it is likely to better inform the ongoing conversation about Australia Day.
To view the full transcript of the interview click here.
Image source: Teach Indigenous Knowledge.
COVID-19 patient identification and racism
The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is the peak body representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and doctors in Australia. During the COVID-19 pandemic, AIDA members witnessed incidents of racism related to patient identification. Patient identification is imperative to providing culturally safe health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. In one instance, a patient who identified as Aboriginal was denied testing for COVID-19. The justification for this denial was that priority testing would only be offered to “real Aborigines”. Incidents like these highlight the need to improve the cultural safety of all healthcare workers and that increasing community education about why asking all patients whether they identify as being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin is vital.
AIDA advocates for best practice in patient identification to support the development of policies and services related to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Culturally safe practice begins with sensitively, correctly, and regularly asking the identification question at the admission of care. Addressing under-identification includes asking all patients the identity question and recording responses accurately as one of several best practice principles.
To view AIDA’s position paper on patient identification click here.
Desktop resource to prompt ‘asking the question’. Image source: The University of Melbourne.
Measuring self-reported racism in healthcare
Racism is a fundamental cause of ill health and health inequities globally. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders have identified as a high priority, research on the experiences of discrimination, overall and specifically within healthcare. Regardless of the measure used, there is consistent evidence of high exposure to discrimination in this population. High quality measurement of experiences of discrimination is therefore essential to underpin action to improve health and reduce inequities.
A recent article in the International Journal for Equity in Health,Developing and validating measures of self-reported everyday and healthcare discrimination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults looks at instruments to capture Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ experiences of interpersonal discrimination. The instruments can be used to enable valid measurement of discrimination’s prevalence, in order to identify priority targets for action, quantify discrimination’s contribution to health and health inequities, monitor trends, and evaluate interventions.
Image source: The Royal Melbourne Hospital website.
Confronting Australia’s collective racism
In health, ‘bravery’ is something that is typically used about patients. Children (and sometimes adults) are asked to be ‘brave’ when they receive a vaccination. People are often called brave for sharing stories of mental illness to destigmatise it. Sometimes, just seeing a health professional is brave, if the issue is very personal or potentially embarrassing.
However, bravery has now been used about health professionals and policymakers in the 2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia Report: Moving from Safe to Brave. This is the second report (the first being in 2016) outlining where Australia is at with reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. The report is based on interviews with leaders of national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, leaders of relevant non-Indigenous organisations, corporate leaders and Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) partners.
Australia slammed for age of criminal responsibility
Australia was slammed over its treatment and acknowledgment of First Nations people at the United Nations last week. More than 30 nations – including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Mexico – called on Australia to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14, in line with the recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Nolan Hunter, Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, told NITV News that policies around Australia’s age of criminal responsibility were “outdated” and a “legacy of Colonialism”. “What’s more worrying is to allow it to continue and the acceptance of this where kids as young as 10 years old are being thrown in jail,” he said. “The culture of the community in Australia and more so the government is the attitude that there isn’t a problem or to recognise this as a serious issue.”
Photo by Chris Devers. Image source: New Matilda website.
Mobilising a COVID-19 vaccine workforce
The Australian Government is preparing for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by securing an additional vaccine workforce and working to deliver essential training to everyone who will administer the vaccinations. “Australia’s vaccine roll out will be carried out through hospitals, general practices, state and Commonwealth vaccination clinics, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations and pharmacies. This additional vaccination workforce will help support and supplement existing services and assist in outreach in areas such as aged care and remote and Indigenous communities working with existing providers. Through the Australian Government’s plan, a panel of four providers have been appointed, who will be called upon to provide a vaccine workforce to supplement the existing immunisation workforce for specific populations. The providers are Aspen Medical, Healthcare Australia, International SOS, and Sonic Clinical Services.”
To view the media release in full click here, and to read a related article in the Western Advocateclick here.
Image source: startsat60. website.
Biggest mass vaccination program begins
Today’s provisional approval of the Pfizer vaccine is an important step in Australia’s battle to protect Australians from COVID-19, according to AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid. “Australia has been fortunate that we are not in the emergency situations of other nations, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has been able to go through its normal clearance processes for this vaccine,” Dr Khorshid said. “Now the hard work of rolling out Australia’s biggest mass vaccination program begins, it will be an enormous task to get the vaccine delivered to as many Australians as possible, as quickly as possible.”
Image source: European Pharmaceutical Review website.
GPs united on vaccine rollout
Australian GPs stand united to work with the Government on rolling out COVID-19 vaccines across the community and the nation. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) have worked collaboratively with Health Minister Greg Hunt over the past weeks to ensure the vaccine rollout is delivered with patient safety as the first priority.
In a joint media release AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid and RACGP President Dr Karen Price said “This is an important moment for the Australian community. We have gone from no coronavirus vaccine a year ago to several vaccines, with the first expected to be rolled out next month. GPs are ready to help vaccinate and protect the community from COVID-19 as soon as vaccines are fully approved for use in Australia, and available for delivery. Vaccinations are also an important opportunity to discuss other health concerns with GPs. This is particularly important at a time when many people have deferred health care due to the pandemic.”
To view the joint AMA and RACGP media release click here.
Image source: AMA website.
General practices sought for rollout
The Australian Government is seeking expressions of interestfrom all accredited general practices to take part in the planned delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine. “General practices will play a key role in the Australian Government’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, in what will be one of the greatest logistical exercises, public health or otherwise, in Australian history. Providing access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for everyone in Australia is a key priority for our Government. General practices will help deliver the vaccine initially to priority groups, starting with people over 70, adults with underlying medical conditions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in phase 1. Three more phases will follow until the whole country has been offered the vaccine.”
To view Minister Greg Hunt’s media release click here.
Image source: Australian GP Alliance website.
Pandemic compounds hardship for PWD
Despite the refrain throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that ‘we are all in this together’, the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (PWD) last week revealed the many hardships encountered by PWD over the past six months. In his closing remarks, Chair Ronald Sackville AO QC said the hearings had shed a “piercing light” on the impact of the pandemic and associated stringent measures to contain it on PWD.
He said the pandemic had exacted a “terrible”, and largely hidden, toll on people with a disability. We have heard people with disability experiencing the sudden loss of essential support services, an absence of clear and consistent information in accessible form essential to their health and wellbeing; an inability to access health care, personal protective equipment and even the basic necessities of life such as food and medication; we’ve heard of isolation from the community, from friends and family and from social networks; exposure to a heightened risk of domestic violence; stress and anxiety associated with exposure to the virus; inadequate measures for the protection of people with disability, and uncertainty about how to survive in the face of disruptions to care and essential services, sometimes leading to worsening mental health.”
In a Q&A, ear, nose and throat specialist Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, a Worimi man, based in Newcastle on the country of the Awabakal people, has reflected upon the upheaval and life-changing lessons of the past several months. “I am so thankful that we have not seen the devastation that we have seen in other First Nation populations across the world. COVID-19 is such a travesty to all of us. But it really highlights the inequities we have as health service providers. We are lucky geographically that we were able to shut down communities so quickly. The Aboriginal leadership across the nation needs far more praise in its ability to get the message across. Messages that communities could relate to and believe was, and continues to be, paramount in the response.”
Dr Kelvin Kong. Image source: University of Newcastle.
First Aboriginal dermatologist
Dana Slape is Australia’s first Aboriginal dermatologist. Her mission is mentoring students who may have never considered a career in medicine, as well as advocating for more Indigenous leadership throughout our healthcare system. “I think there has been a really longstanding narrative in Australia particularly in the healthcare space that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are just sick people, and people that are chronically unwell, that are chronically suffering, but the truth of it is that what we have is a system of unconscious and conscious bias that impacts how people are provided care and how they are able to access all of the things that keep us, as a community, well as individuals but also collectively. So when you have people like me and all of the other people that end up working in senior leadership, in hospitals, in clinics, in places where we access healthcare, it starts to tell a different story. You’re deconstructing those unconscious biases around people being always the patient, and never the care provider.”
“My hope is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specialist numbers increase, because the greater leadership we have that are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at all layers of the health system and tertiary education system, means that we are opening up doors for people so that those people can go on and be the leaders of the future and provide care to the next generation and that’s extremely important, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.”
To listen to the ABC interview with Dana Slape click here.
Dr Dana Slape. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.
Smoking kills half of those 45+
A study has found smoking kills one in two older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, and experts are calling for more funding to boost culturally appropriate smoking cessation services. The report from the Australian National University found smoking caused 37% of deaths at any age in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, but that increased to about half of deaths in those aged over 45.
Dr Michelle Bovill, a Wiradjuri woman and an Aboriginal smoking health researcher at the University of Newcastle, found the results were “quite alarming”. “Aboriginal people do want to quit,” she said. “But then people still don’t really know what to do to quit, and we really don’t have enough funding being put into our Aboriginal community controlled health services to provide that support.”
To view the full article in The Sydney Morning Heraldclick here.
Image source: The Conversation.
Pharmacy students inform WRAP toolkit
Delivering effective healthcare requires healthcare professionals to reflect on their own cultural background and their patient’s cultural needs. Culture is a determinant of health and if not considered, negative health outcomes can result. This is of particular importance when working with Aboriginal communities and caring for Aboriginal people whose views have been excluded from healthcare models, funding, and policy. Non-indigenous healthcare professionals, such as pharmacy students, benefit from understanding Aboriginal peoples’ healthcare needs and models of holistic healthcare, as well as reflecting on their own cultures, assumptions, and experiences on placement.
A research article, Pharmacy students’ learnings and reflections to inform the development of the ‘Working Respectfully with Aboriginal Peoples’ (WRAP) Toolkit explores students’ views to inform the development of a Toolkit to support students’ learning prior to engaging in placements in Aboriginal communities. The study involved collaboration with students, Aboriginal community members, educators experienced in Indigenous health and allied health education.
For further details about the research article click here.
Dr Rallah-Baker has called for cultural competency to become standard good practice before health workers are registered. Image source: Michael Amendolia (Fred Hollows Foundation).
SNAICC appoints new CEO
SNAICC – National Voice for Our Children, the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, has announced that Catherine Liddle has been appointed to the position of Chief Executive Officer. Catherine will commence the role on 8 February 2021. An Arrernte/Luritja woman from Central Australia, she comes to SNAICC with a strong background in senior leadership positions with First Nations organisations. “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Catherine to SNAICC,” says Muriel Bamblett, SNAICC Chair. “With her previous leadership roles, combined with her experience on the Coalition of Peaks, Catherine will ensure that SNAICC can continue to strengthen our partnerships with state and federal governments to make sure our children are at the forefront of policies.”
Diabetes Australia is prompting people living with the disease to get back on top of their care with a new campaign, funded through the National Diabetes Services Scheme, an Australian Government initiative administered by Diabetes Australia. Titled ‘Back on Track’, the multi-platform campaign is urging those who may have fallen behind with their appointments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, to get in touch with their local medical service. Indigenous people are almost four times as likely to live with diabetes compared with other Australians.
Ngunnawal Elder Violet Sheridan, who is a diabetic, admitted that her management of the disease had dropped off. She said her fear of COVID-19 was so great she was reluctant to go out into the community or to even engage with her health care providers, “I can be a bit naughty; I don’t listen sometimes which I should… I need to get my mind focused again after getting off track,‘ she told NITV News. “I went down to one of the supermarkets, I went in when COVID was raging real bad when it was first here in Canberra and the grocery store was just packed, I panicked, I panicked, panicked, I just left everything.”
Christopher Lee, the manager for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement at Diabetes Australia said they’ve collected data that corresponds with stories like Ms Sheridan’s.
You can access an online copy of the NITV Back on Track news story featuring Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Violet Sheridan by clicking here and to you can view the Diabetes Australia media release regarding the Back on Track launch by clicking here.
Ngunnawal elder Violet Sheridan who lives with diabetes, was scared of contracting COVID-19. Image source: NITV News.
Get a heart check video
The Heart Foundation, Mawarnkarra Health Service, Glenys Collard and Dr Celeste Rodriguez Louro from the University of WA, the WA Centre for Rural Health and consumers have contributed to the production of a short, animated video designed to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to see their local health worker to get a free heart check.
The Healing Foundation is urging all Australian schools to include the story of the Stolen Generations in their curriculum to ensure students have a better understanding of the full history of Australia. As schools prepare for the 2021 year, they are encouraged to incorporate The Healing Foundation’s Stolen Generations Resource Kit for Teachers and Students into their curriculums. The kit provides schools with a free resource that communicates the full history of Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a safe and age-appropriate way.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said Australia’s history dates back more than 60,000 years and is rich with stories of the oldest continuous culture on Earth. “The story of the Stolen Generations provides context and meaning for the struggles and inequities that First Nations peoples have faced since colonisation,” Ms Petersen said. “The traumatic impact of historical child removals continues to affect Stolen Generations survivors and their families today, but until now very little has been taught in schools. “The grief and trauma that resulted from historical child removals is deep, complex and ongoing, and it is compounded when unacknowledged or dismissed for a sanitised version of history.
To view the Healing Foundation’s media release in full click here.
Kahlin Compound and Half Caste Home, Darwin, NT, 1921. Image source: ABC News.
NSW Aboriginal Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy
The NSW Aboriginal Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2020-2025 is designed to support and assists NSW health services in delivering respectful and appropriate mental health services in partnership with Aboriginal services, people and communities. The strategy is the foundation for change that will support a future way of working under the national Agreement for Closing the Gap in Aboriginal Health outcomes.
Climate change impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities – and all Australians. The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) has recently issued a policy statement titled, Climate change and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health. The paper outlines AIDA’s position in relation to climate change in Australia and the current research around its impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
AIDA has invited you to read the paper, share it with your members and colleagues and promote it among your networks.
To view AIDA’s policy statement in full click here.
Image source: Seed website.
Ever-present structural and systemic racism
As years go, 2020 was memorable to say the very least. For First Nations Australians and their allies the COVID-19 pandemic was not been the only stressor. The death of American black man George Floyd on 25 May at the hands of white Minneapolis police officers, and the subsequent resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement highlighted again the ever-present structural and systemic racism across Australia, including in the health system.
Kristy Crooks, an Aboriginal woman of the Euahlayi nation, who has three degrees under her belt and a PhD in progress, works every day to improve the health of First Nations people through her role as Aboriginal Program Manager with Hunter New England Population Health. Ms Crooks said “COVID has further marginalised people who are already disadvantaged, and it’s highlighted the structural barriers, including institutional racism”.
To view the full article in the Medical Journal of Australia click here and to read the opinion piece (First Nations people leading the way in COVID-19 pandemic planning, response and management) by Ms Crooks and her colleagues which focuses on the new community-driven approach to the pandemic click here.
Image source: 3CR Community Radio website.
Health literacy needed to combat fake health news
The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) has welcomed the AMA’s position statement on health literacy as important recognition of the need for strong public support for people to have access to valid health information. “CHF has long argued for more focus on health literacy to ensure people understand their own health and care needs so they have the power to make the best decisions for their health,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said. “In the internet era when so much good and bad information floods people’s screens, there is a need for a healthy information culture to overcome fake health news.
“We agree with the AMA that doctors, and health systems, have a vital role to play in improving health literacy by communicating effectively and sensitively with patients, encouraging discussion, and providing information that is understandable and relevant. We would support the AMA’s call for an Australian Government-funded campaign to counter this misinformation and promote healthy choices, including information about vaccine safety and the health risks associated with alcohol, junk food, tobacco, and other drugs “Health literacy is vital to consumers’ capacity to manage and feel in control of their health care. Right now, up to 60% of Australians appear to lack the capacity to access, understand, appraise and use crucial information to make health-related decisions.
To view the CHF’s media release in full click here.
Image source: IC-Health.
Stroke Foundation award nominations open
Nominations are now open for the 2021 Stroke Foundation Stroke Awards. The Awards celebrate survivors of stroke, carers, health professionals and volunteers who have shown an outstanding commitment to make life better for Australians impacted by stroke.
Do you know someone who deserves to be recognised? Nominate them for the 2021 Stroke Awards by Friday 12 February 2021 by clicking here.
2021 Nurses and midwives national awards
HESTA is calling on Australians to show their appreciation and support for the nation’s nurses and midwives by submitting a nomination to the 2021 HESTA Australian Nursing and Midwifery Awards. The Awards recognise nurses, midwives, nurse educators, researchers and personal care workers for their outstanding work to provide exceptional care, leading the way for improved health outcomes.
HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said the COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the immense impact these professionals, who have gone above and beyond to deliver quality patient care during a very difficult time, have in keeping communities healthy and safe. “Our nurses and midwives are the backbone of our community; they deserve to be recognised,” Ms Blakey said.
“Nominating in these Awards is an opportunity to show support for and give thanks to all our nurses and midwives and acknowledge their hard work and achievements.”
To view the media release regarding the awards and details of how to submit a nomination click here. Nominations close on 7 February 2021.
Angelena Savage and baby Tyrell and Gumma Gundoo Indigenous Midwifery Group Practice midwife Kat Humphreys. Image source: The Queensland Times.
Housing and infectious diseases study
Housing and crowding are critical to health. Sufficient, well-maintained housing infrastructure can support healthy living practices for hygiene, nutrition and safety. However, when there is insufficient public housing for a growing community and a lack of functioning health hardware, the transmission risk of hygiene related infectious diseases increases. The outcome is that many Indigenous Australians currently living in remote areas experience considerably higher levels of preventable infections, such as boils, scabies, middle ear infections and lung infections, than their non-Indigenous and urban counterparts.
The Pilyii Papulu Purrukaj-ji (Good housing to prevent sickness): A study of housing, crowding and hygiene-related infectious diseases in the Barkly Region, Northern Territory report provides a case study of Tennant Creek and the surrounding Barkly Region in the NT, to highlight the relationship between remote housing, crowding and infectious disease. It was conducted in partnership between The University of Queensland (School of Public Health and Aboriginal Environments Research Centre) and Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation that provides health services within the town and through a mobile clinic.
Palliative Care Victoria have produced a podcast which provides an example of the support Aboriginal Health Liaison Workers can offer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a life-limiting illness. Suzanne Nelson, a Yorta Yorta woman and Aboriginal Health Liaison Worker, discusses how she supports Aboriginal people who have a life-limiting condition and their families. To listen to the podcast click here.
Suzanne Nelson. Image source: LinkedIn.
High youth incarceration rates in ACT
The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) and Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services have expressed their deep concern over the high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the ACT as detailed in a recently released report. Data from the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (ROGS) 2021 revealed that the rate of Indigenous youth incarceration in the ACT in 2019–20 was at its highest since 2014–15. Dr Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO, said: “The ROGS data tells us that there is significant overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in detention in the ACT.”
To read the joint ACTCOSS and Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services media release in full click here.
ACT’s Youth Detention Centre, Bimberi. Image source: Aulich Lawyer & Law Firm blog.
Health magazine seeks contributions
The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA), a peak body working to improve health and wellbeing in rural and remote Australia, is seeking contributions for the next issue of its online magazine, Partyline, to be published in March 2021. The March issue will focus on the long tail of COVID-19 in rural, regional and remote settings as we learn from the past 12 months. The extraordinary disruption of the pandemic has resulted in a swag of changes in the way we live, the way we perceive our own health, in our experiences and engagement with the health system, and in the way we understand the role of public health.
For the March edition NRHA welcomes stories about trends happening in rural health during the pandemic, and both positive and negative changes because of COVID-19. They recommend an article length of 600 words with accompanying photos that visually portray your message. As always, they are also happy to publish poetry or creative prose.
To view the current Partyline issue click here. Contributions to the next issue aredue byCOB Thursday 11 February 2021.
CSU lecturer in physiotherapy & placement supervisor Kay Skinner with CSU physiotherapy students Emily Barr and Kloe Mannering. Image source: Partyline.
SEWB programs review
Multiple culturally-oriented programs, services, and frameworks have emerged in recent decades to support the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Aboriginal) people in Australia. Although there are some common elements, principles, and methods, few attempts have been made to integrate them into a set of guidelines for policy and practice settings.
A Charles Darwin University review, A scoping review about social and emotional wellbeing programs and services targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Australia: understanding the principles guiding promising practice aims to identify key practices adopted by programs and services that align with the principles of the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017–2023.
The review argues the selective application of nationally agreed principles in SEWB programs and services, alongside a paucity of scholarship relating to promising practices in young people-oriented SEWB programs and services, are two areas that need the urgent attention of commissioners and service providers tasked with funding, planning, and implementing SEWB programs and services for Aboriginal people. Embedding robust participatory action research and evaluation approaches into the design of such services and programs will help to build the necessary evidence-base to achieve improved SEWB health outcomes among Aboriginal people, particularly young people with severe and complex mental health needs.
Image source: ‘Wellbeing’ by Professor Helen Milroy, 2017.
Recognising mental illness patterns
Kylie Henry, a 43-year-old Aboriginal woman from the Wakka Wakka tribe in Cherbourg, Queensland, where she was born and raised, has learned to live with mental illness.
“I’ve always known that I was different from others and couldn’t understand why I was going through so much turmoil in my life. To admit to having a disability was shameful for me and I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that I had a mental illness, largely because of being discriminated against by my own people along with others. I didn’t want people, especially those from my own community, to tease me because of my disability. I hid it for so many years.”