NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Voice has a vision, it has hope and it has promise

portrait image of Senator Pat Dodson; text ' “there’s nothing to fear with this referendum, it’s all about taking us forward, it has a vision, it has hope and it has promise” Senator Pat Dodson'

The image in the feature tile is of Labor Senator Pat Dodson from an article Yes supporter Senator Pat Dodson addresses National Press Club, says nation ‘bogged down in division’ published by ABC News on Wednesday 11 October 2023.

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

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

Voice has a vision, it has hope and it has promise

Prominent Indigenous leader and politician Pat Dodson, Senator for WA and Special Envoy Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, says a No result in the Voice to Parliament referendum would send the country backwards. The WA Labor Senator has been absent from the Yes campaign and from political life after being diagnosed with cancer.

Addressing the National Press Club on Wednesday this week (11 October 2023) via video link from Broome, Senator Dodson said the day after the referendum Australians will “have a look in the mirror” and ask themselves of the result: “How is this going to impact your kids and yourself going forward? Are we going to go backwards? Cop more of the same? Are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people going to be at the table or picking up the crumbs? As we have been for the last 200 years?”

Three days out from the referendum’s final call, Senator Dodson said the country needed change. “We need to have an effective Voice to the Parliament, we need to have recognition as the first peoples,” he said. Of the proposed amendment to the constitution that would see First Nations people recognised in the document, the senator said: “You can’t live in your own country and not be recognised.” When asked about the published polls within the media that have suggested a No win in the lead-up to the referendum, Senator Dodson said the only poll he was concerned with was the one that “comes out of the ballot box”.

You can view the ABC News article Yes supporter Senator Pat Dodson addresses National Press Club, says nation ‘bogged down in division’ in full here.

Health, education, law organisations all support the Voice

The yes campaign for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice has attracted the support of hundreds of organisations across Australian society, from health to education, legal affairs, housing, employment and, of course, Indigenous groups. Earlier this week (Tuesday 10 October 2023) The Guardian published an article: Why we’re backing yes: organisations from law to health to education on their support for the voice, available here, including statements from:

  • Health organisations: NACCHO; Australian Medical Association; Royal Australian College of General Practitioners; Public Health Association of Australia; Medical Journal of Australia; Royal Australasian College of Surgeons; Australian Society for Infectious Diseases; Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatry; NSW Mental Health Commission; Beyond Blue; Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association; and Headspace
  • Legal groups: The Law Council of Australia; NSW Aboriginal Legal Service; Human Rights Law Centre; Community Legal Centres Australia; Legal Aid NSW; and NSW Bar Association
  • Housing organisations: Community Housing Industry Association NSW; Tenants’ Union of NSW; Housing for the Aged Action Group
  • Educators: Universities Australia; Australian Education Union; Historians from universities, libraries and museums; Australian public law teachers; University of Newcastle; Charles Darwin University; and University of Sydney Business School
  • Business groups: Business Council of Australia; Tech Council of Australia; More than 450 company directors
  • Charities and welfare organisations: Community sector organisations including Acoss, Mission Australia, Cota and the St Vincent de Paul Society; Amnesty International; Australia’s major church providers
  • Other Indigenous groups: Indigenous Desert Alliance; Central Land Council; and Lowitja Institute

NACCHO CEO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner AM said “A voice and recognition of Indigenous Australians is critical if there is going to be long-term sustainable improvements to health outcomes for our peoples … Having worked in government as a senior executive for decades, I strongly believe having a voice written into the Australian constitution together with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap is the best way to improve living conditions and health outcomes for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Referendum’s mental health toll won’t end tomorrow

Racism, trauma and an expectation First Nations peoples should educate others on the Voice referendum have led to increased psychological stress, and no matter what happens on Saturday, the referendum campaign is likely to continue taking a mental and emotional toll on First Nations peoples,  Black Dog Institute First Nations strategy and partnerships director Clinton Schultz said.

“As professionals in the field, what we’re witnessing anecdotally are reports of increased psychological distress from community members,” he said. “People making contact with us are associating that with all the stresses of the referendum, the discourse and the constant discussion and focus. It’s been really overwhelming for a lot of people.”

National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing (NCATSIW) research professor Raymond Lovett said NCATSIW have been analysing survey data to track levels of mental health and wellbeing during the referendum period. During the referendum campaign Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have experienced increased racism, including “unfair and harmful interactions in day-to-day life, overhearing racist comments, and negative messages in the media. Another source of stress has been the pressure to “educate and inform non-Indigenous people about the referendum. This can cause a heavy mental load. Repeatedly walking people through history can also be triggering or re-traumatising.

To view the Crikey article Referendum mental health toll on First Nations communities won’t ‘miraculously’ ease on Saturday in full click here.

Vote Yes & Vote No signs at an early voting centre for the VTP

Vote Yes and Vote No signs at an early voting centre for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum. Photo: Joel Carrett, AAP. Image source: Crikey.

Connection to community crucial to research success

Professor Elizabeth Elliott has been partnering with the Aboriginal community in Fitzroy Crossing in regional WA since 2009 to support children affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). From their initial contact with the community, Professor Elliot Professor Jane Latimer and PhD students James Fitzpatrick, Barbara Lucas and Emily Fitzpatrick confirmed that there were high rates of FASD in the communities and that many of the children had major behavioural problems. They used this insight to advocate for services. “I’m really pleased that we were able prove the value of the research by showing both immediate and long-term benefits such as providing healthcare, training, referrals to specialists, or programs to help families and teachers – such as a positive parenting program to help support kids at home and school,” said Professor Elliot.

Connection to the community was also crucial to the success of the work undertaken by Professor Jennifer Alison and PhD candidate David Meharg. David’s thesis centres on partnering with four ACCHOs in regional NSW to implement pulmonary rehabilitation and contribute to lung health service provision. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or chronic lung disease, is so prevalent in Aboriginal communities that it’s seen as an inevitable illness. Raising awareness of COPD was a challenge for Jennifer and David, as many people aren’t aware that there are treatments available to manage the condition. Equally challenging are the barriers to attending hospitals due to feelings of fear, distrust and alienation from past experiences of racism.

Professor Alison and David worked to bring the treatment to the local communities in an effective and culturally safe manner, by upskilling local health professionals to help them educate their patients on how to manage COPD. We were very privileged to have the support of an Aboriginal Elder, Associate Professor Boe Rambaldini, who was Director of The Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at the University,” said Professor Alison, recalling how they started. “Having a personal introduction from a trusted Elder helped us form connections with the chief executives of the ACCHOs with whom we partnered”

To view The University of Sydney article Supporting better health for First Nations communities in full click here.

Professor Jennifer Alison (far right) and David Meharg (second from left) at a COPD Awareness Day at Armajun Aboriginal Medical Service, Inverell

Professor Jennifer Alison (far right) and David Meharg (second from left) at a COPD Awareness Day at Armajun Aboriginal Medical Service, Inverell. . Image source: The University of Sydney website.

Listening should have happened decades ago

In recent weeks both Noel Pearson and Health Minister Mark Butler have highlighted a condition known as rheumatic heart disease (RHD) as the exemplar of why we need an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. RHD is a major cause of suffering and early death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, yet for non-Indigenous Australians, it is essentially a disease of yesteryear. RHD researcher Professor Jonathon Carapetis says that because RHD is almost exclusively a health problem for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, has its roots in social and economic disadvantage, and we fail to tackle it despite having the ability to do so, it is emblematic of Australia’s failure to “close the gap” in health outcomes.

Professor Carapetis said the story of his RHD research over the past 30 years in many ways mirrors the story of closing the gap — lots of passion, dedication and good ideas, but with almost no progress being made. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are developing, and dying from, RHD today at higher rates than ever, despite all the hard work as scientists, health care providers, and policymakers.

But a few years ago, something changed, Professor Carapetis said, he and his colleagues finally listened to what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders had been telling them all along — that we could come up with all the great treatments, diagnostic tests and preventive therapies in the world, but no progress would be made until Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves were empowered to lead and implement change, often using those tools we developed. In other words, we researchers and health care providers needed to cede control to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities and become trusted partners and allies rather than be just another in a long line of well-intentioned, top-down programs destined to fail.

To view The West Australian article Jonathan Carapetis: Heart disease agenda shows what’s possible when we listen in full click here.

Professor Jonathon Carapetis, Telethon Kids Institute

Professor Jonathon Carapetis. Photo: Daniel Wilkins, The West Australian.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Key Date –  Saturday 14 October 2023

Allied Health Professions Day

Allied Health Professions Day was first held in England in 2018 and is now an international event held annually on 14 October, celebrating and bringing together the allied health professional community. This year the main theme ‘Stronger together’, highlights the benefits of multidisciplinary team-based care. While it is well known that allied health professionals play a key role in the health and wellbeing of all Australians, health system reform is finally recognising the value, both economic and clinical, of multidisciplinary care.

It is vital that allied health professionals are recognised alongside their nursing and medical colleagues for their role in designing and implementing a comprehensive healthcare system, that truly wraps around the consumer. Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) has developed a Digital Kit including logos, posters, social media graphics, and other assets to share in celebration of Allied Health Professions Day.

You can find more information about Allied Health Professions Day and access the AHPA Digital Kit on the AHPA website here.

Allied Health Professions Day logo & child therapist from Wellington AMS

An Aboriginal Community and Therapy Support Worker from the Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service (WACHS). Image source: WACHS website.

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day

World Hospice and Palliative Care Day (WHPCD) is an annual unified day of action to celebrate and support hospice and palliative care around the world. WHPCD has been marked every year for the last 19 years. The WHPCD theme for 2023 is Compassionate Communities: Together for Palliative Care.

Compassionate communities care for people, assist people to live in the place they call home, connect people to services, and raise awareness about end-of-life issues. The Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance (WHPCA) says it will engage governments and key stakeholders in a health promotion approach to palliative care, aiming to support solidarity among community members throughout their life course up to and at the end of life. In recent years, hundreds of compassionate communities have been developed all around the world. WHPCA believes that palliative care working alongside compassionate communities multiplies the ability to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities.

You can find more information on WHPCD 2023 on the WHPCA website here.

banner for 2023 World Hospice & Palliative Care Day 14 Oct 2023

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: At least 218 health and medical organisations say Yes to the Voice

The image in the feature tile is of NACCHO staff members on Ngunnawal Country.

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

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

At least 218 health and medical organisations say Yes to the Voice

At least 218 health and medical organisations are supporting a Yes vote in the referendum to establish a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to parliament and the executive. The wide-ranging health issues at stake in the Voice referendum were canvassed during a #CroakeyLIVE webinar this week, as Australians were urged to vote for “love and hope,” rather than “fear and rage.” Panelists at the #VoiceforHealth event, who included Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler, talked about the “enormously unifying, uplifting moment” in the nation’s life that a Yes vote could deliver.

“There’s a lot of racial gaslighting going on which, for me, really highlights the absolute need for historic truth telling,” Lowitja Institute CEO Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, a Nurrunga Kaurna women told the event.

Ms Mohamed said a Yes vote would make a significant difference, because “our spirits would be lifted pretty high, we would feel very supported and valued by the Australian public.”

For the Lowitja Institute a Voice would work towards a community-led research agenda that directed funding where it was needed.

“In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, so much of the issue is not actually about how much money is spent, because there is actually a lot of money in the system. It’s where it actually gets to,” Ms Mohamed said.

She said a Voice would more efficiently target funds to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and communities to lead research on issues they identified as priorities. That would result in better quality research and knowledge translation, as well as a stream of secondary effects, including investment in local communities, increased research workforce capability, better health literacy, greater awareness about invaluable cultural knowledges and health system savings.

See Croakey Health Media’s list of health and medical organisations supporting the Yes vote here and read the full Craokey Health Media article here.

You can also information on the Voice and wellbeing resources here.

Many voices for health, at the #CroakeyLIVE webinar on 9 October. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Dialysis clinic says Voice can save lives

Rachel Napaltjarri, an Aboriginal woman suffering from end-stage kidney failure, is one of dozens of Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people who are treated each day for kidney failure at remote dialysis clinics run by The Purple House, an Aboriginal community-led health service. The Purple House CEO, Sarah Brown said it is an example of how community involvement can improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“We don’t have flashier machines or more experienced nurses.

“The only difference is that people are running this place together, and they get to control what happens to them and they can help other communities out,” she said.

Purple House is evidence of how including the community can improve outcomes, Ms Brown said. This is why she hopes the country will vote Yes on October 14.

“Having policy where Aboriginal people have actually been able to advise and have some input on whether the idea is going to work or not is such a simple no-brainer but could have such a big impact,” she said.

Read the full article here.

Image source: Reuters.

Community-led school breakfast program demonstrates how the Voice could make a practical difference

When programs are designed and delivered by the communities involved, measures of wellbeing improve, according to the experiences of community members from the Ngaanyatjarra Lands in Western Australia and researchers. Rosalind Beadle, Olive Nyalypingka Lawson, and Bill Genat write: Leading up to the referendum, those in the Yes camp are referring to how the Voice will help empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with benefits for their health and wellbeing. But what does this mean in practice?

In the community of Warburton (Ngaanyatjarra Lands, Western Australia), between 2008 and 2015 a group of grandmothers responded to low school attendance by providing school breakfast for the children. While school breakfast programs aren’t unusual in this context, they are typically instigated and delivered by outsiders, such as teachers, youth workers, and through food donation programs. However, this program was initiated, designed, delivered, and governed by local Ngaanyatjarra women.

Local initiation meant that the community were responding to an issue that was of immediate concern to them, not one that had been identified by outsiders. The grandmothers who designed the program did so in a way that was grounded in their tacit knowledge of family relationships and community life. Their deep understanding of context ensured the program reflected the needs pf the school children and the broader community. The program’s success led to the women initiating a broad suite of additional activities that addressed other issues of wellbeing: meals for the elderly, a teenage girls’ support program, developing relevant literacy resources for school children, and catering for school and community events.

Read the full article here.

The Warburton Breakfast Minyma. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Why the Voice would be better for mums and bubs

There remain stubbornly disproportionate statistics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and their babies compared to non-Indigenous mothers and babies. Mother and former nurse of 20 years, Laura Soderlind writes: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents want the same thing as any Australian parents want – happy, healthy children who can grow to reach their full potential. But the long-term consequences of low birth wright on people, their families and the health system are significant. We know that low birth weight babies are more likely to die in infancy, develop chronic diseases and are especially at risk of developmental difficulties.

The Closing the Gap target 2 aims to increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies with a healthy birthweight to 91% by 2031. As Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ms Soderlind said she’ll be voting Yes on October 14 as she has seen the health system from all angles.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face starkly different outcomes when it comes to health across the board.

“If we keep doing the same thing, we can expect the same results. It’s time to change how we tackle these problems, so we get better results.

“Communities have solutions to these problems. Governments, like doctors and nurses, always do better when we listen to them,” she said.

Read more here.

Image source: Women’s Agenda.

Voice could advise on how to address natural disasters

Disaster events like bushfires are predicted to increase both in frequency and severity as the climate changes. The Voice to Parliament has the potential to be an effective way to this riskier future, write Professor Claire Hooker and Associate Professor Michelle Dickson. The Voice will enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to better undertake urgent tasks of planning and disaster preparation. First Nations people around the world have experience in successfully adapting to changing climates, reaching back tens of thousands of years.

Some Australians are already turning to Aboriginal and Tores Strait Islander knowledge of Country to prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the impacts of natural hazards. First Nations strategies – from “cool burn” bushfire hazard reduction such as the world leading Fire to Flourish program, to waterway management – can prevent disasters, or reduce their scale.

The Voice has the potential to provide the means for the Australian Government to learn from this expertise. This could enable all Australians to see and benefit from the extraordinary strengths in Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities.

Read more here.

Image source: Unsplash.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Key Date – Mental Health Week

Saturday 7 October to Sunday October 15 marks Mental Health Week for QLD, WA, and the NT.

Early this week, Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation posted to socials that Milingimbi staff held a Mental Health Beach Cook Up to celebrate.

Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council looked to celebrate their deadly mental health/alcohol and other drug workers.

Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia writes: This year’s theme is Mind, Body, and Environment. How the mind, body and environment intersect is essential to overall wellbeing. Physical health – both inside of us and in the world around us – has a major impact on our mental health. The nutrition we consume, movement of our bodies, the health of the planet and the quality of housing and neighbourhoods all have a part to play in building healthy communities and people. We encourage you all to participate in local events, conversations, and activities to raise the awareness of positive mental health and wellbeing.

For mental health resources go here. 

If you are feeling stressed, not sleeping well or have increased anxiety and depression, you can seek help from:

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Racism taking a toll during Voice campaign

photo of Aboriginal child's face with white dot body paint & ATSI woman in background with Aboriginal flag t-shirt

The image in the feature tile is from an article Voice campaigns urged to keep mental health top of mind published in the National Indigenous Times on 6 September 2023. Photo: Mick Tsikas, AAP.

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

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

Racism taking a toll during VTP campaign

Audrina Pinney is only 12 years old but that’s old enough for the young Gamilaroi child to have experienced racism. Audrina believes that if the referendum gets up she and her friend, who she says both get bullied a lot, will have a lot more confidence. Too young to vote, but too old to ignore what’s happening around her, Audrina has taken an active role in campaigning for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Audrina’s mother Melita Berthaly said. “This is our future here. If we’re not backing this, what are we backing?” she said. “We want to stop the pain, and the hardship of fighting just to be us. For me, this is all about our younger generations, and supporting them for a brighter better future, sitting at the table with the big guys and having our voices heard.”

For many Aboriginal people in the NSW Riverina, the vote for a Voice to Parliament feels like the most important event of their lives. Aboriginal crisis support service 13YARN say the referendum campaign has been a challenging experience for Indigenous Australians. National program manager Marjorie Anderson said people should reach out for support if they were struggling. 13YARN is seeing a rise of in calls related to abuse, trauma and racism,” she said. The increased focus in the media on Aboriginal issues due to the referendum and the rise in racism on social media is having an impact on the Aboriginal community.”

Eddie Whyman is a proud Wiradjuri man living in Wagga who has recently taken a more public role in activism. He said he’d seen more racism in the last few months than he did growing up. “On social media, we’ve seen the true colours of Australia shine through,” he said. “It’s impacted me mentally, and personally … it’s impacted me significantly.” Mr Whyman said misinformation was leading directly to these impacts. “I’ve always heard, and it’s been more in your face, is that Aboriginal people get everything as it is – free house, free car,” he said. “I’ve had to work for what I’ve got … our local Aboriginal medical and dental provides, but we still have to pay a fee when we get referrals. I’m still waiting for my free house.”

To view the Narromine News and Trangie Advocate article Aboriginal Australians are suffering from racism and misinformation in full click here.

Audrina Pinney & her mum Melita Berthaly speaking on the VTP

Audrina Pinney and her mother Melita Berthaly. Image source: Narromine News and Trangir Advocate.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for kids

Content warning: This article contains reference to suicide. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.

A Kimberley community leader says young people and their families are still struggling to access basic mental health support despite suicide being the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed suicide accounted for 27% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children last year. The causes of death report revealed that more than a third of those children were aged between 15 and 17. The high rates of child suicide in the Kimberley have been the subject of numerous coronial inquests, as well as other inquiries and reviews, and the WA government has faced criticism for failing to make good on its highly-publicised promises. Coroners have also expressed frustration that their recommendations have received little to no follow-up at state and national levels.

Nyamba Buru Yawuru CEO Taliah Payne said people in the Kimberley had been in desperate need of help for too long. “When you’re sitting across the dinner table and you’ve got a nephew in a neck brace because he survived his attempt and you’re trying to eat your roast dinner, it’s in your face,” she said. “They’re doing it so violently, which means to me that they’re so desperate, and no-one’s listening and no-one’s seeing the person behind that pain.”

The Broome-based Yawuru, Nimanburru and Djugun woman said youth suicide and mental health issues had been present in her life since her nine-year-old cousin died by suicide when she was 11 years old. “We’ve lost lots of family members to that … it’s in your face, really,” Ms Payne said. “We know that we shouldn’t be seeing this … it’s an ongoing support system that needs to happen. If we have traumatised children, we’re going to have traumatised adults — that is plain and simple.” Ms Payne said young people in the Kimberley continued to struggle to access mental health support and that many were forced to travel as far as Perth for help.

To view the ABC News article Calls for support as suicide revealed as leading cause of death for Indigenous children in full click here.

simple white cross on fresh grave

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Indigenous children and advocates in WA say the situation has been desperate for years. Photo: Joshua Spong, ABC Kimberley.

If this article brought up anything for you or someone you love, please reach out to, call or visit the online resources listed below for support:

13YARN – 13 92 76, 13yarn.org.au

Lifeline – 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, beyondblue.org.au/forums

MensLine – 1300 789 978

Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

Mental health app for NT mob launched

The Menzies School of Health Research on Tuesday this week (9 October 2023) launched an online resource which blends evidence-based treatment with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander world views. The Digital Stay Strong Plan, which can be accessed via an app or through its website, is an interactive document that prompts the user to fill out a four-step mental health care plan.

Stay Strong lead cultural advisor Patj Patj Janama Robert Mills said while it was designed for Aboriginal people, all Territorians could use the free resource. Mr Mills said about two decades of research and consultation had gone into the plan, which had previously been used across the country for years in more formal settings. “The beauty of this digital program is once you download it, you don’t need Wi-Fi (to use it),” he said. “You can actually go through the four-step care plan on your phone … then you’ve literally got a helping hand on your phone at any time.”

Mr Mills said it marked a huge change for access to mental health support and offered something his generation never had. “I was born in the 60s … there was no discussion on mental health at all,” he said. “We want to break down all the stigmas, mental health is not a dirty word.”

To view the NT News article Menzies launch Digital Stay Strong Plan mental health app in full click here.

mobile phone screen with AIMhi Stay Strong app

The Digital Stay Strong Plan can be accessed on the AIMhi app. Photo: Annabel Bowles. Image source: NT News.

25 years of optometry services within VAHS

This month, the Australian College of Optometry (ACO) is celebrating 25 years of optometry services within the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) in Melbourne. This unique clinic aims to remove barriers to eye care experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in mainstream services which continues to systematically fail Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and drive health disparities. As an ACCHO, VAHS supports the social, emotional, physical, and cultural wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is coincidentally celebrating 50 years of operation this year. Eye health is among the many healthcare services available to community members through VAHS, including GP care, dental, physiotherapy and family counselling.

The ACO’s optometry clinic delivers culturally safe care with sessions running every Tuesday and Friday. Nilmini John, ACO Manager of Aboriginal Services, leads the team of four optometrists who service the embedded clinic. In this role, Nilmini works closely with the VAHS team to continually ensure community eye health needs are met.  Collaboration between health care providers and ACCHOs has proven instrumental for meaningful impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes, and the ACO is appreciative of the opportunity to work within community-controlled spaces, such as VAHS, to deliver effective care.

Gavin Brown, VAHS CEO is passionate about the growth in eye care services at available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “VAHS is a recognised leader in the eye health space, and we also acknowledge the incredible work that ACCHOs are doing across Australia. There is a strong synergy by all those involved in improving the eye health in our communities as we continue to be committed to enabling the gift of sight.”

To view the Optometry Australia article ACO celebrates 25 years of optometry service at VAHS in full click here.

Nilmini John, optometrist and ACO Manager of Aboriginal Services, examines patient at VAHS

Nilmini John, optometrist and ACO Manager of Aboriginal Services, examines patient at VAHS. Image source: Optometry Australia.

Lived experience sparks midwife to help others

Being a mother to six boys, with one of her children born prematurely at 29 weeks, prompted Noongar woman Valerie Ah Chee to become a midwife at the age of 45. Inspired to improve perinatal and infant mortality outcomes within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, Ms Ah Chee is now using her midwifery experience as a Mater Researcher within the Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence.

“According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Australia’s Mothers and Babies report in 2020, Indigenous stillbirth is at 11.9% while non-Indigenous stillbirth sits at 7.4%,” she said. “To recognise why that is and to try to develop and adjust programs to improve prevention strategies and outcomes is vital.”

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month (October 2023) is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of maternal health education and support among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Focusing on Aboriginal maternal and infant health, Ms Ah Chee is working with her team to embed cultural safety in the pregnancy and birth space, to improve the health of Aboriginal women and their babies from a cultural perspective.

The Indigenous team at the Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence worked with the Indigenous community to adapt core elements of the successful national initiative Safer Baby Bundle (SBB), embedding Indigenous people’s own way of knowing, being and doing. Expanding on this initiative, Ms Ah Chee is now developing resources to educate and support non-Indigenous healthcare professionals who work with Indigenous women in this space.

You can find more information about the Safer Baby program here.

To view the Mater News article Lived experience sparks Indigenous Mater Research midwife to help others in full click here.

midwife Valerie Ah Chee on verandah of old red brick hospital

Midwife Valerie Ah Chee. Image source: Mater News.

Taking care of mental health during the referendum

The Voice referendum is having a negative impact on the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The federal government set aside an extra $10m to boost support services, and research the consequences of the vote. The research side is being managed by the National Centre for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Research (NCATSIWR) at Australian National University (ANU).

Yesterday, Wednesday 10 October 2023, ABC Listen Life Matters host Hilary Harper spoke with:

  • Ms Cornforth of the Wuthathi peoples of the far north-east cape of Qld with family roots also in Zenadth Kes (the Torres Strait Islands), who is Head of the NCATSIWR, and
  • Tanja Hirvonen, a proud Jaru and Bunaba woman (Kimberley, WA), who is a clinical psychologist and Board director of the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association

about what’s been learned so far, and how can we support those having a difficult time during the referendum, and afterwards.

You can listen to yesterday’s ABC Listen Life Matters episode Taking care of mental health during the Voice referendum in full here.

NCATSIWR fact sheets about the Voice can be accessed here.

If you are an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person in crisis you can call 13YARN on 13 96 76.

ATSI person's hand casting vote in VTP referendum in remote WA community

An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person casting their vote on the Voice to Parliament Referendum in a remote WA community. Photo: Rosanne Maloney, ABC News.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Mental health is a universal human right

The image in the feature tile is from Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services Facebook page.

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

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

Mental health is a universal human right

Today, Monday 10 October is World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is “Mental health is a universal human right,” which is an opportunity to raise awareness and support the mental wellbeing of mob.

The Connection. Strength. Resilience. portal provides a set of resources aimed at supporting and reducing social and emotional harms to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the period prior and post the Voice Referendum.

The wellbeing resources and tools are freely available and have been developed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to support mob, our communities, and our workforce to help keep you safe and well. Building Connection, Strength, Resilience is at the heart of these resources, which comprise factsheets, support websites, apps, posters, videos, and other critical tools.

For support, please contact an ACCHO near you. To find an ACCHO in your area, click here.

If you are feeling stressed, not sleeping well, or have increased anxiety and depression, you can seek help from:

Connection. Strength. Resilience. | Voice Referendum: Social and Emotional Wellbeing Resources available here.

 

Self-Care Yarning Circles

NACCHO recognises that the next few weeks will be challenging for many of our members and staff. This Thursday 12 October from 3.30pm to 5pm AEDT is an opportunity for NACCHO members and affiliates, as well as all NACCHO staff, to discuss challenges and get insights into ways to look after your wellbeing during this time. The online Self-Care Yarning Circle will be hosted by two senior Aboriginal psychologists from the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association.

Spaces are capped at 25. To not miss out, sign up here.

There will be a second Self-Care Yarning Circle on Monday 23 October from 3.30pm to 5pm AEDT. Register here.

Why health organisations are voting Yes

At least 198 health and medical organisations are supporting a Yes vote in the referendum. Here is why:

NACCHO: “A voice and recognition of Indigenous Australians is critical if there is going to be long-term sustainable improvements to health outcomes for our peoples … Having worked in government as a senior executive for decades, I strongly believe having a voice written into the Australian constitution together with the National Agreement on Closing the Gap is the best way to improve living conditions and health outcomes for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.” – Pat Turner, CEO.

Australian Medical Association: “As Australia’s peak medical body, it has been incumbent on the AMA to work to address the significant gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We know that this requires a multi-faceted approach, including addressing the determinants of health … The AMA considers that this recognition presents a tangible opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association: “We wish to share publicly that AIPA supports the Voice to Parliament, understanding it to be the first step in developing a mechanism for decision-making partnerships between all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and all levels of government.  AIPA supports the self determination of Australian First Nations peoples.”

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners: “The voice to parliament will help drive changes to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and address the inequity in our health system.” – Dr Nicole Higgins, president.

Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association: “I’m voting YES to give Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people the opportunity to influence the healthcare system and improve health outcomes. I’m voting YES so Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people will partner in decision-making processes that impact Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples wellbeing. I’m voting YES so Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander children can flourish. I’m voting YES because I want to hold my head high, and proudly live in a country that recognises 65,000 years of Indigenous culture in the Constitution. I’m voting YES because the status quo is not acceptable.” – Donna Burns, CEO.

Beyond Blue: “Beyond Blue recognises that self-determination, which the Voice could help enhance, would give First Nations Peoples and communities a say in the policies that impact their lives, and this has the potential to support social and emotional wellbeing.”

Read a joint statement by more than 120 health and medical groups supporting the Voice here.

Read the Croakey Health media article Latest health updates on the Voice. Plus, how many health organisations are supporting a Yes vote? Here. Read the Guardian article Why we’re backing yes: organisations from law to health to education on their support for the Voice here.

An Open Letter to the Australian Public: A Voice to Parliament will improve health outcomes.

New digital mental health tool

A new, interactive, mental health and wellbeing tool, the Digital Stay Strong Plan has been launched at Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) during World Mental Health Day. The interactive document is designed to improve culturally safe care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The tool is aimed at strengthening connections, goal setting and self-management of mental wellbeing.

The tool was developed in response to community feedback and provides better access to digital mental health resources for schools, health, and support services. The Digital Stay Strong Plan launch was part of the Mental Health Week Seminar hosted by Menzies Stay Strong Mental Health team.

“Culturally safe resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can help us to support wellbeing through sharing stories.

“The Digital Stay Strong Plan is a step-by-step guide to a strengths-based approach to making change,” said Menzies School of Health Research Mental Health Research Lead, Professor Tricia Nagel.

Learn more here.

Page taken from: Digital Stay Strong Plan.

Voice would see more birthing on Country success stories

Aboriginal-led birthing on Country programs have allowed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to determine how and where they give birth. The result has dramatically improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and babies. Proud Narrunga Kaurna and health professional, Janine Mohamed writes: As a mother and a former nurse, I can’t think of a better illustration of how an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice enshrined in the constitution will improve the health and wellbeing of our peoples.

Our babies continue to be born underweight, and our women live on average eight years less than non-Indigenous women. Things are improving in this area, but too slowly to bridge the gap. The Close the Gap Campaign Report 2022 reported that within five years, the Meanjin (Brisbane) Institute for Urban Indigenous Health Birthing on Country program led to 50% less pre-term births for our babies, and dramatically reduced the number of babies born with low birth weights and admissions to neonatal units. This proves that better health outcomes can be achieved when mothers are provided culturally safe wraparound support throughout their pregnancy, and during and after their babies are born.

Aboriginal-led birthing on Country programs prove how important it is for mothers to feel trusted, safe, respected, have a voice and choice. These local successes show that a Voice will provide an opportunity to upscale and translate these success stories nationally.

Read the full article here.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Purple House shows what ‘yes’ could achieve

Feature tile: Aboriginal art on side of tin shed & sign Yes for Hope; text 'Purple House provides model of what 'YES' could achieve'

The image in the feature tile is from the article Purple House provides model of what ‘yes’ could achieve published in the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader on 7 October 2023.

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

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

Purple House shows what ‘yes’ could achieve

Within two decades, central Australia has gone from having the worst survival rates on dialysis to the best. In large part the turnaround is due to Purple House, an AACCHO based in Alice Springs. CEO Sarah Brown says Purple House is an example of how Aboriginal people and communities can come up with creative and innovative solutions to issues. Ms Brown believes it shows how an Indigenous voice to parliament could work if voters support the referendum on October 14.

In the late 1990s, Pintupi people from the Western Desert of central Australia were forced to leave their country and families to seek treatment for end-stage renal failure in hospital in Alice Springs or Darwin. 1,000 kms from home and family, they suffered great loneliness and hardship, and weren’t around to pass on cultural knowledge in their communities. In 2000, Papunya Tula artists from Walungurru and Kiwirrkurra collaborated on four stunning paintings which were auctioned along with other works at the Art Gallery of NSW, raising over $1m, which was used to start the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation. Now called Purple House, it practises a model of care based around family, country and compassion.

Indigenous people have higher rates of diabetes as well as a higher rate of hospitalisation and death from diabetes than non-Indigenous Australians. Endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases were the fifth-leading cause of death for Indigenous Australians in 2015–2019. In that period, 7.3% of Indigenous Australian deaths were due to diabetes, with the rates in remote Australia more than three times higher than non-remote areas. “It’s a little bit complex but the simple answer is that it’s about dispossession, powerlessness, and poverty,” Ms Brown said. “It’s about access to healthy food and clean water. “It’s about access to education, with housing. “It’s about being able to access culturally appropriate services in the place that keeps you strong, with your family around you, so a lot of things that other Australians absolutely take for granted but that Aboriginal people in remote communities still don’t have access to.”

To view the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader article Purple House provides model of what ‘yes’ could achieve in full click here.

The Purple Truck, a self-contained dialysis unit on wheels, in Central Australia

The Purple Truck is a self-contained dialysis unit on wheels which gives patients with end-stage renal failure the chance to return to home for family, cultural or sorry business. Image source: Purple House website.

Why mob have a lower life expectancy

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a significantly lower life expectancy than non-Indigenous Australians. The gap in life expectancy is on average 7.8 years for females and 8.6 years for males, though it wasn’t so long ago that it was 20+ years. ‘Why’ is a big question. Dr Zac Turner, who presents a weekly column Ask Doctor Zac says the answer to this question lies within conversations about health, science, economics and government.

Dr Turner believes to work out what can be done requires us to ask the right questions. Having grown up in literally out ‘the Back-o-Bourke’ and several other small rural towns, Dr Turner say it was shocking to him that his Indigenous Australian friends would live on average 20 years less at that time. He said the life expectancy gap is a staggeringly high disparity between populations in one country, especially a developed and prosperous nation. Dr Turner explained that while resources have been given to Indigenous Australians, the non-Indigenous understanding of what needs to happen to create change has been left without proper consultation. In addition, many of the funding routes and opportunities that have been allocated by one government have then been swiftly changed by the next.

Life expectancy is measured by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and covers not only health, but also social factors such as education, employment, housing and income. These social factors (the social determinants of health) are responsible for at least a third of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. From the outset, Indigenous Australians have higher rates of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory illnesses. Indigenous Australians also often experience socio-economic disadvantage, which is closely linked to health outcomes as it limits access to healthcare, nutritious food, and safe housing. Dr Turner believes the continuous feedback from a body such as the Voice may just be the assistance needed to closing this gap.

To view the news.com.au article ‘Why do Indigenous people have a shorter life expectancy?’ in full click here.

road sign with 179kms to Pindar, 512 Murchison Settlement etc beside dirt road Australian outback

Photo: Tamati Smith, Getty Images. Image source: news.com.au

On-line Self-Care Yarning Circles

Two senior Aboriginal psychologists from the Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association will be hosting a Self-Care Yarning Circle tomorrow Tuesday 10 October 2023.

It is an opportunity for ACCHO and NACCHO Managers to discuss their challenges and get insights into ways to look after their own personal wellbeing and the wellbeing of their team.

Spaces are capped at 25 so sign up now!

  • TOMORROW Tuesday 10 October – to register click here
  • Wednesday 18 October – to register click here

There will also be two Self-Care Yarning Circles available for anyone working at an ACCHO or NACCHO on:

  • Thursday 12 October 2023 – details available here
  • Monday 23 October 2023 – details available here

NACCHO tile 'on-line self-care Yarning Circles for Managers'

Limb loss through amputation a ‘hidden’ disability

The oldest known example of a successful surgical amputation dates back to 31,000 years ago. But in day-to-day life, amputation is not an experience that receives a lot of attention. National Amputee Awareness Week (4–11 October) aims to spotlight the experiences of people who’ve lost a limb. Darrel Sparke is President of Amputees NSW,says the reality for many people who undergo an amputation is a confronting experience, “it’s a hidden community, because amputation makes you want to retreat from society, because now you’re a spectacle. Nobody really gets prepared, there’s nothing else you do in life that gets you prepared for losing a part of your body, in such a visible and highly impacted way.”

There are number of reasons people undergo an amputation, including trauma like a car accident or workplace injury, or cancer and other diseases.  One of the leading causes is diabetes – and it’s a condition that’s on the rise. Australia has the second highest rate of diabetes-related amputations in the OECD. In any given year, about 5,100 Australians with diabetes will undergo an amputation as a result of complications from the condition. However it’s an issue that continues to disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. According to Diabetes Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are almost three times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes.

The serious consequences of this disparity were recently spotlighted by Tanya Hosch, Executive General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy at the Australian Football League. In August Ms Hosch, who is of Torres Strait Islander descent, stood to speak at the launch of the campaign for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, where she shared a deeply personal and real story, “a little over two weeks ago, I had my lower right leg amputated. I have type 2 diabetes and I contracted a related disease, that I have battled for 3 years and across six surgeries, trying to avoid the loss of my limb. I’m not without privilege, and access to services, but still the service design let me down.” In her speech, Ms Hosch advocated for Indigenous-controlled healthcare to improve outcomes.

You can listen to, or read a transcript of, the SBS News Headlines on Health podcast episode Australia’s ‘hidden’ disability – and one of the world’s oldest medical practices in full here.
banner of SBS News podcast 'hidden' disability & ATSI amputee Tanya Hosch

SBS News podcast banner. Australian for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition Tanya Hosch, who lost a leg to diabetes. Image source: The Australian.

Never too late for a career change

These days Jennie Waters, 66, runs the only Indigenous disability service provider in SW Queensland – but the tale started long before that. A proud Kamilaroi woman, Ms Waters grew up in St George, one of six children born into a bicultural family, “smack bang in the middle of the assimilation period.” She says, that nevertheless, she had a wonderful childhood, loving parents and a wonderful education. She married young and had two children in quick succession. Ms Waters knew she wanted to continue to study, but suddenly that was not an option.

As the kids were growing up Ms Waters was finally in a position in her life to contemplate further study. She enrolled in a Bachelor of Applied Science (Psychology) at the University of Southern Queensland as a mature age student she was 35 and graduated in 1996. While studying, Ms Waters worked at the local TAFE college as an Indigenous support officer. After graduating, I was offered a role as the southwest Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander co-ordinator for Queensland Health.

It was Ms Waters’ daughter who recognised the need for a specialised disability service in our region and eventually Ms Waters decided to start her own business. Indigicare Connect has been running for eight years now and it’s the only Indigenous disability service provider in SW Queensland. Indigicare Connect is 100% Indigenous owned and 70% of staff are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The above is an extract from the article Never too late to follow your dreams’: Jennie Waters on her late career change published in the Cairns Post on 7 October 2023.

66 year old Jennie Water St George Managing Director Indigicare Connect, in work uniform standing by river

Jennie Waters. Image source: Cairns Post.

Rural placements offer full scope of practice

Rural health care placements offer a range of students a broader scope of practice in their first years after graduation, according to a recent narrative review published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The review, undertaken by members of seven Australian universities with departments of rural health, explored the efficacy of their programs, as well as the overall benefits of rural placements for students and communities. Ms Sandra Walsh, a Research Assistant with the University of SA Department of Rural Health, was the lead author, “The biggest challenge for rural health right now, and into the future, is growing and sustaining a rural health workforce. Rural placements are one part of that puzzle. We know we can change the way people perceive rural health through rural placement.”

The review found that successful rural placements changed perceptions about rural practice, leading to more students deciding to work rurally. The main reason for the success of rural placements was the ability for students to work at the top of their scope of practice, Ms Walsh said. “The feedback from students is that they get to do and see so much more on a rural placement,” she said. The review found several other factors leading to students who completed rural placements staying in rural work, including a more collaborative working environment. “In country areas where you don’t have a huge team of specialists, people often work in a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary way,” Ms Walsh said.

Rural placements also offer students a unique opportunity to work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care. “Students valued the opportunity to learn about First Nations culture and gained a better understanding of their health needs,” she said. “Working in partnership with local Aboriginal health organisations to provide a placement was good for the organisations, good for the people and good for the students.” The review also identified that one of the consistent elements of a successful student placement was quality supervision. “If a supervisor loves rural practice, they give the student the passion for rural health,” Ms Walsh said.

To view the AMPCo. InSight+ article Full scope of practice offered through rural placements in full click here.

Dr Marian Dover, stethoscope around neck, Australian bush in background

Dr Marian Dover is a rural GP in training who ‘feels passionately’ about supporting the health of regional communities. Image source: The Sydney Morning Herald.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: What the impact of the Voice could be

feature tile: Dr Louis Peachey standing with forest background; text: 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctor explains what the impact of the Voice could be'

The image in the feature tile is of Dr Louis Peachey from the Personal Stories webpage of the National Rural Health Alliance website.

We also share a curated selection of news stories that are of likely interest to the Aboriginal and Torre

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

What the impact of the Voice could be

When Dr Louis Peachey, who belongs to the Girrimay and Djirribal people of the Djirribaligan language group of Far North Qld, graduated from the University of Newcastle he was one of only four Indigenous doctors in Australia. When asked “Oh, Louis, what was your secret?” Dr Peachey says he was just lucky, he just managed to not get blown up by the warfare of racism. He said the truth is, there’s nothing special that he did. While he has a bunch of cousins who he says “have made a good fist of their lives” with trades and university degrees, there’s a massive bunch of them who are still stuck in that world of poverty.

There are people like me out there who can give you an opinion as to what would be an appropriate way to do things, but even we don’t get listened to. We are the people who some in the No campaign refer to as “elites”. If you do survive the horror that happens to you at school, and manage to find yourself at a university and get a good education, you can now be de-legitimised by being referred to as an “elite”. The difference, of course, between Indigenous elites and non-Indigenous elites is that 99% of the Indigenous elites are one relationship away from poverty.

Dr Peachey if governments could just come and have a chat with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, “we might be able to direct you. That’s what we’re asking for with the Voice. We know we’ve got problems in our community and we’ve got some ideas.” Dr Peachey said “the Voice is a modest change. It’s something very simple that we’re asking, you know. Former chief justices of the High Court have all told us this is a simple thing.” According to Dr Peachey, most Australians, if they were just able to understand what was actually being asked, would see that it’s a tiny risk for a potential big gain.

To view the ABC News article Louis Peachey was one of Australia’s first Indigenous doctors. He doesn’t know how he survived the horror of racism at school in full click here.

RAAF supports ACCHO to provide dental services

Air Force personnel will support the Derby Aboriginal Health Service (DAHS) during October 2023 to provide dental services in a part of WA where access to timely dental treatment can be challenging. The exercise, known as Exercise Kummundoo, will give Air Force personnel the opportunity to engage directly with Indigenous Australians on their ancestral lands, while honing their dentistry skills under different conditions to operating in a base environment.

Officer in charge of the exercise, Flight Lieutenant Maryam Ferooz, said she felt honoured to lead the exercise. “My team are driven by a sense of purpose, and delivering dental care, as well as oral health training and advice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote Australia is a real privilege,” Flight Lieutenant Ferooz said.

“This collaborative endeavour is a testament to the strong ties between Defence and Indigenous communities, demonstrating the importance of working together to address critical health needs. The team will also run community sessions to help highlight the importance of good oral health and healthy lifestyle choices, and provide defence career information.” Exercise Kummundoo is being held throughout October in collaboration with NACCHO, and Derby Aboriginal Health Service.

You can read the RAAF media release Airforce supports dental services in Derby in full here.

You can also read a related article A Dentistry graduate in the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) published on the Griffith University website, about RAAF Dental Officer Flight Lieutenant Max Moody’s work on Exercise Kummundoo leading a diverse team of RAAF personnel in working closely with Indigenous communities around Broome, in full here.

RAAF Dental Officer with young ATSI boy

RAAF Dental Officer Flight Lieutenant Max Moody. Image source: Griffith University website.

Aunty Pat Anderson addresses Qld ACCHO sector

Alyawarre woman, Aunty Pat Anderson AO, a co-architect of the Uluru Dialogues, has emphasised that a ‘yes’ vote in the Voice referendum has the potential to significantly improve the future health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Yesterday, Thursday 5 October 2023, she addressed the ACCHO sector in Brisbane. “It’s been a long journey to equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and today, Australia stands on the precipice of momentous change,” she said.

ACCHO is a primary health care service initiated and operated by the local Aboriginal community.”We can become a fairer and more just society; a society where there is health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Aunty Pat said. “A society where Aboriginal children can get a healthy start in life and achieve their full health potential. Health could be a big winner if Australia votes ‘yes’. It means we will be able to get down and deal with the big health issues, like Australia having some of the world’s highest recorded rates of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease.”

Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) Chairman Matthew Cooke said the Voice aligns with their philosophy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination in healthcare. As the leading body representing ACCHOs in Queensland, they acknowledged the ongoing efforts needed to fulfill the government’s promise of Closing the Gap. “We believe a Voice is critical if there is going to be long-term sustainable gains in health outcomes for our peoples,” he said. “Accessible and equitable comprehensive primary health care is a basic human right for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.”

The above has been extracted from an article  Uluru Dialogue’s architect meets with health sector in Meanjin published in the National Indigenous Times yesterday, Thursday 5 October 2023.

Cleveland Fagan, Adrian Carson, Aunty Pat Anderson AO, Matthew Cooke, Kava Watson, Joshua Hollingsworth with QIAHC signage in background

Cleveland Fagan, Adrian Carson, Aunty Pat Anderson AO, Matthew Cooke, Kava Watson, Joshua Hollingsworth. Photo: Joseph Guenzler. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Suicide rates increase after extreme drought

Content warning: This article contains reference to suicide. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.

The impact on mental health of weather extremes such as drought is a growing concern due to climate change. Rural communities feel the impact of drought much more than urban residents. New research from the University of Adelaide has looked at the link between drought and suicide rates in one of Australia’s biggest farming areas, the Murray-Darling Basin. The research findings were alarming, for instance, one more month of extreme drought in the previous 12 months was strongly associated with a 32% increase in monthly suicide rates.

Climate change is predicted to bring more heat and longer, more extreme droughts. More effective approaches will be needed to prevent suicides in affected regions. Droughts induce post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. Hotter temperatures can also reduce levels of the brain chemical serotonin. This has negative effects on the  central nervous system and moods. In Australia, suicide is a leading cause of death – especially for people aged 18-44. And the suicide rate in remote areas is almost double that of major cities.

Some of the key findings of the research were:

  • in males and younger age groups, suicide rates are more strongly associated with extreme drought and higher temperatures
  • a higher proportion of First Nations people in a local area was also associated with higher suicide rates
  • an increase in average annual household income moderated the relationship between higher temperature and suicide
  • the association between moderate drought and suicide rates is significant but the effect was small. As the drought becomes extreme, suicide rates increase significantly.

To read The Conversation article Suicide rates increased after extreme drought in the Murray-Darling Basin – we have to do better as climate change intensifies in full click here.

IDarling River downstream of Menindee ran dry for years after the July 2016 drought

The Darling River downstream of Menindee ran dry for years after the July 2016 drought. Photo: Isabel Dayman, ABC News.If this article brought up anything for you or someone you love, please reach out to, call or visit the online resources listed below for support:

13YARN – 13 92 76, 13yarn.org.au

Lifeline – 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, beyondblue.org.au/forums

MensLine – 1300 789 978

Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

When you listen you get better results – it’s that simple

In an Opinion Piece published in The Daily Advertiser yesterday, the Hon Emma McBride MP, Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention and Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health said: “When you listen, you get better results. It’s that simple. It is what health professionals do every day, in the pharmacy dispensary, in the clinic treatment room, at the bedside. It’s what I did as a hospital pharmacist in a regional hospital for nearly a decade. If we don’t ask, and we don’t properly listen, how can we possibly understand the situation?”

“Here in the Riverina an innovative program is boosting the rates of breastfeeding among Indigenous women. The project is led by Aboriginal people and improving infant health. Breastfeeding for the first few months of a child’s life is recommended to give infants the best start in life: it supports early child development, reduces the risk of illness and death in the early years and reduces the risk of unhealthy weight in childhood and later life.”

“Breastfeeding among First Nations women is consistently lower than the rest of the Australian population. The project is developing lactation training designed by First Nations women for First Nations women. It is fostering an environment where mothers feel safe and understood. The project is a small-scale but meaningful example of the kind of progress that listening can make towards closing the gap. It is the same kind of listening that can come from a Voice to Parliament. Imagine what we could achieve on a national scale if we had the advice of a Voice to get better value for money, improve health care and save lives.”

To view the opinion piece When you listen, you get better results – it’s that simple in full click here.

You can also read a related article Government will keep doing ‘really bad job’ at Indigenous disadvantage without Voice: Leeser published earlier today by Crikey here.

RivMed acting mental health team leader Marnie Lenehan and senior drug and alcohol worker Kenneth Neale with Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Emma McBride

RivMed acting mental health team leader Marnie Lenehan and senior drug and alcohol worker Kenneth Neale with Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Emma McBride on Wednesday this week. Photo: Les Smith. Image source: The Daily Advertiser.

More needed to protect women and children

A leading Indigenous human rights and anti-violence expert has called for more effort from the WA government and police to protect Aboriginal women and children. At the Senate Inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children hearings held in Perth this week Dr Hannah McGalde told Senator Paul Scarr and Dorinda Cox: “We know that many children, Aboriginal children, are being removed because of violence to women, their mothers.”

“The punitive approach that’s been adopted particularly in WA, has resulted in large numbers of Aboriginal children being removed and experiencing often lack of cultural safety in their placements,” she said. Dr McGlade said many Indigenous women are reluctant to reach out to police out of fear they will be discriminated against or not taken seriously when reporting charges made against them.

Dr McGlade noted the apology  made by WA police several years ago, and said there was a ceremony during NAIDOC Week but alleged no actions were followed through. “Actions can be window dressing if not followed through with appropriate commitment or if the committee is established,” she said. “Then they should really be having a firm commitment to human rights training, addressing racism in all aspects. Including how it impacts Indigenous women and girls, who are often treated as offenders rather than victims, that’s a form of racial profiling.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article WA government and police are failing Indigenous women and children, Senate inquiry hears in full click here.

Dr Hannah McGlade portrait shot

Dr Hannah McGlade is an Associate Professor at the Curtin University. Photo: IndigenousX website. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Sector Jobs

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

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

 

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Many ongoing negative impacts of colonialism

feature tile: statue of Queen Victoria with Aboriginal flag; text: ' Intergenerational impact of Stolen Generations, a consequence of colonialism'

The image in the feature tile appeared in Steve Larkin’s article Saying colonisation had no negative effects on First Nations people is dangerous denialism published in The Guardian on 22 September 2023.

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

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

Many ongoing negative impacts from colonisation

Fiona Stanley, Colleen Hayward and Steve Zubrick have recently written about the intergenerational impact of stolen generations, saying “We would like to contest very strongly the comments by Jacynta Nampijinpa Price that there are no longer any negative impacts from Australia being colonised. One of the most powerful and damaging interventions which was part of colonisation, was the forced removal of children and families from their parents and country. It has been generally accepted for many years that forced separation and forced removals had devastating consequences in terms of social and culturation dislocation, which have impacted on the health and wellbeing of subsequent generations. This was clearly shown in the Bringing them Home Report, (published by the Human Rights Commission in 1997) with story after story of people then recalling the trauma of separation. It is thought that since colonisation, the official and government sanctioned removals, since late 1800s to 1970, affected over 100,000 children. Separation took three forms: putting children into government institutions, fostering children with white families, and white families adopting them. The stories in the Bringing them Home Report were full of the trauma, abuse and cultural genocide of these children and their children.”

“We also were involved in the only large quantitative study of the Stolen Generations, the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS) done out of the now Telethon Kids Institute (TKI) which was published in several reports and papers in 2005/6. The study was a state-wide survey of one in six Aboriginal families to ascertain their social, emotional, health, educational and wellbeing status to enable the best preventive strategies to be implemented to address the high rates of poor outcomes in these families. Using many Aboriginal interviewers and researchers, the team contacted over 2,000 families with over 6,000 children aged between 0-18 years, across all areas of WA (metropolitan, rural and remote). A very high response rate reflected the trust that these families had in our team to listen to their stories of their lives. Carers and schoolteachers were also interviewed as well as the children who were old enough.”

“We would like to present two major aspects of the findings which address Price’s assertions. One relates to the extent of removals and the second to the inter-generational impact. Between 40-60% of families reported being forcibly removed from family or homeland across all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) regions. It varied from nearly 60% in Broome to 32% in Geraldton, with rates higher than Geraldton for all other regions. We felt this truly could be described as “Stolen Generations” although many outspoken government leaders of the day disputed this description.”

“We were expecting and found clear evidence of the negative impact of a history of being stolen on subsequent generations. Those with a history of removals were nearly twice as likely to be arrested or charged with an offence, 1.6 times more likely to abuse alcohol and have house-hold problems from that, more than twice as likely to indulge in harmful gambling and reported far fewer social supports, as those who did not report that history. Children whose parents had been forcibly removed also were two and a half times more likely to be at high risk of clinically significant social and emotional behavioural difficulties, than those who did not have that history. The impact was higher in those families whose mothers/grandmothers had been removed than in those whose mothers/grandmothers were not removed.

“Whilst there are numerous studies in most colonised Indigenous populations globally, this is the most comprehensive quantitative and trustworthy study to prove these intergenerational impacts. The study concluded that “the nature of the recent debate about the actual number of Aboriginal families experiencing forced separations has displaced the reality that these experiences occurred at all and the extent to which these past experiences continue to impact on the lives of the current generations of Aboriginal families. A more open-hearted acknowledgement of the extent of the suffering and disadvantage which past policies of separation inflicted on Aboriginal Australians, would in our view, significantly further the process through which these concerns are eventually resolved”.

It is mischievous and hurtful to deny the impacts of colonisation on today’s population.  If non-Indigenous people had endured the genocide and marginalisation which has been forced on our First Nations, we would also be showing similar effects of historical colonisation.

You can view a transcript of the above statement here and a short Healing Foundation animation below explaining intergenerational trauma.

Suicide prevention recommendations ignored

A new report has found that coroners around Australia are frustrated their potentially life-saving recommendations to prevent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide are being routinely ignored by the government. The research by the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) examined state and territory coroner’s courts’ responsiveness to First Nations families who had lost a loved one to suicide.

It involved interviews with coroners, their staff and Indigenous people with lived experience, who called for greater accountability on the implementation of recommendations from inquests and other inquiries. The report also found the current coronial system was alienating for many First Nations people and coroners wanted more cultural training to improve the experience for Indigenous people going through it.

Vicki McKenna, manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre with the Black Dog Institute, described the coronial process as “another later of grief” for most Indigenous families. There’s a lot of hurt that comes with that, because families feel like feel like they’re dismissed,” the Yawuru and Bunuba Jarndu woman said. Many lived experience interviewees pointed to systemic issues such as lack of cultural understanding, communication, and financial support. “Because of the language that is used and in the way that these reports are written, it leaves our families still struggling to understand,” Ms McKenna said.

To read the ABC News article Coroners frustrated recommendations on Indigenous suicide ignored by government, report shows in full click here.

Vicki McKenna, manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre holding the Black Dog Institute, co-authored the report

Vicki McKenna, manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre with the Black Dog Institute, co-authored the report. Photo: Daryna Zadvirna, ABC News.

MBS support needed to address foot health disadvantage

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially those living in remote areas, are missing out on crucial care and suffering painful delays in seeing specialist surgeons, according to the Australasian College of Podiatric (ACPS) Surgeons. To address the disadvantage ACPS is calling for better access to the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) to enable them to assist patients suffering acute pain and reduced quality of life.

Podiatric Surgeons are specialist doctors who are trained only to operate on feet and ankles, yet there is currently no Medicare Benefits Scheme item number for podiatric surgery or associated services, including anaesthetics and pathology. The ACPS says there is a large bank of evidence suggesting up to 70% of affected patients have untreated foot pain, which has a debilitating effect on their quality of life.

ACPS President Dr Rob Hermann said untreated foot pain has a significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, especially those living outside of capital cities. “Most of us take for granted, the ability to go about our daily lives free of pain and unrestricted,” he said. “But due to the lack of funding and access, that’s just not the case for thousands of patients. Issues concerning foot health can have drastic impacts on quality of life. Along with increased pain for patients and higher risk of complications, delayed care could lead to more costly future treatment and long-term debilitation.” The ACPS said the high cost of healthcare faced by podiatric patients can be prohibitive to low-income and at-risks groups, and the consequences life-altering.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Podiatric surgeons urge Medicare Benefits Scheme support to address Indigenous foot health disadvantage in full click here.

ACPS President Dr Rob Herman

ACPS President Dr Rob Herman. Photo: Adelaide Foot & Ankle. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Older people at forefront of framework

The Indigo 4Ms project was designed to support the development of a new model of healthcare that is sensitive to the needs of older people and stimulates discussion on long-term policy responses to support age-friendly environments. Led by Beechworth Health Service, the initiative was funded by the Federal Government and developed by experts and healthcare professionals who work with older people, as well as community members with experience using health and aged care services.

The scarcity of health prevention activities that specifically target the common age-related difficulties of hearing, seeing, moving and remembering, which have the greatest impact on an older person’s physical and mental capabilities, were the catalyst for developing two tools: one for the older generation to use as a conversational guide with healthcare providers, and a second for healthcare professionals to guide conversations with older people. “These tools will lead to more informed discussions between health services and the communities they serve,” Dr Winterton said. “It will also ensure both sides are speaking the same language. We’re hopeful this will lead to more timely care for older people and support them to access the whole spectrum of healthcare they may need.”

Beechworth Health Service CEO, Dr Mark Ashcroft, said agencies are looking forward to putting the tools into action. “We’re incredibly enthusiastic about the partnership nature of work to come as implementation of the Indigo 4Ms tools are rolled out,” Dr Ashcroft said. Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service is one of 8 partner agencies involved in the project.

To read the La Trobe University article Older People at Forefront of Framework in full click here.

ATSI female Elder in dressing gown with female care support worker

Image source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ageing and Aged Care Council (NATSIAACC) website.

Smileyscopes to help reduce injection fear

Letting a child receive an injection can sometimes be difficult and distressing for everyone. And it can be even tougher for staff at the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service who have to make children with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) receive painful injections once a month for five to sometimes 10 years. If the children don’t receive the injections they risk heart failure.

Now visiting GP Dr Ryan Holmes and his colleague Dr Sonia Henry have teamed up to try and make the big needles less painful for the children. They have created a GoFundMe page to raise money for virtual reality headsets called Smileyscopes to help reduce the fear and stress during the monthly injections.

“The injections are big and painful,” Dr Holmes said. “It’s hard to get kids to have a small flu needle at the best of times, let alone tell them you’ve got to come have a humongous injection to your bottom once a month for the next five years. That’s where the Smileyscope can be very helpful. It’s a virtual reality headset and they can be programmed for all sorts of things, so the children could be in space or under the sea. So they have a really good time with it and it makes the whole process a lot easier because the kids are distracted, they’re having fun.”

To view the Harvey-Waroona Report article Visiting doctors raise money for VR headsets for child patients at Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service in full click here.

Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service's outreach clinic van

Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service’s (OVAHS) outreach clinic. Image source: OVAHS website.

Racism and the 2023 Voice referendum

A recent article written by Ian Anderson, Yin Paradies, Marcia Langton, Ray Lovett, and Tom Calma suggest that  the higher levels of racism being experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples during the referendum process itself is partly because the referendum process taps into a deep well of historical racism that originated on the Australian frontier when Indigenous peoples “were violently dispossessed from their lands by the British”.

This history has shaped the 2023 referendum and an increasingly divisive campaign between those advocating a Yes and a No position. Since the referendum was announced, there has been a substantial rise in threats, abuse, vilification, and hate speech against Indigenous peoples, both in person and online. The Australian e-Safety Commission reported in late May, 2023, that there had been more than a 10% rise in the proportion of complaints made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about online cyber abuse, threats, and harassment. Furthermore, the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria has gone from blocking two people a day for racist abuse on social media to blocking about 50 people, citing the national debate on an Indigenous Voice as the reason for this escalation. The Voice referendum process creates a substantial cultural load for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Indigenous peoples are being asked, and expected, to engage in conversations around this topic and, often, are then challenged to defend their position. To address these stressors, the Australian Government has allocated AU$10m to NACCHO to support the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during the campaign.

To mitigate risk to mental health and wellbeing, there needs to be respectful discourse that counters the misinformation that is emerging about the Voice and Indigenous aspirations. This discourse requires all forms of media to commit to controls that prevent racial abuse. Public information campaigns, such as that of the Australian Election Commission, are also needed. It will also require services and supports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during the referendum process and after the outcome is announced.

To view The Lancet article Racism and the 2023 Australian constitutional referendum in full click here.

Voice to Parliament rally with one of crowd holding sign 'Voice to Parliament' written on sign of Aboriginal flag

Photo: William West, AAP via Getty Images. Image source: The Lancet.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Portal to assist with impact of Voice debate

feature tile image of young ATSI girl with white body paint, with Aboriginal flag in background; text 'NACCHO’s new online portal to assist with negative impact of Voice debate'

The image in the feature tile is from the article Indigenous recognition is more than a Voice to Government – it’s a matter of political equality published in The Conversation on 26 February 2021. Photo: Darren England, AAP.

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

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

Portal to assist with impact of Voice debate

As experiences of racism and violence both online and in person continue to increase for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the lead up to the referendum, NACCHO CEO, Pat Turner, a Gudanji-Arrente woman and Senior Advisor on the Voice to Parliament, flagged concern about the adverse consequences of the debate within communities.

In an effort to address the concern, NACCHO together with the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet have joined forces to create an online portal of helpful health resources. “We are witnessing first-hand the adverse consequences of this debate within our communities, manifesting as heightened psychological distress, an increased demand for assistance, and a rise in the utilisation of social and emotional wellbeing and mental health services,” Ms Turner said. “The resources we’ve developed are not the answer but are critical tools to help keep our Community safe and well”.

First Nations people, organisations and communities now have access to an extensive online portal, available here, complete with essential resources for supporting and reducing social and emotional harms to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the period prior and post the Voice referendum. “These resources have tools and tips on managing stress for self, family and community and managing increased misinformation,” Healing Foundation acting CEO Shannan Dobson said. All experts in the field of wellbeing and mental health are urging community members to reach out to ACCHOs for assistance.

To view the National Indigenous Times article NACCHO’s new online portal to assist with negative impact of Voice debate in full click here.

tile with text '6 ways to look after yourself and mob during The Voice referendum debate'

Image source: Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website.

Welfare checks urged as abuse skyrockets

The head of a First Nations crisis support service has urged Indigenous people to keep welfare tabs on each other after an influx of abuse was reported in the lead-up to the Voice to Parliament referendum. 13YARN national program manager, Aunty Marj Anderson, said the Voice debate was having widespread impact on Indigenous people’s mental health and appealed for a more respectful debate ahead of the October 14 referendum.

She has urged people to check on one another after the 13YARN crisis helpline reported a record number of calls from people experiencing racism and abuse online. “We all need to be taking care of each other in the community,” Ms Anderson said. “If you see someone being sad in the community, go up and say ‘you right or what? How can I help you?”

The crisis support service was established in March 2022 by the former Coalition government to provide 24/7 help to First Nations people in distress. Lifeline, the provider of 13YARN, said data from the service showed the increase in reported abuse or trauma coincided with the start of the Voice referendum proposal. 13YARN counsellors were expected to field about 40 to 60 cases per day, but the service recently reported a 108% increase in calls, with 7,573 taken from October to December last year.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Welfare checks urged as Indigenous abuse skyrockets during Voice debate in full click here.

13YARN National Program Manager Aunty Marj Anderson standing at edge of an oval

13YARN National Program Manager Aunty Marj Anderson. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Being an effective ally for self-determination

Joanne Bolton, Director (Acting), Curriculum Lead, Collaborative Practice Centre, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne has reflected on the word “Self-determination” which she said entered her vocabulary about 10 years ago, while she was learning more about what it means to be an Indigenous ally. Ms Bolton said that looking at the definition from the Australian Human Rights Commission – “in a practical sense, self-determination means that we have the freedom to live well, to determine what it means to live well according to our own values and beliefs” – it felt to her like something most people living in Australia would say is a good thing for a country to aspire to.

Ms Bolton said the phrase “Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands” is the perfect example of self-determination; supporting the freedom to live well – specifically to receive high-quality healthcare experiences – according to communities’ values and beliefs. She said since the first ACCHO in Redfern in 1971, ACCHOs have grown to meet the need for culturally responsive and self-determined healthcare across Australia, and have excellent health, social and cultural outcomes, that benefit everyone.

Ms Bolton cited lawyer and constitutional law researcher  Dr Shireen Morris, who said “The only risk in giving Indigenous people a voice, and allowing better debate and discussion in Indigenous affairs, is that Indigenous policy and outcomes might be improved. This would be good for Indigenous people, and good for the nation”.

To view the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit article Being an effective ally for self-determination in full click here.

tin wall with pealing posted of Aboriginal flag & word 'RESPECT'

Photo: Loren Elliott, Reuters. Image source: The Guardian.

Accolade for outstanding leadership in mental health

Megan Krakouer is the winner of a 2023 Australian Mental Health Prize which recognises and celebrates outstanding Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander mental health leadership at a national or community level. Ms Krakouer is considered a First Nations rights beacon involved in reshaping laws and advocating for the marginalised. Megan Krakouer’s far-reaching impact is visible across Australia as she passionately advocates at events and in her written work.

Ms Krakouer said “I’ve seen too many life support machines turned off young ones before their time! We are not put on this earth to bury our children! We can’t ignore the underlying causes: the crushing weight of poverty, the poison of discrimination, and the barriers to education that push these young souls to such desperation. What’s needed is unshakable support systems and taking decisive action. Concrete steps and direct assistance is what’s needed. It’s on all of us to step up, shield these vulnerable lives, and nurture them with care and urgency.”

Especially poignant is her call to action on the devastating rates of First Nations youth suicide, with a staggering 80% of Australian child suicides occurring among First Nations children aged 12 and below. Megan’s urgent plea for change resonates as she addresses the root causes – poverty, discrimination, and limited access to education – and emphasises the dire need for robust support systems, psychosocial interventions, and affirmative measures to prevent further loss of life.

To listen the the NITV Radio podcast episode Megan Krakouer wins accolade celebrating outstanding leadership in mental health for First Nations people in full click here.

Megan Krakouer on bench with 3 young children

Megan Krakouer traverses the expanse of Australia to effect positive change. She speaks at events and writes articles advocating for better outcomes for First Nations Australians. In particular, she draws attention to the distressing rates of suicide among Indigenous youth, specifically those aged 12 and below. Image source: NITV Radio.

Health leader shares reasons for ‘Yes’ vote

Scott Willis is a proud Palawa man from Burnie, who has lived and worked in northern lutruwita/Tasmania for more than 30 years. He is the first Indigenous National President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association and a former Clinical Council Member of Primary Health Tasmania. On 14 October, Mr Willis said he “will drive to my local polling station in northern Tasmania and vote ‘Yes’ to a proposed law: to alter the Constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice. I will vote with confidence in the knowledge that self-determination and cultural safety are determinants of health, and that a Voice, Truth and Treaties, will move this nation toward closing the gap and reconciliation.”

“I know this as a health practitioner, I know it as Palawa, and I know it as someone who has dug deep and waded through many other people’s opinions and arguments to form my own, very personal view. Every day, in my clinic, I experience racism. I often hear that ‘Indigenous people get everything for free and just want more and more’, or ‘we don’t want to work, and our priorities are not worthy of any more funding or power, as they will inevitably be abused’.

“The barriers and prejudices that divide us, the inequities they lead to, will not stop on October 14. We will not wake up the next day and find that the one in three First Nations people who don’t access healthcare when they need to because of discrimination, suddenly trust the health system. Recognition, consultation and the building of respectful dialogue and trust is how we get to better health outcomes for First Nations people in Australia. It’s the right direction, and we know it. If we don’t, we haven’t been listening.”

To view the Croakey Health Media article After more than 30 years in clinical practice, this health leader shares his reasons for a ‘Yes’ vote in full click here.

Scott Willis, proud Palawa man, Burnie, TAS

Proud Palawa man, Scott Willis. Image source: Croakey Health Media.

Health checks reaching women most in need

University of Queensland (UQ) research has found general practitioners are proactively providing preventative health checks to women in mid-life who need it most, possibly due to sufficient Medicare rebates. The research analysed data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health to determine whether preventative health checks were being carried out on women in mid-life with the greatest need.

Clinical Research Fellow, Professor Jenny Doust from UQ’s School of Public Health said researchers also wanted to know if a patient’s economic position might be also a barrier to accessing preventative health care. “The types of preventative health checks generally available for women aged between 40-49 years are checks for those at risk of type 2 diabetes and chronic disease, as well as a heart health check,” Professor Doust said.

“The research found that women were more likely to have had health checks if they had risk factors for chronic disease, which was in contrast to previous research which found that fewer GP practitioner services are provided to people with unhealthy lifestyles.” The findings were mirrored in a recent study looking at the uptake of health checks for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which found these went to those who had the greatest healthcare needs. “Our work shows that, in Australian primary care, people who need preventive care the most are more likely to receive it,” Professor Doust said. “We often hear about the inverse care law, that is the ability to access healthcare varies inversely with need. Our study shows that the inverse care law doesn’t seem to apply here.”

To read the SCIMEX article Preventative health checks reaching women most in need in full click here.
male GP taking blood pressure of elderly ATSI woman

Image source: Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Putting a ‘Hand Up’ for mental health

The image in the feature tile is from The Wimmera Mail-Times.

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

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

Putting a ‘Hand Up’ for mental health

Hand Up is a mental health awareness campaign initiated by Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative. This year’s event, held on Friday 22 September, attracted more than 200 people who walked from the Botanic Gardens to the Horsham Sound Shell to participate in dance, football coaching and other activities alongside the Wimmera River. The event aimed to de-stigmatise the shame of seeking support for mental health, as well as empower the community to take the steps needed to seek support.

The goal of Hand Up is to:

  • Enhance Community connection
  • Create better engagement with Mental Health Service
  • De-stigmatise the ‘shame job’ of seeking support for mental health.

Read more here.

If you need health or wellbeing support for yourself, a friend or family member, please contact an Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) near you. To find an ACCHO in your area click here.

If you are feeling stressed, not sleeping well, or have increased anxiety and depression you can seek immediate help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from:

Image source: The Wimmera Mail-Times.

What a ‘yes’ vote would mean for Indigenous eye health

Many organisations and associations in the eyecare sector have publicly shared their support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its call for a Voice to Parliament. Professor Hugh Taylor says his five decades working on eye health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities shows the need for a permanent Voice to Parliament. Professor Taylor worked closely with communities and leaders on the Roadmap to Close the Gap for Vision in 2012, establishing 64 regional groups nationwide to coordinate and provide eyecare; two thirds of those Indigenous-led.

“The gap for blindness has been halved and the rates of eye exams or cataract surgery increased three-fold.

“…This showed the importance of putting Indigenous eye health into Indigenous hands,” Professor Taylor said.

He says this success would have been impossible without strong Indigenous community advice, support, and leadership – and the value of this was again demonstrated during NACCHOs handling of COVID.

“We have to listen to and support Indigenous communities and leadership. That is why the Voice is so important. It is clear that decisions for First Nations people need to be made with them, not for them.”

Read more here.

Prof Hugh Taylor examining young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patient. Image source: University of Melbourne.

New approach keeping Aboriginal children out of child protection

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over-represented in child protection. Aboriginal organisations and communities have long argued that this over-representation can be significantly reduced by drawing on the strengths of community and culture. VIC ACCHOs partnered with the University of Melbourne to undertake and trial new approaches to Aboriginal child protection, grounded in the principle of Aboriginal self-management. The trials were aimed at testing the hypothesis that having an Aboriginal organisation step in where there are worries about children’s safety and wellbeing will divert matters from child protection investigation and court proceedings.

One trial was implemented by Njernda Aboriginal Corporation and the Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative. This trial focused on holding Aboriginal family-led decision-making meetings where Aboriginal children had been repotted or were under investigation. These meetings bring together the child’s family, Elders, and other significant people in the child’s life to make culturally based decisions and plans that support the best interests of an Aboriginal child.

These trials were complex and were modified during implementation, with results more successful after referrals from child protection intake began to be accepted. However, results from the Njernda Aboriginal Corporation and the Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative trials, and others in the state, found that Aboriginal agencies are best placed to engage and empower Aboriginal families and connect them to the services and support they need to keep their children safe.

Read the full article here.

Image source: Shutterstock.

Have your say on the revised Australian Standard for community pharmacy practice

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia is an accredited Standards Development Organisation under Standards Australia, and the custodian of Australian Standard (AS) 85000 which sets out the requirements for a quality management system for Australian community pharmacies. Over the past 18 months, the Guild has led a revision of the Standard using an open process of consultation and consensus, in which all stakeholders were invited to participate.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia says, “The review has provided an opportunity to ensure the Standard reflect current practice and can continue to support further advancements in practice into the future.”

As part of the review process, the Guild are seeking feedback on the draft of the revised Standard that has been developed.

Find out more here.

If you wish to provide feedback on the draft complete the feedback form here. You have until November 26 to provide feedback.

Expression of interest AMC Member Council

The Australian Medical Council (AMC) is seeking expressions of interest for the position of a Member of Council who is an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person with experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues.

Members need to commit to at least three full days per year to prepare for and attend the General Meeting (May/June) and Annual General Meeting (November). Members have the opportunity to collaborate with Council Members drawn from the medical profession, medical and health standards bodies, medical education and training, health consumers and community members.

To nominate for the position, complete and return the Expression of Interest Form along with your CV by Monday 2 October 2023.

Image source: AMC website.

Welcome Baby to Bourke

With no operating birthing unit in Bourke, expectant mothers need to travel to Dubbo to deliver their babies. An initiative to welcome babies born away from Country back into the region, the Welcome Baby to Bourke Community Baby Ceremony Day has been named as a finalist in the NSW Health Awards. Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) Manager Aboriginal Partnership in the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Directive, Pat Canty said the ceremony is incredibly important in impacting cultural ties to the land.

“Introducing our babies to community is a traditional practice that has been implemented through generations and it dates back thousands of years. The ceremony is a significant event for our babies to connect to our community, Country, and our Aboriginal Elders,” Ms Canty said.

The NSW Health Award winners will be announced later this year.

Read more here.

Image source: Western Plains App.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: 125 health organisations pledge support for Voice

The image in the feature tile is of Health organisations from across the country which have signed a statement supporting the Voice to Parliament. Image by ABC News.

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

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

More than 50 health organisations pledge support for Voice

NACCHO is one of 125 health organisations across the country pledging their support for the Voice to Parliament with an open letter to the Australian public. The open letter in support of the Voice to Parliament follows a survey of 1,600 health workers by the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Orgainsation (VACCHO) which found the majority of health care workers believe Indigenous health and wellbeing outcomes will improve if those communities are more involved in Aboriginal health policy.

The open letter states: We speak as leading health and medical organisations who spend our professional lives dedicated to caring for all Australians.

We have considered carefully both the case for and the case against the proposed Voice to Parliament.

We confidently believe that the proposed Voice will enhance government decision making about matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, ultimately improving health outcomes.

As health professionals, we witness firsthand the disparity in health outcomes between non-Indigenous Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Despite the best efforts of successive governments at all levels, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to have an average life expectancy gap 8.2 years compared to other Australians. The Voice is an opportunity for us to make a practical difference, to ensure the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians does not continue to widen.

We encourage all Australian to actively consider the possible health and wellbeing benefits that the Voice to Parliament would have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Just as a good clinician listens to their patient, a Voice to Parliament is about listening to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Read more here.

An Open Letter to the Australian Public: A Voice to Parliament will improve health outcomes.

Why the Voice to Parliament will help close the gap.

In an edited extract from Thomas Mayo and Kerry O’Brien’s The Voice to Parliament Handbook, Professor Marcia Langton and Professor Fiona Stanley explain why Australia should vote yes in the upcoming referendum. The extract states that there is clear evidence mainstream government services have, for decades, failed to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Most state, territory and federal government services for Indigenous Australians have been very expensive, based on inappropriate data, and ignorant of vital Aboriginal knowledge. Programs that are initiated and implemented by Aboriginal experts, or in close collaboration with them, are trusted and used, are based on local personal/geographic/social circumstances about which Aboriginal experts are full informed and enhance the self-esteem and mental health of the community.

Examples include Aboriginal birthing, the Youth Justice System, and the First Nations COVID response; these show that when services are developed with Indigenous knowledge, they are extremely effective. For example, all colonised, Indigenous populations internationally are at very high risk from pandemics such as COVID. We, therefore, expected very high infection, hospitalisations, and death rates from COVID in Aboriginal populations. And yet, nationwide, Aboriginal populations had six times fewer cases than non-Indigenous groups.

This extraordinary, and unexpected outcome was due to the Aboriginal leadership taking control of all activities for prevention, diagnosis and treatment, as well as housing, social and medical support. From NACCHO down to state/territory, regional and remote areas, Aboriginal services demanded and received all the resources they needed to implement this success. They had a Voice that was acted upon.

The evidence is clear. Having a Voice will make a huge difference to improving First Nations outcomes.

Read more here.

Professor Fiona Stanley. Image source: Junkee.

Voting yes will provide a stronger platform to improve health.

Palawa man, and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) at the University of Tasmania Professor Ian Anderson says Indigenous Australians need a ‘stronger platform’ to improve health and wellbeing. Explaining why he will be voting ‘Yes’ on October 14, Professor Anderson writes: An Indigenous Voice to Parliament does not guarantee outcomes, but it does provide a stronger platform through which governments can work more effectively with Indigenous Australian at a regional and national level.

Governments that don’t listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice can make significant errors in policy or legislation. Professor Anderson draws an example from 2022 where the Stronger Futures agreement between the Commonwealth and NT governments ended. This ended a regime of alcohol restrictions in towns such as Alice Springs. For over a year, Aboriginal community leaders and experts warned of the need for urgent action to maintain these alcohol restrictions, fearing a rise in crime and a decrease in community safety. Neither government took on advice from Indigenous leaders and a year later, the restrictions were lifted, and Alice Springs was in crisis.

“There is more to the crisis in Alice Springs than alcohol supply. It requires a focus on a range of issues such as access to domestic violence services or addressing poverty and improving educational outcomes. However, to see change, it is important to continue to engage with the voices of Indigenous people on the ground and Indigenous experts in this area of public health,” said Professor Anderson.

Read the full article here.

Image source: Shutterstock.

Dr Charles Perkins Oration 2023

The Dr Charles Perkins Oration celebrates Dr Charles Perkins life-long dedication to achieving justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the Oration and Memorial Prize. Keynote speaker, and Dr Charles Perkins’s daughter, Rachel Perkins reflected on her father’s leadership, as well as the upcoming referendum.

“As we stand on the brink of referendum in this country, it presents us with an extraordinary opportunity to bind this nation together with its first people, our greatest ever handshake, if you like, placed in the Australian Constitution.

“And it’s now, at this time, that I miss him most acutely. I miss his leadership, his fearlessness, his ability to reach out and touch the Australian people with his words.”

Rachel Perkins talked about the lessons which can be learned from her father’s leadership.

“…leadership that is earned, by being amongst and working with our people. It is not bestowed by a party preselection process, or the media spotlight. Leadership in our community is forged sitting in the dirt, listening to our people, working towards consensus, building organistions, building people’s capacity, talking with people, protesting on the streets. And on the inside, within the corridors of power, negotiating with grace and when that fails, going against all the odds, rejecting the status quo, paying the price of speaking truth to power. And still, when you are rejected and you have lost everything, having no regrets. That is what makes a great Indigenous leader.”

Watch the full Dr Charles Perkins Oration 2023 here.

Improving cultural comfort in pregnancy and early motherhood

Indigenous health practitioner Lisa McGrady says she could not ignore the lack of engagement from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums-to-be in mainstream healthcare services during their pregnancy in the Bundaberg and North Burnett region. She said there are many reasons mums are not engaging in their healthcare, “with barriers like lack of transport, a lack of understanding on the importance and not having confidence to speak up and advocate for themselves in a clinical situation.”

Ms McGrady works at the Indigenous Wellbeing Centre which runs a midwifery program, offering monthly antenatal check-ups, post-birth weigh-ins, and breastfeeding checks. To help engage mums-to-be in the midwifery program the team has but together care bags with donated products to help mums care for bubs and themselves. Ms McGrady said she wanted to provide these bags as a thank you to mums for engaging in the program and ensuring they had what they needed when going to hospital to give birth.

Read more here.

Lisa McGrady, IWC Indigenous health practitioner. Image source: Burnett Today.

Time in the gym changing lives for young men in Mount Isa

A combination of time on Country and time in the gym is guiding young Aboriginal men in Mount Isa away from crime, connecting them with culture, and improving their mental and physical health. Brodie Germaine’s idea to open the gym in 2022 came after the death of his best friend’s father.

“He would ring me up 24/7 in really bad times,” Mr Germaine said.

“For me, I didn’t want to watch another mate lost to suicide, I wanted to help one of my brothers out and so from there I built a gym in my shed.”

Now, in his own gym Mr Germaine is working with the Department of Youth Justice, Employment, Small Business and Training, targeting kids at high risk of engaging in crime.

“The feeling I get when I help these young fellas in the community, them just turning up to the gym, turning up on a Saturday morning, where we take them out bush for the day, that’s a win for me,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Image source: ABC North West Queensland.

Sector Jobs

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

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