Supermarket giant Woolworths has scrapped its long-running push to open a large-scale Dan Murphy’s outlet near Darwin’s airport, but has not ruled out a development at another location. The company said a review found Woolworths had not done enough to engage with Aboriginal groups concerned the store would worsen the region’s already high rates of alcohol-related harm. The outlet was to be built on airport land in Darwin’s northern suburbs, close to three dry Aboriginal communities.
The announcement was welcomed by Darwin’s Danila Dilba Aboriginal Health Service, which had launched a legal challenge to the development, calling on the Woolworths board to abandon the project. Chief executive Olga Havnen said she commended the company on its decision. “We think that’s the right thing to do and it was certainly more than just the lack of appropriate consultation. It actually goes to the question of public health issues, the public health concerns that we raised consistently and the potential for increased harm as a result of alcohol.”
Noelene Swanson, NT director of Save the Children, also welcomed Woolworths’ decision, saying it was the best outcome possible for children and their families in the territory. “It made zero sense to open a Dan Murphy’s megastore in the NT, especially so close to dry communities′ Ms Swanson said. “This shows the power of community advocacy and I’m very relieved that Woolies has listened to the people.”
You can read the ABC News article here; a related article in the Financial Reviewhere. and a Joint Statement from the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE), Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), Danila Dilba Health Service and the Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) here.
Danila Dilba CEO Olga Havnen. Image source: ABC News website.
RHD cases continue to grow
A report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has shown that the burden of acute rheumatic fever (ARF) and rheumatic heart disease (RHD) continues to grow in Australia. RHD is rare in most high-income countries yet in Australia it persists in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, causing grief and heartache for many families and communities.
RHD is a consequence of ARF, stemming from an abnormal immune reaction to untreated Group A streptococcal (Strep A) infection in the throat or on the skin. The report shows that the rate of definite or probable ARF notifications from health services increased from 67/100,000 in 2015 to 81/100,000 in 2019. The data for the report, drawn from Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and New South Wales from 2015 to 2019, also highlights that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accounted for 81%, or 4,337, of all RHD diagnoses during that same time.
To view the RHDAustralia and Menzies School or Health Research media release click here, and to view a summary and analysis of the April 2021 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report into rates of ARF and RHD in Australia click here.
Image source: Menzies School of Health Research website.
Top 3 COVID-19 vaccine questions
The Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) have released a video of Professor Alison McMillan answering the top 3 questions asked on the DoH’s social accounts. You can view the video here.
Deaths in custody deserves multifaceted response
Both the Federal Government and the Opposition have announced funding regarding Indigenous deaths in custody, spurring hope for a multifaceted national response which addresses the impact of the criminal justice system on First Nations people. Last week the Morrison Government announced an investment of $2.4 million across three years to create a new Custody Notification System (CNS) in SA as of July 1 this year and a funding increase of over $724,000 for the NT and Victorian services.
The CNS is a 24/7 phone line that is mandatory for police to use when a First Nations person is taken into custody. It provides access to health and welfare checks and access to legal services. “With contemporary knowledge of police processes and experience in providing crisis support, Custody Notification Services delivered by Aboriginal Legal Services are a proven way to reduce the risk of a death occurring in custody,” said Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.
To view the article Indigenous deaths in custody deserves multifaceted response in the National Indigenous Timesclick here.
Image source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers website.
Ask a Pharmacist Sessions
NPS MedicineWise is running a series of ‘Ask a Pharmacist’ sessions on the topic of Opioids. These use existing NPS MedicineWise platforms and are being promoted on the NPS MedicineWise Facebook page. The ‘Ask a Pharmacist’ sessions provide an opportunity for consumers to ask their medicines questions via Facebook, for these to be answered by specialist pharmacists. Responses may include links to relevant online resources, suggestions to call the NPS MedicineWise telephone line services, or referral to another appropriate health service provider.
The pharmacists provide evidence-based information about opioids, their safety profile, side effects and interactions with other medicines and health conditions. Responses provided as part of these sessions aim to inform consumers about medicines, offer reassurance where appropriate and direct consumers to trusted sources of information including the NPS MedicineWise Medicine Line and AME Line telephone service.
Upcoming sessions will be active for one week starting:
Session 4: 3 May 2021
Session 5: 24 May 2021
Session 6: 14 June2021
The theme for Session 4 starting on Monday 3 May will be Reducing the risk of harms associated with opioids. Themes for other sessions will be advised at a later date.
Racism declares a serious health threat
The United States’ leading public health agency, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, has recently declared racism to be a “serious public health threat” that must be a critical focus of its work. In here article United States public health agency declares racism a serious health threat. Meanwhile, in Australia… Marie McInerney says this declaration contrasts with continuing muted responses from the Australian Government. Instead, ‘the Australian health system’s Black Lives Matter moment is best characterised as indifferent; a ‘business as usual’ approach that we know from experience betokens failure’.
The Government’s decision to extend Medicare-funded telehealth for GPs and non-GP specialists until the end of the year is welcome but is a missed opportunity to enshrine telehealth as a permanent feature of the Australian health system in a form which has greatest benefit for our vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities, AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said today.
“The existing COVID telehealth items were designed specifically to respond to the pandemic, which, as the recent lockdown in Perth illustrates, is far from over,” Dr Khorshid said.
The University of Sydney is offering a $20,000 postgraduate research scholarship in cultural supervision. The scholarship is to support Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander PhD students at the Faculty of Medicine and Health. For further information, including how to apply for the scholarship click here.
In the latest episode of the Australian Healthcare and Hospital’s Association (AHHA) podcast, The Health Advocate, AHHA Strategic Programs Director, Dr Chris Bourke, speaks with St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney, Emergency Department Director, Dr Paul Preisz and Aboriginal Health Manager, Scott Daley, to discuss how St Vincent’s Health Network Sydney has improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. While the hospital’s staff knew there was a problem in the Emergency Department with the delivery of care and the outcomes, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, NSW Health data highlighting the unacceptable treatment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients was the final straw. This promoted a mandate from executives to improve results.
‘St Vincent’s work in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients is a great example of how organisations can transform the delivery of care and offers many lessons for other organisations wanting to follow a similar path,’ said Dr Bourke.
You can view the AHHA press release here and listen to the podcast here.
Aboriginal Health Manager Scott Daley with a patient in St Vincent’s Hospital Emergency Department. Image source: ABC News website.
Wirraka Maya leads way in better patient management
An Aboriginal community health service in WA has produced record results in the use of technology to ensure better connected care for local patients. Senior Medical Officer at Wirraka Maya Health Service in Port Hedland, WA, Dr Yolande Knight said: “We rely on My Health Record to keep us updated on patient pathology, imaging, medication, dispensing and history records. “We find it helpful because a lot of our patients are transient, moving from one region to another, so it can be difficult to get their comprehensive files. We can see what other doctors have requested and performed, overcoming the delays waiting for records requested from other practices and providers.” Australian Digital Health Agency Consumer Advocate, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Champion and Co-Chair of the Agency’s Reconciliation Working Group and national Medicines Safety Program, Steve Renouf, congratulated Wirraka Maya for its commitment to digital health.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is seeking feedbackon proposals to help ensure ongoing, reliable supply of important medicines.
Medicine shortages have been of particular concern during the COVID-19 pandemic and the TGA have been reviewing ways in which they can better assist affected Australian patients and their healthcare providers. Specifically, the TGA is seeking feedback on possible reforms that would:
prioritise the evaluation and registration process for certain important generic prescription medicines, to reduce the risk of shortages
encourage registration of more generic versions of medicines known to be affected by shortages, to mitigate the impact of those shortages
support a more reliable supply of overseas-registered medicines imported into Australia as substitutes when the Australian medicine is in longstanding or repeated shortage.
The consultation will close on Monday 17 May 2021.
Image source: Newsbook website.
Resources for First Peoples with Disability
A range of new accessible, culturally appropriate resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have been released by the peak body First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN).
“Our community urgently needs information about the vaccine, so we have created a poster with culturally relevant information and artwork to let people know about what is happening and why,” said Damian Griffis, CEO of FPDN.
“During the pandemic, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability found it hard to get the right information about what was happening, and it looks like those lessons haven’t been learnt when it comes to the vaccine roll out.”
Little is known about how older Aboriginal adults access and engage with aged care services. A project has been initiated by the Port Augusta Community to address gaps in Aboriginal aged care and research is being conducted for the broader Aboriginal Eyre Peninsula Communities in partnership with the Adelaide Rural Clinical School Aboriginal research unit.
The lead researcher Kym Thomas, from Port Augusta, is an Aboriginal person, providing and ensuring that spirit and integrity are at the forefront of all community and stakeholder engagement and activities. Communities involved in the research include Port Augusta, Port Lincoln, Ceduna and Whyalla. Kym has been supported in his work by Associate Professor Pascale Dettwiller and Emma Richards.
Disadvantaged neighbourhoods can shape adolescent brains
Growing up in a poor or disadvantaged neighbourhood can affect the way adolescents’ brains function, according to new research. It can alter the communication between brain regions involved in planning, goal-setting and self-reflection. These brain changes can have consequences for cognitive function and wellbeing. But the good news is that positive home and school environments can mitigate some of these negative effects.
A “disadvantaged neighbourhood” is one in which people generally have lower levels of income, employment, and education. Growing up in these conditions can cause stress for children, and is associated with cognitive problems and mental health issues in young people.
It is not yet known exactly how this link between neighbourhood disadvantage and poor mental outcomes works, but it is thought that social disadvantage alters the way young people’s brains develop.
The fifth national report on the 21 Better Cardiac Care measures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with updated data available for 15 measures. The level of access for cardiac-related health services is improving for Indigenous Australians. While the mortality rate from cardiac conditions is falling among the Indigenous population, it is still higher than among non-Indigenous Australians. The incidence of acute rheumatic fever among Indigenous Australians continues to be much higher than in non-Indigenous Australians.
The prevalence of mental health issues is higher in people with a disability than in the general population. This means that often, a person who has both a physical, intellectual or neurological disability is also dealing with mental health challenges. There can be complexities in distinguishing mental health issues from intellectual or neurological disability and this can lead to mental health challenges not being recognised or identified. Participants will explore concepts of recovery, trauma and strength- based approaches to working with people with complex needs. They will use a recovery and biopsychosocial approach to meet their client’s needs.
Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) are promoting a training course being delivered by the WA Association for Mental Health. For more details click here.
Image source: SBS News website.
Vaccinations being in regional SA AHS
Indigenous health workers in Mount Gambier have been among the first in SA to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in Phase 1b of the national roll-out. 10 staff at Pangula Mannamurna Aboriginal Corporation were selected to receive the vaccine on Monday this week.
Outreach worker Catherine Bulner was the first of the group to roll up her sleeve and get the jab. She said she felt privileged to be the first South East Indigenous community member to get vaccinated. “I’m pretty fortunate to have it done in an Aboriginal community-controlled health service. “I think it’s really good that we can instil confidence in our community to get it done to protect not only ourselves, but our family and our community.”
Ms Bulner encouraged others to do the same to allow life to return to normal. “It’s unknown, but there’s plenty of information out there that can tell you all about it, if you need to make an informed decision before,” she said. “It’s not mandatory, but arm yourself with the information I did and you will be really confident to get it.” Transport worker Peter Brennan was also vaccinated and said it would provide him with a lot more confidence when conducting his work duties.
Indigenous transport worker Peter Brenna. Image source: ABC News website.
Keeping the momentum on eye health equity
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health sector entered 2020 with high hopes. The equity gap was still evident in measures of access to services and outcomes, but there was a continued positive trajectory towards the gap for vision being closed, with a strong sector driving change through collaborations on regional and state levels. 2020 was a target year for the elimination of trachoma, as well as to achieve equity and close the gap for vision.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the work of the sector in a number of ways. Many communities closed or reduced non-urgent visiting services, suspensions to elective surgery and reductions in permitted surgical loads and lockdowns in different parts of Australia to stop outbreaks, while necessary, meant that the already-existing waitlists for eye care became longer. The stronger impact on public hospitals, for example through lower caps on elective surgeries compared with private, has a disproportionate impact on population groups with the stronger reliance on the public system.
The impact on the sector’s work also includes the interruption to the positive momentum of change. Across Australia, regional and state-level groups of stakeholders involved with the provision of eye care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have been driving improvements in pathways and outcomes. The community-controlled sector has been key in leading this change.
Milpa the trachoma goanna supporting ‘Clean Faces, Strong Eyes’ health promotion messaging at an AFL game in Alice Springs NT. Image source: Partyline.
WA – Broome – University of WA
Research Fellow x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Broome
The University of WA are seeking a skilled health researcher to conduct statistical analysis of real world health services data from current and future projects. This position will be based in the Kimberley where Rural Clinical School of WA (RCSWA) sites conduct collaborative research with health services into improving Aboriginal health and building research capacity. Under limited directions from Principal Research Fellow, Associate Professor Julia Marley and in close collaboration with the Kimberley Medical Services, you will provide impetus and capacity to research initiatives in the Kimberley region of WA.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers are encouraged to apply.
To view the job advertisement, including the Position Description click here position descriptions and to apply click here.Applications close Monday 16 April 2021.
World Health Day 2021 – Building a fairer, healthier world
April 7 of each year marks the celebration of World Health Day. From its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948 and since taking effect in 1950, the celebration has aimed to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern for the World Health Organization.
Over the past 50 years this has brought to light important health issues such as mental health, maternal and child care, and climate change. The celebration is marked by activities which extend beyond the day itself and serves as an opportunity to focus worldwide attention on these important aspects of global health.
To celebrate World Health Day the Australian Global Health Alliance is hosting a special online event where a line-up or expert guest speakers will share their reflections on this year’s theme ‘Building a fairer, healthier world’.
For more information about the event from12:00–1:00 PM AEST Wednesday 7 April 2021 and to register click here.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit
NACCHO and the Department of Health (DoH) are excited to share with you, COVID-19 vaccine providers, new resources and materials to roll-out Phase 1b, due to start week commencing 22 March.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Communication Kit includes a series of templates and materials that both vaccination clinics and non-vaccination clinics will be able to use and adapt for their sites. All resources feature the beautiful work of Aboriginal artist Jordana Angus,“Stand Together For A Healthy Future”.
This kit will help you work through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)’s regulatory guidelines for advertising COVID-19 vaccinations.
Here is a formal letter providing an approval for your organisation and its members and its members to adapt Government campaign materials as necessary.
The TGA or the Department of Health can look over draft materials or ideas if ACCHOs have concerns.
There are several resources that you may find helpful as you roll-out vaccinations through your clinic/practice – you can find more on the DoH website.
We can’t thank you enough for your support and partnership in helping us keep our communities safe and healthy! #OurJobToProtectOurMob
There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there: newsGP reports
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts speak to newsGP about steps to address misinformation and hesitancy ahead of phase 1b.
As Australia prepares to move into phase 1b of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) are buckling down on tackling vaccine hesitancy.
GP Dr Tanya Schramm is a Palawa woman and Chair of the Expert Committee behind the COVID-19 clinical recommendations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
‘There’s been a huge social media campaign in general with … the anti-vax movement putting a lot of stuff out … and that has obviously just overflowed into our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
GP Dr Jason Agostino is the Medical Advisor at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19: ‘There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there, [but] I don’t think we have an anti-vax movement.
‘What we have is hesitancy around this vaccine and a lot of misinformation going around to people [who have] reasonable questions that they want answered.
‘We’ve got a specific factsheet about vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people talking about the experiences of other First Nations [people], and really clarifying that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aren’t guinea pigs here.
‘The reason that they’re priority populations is because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders have fought hard to make sure that they have access to vaccines early.’
2021 Close the Gap Campaign Report celebrates strengths-based examples
As one of the members driving the Close the Gap Campaign, NACCHO invites you to read the 12th annual Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021 titled, Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe.
Connect with the strengths-based examples of our peoples, professionals and communities managing the most complex of challenges such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and suicide prevention.
This year’s report was produced by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s community controlled national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. In the CTG annual reports they 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.
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap said, “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 on Closing the Gap 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.”
Dr Dawn Casey Deputy CEO NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 quoted in the Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021
“ACCHOs know where our mob are and how to get the right message out.”
“I feel proud of the community controlled sector. It’s great that there’s been that recognition of how responsive and how flexible our sector could be. You could see firsthand how, if you work with ACCHOs on the ground they will deliver an effective response that’s appropriate for their setting.”
“You don’t get the same care for our people in mainstream health organisations, you don’t get that recognition of the social determinants of health or of the way colonisation impacts on our health as you do with ACCHOs.”
Indigenous birthing services vital to health of mothers and babies
Charles Darwin University midwifery researchers are calling for Indigenous-led birthing centres to expand across Australia after a seven-year study found a decrease in preterm births and an
improvement in breastfeeding and antenatal care for First Nations families.
The paper “Effect of a Birthing on Country Service redesign on maternal and neonatal health outcomes for First Nations Australians: a prospective, non-randomised interventional trial published today in The Lancet Global Health revealed preterm births were 50 per cent less likely in women accessing a designated Birthing on Country service in Brisbane’s south.
The study reported an almost 40 per cent increase in breastfeeding after discharge from hospital and an 80 per cent increase in women attending more than four antenatal sessions in pregnancy.
Most Australians support raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14, according to research commissioned by Amnesty International Australia.
The current minimum age of criminal responsibility in all Australian jurisdictions is just 10 (the age of a child in year three in primary school), a fact only one in 10 Australians could identify. In 2019 the Committee of the Rights of the child recommended Australia raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) to at least 14 in line with international standards.
Australia also came in for criticism from the international community during the recent Universal Periodic Review where 31 countries recommended Australia address its treatment of Indigenous people and raise the age. “The tough-on-crime rhetoric is a false economy – all the evidence shows that locking kids up doesn’t work,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, Nolan Hunter, said.
Before claiming any of the COVID-19 Telehealth items, GPs are reminded that it is a legislative requirement that GPs and Other Medical Practitioners (OMPs) working in general practice can only perform a telehealth or telephone service where they have an established clinical relationship with the patient. There are limited exemptions to this requirement.
Patients are eligible for GP and OMP telehealth services if they have an established clinical relationship with a GP, OMP, or a medical practice. This requirement supports longitudinal and person-centred primary health care that is associated with better health outcomes.
How Australia’s vaccine rollout in Indigenous communities will work
An Indigenous-owned remote dialysis clinic in Alice Springs is working to make COVID-19 vaccine information more accessible to people living in remote communities.
At 71 years old, Barbara Nampitjinpa is the perfect candidate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine during the next phase of the rollout.
Ms Nampitjinpa, who uses an oxygen tank to help herself breathe, is not only getting the jab for her own health, but to encourage other people in remote communities to do the same.
Phase 1b of the vaccine rollout, which begins on 22 March, will focus on vaccinating Indigenous Australians aged 55 and over, people over 70, and those who are immunocompromised, as well as some emergency services personnel including the remainder of the health workforce not included in Phase 1a.
Barbara Nampitjinpa wants people in remote communities to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Source: SBS News
Wunan to run headspace Kununurra
East Kimberley organisation Wunan has been appointed as the lead agency to establish and operate headspace Kununurra. headspace Kununurra will bring a much-needed resource to the area, offering young people support with their mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drugs issues, and work and study.
WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA), the operator of the Country WA Primary Health Network, awarded the contract to Wunan following an open tender procurement process.
For nearly 20 years Wunan has been successfully delivering services and programs across the East Kimberley, including delivery of clinical services to Kununurra and surrounding communities.
Young people aged 12 to 25 can contact headspace Kununurra directly or be referred by their GP or mental health professional.
Illustration source: Chris Johnston, Eurekastreet.com.au
The outstanding health outcome Indigenous communities have produced
The fact Indigenous communities kept COVID-19 infection rates six times lower than the rest of Australia without a single death is proof that when they have control and autonomy over policies and programs, success follows.
That’s the message from June Oscar, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner and the co-chair of the annual Close the Gap campaign.
The pandemic and the bushfires of 2020 reinforced the need for large-scale reform and “a paradigm shift to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”, Ms Oscar said.
Chief executive of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Vicki O’Donnell said avoiding COVID-19 deaths was a triumph.
“Our mob live together, eat together, work together, they kiss and they hug – so the spread was a huge risk for us.
“No Aboriginal person died. Does that not tell you something about what we do?” she said.
In 2019, suicide was the biggest killer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged five to 17 years. Suicide rates among adults are at least two to three times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.
Yet the lack of resources and funding to train Aboriginal people in mental health and suicide prevention was “incredibly frustrating” for Thomas Brideson, the chief executive of Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia, a newly established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and suicide prevention organisation.
Read the article in the Sydney Morning Herald here.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar. Source: Australian Human Rights Commission
Close the Gap report says 2020 reinforced need for large-scale systemic reform
Australian governments at all levels must adopt the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and should take strengths-based approaches to improve health outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples, according to the Close the Gap Campaign.
The campaignis made up of 54 organisations, including the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and aims to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
In its 2021 Close the Gap report (not to be confused with the federal government’s Closing the Gap initiative), the campaign noted that the events of 2020 have reinforced the need for large-scale systemic reform and a “paradigm shift” in Australia’s approach to truly empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Indigenous leadership in pandemic delivers a blueprint to Close the Gap
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and people have been hailedfor their world-leading response to the coronavirus pandemic which left First Nations communities largely unscathed.
As leading Indigenous researcher Professor James Ward, Director of the UQ Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, and former Australian of the Year and health researcher Professor Fiona Stanley wrote this week: “Little did anyone know that just a few years after the Uluru Statement from the Heart was presented to the Australian government (and rejected), the First Nations leadership would be able to show just how powerful having a voice could be for their health and wellbeing.”
The 2021 Close the Gap Report, released on Thursday to mark National Close the Gap Day, says it’s time for that lesson to be learnt and applied to so many issues that continue to drive health inequities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including racism, climate change, over-incarceration, youth detention, housing, food and income insecurity, health workforce shortages and stresses, and cultural destruction.
Country and culture are central to the report and the Kimberley is one of the regions highlighted for the leadership shown by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and people during the pandemic, with the number of COVID-19 cases among Indigenous people six times lower than for other Australians, no cases in remote communities, and not a single death recorded.
As Oscar wrote in the report: Some of our homelands, once threatened with closure by governments in the past, became some of the safest places in Australia.”
The relative safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities also ranked as a global success, said Indigenous researcher Professor James Ward, the only Aboriginal member of the Communicable Disease Network of Australia, who was a panellist at the Close the Gap event, which also heard from Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and Sir Michael Marmot, former head of the WHO Social Determinants Committee.
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.
Peak community organisations AMSANT, NTCOSS and Danila Dilba Health Service have responded to the announcement of the members who will make up the Independent Panel Review, into Endeavour Group’s proposal to develop a Dan Murphy’s retail outlet in Darwin. CEO of Danila Dilba Health Service, Olga Havnen said, “We are aware of the panel, welcome the review and look forward to meeting with the panel. However, our organisations will not be misrepresented by Endeavour Drinks Groups (EDG) purporting extensive consultations by EDG and Woolworths, regarding the Dan Murphy’s development in Darwin. Ultimately Woolworths needs to be held accountable for their lack of genuine engagement to consider the devastating public health issues that will arise from this megastore.”
Similarly CEO of AMSANT, John Paterson said, “If there was a genuine commitment to engaging with peak Aboriginal health bodies and other Aboriginal organisations the Woolworths Group, not EDG, should facilitate a meaningful dialogue. Instead, they have largely ignored the serious health concerns raised and the call to withdraw their application of this megastore in Darwin. This is a refusal by Woolworths to engage on important public health issues and knowingly ignoring the disastrous effects of alcohol in the NT. Danila Dilba, AMSANT and NTCOSS continue to wait for the decision-makers, Woolworths, to adopt an ethical stance and talk to peak health bodies in the NT about putting public health ahead of profits.”
To view the joint AMSANT, NTCOSS and Danila Dilba media statement click here. To view a related article SBS News article click here.
Photograph: Time Wimborne/Reuters. Image source: The Guardian.
Katungul community control success stories
Telehealth has been a game changer for Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services (Katungul) on the NSW south coast as it sought to support its community through the devastation of the 2019–20 bushfires and the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid roll-out of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic has provided unexpected and ongoing benefits for clinical staff and patients at Katungul.
For Katungul GP Dr Muhammad Azfar Nor Zaihan these benefits have included a higher patient appointment attendance rate and more time for preventative health, “It’s a huge game changer, especially for rural GPs and rural patients.” At the peak of the pandemic restrictions from March to July 2020 around 80% of Dr Azfar Nor Zaihan’s appointments were by phone telehealth but by December 2020 he was still doing 40% of consultations by phone.
Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services staff taking a well-earned break at a mobile COVID-19 clinic at Eden. Image source: Croakey.
Reading between the lines of government data
Commonwealth and state governments collectively spend about A$115 billion annually on health services, but we don’t always know exactly what results we get for the money. Australia’s health system is an accountability black hole, despite exabytes of data being collected from hospitals, medical services and the public. Very often the data collected are simply about how many “things” have been produced — how many hospital bed days or patients treated, how many GP attendances — rather than what result was achieved for the patient, how efficiently and how equitably. And the data can be fragmented and overlapping. It is rarely transformed into useful information the public can understand and use to hold politicians, doctors, and hospitals to account.
The Productivity Commission recently released the health section of its annual Report on Government Services, bringing together a range of data on hospitals, primary care, ambulance services and mental health care in Australia. This report aims to help fill the accountability hole, with information going beyond simply counting activity to include information about quality as well. The idea is that public reporting will prompt governments to improve their health systems.
Vaccine rollout for regional, rural and remote communities
The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines into regional, rural and remote communities is a vital part of the Australian Government’s vaccine strategy to protect country people and managing the fight against the virus in the regions. The Australian Government is working with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, General Practices, state and territory governments, Primary Health Networks, General Practitioner-led Respiratory Clinics and community pharmacies, to ensure that Australian’s living in regional, rural and remote locations have access to a vaccination if they choose to. To further strengthen the rollout delivery across Australia, both GP’s and pharmacies have been invited to join the nation-wide effort to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said it is expected that there will be thousands of sites that will support the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations in Australia.
As part of The University of Sydney Business School’s ‘Thinking outside the box’ series, Dr Alastair Stone said “We should try to take advantage of the worldwide disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic to establish new paradigms around what we value beyond pure monetary goals. COVID-19 has exposed imprecision in expressing our value systems with the debate of health vs economy the headline example. A return to all-encompassing political welfare economics could solve the semantic issue but given the many interpretations and adjectives to describe economics and social sciences, it would be better to define more accurately what we value, and build policy around that. It takes large disruptive phenomena like a pandemic (or war, or rebellion) to generate the energy for paradigmatic change. NZ introduced a “well-being budget” in 2019 targeting mental health, child welfare, Indigenous reconciliation, the environment, suicide, and homelessness, alongside traditional measures of productivity and investment.
The National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA), a peak body representing 44 national organisations in the rural health and wellbeing sector, including health practitioners, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, NACCHO, and the CWA has called on the federal government to take tangible action on climate change, saying inaction has serious consequences for rural health. In a position paper released this week, the NRHA expressed concern that rural, regional and remote communities would bear the brunt of health effects caused by extreme weather events, food security threats, and vector-borne diseases.
NRHA CEO Gabrielle O’Kane said: ‘The paper provides a timely perspective on the trauma and other health impacts rural people experience from the effects of climate change, as well as the cost to society. Climate change is a significant threat to health, and the adverse health risks are generally greater in rural, regional and remote communities where people are already at a disadvantage from unequal access to health care and are more susceptible to poor health outcomes. The Alliance is calling for the inclusion of climate-driven impacts on rural health in all future health planning, as well as research and transition plans to help communities mitigate the short and long-term health effects of climate change.’.
To view the full article in the Echo Netdailyclick here.
Image source: 10 Deserts Project website.
Making Time for mental health
Australian’s living with a mental illness or mental ill health and their families and carers have said that one thing that has helped them through difficult moments is making time for what matters to them – whether this is time to connect with friends and loved ones, time for themselves, time to talk, time to connect with support and treatment, time to learn something new, time offline, time for a swim or simply time in nature.
Following the difficult year Australians have had in 2020, the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) launched the #MakingTime initiative to build resilience, over the summer period, in Australians who live with mental illness, those who care for them as well as those who experience mental distress. NMHC would love people to contribute their experience via their own social networks using the hashtag #MakingTime and encourage family and friends to really share their personal experiences on the #MakingTime website on what has helped them manage their mental health.
To view the Australian Government National Mental Health Commission media release click here.
Image source: #MakingTime website.
Building a stronger immunisation register
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, says Australia’s vaccination system has been strengthened with the passage of new legislation through the Australian Parliament, making it a requirement for all vaccination providers to report life saving vaccinations to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR). The Australian Immunisation Register is a whole of life, national immunisation register, which records vaccines given to all people in Australia. The AIR includes vaccines given under the National Immunisation Program, through school-based programs and privately, such as for seasonal influenza and vaccines required for travel purposes. Importantly, it will also include COVID-19 vaccinations.
To view the Minister Hunt’s media release click here.
Image source: ABC News website.
Managing diabetic kidney disease webinar
Kidney Health Australia is hosting a health professional webinar Diabetes and Kidney Disease – new information and recommendations at 7:30 PM AEDT Wednesday 10 February 2021. The webinar will be presented by Nephrologist, Dr John Saunders and include discussion around some new information and recommendations for Managing Diabetic Kidney Disease.
To view the webinar flyer click here. Registration is essential. You can register here.
Building Indigenous research capacity
For nearly three decades, Professor Jacinta Elston, an Aboriginal woman from North Queensland and the inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) at Monash University, has worked in higher education, furthering efforts to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in Australia. When awarded an NHMRC Capacity Building Grant, Professor Elston and the team at James Cook University had two goals: to support emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and academic leaders to develop their careers in research and health; and to develop partnerships with Indigenous community-controlled health services. Professor Elston said the “NHMRC funding helped to provide the resources to create a space to share experiences, develop and discuss areas of interests and build a sense of community, as well as allowing us to foster emerging Indigenous researchers into the research community.”
Professor Elston’s project Building Indigenous Research Capacity in Australia has been included in the twelfth edition of the NHMRC’s 10 of the Best, a publication showcasing significant projects that support the improvement of human health.
For further information about the 10 of the Best click here and for a summary of each of the 10 projects click here.
Professor Jacinta Elston. Image source: Monash University website.
EOIs sought for HealthInfoNet Advisory Board
The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet is seeking expressions of interest from young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to join its national Advisory Board. The Advisory Board provides strategic advice and guidance to the HealthInfoNet Director to ensure that it continues to provide support to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector workforce. The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet undertakes knowledge exchange research activities to summarise, synthesise and analyse the available research and other information and make it available to the health sector workforce in ways that are timely, accessible and relevant.
Youth representatives will provide important feedback from a young person’s perspective to guide the strategic and operational activities of the HealthInfoNet. The youth representatives will join the Advisory Board of senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other health experts from throughout Australia.
For further information about the Advisory Board click here and to access the EOI click here. Applications are due by 26 February 2021.
Chronic disease prevention survey
The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre has developed a range of resources on chronic disease prevention. They is trying to improve the accessibility of their resources on their website and would greatly appreciate your feedback on want does and doesn’t work via a short 5-min survey here.
Rising concerns about racism in Australia
The latest Mapping Social Cohesion report by the Scanlon Foundation shows a rising concern about racism in the Australian community. 37% of Australian-born respondents and 59% of Asian-born respondents expressed concern that racism was a growing problem in Australia. Disturbingly, 22% of Chinese Australian respondents reported they had experienced discrimination more often since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rising concerns about racism, requires action and consistent leadership. A number of organisations have called on the Federal Government to tackle racism by committing to a national anti-racism strategy. To view an article on the call for a national anti-racism strategy click here.
Image source: The Conversation.
Indigenous interpreting services available via My Aged Care
My Aged Care can connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to an Indigenous interpreting service to provide aged care information in a person’s preferred language. To access an Indigenous interpreter, call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 and ask for an interpreter in your client’s preferred language. If an interpreter for the required language is not available at the time of the call, another time will be arranged that suits the client.
To view a short video about My Aged Care click here and for further information about My Aged Care Indigenous interpreting services click here.
Vote on Impact 25 Awards
Voting for the Pro Bono Australia 2021 Impact 25 Awards is now open, allowing people to nominate the social sector’s most influential leaders, many of whom may intersect with the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector in their work with children and families. A shortlist of 150 people has been created from more than 400 nominations, with each list member recognised for their efforts in creating positive change amid the turbulent events of the past 12 months.
Pro Bono Founder and CEO Karen Mahlab AM encourages the general public to vote, and recognise the work of those who strive to improve the lives of others, “Over the past six years, the Impact 25 Awards have done what they first intended to do: showcase a steady stream of individuals, largely unnamed and largely unacknowledged working in our communities.”
Central Australian Aboriginal Corporation’s CEO Donna Ah Chee is among the 150 people who’ve made the shortlist.
The Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (DYHS) was established in 1974 and is the largest Aboriginal community-controlled health service in Perth. Our team of 130+ staff enable the delivery of culturally safe holistic and integrated primary health care services to over 15,000 Aboriginal people across four clinics in the Perth metropolitan region. DYHS has a vacancy for a People & Culture manager to lead the People & Culture Team in the delivery of quality human resource and organisational development processes and services.
To view the advertisement for the position and to apply click here.
Papua New Guinea – Port Moresby – Abt Associates – Australia (in association with Ninti One Limited)
Program Support Officer – PNG Australia Transition to Health (PATH Program) x 1 FT (12 month contract, possible extension)
The PNG Australia Transition to Health (PATH) Program is one key way in which Australia is investing in PNG’s security, stability, and prosperity by delivering support to PNG’s health sector. PATH supports locally generated and scaled health systems reform, working in partnership with the Government of PNG on high priority health issues including health security, communicable disease, family planning, sexual and reproductive health, and maternal and child health.
PATH looks to attract staff who are committed to this vision, and who are also able to work in collaborative, creative and adaptive ways to contribute to better health outcomes for people in PNG. There is a current vacancy for a Program Support Officer to provide programmatic support to senior members of the PATH Program team by assisting in operationalising all intermediate outcomes across the PATH program.
This position is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants only.
To view position description and to apply click here.Applications close Friday 26 February 2021 (Midnight local time).
Indigenous Community Basketball League (ICBL) Inaugural launch – Sunday 7 February 2021
The Indigenous Community Basketball League (ICBL) starts this Sunday!
NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills will be speaking at the opening ceremony at the Cairns Basketball Stadium to inspire the players.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
Reconciliation Barometer shows racism heightened in 2020
The 2020 Australian Reconciliation Barometer—a national research study conducted by Reconciliation Australia every two years—shows that the global and local Black Lives Matter movements have challenged experiences and understanding of racism in Australia. “This year’s Barometer shows more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reporting an incident of racial prejudice than the 2018 barometer,” said Reconciliation Australia CEO, Karen Mundine. “Just over half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents reported to have experienced at least one form of racial prejudice in the last six months.”
“More Australians now agree with the statement that ‘Australia is a racist country’, a rise across the board in understanding how racism operates. In 2020 we have seen increasing political and social polarisation due to uncertainty and disruption from COVID-19. Through the 2020 Barometer we hear many more people speaking up, speaking the truth, asking the hard questions, seeing the hard facts, and moving from a space of safe to brave on issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
You can view the full 2020 Reconciliation Barometer report, including a summary of the report, by clicking here.
Image source: Reconciliation Australia website.
Permanent telehealth model being developed
The AMA will work with the Federal Government to make Medicare-funded telehealth a permanent part of the Australian healthcare system. Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the partnership approach during a joint media conference with AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid. “The AMA has been working with the Government on how to embed telehealth into the Australian healthcare system for months,” Dr Khorshid said. “The AMA has long advocated for telehealth consultations to be subsidised under the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). “The temporary COVID-19 arrangements have allowed us to test the model, and shown where refinements can be made. MBS-funded telehealth has been embraced by doctors and patients alike.”
To view the AMA’s media release regarding the model click here.
Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.
Nurses support public drunkenness decriminalisation
Victoria is close to the decriminalisation of public drunkenness, three decades since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody first made the recommendation. The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (Victorian Branch) has welcomed the Andrews Government’s decision to review all recommendations of its Expert Reference Group’s report Seeing the clear light of day. The report reinforces that no one should be in a police cell just because they are intoxicated. ANMF supports the two-year implementation period which will enable the Andrews Government to develop a public health model response to replace the jail cell. The implementation period will include trial sites before rolling the approach out across the state.
To view the ANMF (Victorian Branch) media release click here.
Daughters Apryl Watson and Kimberly Watson with photos of their mother Tanya Day (who was arrested under the public drunkenness law in Victoria and latter died in custody) outside Coroners Court. Image source: The Age.
Mental health lessons from 2020
Menal Illness Education ACT will co-host a stimulating panel discussion on Wednesday 2 December1.00pm–2.20pm (AEDT) to unpack how paid and unpaid workloads have changed in 2020 and the impacts on wellbeing, particularly for women. The discussion will cover the following topics:
We will look at the positives and challenges coming out of the current environment.
Discuss how roles have changed from a range of perspectives and how we have and can respond to those changes as individuals, partners and organisations.
Provide strategies and resources on how to identify and respond to the shifting balance.
This session is for everyone, whether you are single, in a couple, a parent or a carer.
The event will be held on Teams. To register pleas click here.
Stolen Generations bus back on healing mission
Bus operator CDC NSW has committed to a partnership in support of Australia’s indigenous people’s ‘Stolen Generations truth telling’. In cementing its partnership with Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation (KBHAC) during its first KBHAC Mobile Education Centre (MEC) community visit post COVID-19, CDC NSW driver Mikhail Mikhail steered the MEC bus to a Healing Session at Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) in Little Bay, where it was unveiled to a group of Kinchela Boy’s Home survivors and AH&MRC staff. The MEC – a converted commuter bus nicknamed ‘Benny’ featuring an audio-visual system and printed historical information on Stolen Generations – is the first of its kind and integral to helping KBHAC members tell their stories in a range of locations. To read the full article click here.
Image source: Australasian Bus & Coach website.
Urgent need to close digital divide
New analysis commissioned by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) shows that urgent action is needed to address the digital divide in remote Indigenous communities in the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns. While much of the nation turned to digital services such as videoconferencing and telehealth during the rolling lockdowns put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic, very few remote Indigenous communities were able to work or learn from home, or access government and health services online.
With access by service providers limited by travel restrictions, many people were left without access to essential services. In some remote communities, the Wi-Fi hotspot, the only point of access, was switched off to avoid people congregating. “COVID-19 saw communities without food and necessities of life because of the lack of access to adequate, reliable, and robust telecommunications,” said ACCAN Board Member and proud Torres Strait Islander, Dr Heron Loban.
In a first for Moree, staff of Pius X Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) have made a clean sweep of GP Synergy’s New England/North West GP training awards, taking out all three regional awards on offer. Pius X’s practice manager Ros Rose was named Practice Manager of the Year, GP supervisor Dr Hamze Hamze was named Supervisor of the Year and GP in training Dr Nada Abu Alrub was named Registrar of the Year in GP Synergy’s New England/North West GP training awards.
Pius X’s GP in training Dr Nada Abu Alrub, practice manager Ros Rose and GP supervisor Dr Hamze Hamze. Image source: Moree Champion News.
COVID-19 vaccination survey
Do you provide immunisations? Do you transport vaccinations or receive them in your workplace? Do you work in rural or remote settings?
Finally, some good COVID-19 news, there have been some positive outcomes in the race outcomes in the race for the COVID-19 vaccine. Nurses, midwives, doctors and Aboriginal Health Practitioners working in primary health care will be very busy in 2021. They will be at the coalface of health promotion, allaying people’s fears, and organising the immunisation logistics to protect their communities. The focus will be on those most at risk, the elderly, men, and the health workforce.
Scaling-up rapid mass immunisation means more trained staff will be needed to administer the vaccinations and provide transportation logistics. The cold chain is only as effective as its ‘weakest’ link. There are many people involved in vaccine cold chain to rural and remote communities, some of whom do not routinely receive training in relation to medicines storage, such as transport drivers, Aboriginal Health Workers, and administration staff.
Central Australian Rural Practitioners Association have made a training video, telling the story of a vaccine’s journey from a supply centre to administration in a remote Aboriginal community, and would like your feedback. Please view the video here and then take 2–3 minutes to complete the 13 question survey here.
Image source: CARPA Inc. Vaccine Story video slide.
60% in remote communities have hearing loss
Chronic ear disease contributes to widespread hearing loss among Indigenous people in Australia. In 2020 it was found 40% of Indigenous people have hearing loss, 60% in remote communities with 79% of people with hearing loss not knowing they did not hear as well as others. Dr Damien Howard and Jody Barney have produced a new video on Indigenous hearing loss. To view the video click here. To take the 13 question survey (approved by the NT Department of Health and Menzies School of Health Research) click here.
Grow Local Cert IV in Mental Health
Despite the challenges this year due to COVID-19, Grow Local participants have worked hard towards completing their Grow Local Certificate IV in Mental Health, meaning communities throughout Western Australia will have additional mental health support available to those who may be struggling. The program has proven to not only be an effective way of meeting these community needs, but also a popular one, with more than 60 participants graduating in towns throughout the state in the coming weeks. The training is provided to community in partnership with the Australian Medical Association (WA), along with support from local organisations including Milligan House, who offered the use of their meeting rooms for the monthly workshops.
To view the WA Primary Health Alliance media release click here.
The World AIDS Day Parliamentary Breakfast is tomorrow
Each year we ask international and Australian HIV/AIDS experts to share their perspectives on HIV/AIDS in the world and our country, and the outlook for the future. We hope you will find their articles interesting and informative.
Please see the link to the World AIDS Day booklet here.
SA – can be based anywhere across SA – Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service Inc.
Systems Implementation Coordinator Aboriginal disAbility Alliance
SA West Coast ACCHO Network (SAWCAN) is a consortia supporting 4,976 Aboriginal people in a region that stretches from Whyalla in the east, right over to the WA border. Nunyara is acting as the lead agent of the consortia and is seeking to employ a suitably qualified person as the Systems Implementation Coordinator to apply a systems-focused approach in the capacity building of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) staff to ensure the seamless integration of NDIS within the comprehensive primary health care model.
Applications close 5.00pm Wednesday 9 December 2020.
SA – Whyalla – Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service Inc.
FT Community Activator – 12 month contract
The Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service is an RACGP accredited service that provides culturally appropriate health care, health promotion and education programs for the Aboriginal community in Whyalla. Nunyara is looking to engage an energetic and motivated person to work as a Community Activator within the Aboriginal disAbility Alliance project. This position will provide assertive outreach and advocacy to Aboriginal people living with a disability, their families and carers in a culturally sensitive manner, breaking down barriers to accessing the NDIS and developing trust and rapport.
Applications close 5.00pm Friday 11 December 2020.
ACT – Canberra – Bimberi Residential Services
FT Family Engagement Officer – temporary
Bimberi Residential Services is seeking an experienced, committed and suitably qualified person to fill the Family Engagement Officer role.
The Family Engagement Officer is designed to assist with the engagement of young people and their families and to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practices and perspectives, in the day to day functions across Bimberi Residential Services. The role also is involved in promoting initiatives and developing innovative approaches to meeting client and program needs.
FT Psychologist – 2 year contract, possibility of extension
Coonamble Aboriginal Health Service (CAHS) is seeking an enthusiastic and committed person to fill a full-time position of Psychologist within the highly successful Aboriginal community-controlled organisation Dubbo Regional Aboriginal Health Service (DRAHS) Social & Emotional Wellbeing Department. This is a busy clinical role working with clients to prevent, diagnose and treat psychological issues within a health clinic in NSW.
OzChild, an organisation established to support vulnerable children and young people by providing healing, preventing abuse and neglect, and strengthening families so all children and young people are safe, respected, and nurtured, and reach their full potential, is looking to employ a Family Practitioner and a Team Leader in their Functional Family Therapy (FFT) program. Both roles will strengthen the benefit of services to children, young people and their families in specified areas utilising an evidence based program. This evidence-based program has been developed to support families, with children and youth aged 12 to 18 years, in the home and the community. To view the position descriptions for the roles click on the role titles below.
First Nations people with disability (PWD) will tell the Disability Royal Commission this week about the structural violence they experience in the child-protection system around Australia. “We are among the most seriously disadvantaged members of the Australian community, and are also experts on the impact of policies on us,” says First Peoples Disability Network CEO Damian Griffis.
“This week, a number of First Nations people with disability will give evidence about the different racist and ableist systems that harm our children.” Mr Griffiths says the child protection system is “hostile and complicated. Child removal is an ever present threat, and reality in our communities. It has become part of the community vernacular, and families live with the legacies of trauma from the removal of their parents and grandparents,” he says.
Health Justice Australia CEO Donnella Mills says the current child protection system risks setting people with disability and their families up to fail, “First Nations people with disability and their families in contact with child protection systems face multiple, intersecting problems that result from intersectional and institutional discrimination,” she says.
The Australian Museum Eureka Awards (the “Oscars of science”) celebrate research and innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science. “Science is at the core of everything we do and we are committed to supporting and showcasing the work of Australian scientists,” Australian Museum Research Institute Professor Kristofer Helgen said.
The Emerging Leader in Science award went to Associate Professor Asha Bowen, who is Head of Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at the Telethon Kids institute. Her work over the years has significantly changed the way indigenous children with skin infections are treated.
To listen to Associate Professor Bowe being interviewed on ABC RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly click here.
Image source: RHD Action.
Parents fear child services
Treating mental health episodes more like a physical injury could help prevent the long-term removal of children of Indigenous parents with a disability, a national inquiry has heard. Mental health worker Christine May has told a hearing of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability that when a parent with a mental illness had a psychotic episode and needed to stay in hospital it should be regarded as a period of treatment. “If I broke my leg I wouldn’t have an order taken out on my child,” she said.
Unless parents are deemed dangerous, Ms May said, they shouldn’t have to fight to keep their children when services could provide treatment for them to become well and be re-assessed. She recommended the Queensland Health program Cultural Healing she works for be expanded across the state.
Increased clinical trial access for regional Australia
If you live in a regional area, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures suggest you are more likely to die younger, develop cancer or chronic disease, and have less access to effective treatment than patients in the cities. But for clinicians, and patients, there is reason to hope.
Much is riding on $125 million in Federal Government funding, announced in the recent budget and aimed at addressing this disparity and providing access to life-saving clinical trials in the regions. “This funding is our last chance to get it right, to deliver a higher level national health system,” said Sabe Sabesan, a doctor who was central to developing Queensland’s model of delivering medical support to regional communities via telehealth. His program has paved the way for the next step towards making clinical treatment trials available to all patients regardless of their location.
Oncologist Craig Underhill is hopeful the clinical trials would not only drive an improvement in cancer outcomes but enable research in other chronic health areas affecting regional patients, such as geriatric oncology, Indigenous health and palliative care.
Image source: National Rural Health Alliance online magazine, Partyline.
Lung cancer signs free webinar
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) estimated trend lines indicate a significant increase in the lung cancer incidence and mortality rates for Indigenous Australians over time. For non-Indigenous Australians, the age-standardised incidence rate for lung cancer has been relatively stable, while the mortality rate has fallen. Estimated trend lines indicate a significant decrease in the lung cancer mortality rate for non-Indigenous Australians.
Symptoms of lung cancer are often vague and can be overlooked, however, early and rapid investigation and referral is necessary for optimal patient outcomes. How can GPs give themselves the best chance of identifying possible lung cancer in busy primary care practice?
Cancer Australia invites you to join them in an upcoming webinar on investigating symptoms and signs of lung cancer in primary care: Symptoms and signs that might be lung cancer – a new guide to optimal investigation and referral in general practice – 7.00pm-8.00pm (AEDT) Wednesday 2 December 2020.
T join the FREE webinar click here and to learn about Cancer Australia’s new resource Investigation symptoms of lung cancer: a guide for all health professionalsclick here.
Image source: SBS News website.
Good Medicine Better Health resources survey
NPS MedicineWise is are seeking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumer input to assist the development of Good Medicine Better Health (GMBH) consumer resources. Lived experience, and preferred format and learning styles will help us to develop consumer driven, culturally appropriate and accessible resources that deliver key information about quality use of medicines.
To view the invitation for consumers to share their lived experience and/or community experience of a range of health issues click hereand to access the link to the consumer participation survey click here.
The purpose of the survey is to elicit information about age, region (metro, regional, rural or remote), education level, willingness to be involved and preferred contact details. The GMBH team will then contact willing participants to arrange one-on-one phone interviews, online focus groups or workshops.
Image source: NPS MedicineWise.
Native millet could change lives
Native millet on Gamilaraay country in western NSW is the most economically viable native grain for future farm enterprises, a University of Sydney study has found. The University of Sydney Institute of Agriculture study is the most comprehensive trial of Indigenous paddock-to-plate produce in Australia and was done in consultation with local communities and Black Duck Foods, owned by Aboriginal foods expert Bruce Pascoe. The one-year research project into the environmental, economic and cultural viability of growing native grains for bread on Gamilaraay country near Moree and Narrabri was released on 9 November 2020.
“Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay country in north-west NSW is one of the largest Aboriginal language groups in Australia, and they are proudly known as grass people,” said Dr Angela Pattison, study leader from the University of Sydney Institute of Agriculture and Plant Breeding Institute at Narrabri.
NT Darwin and Palmerston region – Danila Dilba Health Service
Multiple positions: Head of ICT, Dietitian, Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist, Mental Health Nurse, Community Support Worker
Danila Dilba Health Service is going through a dynamic period of expansion and growth. As a result of robust growth in services and in order to meet increasing client need, they are looking for people to join their team and be part of delivering important services to the Darwin and Palmerston region.
These are important roles where you’ll be able to contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians. Danila Dilba will provide great learning opportunities and give you the chance to grow your skills and progress your career.
For further information and to apply click here. Applications close Monday 7 December 2020.
To mark World Mental Health Day and World Mental Health Week 2020, NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills has issued a Media Statement emphasising that the commitment in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap needs continued funding support to close the mental health gap. In Australia, the rate of suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities continues to grow. NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills states, “Our people experience very high levels of trauma at nearly three times the rate of other Australians and recent statistics point out that we are twice as likely to commit suicide.”
Image source: Department of Health
“The new targets in the National Agreement on Close the Gap focuses on 16 socio-economic targets which were not included in the previous Closing the Gap strategy such as suicide, children in out-of-home care, adult incarceration and juvenile detention. To meet these targets, NACCHO believes sustained funding support for Aboriginal led, culturally appropriate mental health and suicide prevention programs is critical. We will not stop advocating for appropriate funding to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) until the Mental Health Gap is closed. We need funding support for sustainable community-led solutions to expand their mental health, social and emotional wellbeing, suicide prevention, and alcohol and other drug services, which use best-practice trauma-informed approaches,” said Ms Mills.
To read the NACCHO Chair’s media statement click here and to read the media release from Mental Health Australiaclick here.
Innovative program helps reunite families
Almost 400 children have been safely restored to their parents thanks to an innovative program designed to drive down the number of children in out-of-home care, which is funded by an Australian-first Social Benefit Bond (SBB). NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said the Newpin program has achieved unprecedented restoration results for vulnerable families across NSW. “Newpin is designed to reunite families by providing long-term therapeutic support that builds parenting skills and addresses issues like mental health, isolation, social disadvantage or family violence,” Mr Ward said. “Over the course of the seven-year pilot, more than 60% of children returned to the care of their parents. Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the program demonstrates what can be achieved when Government works with organisations that have the right expertise to deliver the best outcomes for communities.
Donnella Mills reaction to the Budget 2020 on ABC NewsRadio
Listen to NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills providing a reaction to the Budget 2020 to ABC NewsRadio, welcoming the increase in funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and stating that NACCHO will continue to press the Government for targeted infrastructure investment in our clinics.
More than $500,000 in grants under the first round of the $10 million Aboriginal Community Response and Recovery Fund has been announced. The Fund – announced in July – was set up to provide support for communities during the pandemic, including emergency relief, outreach and brokerage, social and wellbeing initiatives – as well as cultural strengthening and virtual celebration opportunities.
Four Aboriginal organisations were successful in the first round, including Wathaurong Aboriginal Corporation in Geelong, The Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Limited in North Melbourne, the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Corporation and the Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association in Hastings.
To read the Victorian State Government’s media release click here.
Image source: Victorian Government Twitter.
Culturally appropriate care for chronically ill
A program by Blacktown-based service, Western Sydney Integrated Team Care (ITC), is ensuring chronically ill Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have improved access to quality holistic care in the greater Western Sydney region. The federally funded program is facilitated by Western Sydney Primary Health Network and is operated by WentWest. It has proven itself to be a success and over time tailored itself to the community’s needs. With the largest urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia and one of the highest diabetes rates compared to the national figure, as well as heart and respiratory diseases, hepatitis and asthma becoming increasingly common within community, the importance of the service is not lost on the Western Sydney ITC team.
To view the National Indigenous Times article in full click here.
Image source: National Indigenous Times.
More needed to address eye health services backlog
The Fred Hollows Foundation has welcomed the Government’s six month extension to telehealth services announced in the Federal Budget, but said more must be done to address the backlog of eye health services caused by COVID-19. The Foundation’s CEO Ian Wishart said urgent action was needed to address the backlog of cataract surgeries and other ophthalmic treatments because of the pandemic. “Already long waiting lists are getting longer. Without targeted investment to support cataract surgery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, there is a real concern that gains made over the past decade in closing the eye health gap could be lost,” Mr Wishart said. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are three times more likely to be blind than other Australians and we know that more investment is needed to close the gap in eye health. We need commitment from all levels of government towards the implementation of Strong Eyes Strong Communities, a five year plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye health and vision care.”
Indigenous artist Peter Datjin. Image source: The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness website.
Healing through connection and culture report launched
Lifeline Australia, in partnership with The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention, have launched the Wellbeing and Healing Through Connection and Culture Report. Authored by Professor Pat Dudgeon, Professor Gracelyn Smallwood, Associate Professor Roz Walker, Dr Abigail Bray and Tania Dalton, the report is the first literature review undertaken in Australia analysing the emerging research and knowledge, key themes and principles surrounding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural perspectives and concepts of healing and social and emotional wellbeing as they relate to suicide prevention.
To read the Lifeline Australia media release regarding the launch click here.
Image source: SNAICC website.
Record investment in WA Aboriginal communities
More than $750 million has been committed in the 2020–21 WA State Budget to enhance the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal communities. This record amount of funding aims to build the resilience and capacity of Aboriginal communities and individuals. The funding is split over three key policy areas: building strong communities, improving health and wellbeing and delivering social and economic opportunities. An important component is $9.77 million for Aboriginal regional suicide prevention plans in each region of WA, prioritising Aboriginal-led and locally endorsed initiatives. Suicide affects the whole community, and a whole-of-community approach is required to prevent it.
To view WA Mental Health Minister Roger Cook’s media release click here.
Image source: Government of WA Department of Communities website.
More can be done to prevent diabetes related vision loss
Diabetes-related vision loss is the leading cause of blindness for working-aged Australians, yet it’s almost entirely preventable. A recent Australian study found that only half of the people with diabetes get the recommended annual eye checks. Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people three times more likely to develop diabetes than non-Indigenous Australians. There is potential to prevent blindness in more people with diabetes if the ongoing improvement of eye care that involves and empowers people with diabetes, their health teams, and communities to develop services, systems, new technology, and policies that meet their needs is pursued.
To view the full Micky Newsletter article click here.
Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation website.
Health care equity post graduate scholarships available
The Centre for Research Excellence – Strengthening systems for Indigenous health care equity’s (CRE-STRIDE) goal is equitable health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through quality improvement (QI) and collaborative research to strengthen primary health care systems. CRE-STRIDE’s research approach is based on growing evidence of the importance of community-driven, culture-strengthening interventions in Indigenous primary health care settings. CRE-STRIDE’s way of working puts the strengths, needs and aspirations of Indigenous people at the centre of the research process informed by methodologies that reflect Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing and advance international Indigenous scholarship.
CRE-STRIDE is offering scholarships to support honours, Masters of Research and PhD candidates.
To view the CRE-STRIDE website click here and to view details about the scholarship program and how to submit an Expression of Interest click here.
Aboriginal health funding boosted, but infrastructure overlooked
NACCHO has welcomed the increase in funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in the Budget with the Chair of NACCHO, Donnella Mills, saying, “I am heartened by the additional investment in the Indigenous Australians Health Program with $33m for our hard-working services over the next three years. I am also pleased to hear of the regional-and-remote health funding that will assist many of our clinics and the communities they serve as well as assistance for training and workforce development. These are all very welcome.”
NACCHO Conference 2017 Photo: Geoff Bagnall
“While these measures are significant, NACCHO will continue to press the Government for targeted infrastructure investment in our clinics. If stimulus is the main objective of the Budget, we believe that there is no better way to do so than to invest in local communities. There was a valuable opportunity here to invest in our 550 local clinics across the country where our 410,000 clients reside. This was an opportunity missed.”
To view NACCHO’s media release on the Budget click here.
Armajun Aboriginal Health Service, Inverell. Image source: Adam Marshall MP website.
Mental health support extended in NPY region
Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPYWC) and Smiling Mind have partnered to see crucial, prevention-focused mental health support extend even further into Australia’s Indigenous communities. Over the past two years, Smiling Mind has worked closely with NPYWC, translating its popular in-app mindfulness sessions into the region’s Indigenous languages, in order to support the communities’ youth with tools in their native language. To date, the programs have engaged more than 2,500 subscribers, and more than 5,000 meditations have been completed. Three remote schools in the central desert region have also benefited from mindfulness training, where educators were supported to foster positive mental health habits with their students and the wider school community.
Envato Foundation, the philanthropic arm of leading technology business Envato, have donated $100,000 to give new life to the partnership, allowing for an extension to the tools and resources already created to infiltrate further across the NPY region of Central Australia, a region spanning 28 remote communities in the tri state region of NT, SA and WA over an area covering 350,000 square kms.
‘The pandemic experience this year is a clear reason for the establishment of an Australian Centre for Disease Control,’ says Alison Verhoeven, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Chief Executive. ‘The call for this has been long-standing, with a 2013 recommendation to the Government by the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing overlooked in favour of the development of a National Communicable Disease Framework. Such a Centre would position Australia well to demonstrate global leadership in communicable disease planning and response capabilities. ‘It would also support existing state and territory disease control measures through a cohesive approach to research, diagnosis, screening, reporting, case management, contract tracing, forecasting and trend monitoring.’
Federal AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid has commended the Federal Government’s $16 billion COVID-19 health response and further stimulus spending aimed at fending off a COVID-19 recession, saying ‘The health and economic impacts of COVID-19 warrant this scale of health response and stimulus spending directed toward restarting the economy. A safe, effective and widely available vaccine is not guaranteed for next year and if it doesn’t eventuate and a large outbreak occurs, economic recovery will be threatened, along with many Australian lives. Governments cannot drop the ball and must continue a broad range of strong policies to keep COVID-19 out of the community in order to ensure a sustained health and economic recovery.’
CEO of the Consumer Health Forum of Australia (CHF), Leanne Wells, says the use of telehealth during the pandemic shows transformative change is possible in healthcare. She went on to say ‘telehealth has been stimulated by the pandemic to trigger easier and safe access to doctors, we look forward to further developments after the six month extension to March 2021 expires and we hold great ambition for the scope of services that will be possible under the 10 Year Primary Health Care Plan currently in development.’
Image source: The Fred Hollows Foundation website.
ACT – Canberra – National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
Social Media Communications Coordinator
As the Social Media Communications Coordinator within the NACCHO Communications team, you will manage and maintain NACCHO’s social media presence and the daily blog. You will report to the Director, Communications and seek direction and approval on content delivery. You will work cohesively with the NACCHO Communications teams towards the creation and the delivery of social media campaigns and driving key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector news content across channels.
This position will be offered as a fixed contract on a full time or part time basis depending on the candidate.
To view the full position description click here. Applications close 9.00am Friday 16 October 2020.
NSW – Narooma – Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services
FT Systems Analyst
Katungul Aboriginal Corporation Regional Health and Community Services has a vacancy for a Systems Analyst. The focus of the role is to oversee the implementation, maintenance and upgrading of information technology systems to support the delivery of Katungul’s range of services and for related research, analysis and performance reporting functions. The Systems Analyst will be an integral member of a collaborative team that works closely with Katungul’s service areas to deliver the best outcomes for the community.
To view the position description click here. Applications close 5.00 pm Friday 16 October 2020.