Aboriginal babies die from Sudden Unexplained Death in Infancy (SUDI) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) 3–4 times more often than non-Aboriginal babies. “This never has been and never will be okay,” say Professor Julian Grant and Dr Nina Sivertsen, who are leading the Safely sleeping Aboriginal babies in South Australia program led by Flinders University.
The program, in collaboration with the Aboriginal Health Council of SA, the Women and Children’s Health Network and SA Health, was conceived after Aboriginal cultural consultant, Ms Wilhelmine Lieberwirth, approached Child and Family Health Services staff to look for ‘culturally safe’ solutions to do more for Aboriginal babies to sleep safely.
The Pepi-Pod program prioritises safe sleep education, while also providing a small bed to create a safe ‘pod’ or sleep space that can be placed in or next to the family bed. “We wanted to see if the Pepi-Pod program was experienced as culturally safe and if First Nations families would even use it,” says Dr Sivertsen of the first small initial pilot trial in SA.
“Families told us that one of the best parts of the Pepi-Pod program is that ‘you don’t have to worry’ babies were in their ‘own little comfort zone’. Babies were ‘peaceful and safe’ and you could ‘see him’, ‘feel him’ ‘touch him’ and ‘hear him’, while baby slept safely in the pod.”
Many families including First Nations peoples sleep with their babies in the family bed. “While bed sharing has many benefits, it is also associated with infant death and is not recommended by SA Health,” says Professor Grant. Sharon Watts, an Aboriginal researcher on the project, says that it is “really important for First Nations families to feel close to their babies all the time, especially when sleeping”.
To view the Flinders University’s media release click here.
Professor Jeanine Young with a Pepi-Pod. Image source: Red Nose website.
NAIDOC returns to NITV in 2021
All Australians are invited to celebrate NAIDOC 2021 with a week-long dedicated schedule on National Indigenous Television (NITV), and a range of programs and content across the SBS network, celebrating and reflecting on the history, cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Inspired by the 2021 NAIDOC theme, Heal Country!, the slate focuses on the strength and survival of the oldest continuing cultures on the planet, from Saturday 3 July to Sunday 11 July.
This year’s multiplatform offering includes the exclusive broadcast of the 2021 National NAIDOC Awards, the return of Australia’s only all-Indigenous breakfast television program, the premiere of docu-comedy History Bites Back, as well as a range of documentaries, movies, news and current affairs programs and features across the network.
The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) Academic Post was first earmarked by the Department of Health as part of the Federal Government’s Closing the Gap strategy. The post is an identified training term open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GPs in training to undertake teaching and research that aims to improve the health and life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
WA GP Dr Talila Milroy jumped at the chance to undertake the AIDA Academic Post in 2020. Dr Milroy was always interested in developing and furthering general practice research, and the post allowed a structured framework to delve into the data. Now, having undertaken a year as the 2020 AIDA Academic Post holder Dr Milroy is continuing her part-time research role and furthering her study into the experiences and impacts of racism on general practice training.
‘You develop so many skills, not only in research but in teaching as well,’ she told newsGP. ‘It’s also the networking; you gain communication skills because you’re teaching medical students, and you get more of a grasp of how to design research and ask questions that are clinically relevant, useful and translatable.’
To view the full article newsGP article click here.
Dr Talila Milroy, 2020 AIDA Academic Post holder. Image source: newsGP.
Winnunga May newsletter
The May 2021 edition of the Winnunga News, the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (WNAHCS) monthly newsletter has been released. This edition has a focus on the ACT’s prison crisis and calls from the local Aboriginal community to the ACT Government for a Royal Commission to identify and respond to the over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in the ACT in touch with the criminal justice system or incarcerated.
WNAHCS CEO Julie Tongs OAM says “we have to face the awful truth, the worst-performing government in Australia, when it comes to locking up Aboriginal peoples, is the ACT government.” You can access the newsletter here.
WNAHCS CEO Julie Tongs OAM. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong. Image source: The Canberra Times.
New mental health service in Armadale WA
Mental Health Minister Stephen Dawson has officially opened the new community Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in Armadale. The new purpose-built facility is centrally located, with easy access to public transport. The facility will support the local community through the provision of mental health services to children and young people from 40 suburbs across the wider Armadale area. The space has been designed to ensure it is culturally appropriate. All rooms have Noongar names and local artist Sally-Anne Greengrass was commissioned to paint murals featuring the Noongar seasons.
The Federal Government will invest $5.9 million on cancer prevention among women in vulnerable communities across the world through the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD). $1.8m of the funding has been committed to allow SISTAQUIT (Supporting Indigenous Smokers to Assist Quitting) to expand its free, online training in quit smoking methods to all Australian health services catering to Indigenous women during pregnancy.
The first World Kidney Cancer Day was celebrated four years ago in June 2017. The international campaign was developed by the International Kidney Cancer Coalition (IKCC), a network of more than 45 Affiliate Organisations, to raise awareness for this little-known type of cancer. In the beginning, the focus was on the basics about kidney cancer – what causes it, how to prevent it, or why it’s on the rise.
While that campaign did a lot to raise the profile of kidney cancer, the incidence of the disease continues to increase globally. The most recent statistics estimate that 431,000 people will be diagnosed around the world each year.
The incidence of kidney cancer has been increasing since the 1970s, yet the worldwide mortality rate has been stable since the 1990s. In the last 14 years, targeted and immunotherapies for metastatic kidney cancer have made living with kidney cancer an entirely different story, compared with the preceding treatment options, and localised tumours have also seen improved outcomes with robotic and nephron-sparing approaches.
For further information about World Kidney Cancer Dayclick here.
World Continence Week – 21–27 June 2021
The International Continence Society (ICS) World Continence Week (WCW) is an annual initiative (held from Monday to Sunday in the last week of June with the primary aim to raise awareness about incontinence related issues. WCW was initiated in 2008 with the first ever World Continence Day and the following year became WCW with activities being developed worldwide.
Incontinence is the unwanted and involuntary leakage of urine or stool. Incontinence is a sensitive condition that affects an estimated 400 million people across the world. Historically, conditions affecting the bladder and bowel have often been uncomfortable or “taboo” subjects and accordingly these medical disorders have been underreported and under-diagnosed. Surveys have shown that fewer than 40% of persons with urinary incontinence mention their problem to a doctor or nurse and this figure is even higher for those with bowel incontinence. These conditions have been inadequately treated and poorly addressed by medical professionals, despite the substantial impact on individual health, self-esteem and quality of life.
In light of this, WCW seeks to draw attention to and increase public awareness about these conditions and to give sufferers the confidence to seek help and improve their quality of life. For further information about World Continence Week 2021 click here.
In a media release on 31 May 2021, the Lowitja Institute urged the Australian Government to embrace the Uluru Statement from The Heart, which marked its fourth anniversary as it was honoured with the 2021 Sydney Peace Prize on the eve of National Reconciliation Week.
Lowitja Institute Dr Janine Mohamed congratulated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders Professor Megan Davis, Professor Noel Pearson and Pat Anderson AO, who accepted the award on Sorry Day on behalf of the many individuals and communities involved in bringing to life the Uluru Statement from The Heart in May 2017.
The Sydney Peace Prize was awarded to the Uluru Statement ‘for bringing together Australia’s First Nations Peoples around a clear and comprehensive agenda; for healing and peace within our Nation and delivering self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, that enables Australia to move into the future united and confident.’
“It is important to recognise that reconciliation is a journey, not a destination, and it requires both courage and humility from leaders in all sectors,” Dr Mohamed said.
Uluru Statement From The Heart. Photo: Clive Scollay.
Young people lining up for COVID-19 vaccines
Young people across the NT have seized on an opportunity to get vaccinated earlier than expected, with many making bookings and rolling up their sleeves.
Earlier this month, the NT government announced anyone aged 16 and over living outside the Greater Darwin region would be eligible to make a booking. Government figures show nearly one in six people aged over 16 have now received a first dose of the vaccine, while in remote communities, 12 per cent of those aged over 16 had received their first jab.
More than 10,000 Territorians have now been fully vaccinated.
The government said there are more than 30 locations where people can receive a jab, and NT Health staff were this week in more than a dozen remote and regional areas from Pirlangimpi in the Tiwi Islands to Harts Range in Central Australia.
Health worker Keinan Keighran received a Pfizer jab at Katherine’s Wurli-Wurlinjang Health Service this week.(ABC News: Kate Ashton).
Funding gives hope to vulnerable cardiac patients
A Curtin University research team has been awarded almost $1.5million in Federal Government funding to coordinate Australian trials of a high-flow oxygen delivery strategy to reduce complications for vulnerable cardiac surgery patients, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The project, led by Associate Professor Edward Litton from the Curtin School of Population Health, was successful in the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) 2020 International Clinical Trial Collaboration grants.
Partnering with a clinical trial team in the United Kingdom, the team will test whether high flow oxygen delivered through nose cannula, rather than traditional oxygen therapy via mask, can improve outcomes and reduce hospital stay times for at-risk cardiac patients, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Lung complications following cardiac surgery are common, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients suffering disproportionately worse outcomes,” said Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran. “This study will allow the team to establish trial sites in Australia, to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and to have them actively participate in the study.”
Read more about the project in the National Tribune here.
Human Heart Anatomy Illustration. 3D render. Image credit: Outsourcing-Pharma.com.
Time for governments to phase out cigarette sales
This World No Tobacco Day, 31 May, 148 health organisations signed an open letter calling on governments to work towards phasing out commercial cigarette sales.
Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies) and The University of Queensland School of Public Health were both signatories to the letter. Menzies senior research fellow Dr Marita Hefler said it was time to begin planning for a world after tobacco. “Cigarettes are uniquely dangerous. No other product that causes early death when used exactly as intended is allowed to remain available for sale,” Dr Hefler said.
The University of Queensland School of Public Health Associate Professor Coral Gartner said that Australia has been a global leader in reducing smoking. “We were the first country to introduce cigarette plain packaging and our hard-hitting public awareness campaigns about the dangers of smoking, graphic warning labels, tobacco taxes and smoke-free areas have reduced smoking to historically low levels,” said Dr Gartner. “It is time for cigarettes to be treated the same way as other equally dangerous products like asbestos, and leaded paint and petrol.”
A substantial number of Australians still smoke daily, and smoking-related harms disproportionately impact some population groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
You can read the letter and view the signatories here and the media release is available here.
Young man lighting a cigarette. Image credit: The American Academy of Ophthalmology website.
PSA launches Reconciliation Action Plan
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is delighted to announce the launch of its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) framework.
Last Friday, 28 May, PSA’s RAP received formal endorsement from Reconciliation Australia. The RAP framework will provide the PSA with a structured approach to advancing reconciliation throughout the organisation. The first stage in this plan, Reflect, will help PSA gauge where it stands in relation to reconciliation action. By the conclusion of Reflect, the organisation will have influenced positive cultural change across the organisation.
PSA National President, A/Prof Chris Freeman, stressed the importance of this strategy. “PSA is delighted to launch our RAP, as it signifies an important milestone for the organisation. PSA’s RAP will build on current reconciliation initiatives within the organisation, driving reconciliation through awareness and action.” “As the peak body representing pharmacists, Australia’s most accessible workforce, PSA is ideally placed to improve medicine safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, particularly in rural and remote communities.”
You can read the full story in the National Tribune here.
NACCHO Chair: Federal Budget lacks sustainability for Indigenous health
While the federal Budget 2021–22 invested money in some significant reforms in Indigenous health across a range of settings, NACCHO Chair Donella Mills says the Budget lacked what it always does – detail and longevity.
“We welcome that there’s been specific mentions but what we didn’t see is the detail, so we need to work through that implementation in detail with the community,” Mills told the National Indigenous Times. “But we really don’t know what that’s going to look like and what the involvement will look like on the ground.”
Mills says while the big announcements look great, they won’t do much without effective implementation. The Government’s big-ticket health item was the $17.7 billion allocated to reforming the aged care sector, and $630.2 million of that is going toward improving access to services in regional, rural and remote areas, including “those with Indigenous backgrounds”.
Mills says this accessibility for Indigenous people needs to be designed with Indigenous involvement. Following the success in preventing COVID-19 from entering Indigenous communities, Mills said “This speaks to our expertise … We know our mob, we know how to protect our communities, we’re best placed to protect our communities. We really want to see a commitment to make sure our ACCHOs are sustainable into the future, to make sure community-control is in the future.”
You can read the full article by the National Indigenous Times here.
NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills speaking.
New HIV health promotion project receives grant
The Gilead Getting to Zero Grant Program 2021, announced 25 May, is a global initiative supporting projects aimed at getting to zero new HIV infections.
Two Australian projects received a grant from Gilead Sciences Australia New Zealand – one focussing on overseas born gay and bisexual men and the second on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The second Australian Grant recipient is a new project by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) in partnership with the Anwernekenhe National HIV Alliance (ANA) to develop, a new program of HIV health promotion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and workforce capacity building materials for health workers engaged with Indigenous people.
Rates of HIV and STIs among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain disproportionately high when compared with non‑Indigenous people, with the rate of HIV diagnoses in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now over two times the diagnosis rate in Australian-born non-Indigenous people.
“Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities will benefit greatly from HIV programs crafted specifically for them and by them. This is an important initiative that we warmly welcome,” said Colin Ross, Chair of Anwernekenhe National HIV Alliance (ANA).
You can read the full story in the Star Observer here.
Image credit: Star Observer website.
Key Thinkers Forum – Racism in Health
Free online webinar 1:00–3:30 PM (AEST), 7 July 2021
By Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, University of Sydney
The current models of practice are not working to effectively “Close the Gap”. Despite a growing willingness and need to consider new proposed models of practice, there remains a deep-seated resistance to identifying and addressing institutional and systemic racism and racist attitudes, including unconscious biases held by individuals. How can we get the ‘r’ word on every agenda?
Panel Members (facilitated by Prof. Tom Calma AO):
Coalition of Peaks – National Reconciliation Week 2021 Statement
Reconciliation requires action from all Australians! This year’s Reconciliation Week urges the reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action.
A reconciled nation is where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have full control over our own destinies; where we live freely and equally, unencumbered by trauma and poor life outcomes; and where there is true recognition of our rights as First Peoples of this land, and our cultures and languages are honoured, protected and flourish.
The historic Partnership andNational Agreements on Closing the Gap provide a framework for all governments, policy makers, service delivery organisations and institutions, and all Australians, to take meaningful and impactful action towards reconciliation. They are centred on what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been saying for decades is needed to achieve equality in life outcomes between our peoples and other Australians, whilst strengthening our right to self-determination and identity as First Nations peoples.
The National Agreement is built around four Priority Reforms that will support lasting change for our peoples. They are: building new partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations and governments to share in decisions that impact on our lives; strengthening the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations to deliver services and programs to our peoples; transforming government agencies, institutions and organisations to address systemic racism and make them more accountable to our peoples; and improving the sharing of data and information with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations so we can make more informed decisions about our future.
The foundations have been set to improve the life outcomes of our peoples. Governments, policy makers, service delivery providers and organisations and all Australians need to transform the way they engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples centred on the Priority Reforms.
This year’s Reconciliation Week is a chance to take action and do your part to implement the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and the Priority Reforms and contribute to a more reconciled nation!
The Coalition of Peaks challenge every Australian on this Reconciliation journey to action
Become familiar and learn about both the Partnership and National Agreements
Support their implementation and promote them in your own organisation or business
Encourage your community to become involved
Talk to governments on how to apply the commitments under the Agreements to communities and organisations across the country
Make sure our precious Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled media sector is involved in all communications about the Agreements.
For more info on the Coalition of Peaks and the National Agreement click here.
Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Committee to hear from Gayaa Dhuwi Australia
Today, the first day of National Reconciliation Week, the House Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention will hear from Mr Tom Brideson, CEO of Gayaa Dhuwi – Proud Spirit – Australia the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention leadership body.
The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2021, #MoreThanAWord #ReconciliationTakesAction, is fitting as the Committee turns its focus to identifying impactful measures to support mental health reform, suicide prevention, and improved wellbeing.
Chair, Dr Fiona Martin MP, said ‘The Committee looks forward to hearing from Gayaa Dhuwi to develop a better understanding of issues around accessibility to culturally-appropriate mental health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The Committee is particularly interested in how the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health workforce can be strengthened to meet urban, rural and regional demand.’
Updated info: Vaccine storage, dose allocations, transfer of vaccine stock and more
For your information, ATAGI released a joint statement on Sunday, 23 May with the Thrombosis and Haemostasis Society of Australia and New Zealand (THANZ) on Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) and the use of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.
The statement reaffirms that for people aged 50 years and over, the expert medical advice is that the benefit of receiving the vaccination outweighs the risk of this rare but serious side-effect.
This statement and a letter from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has been distributed to all primary care vaccination providers. We have also attached the talking points that practices have received to support their conversations with patients on the risks and benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Your assistance in ensuring all general practitioners know and understand the latest advice and in directing any concerns to the available resources is much appreciated.
The, Phase 1B peak comms and following documents provide updated information about vaccine storage period, dose allocations, transfer of vaccine stock, social media posts and tiles, checking patient medical history and updated resources.
These documents are intended to provide you with regular updates and information to assist you with talking points if any questions arise.
Applications open for Oxfam’s leadership program for First Nations women
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from across Australia can now apply to participate in a weeklong summit in Canberra to build their political engagement skills to make positive changes in their communities. Part of Oxfam Australia’s Straight Talk program – which is now in its 12th year – the national summit will run from 17–22 October 2021.
The immersive program aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to learn more about, and participate in, the political system. Over 10 years, the program has empowered more than 850 First Nations women, by connecting them with Australia’s political system while building their capacity as changemakers. Oxfam’s Straight Talk Coordinator, Worrin Williams, said the program allows women to become comfortable engaging with the federal political system by giving them practical tools, and building connections and confidence.
RACGP leads in reconciliation ‘we can all work towards’
The theme for the 2021 National Reconciliation Week calls for a reconciliation movement towards a ‘braver and more impactful action’. Recognised each year as a time for all Australians to learn about shared histories, cultures, and achievements, it is an opportunity to explore how reconciliation can be achieved through this collaboration.
Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Professor Peter O’Mara told newsGP the college has helped to spearhead the reconciliation movement through its Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2020–22. “The RACGP is a leader in the space of reconciliation, and with the direction of our RAP, it gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians a further voice to move forward in the right direction and know that it is the right thing,” he said. “Reconciliation is more than a word – it is a powerful action that we can all work towards.”
To mark National Reconciliation Week, the NACCHO is calling on all Australians, governments, and institutions to take continued action and commitment towards reconciliation, and to reflect and communicate about the ways reconciliation can be supported. “If we can work together as a nation to address the disparity across different areas, we can deliver on reconciliation outcomes and start closing the gap,” NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills said. “Until Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are fully engaged and have control over their health and wellbeing, any “refresh” will be marginal at best and certainly won’t close the gap.”
The RACGP has committed to improving the knowledge, skills and abilities required to deliver culturally responsive, inclusive health services.
130,000 Additional Vaccines for Victoria
The Australian Government is releasing an additional 130,000 vaccines to support Victoria to accelerate vaccinations in the state, including in the Whittlesea Local Government Area.
This support will be provided through an immediate release of 40,000 doses this week and an additional 15,000 doses each week for six weeks.
Further, from Monday, the Altona North Commonwealth Vaccination Clinic will commence vaccination with the Pfizer vaccine, this is in addition to the AstraZeneca vaccine they are currently administering.
Read the full media release from the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health and Aged care here.
Caring for Spirit and the Sharing the Wisdom report launch
The Aboriginal Health & Ageing Program at NeuRA would like to invite you to attend the launch of the Caring for Spirit online dementia education and training resources. Caring for Spirit has been co-designed with the Koori Growing Old Well Study, partners and wider networks, with funding support from the Department of Health Dementia and Aged Care Services Fund.
This launch will take place: On:Wednesday, 16 June 2021 At: Campbelltown Catholic Club (in the Emily room)
20 – 22 Camden Rd,
Campbelltown NSW 2560 From: 10.00am – 2.00pm(Lunch provided)
The Fred Hollows Foundation, ANTaR National, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), the Diversity Council Australia (DCA) and Australia’s first Aboriginal ophthalmologist Associate Professor Kris Rallah-Bakerare are together calling for the government to commit to a referendum on a constitutionally enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament (the Voice) once the model for the Voice has been settled. The call comes after The Foundation, ANTaR, RANZCO and DCA made submissions to the Australian Government’s Indigenous Voice co-design process.
The Fred Hollows Foundation CEO Ian Wishart said “Fred Hollows believed ‘inequity diminishes us all’ and this couldn’t be more glaring than when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. More than 50 years after being granted the right to vote, Australia’s First Nations still do not have a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament which would give them a say in laws and policies that affect them. A Voice to Parliament designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is a vital step towards social justice reform. A constitutionally enshrined Voice would ensure First Nations Peoples will always be able to provide frank and fearless advice to the government.”
Image source: UNSW Sydney Newsroom. The image in the feature tile is from the SBS NITV News website.
Prevention key to health crisis
The AMA has made a submission in response to the Department of Health’s draft National Preventive Health Strategy, welcoming many parts of the draft strategy while also calling for strengthening specific measures targeting social determinants of health. The National Preventive Health Strategy, due to be finalised mid-year, forms part of the third pillar for mental health and preventive health as outlined in Australia’s Long Term National Health Plan.
Currently only 1.7% of the health budget is invested in preventive health. The AMA supports the draft Strategy’s proposal to increase that to 5% of health funding by 2030. “The AMA welcomes the draft Strategy as a leading example of collaborative, evidence-based policy work and is pleased to be involved in genuine engagement with the Government during its development,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.
“We know a person’s health is shaped by social, economic, cultural and environmental conditions in which they live. Prevention is key. Investing just 1.7% of the health budget in preventive measures is woefully inadequate and far below the example set by similar countries in the OECD. The AMA’s submission calls on the Government to implement a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and a volumetric tax on alcohol to source revenue for increased funding, rather than taking from other areas of the already-stretched health budget.”
It was “very, very scary” being pregnant at 16 years old for Mackapilly Sebasio. The Torres Strait Islander Erubian woman felt she would be judged if she went to her local hospital. “It’s really hard to ask for help or get that support you need, when you’re with a [non-Indigenous] different organisation,” Mackapilly says. “You feel you’re being judged, or you’re not speaking proper. But when you’re around other Indigenous mothers and people that understand how you feel, it just makes you feel a lot better.”
It was thanks to the Birthing in Our Community program, which provides Indigenous-led birthing programs and support services for women who are pregnant with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander baby, that “changed everything” for Mackapilly.
Mackapilly Sebasio with her three children, Seini, Melanie-Ann and Sunni. Image source: ABC News website.
Childhood immunisation rates break records
Australian parents continue to show their confidence in vaccinations, with record rates of childhood immunisations in the first quarter of 2021. For the fourth consecutive quarter, the coverage rate for five year olds has increased to a historic 95.22%. This surpasses the national aspiration of 95%, and gives Australia the herd immunity needed to stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases.
It is also well above the estimated World Health Organization international average immunisation coverage rate of 86% for five year olds, making Australia a world leading vaccination nation. The highest coverage ratecontinues to be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at five years of age – an impressive 97.26%. The vaccination rate for two year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children increased to 91.73%t, while for one year olds it was 93.7%.
Queensland Health’s Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer, Adjunct Professor Shelley Nowlan, has taken on a new role as Deputy National Rural (NRH) Health Commissioner, which will see her play a key role in the Federal Government’s agenda to increase access to rural health services and address rural workforce shortages.
Federal Rural Health Minister, Mark Coulton, and NRH Commissioner Professor Ruth Stewart welcomed the engagement of Professor Nowlan, as a second NRH commissioner. “By engaging two Deputy Commissioners to provide expert advice on allied health, nursing, and Indigenous health disciplines and making the National Rural Health Commissioner a permanent office, we are ensuring rural challenges receive the attention and the expertise they deserve.
The Select Committee on the effectiveness of the Australian Government’s Northern Australia agenda, Final Report, tabled 28 April 2021 has recommended:
investment in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce to continue development strategies, including in innovative community roles and in leadership positions.
continued expansion of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service models of community governance.
Ms Marion Scrymgour, CEO, Northern Land Council, emphasised that development in Northern Australia ‘cannot be successful unless it properly acknowledges Aboriginal rights and interests, engages fully with Aboriginal people as partners rather than just another stakeholder’. Ms Scrymgour stated that Aboriginal people must be placed ‘at the centre of the policy framework in regional and remote areas’.
To view the final report of the Select Committee on the effectiveness of the Australian Government’s Northern Australia agenda click here.
Image source: Austrade.
Is it really the end for Dan Murphy’s?
After a five-year saga involving court challenges and political twists, the Woolworths has abandoned its plan to set up its first Dan Murphy’s store in Darwin. Woolworths is now in the process of a demerger with Endeavour Drinks Group, the company that oversees the Dan Murphy’s portfolio.
While Woolworths says it won’t pursue a large-scale liquor outlet at the same location, it’s CEO Brad Banducci, says there’s no guarantee its subsidiary won’t propose an alternative Darwin site, if and when it becomes an independent entity, “As to whether there’s a future Dan Murphy’s in Darwin, that would be up to the Endeavour Group.”
Helen Fejo-Firth was fiercely opposed to the Dan Murphy’s proposal. Photo: Emilia Terszon. Image source: ABC News website.
Lung Health Awareness Month
Since 1990, Lung Foundation Australia (LFA) has beenpromoting lung health and early diagnosis, advocating for policy change and research investment, raising awareness about the symptoms and prevalence of lung disease and championing equitable access to treatment and care.
May is Lung Health Awareness Month. With 1 in 3 Australians affected by lung disease, LFA is asking the community to start taking their lung health seriously and know the early signs and symptoms. Early diagnosis is critical and the LFA wants you to encourage your community to take two minutes to complete its new Lung Health Checklist.
Thirteen years after then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generations and set up the closing the gap targets, what needs to change?
Donnella Mills, Chair of the NACCHO, says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander power is a key factor in improving health outcomes. Donnella says change is happening, and that when it comes to closing the gap, optimism is ‘in her DNA’. To listen to the radio interview with Donnella Mills on ABC Saturday Morning with Kate O’Tooleclick here.
rally on 11th anniversary of the National Apology to Stolen Generations in Sydney in 2019. Image source: SBS News website.
Calls for national memorial & healing centre
The Healing Foundation is calling on the Federal Government to establish a National First Nations Memorial and Centre for Healing in Canberra and a doubling of the core Commonwealth Grant that funds the Healing Foundation’s work to support Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants. In ‘Healing the Nation’ – The Healing Foundation Pre-Budget Submission 2021–22 – the Foundation is also calling for new funding for a range of initiatives to progress the healing of Stolen Generations survivors – including reparations, tailored trauma-aware and healing-informed support for ageing and ailing Stolen Generations survivors, and better access to historical records for survivors; and a National Healing Strategy to address the impact of intergenerational trauma.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said a National Memorial for First Nations people in the nation’s capital is long overdue, “A National First Nations Memorial, which incorporates a Healing Centre, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, would send a strong message to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – and all Australians – that the Federal Government is serious about reconciliation and righting past wrongs.”
You can access the Healing Foundation’s Pre-Budget Submission 2021–22 here and view their media release in full here,
Image from the Healing Foundation’s Intergenerational Trauma Animation.
Still telling stories 13 years on from the Apology
February 13 each year marks the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, who suffered trauma because of past government policies of forced child removal. Many of these removals occurred as the result of laws and policies aimed at assimilating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population into the predominately white community. Stolen Generations survivors are some of Australia’s most vulnerable people and many have kept their stories and experiences secret for many years, even decades.
One such story comes from Stolen Generations survivor Aunty Julie Black, a 64-year-old Barkindji woman, who was taken from her mother shortly after birth. Aunty Julie’s story is heart breaking and courageous and reminds us that behind the Stolen Generations policies there were people, and children, who are still alive and in need of support. To acknowledge the Apology Anniversary, you can watch Stolen Generations survivor Aunty Julie Black’s story here.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said it is important to commemorate this significant moment in national healing, acknowledging the wrongs of the past, while reflecting on the work that still needs to be done to address the impacts of unresolved trauma, “It’s important that we as a nation provide a safe environment for Stolen Generations survivors and their families to speak for themselves, tell their own stories, and be in charge of their own healing. Assimilation policies that led to the Stolen Generations continued right up until the 1970s and many of those affected by the trauma are still alive today.
To view the Healing Foundation’s media release The Healing Foundation continues telling the stories of Stolen Generations survivors 13 years on from the Apologyclick here.
Barkindji woman Julie Black was taken from her mother shortly after she was born. Image source: Healing Foundation.
A long way from the Stolen Generations
The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians issued a media release on Saturday 13 February 2021, a day marking the 13th anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations. Minister Wyatt met with Wiradjuri Elder Isabel Reid, one of the oldest living survivors of the Stolen Generation in January 2021, “Isabel’s story is just one of tens of thousands of children who were forcibly removed between 1910 and 1970 by Australian governments. This is undoubtedly one of the darker chapters in our nation’s story. On this day I reflect upon the words of the Apology – because they serve as an important reminder of the journey we have all walked – a significant moment on the path to reconciliation – an acknowledgment of our shared history – the importance of our contribution to this national story. It is a story that in parts is raw and painful – and it is a story that in other parts shows that our resilience and determination, built up over 65,000 years, lives and grows in strength today.”
To view the Minister Wyatt’s media release click here.
SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle says the 13th anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations on 13 February is an historic day for Australia in acknowledging the wrongs of the past, but the impact of child removal on First Nations children and families continues decades on, “In 2008, the Australian government finally said sorry for unjustly removing generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families – breaking up families and communities and leaving a legacy of intergenerational trauma for our peoples. We feel for our families on this day. The stories of the Stolen Generations are something that we all carry with us. They are our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents and our brothers and sisters. The Apology was only the first step in truth telling for our nation. Failures to adequately incorporate First Nations perspectives into policy and to support healing for families continue to impact our communities.”
To view SNAICC’s media release SNAICC Calls on Governments to Commit to Supporting First Nations Children and Familiesclick here.
Image source: Meanjin Quarterly.
Improving social media health information survey
A research project is being conducted by researchers at the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition at Deakin University. The aim of the project is to develop Principles for Health Information on Social Media (PRHISM) to assess and help improve the quality of health-related information provided on social media. The PRHISM team are looking for individuals with experience in media, communications and/or social media who currently work for a health-related organisation to take part. Participation involves completion of three 20 minute online surveys. There will be a two to three week gap between each survey and the total time commitment will be approximately 60 minutes over six to nine weeks.
If you are interested in taking part or would like more information you can register your interest and read more about the study via the following link.
Yorta Yorta rapper Briggs has teamed up with Illustrator Molly Hunt to create Covid-19 health messaging for First Nations communities. Image source: NITV website.
Closing the Gap reporting
Historically, the Australian Government has released a Closing the Gap report in February to coincide with the anniversary of the National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, together with a statement to Parliament. This will change under the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which came into effect in July 2020. Under the new Agreement, all parties including the Australian Government must deliver an Implementation Plan on Closing the Gap within 12 months, and report annually on the actions they are taking to achieve the targets. Consistent with the new National Agreement, the Australian Government will release its Closing the Gap Implementation Plan in July 2021 and report annually in the Spring sitting period thereafter.
To view the Minister for Indigenous Australians’ Closing the Gap media release click here.
Image source: Rev’d Dr Lucy Morris blog.
Close the Gap Campaign refuses to be left wanting
The Close the Gap Campaign looks forward to seeing a comprehensive report on the refreshed targets for Closing the Gap by July 2021. The campaign notes the announcement that the release of the Closing the Gap data has been pushed back to July in order to allow a full reporting year since the signing of the new National Agreement with the Coalition of Peaks on Closing the Gap. The Close the Gap Campaign expects to see the PM and Minister Wyatt release the data in July, including a full analysis of what governments plan to do to reform and address the ongoing inequality. “While we understand the need for a change in timeframe to allow a year since the signing of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, this cannot be used as an excuse to kick the can down the road,” said Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chairs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO and National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners CEO Karl Briscoe.
To view the Close the Gap Campaign media statement click here.
Kathy Freeman. Image source: ANTaR website.
Speaking from the Heart podcast
Why is a constitutionally-enshrined Voice to Parliament critical to Australia’s journey towards reconciliation? Will Australia accept the ‘gift’ that is the Uluru Statement from the Heart? And is acknowledging history (and learning from it) an opportunity to build a more inclusive, more truly Australian national identity? On the second episode in a Policy Forum Pod mini-series on Indigenous wellbeing, co-chair of the Prime Minister’s Referendum Council Pat Anderson AO joins hosts Professor Sharon Bessell and Dr Arnagretta Hunter for a remarkable conversation about healing, history, and having the courage to call for change. Listen here.
Ground-breaking Aboriginal Strategic Framework
Minister for Correctional Services of SA, Vincent Tarzia said in an Australian first, the Department for Correctional Services (DCS) has released a ground-breaking Aboriginal Strategic Framework (ASF) 2020-2025. The ASF is the first of its kind in the nation to encompass the needs of prisoners, offenders, staff and community. It provides a culturally informed and tailored approach to address the needs of Aboriginal prisoners and offenders and ensures that DCS programs, policies and supports are culturally safe. The framework was informed through consultation with prisoners, staff and the community and outlines three components to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people: 1. Ensure access to programs and services that are responsive to the unique cultural and gendered need of Aboriginal prisoners. 2. Build a culturally competent and responsive workforce. 3. Increase Aboriginal economic participation and strengthen partnerships with organisations, businesses and Aboriginal communities.
NT Shadow Minister for Alcohol Policy, Gerard Maley, says the Gunner Government’s own study shows that total alcohol consumption only dropped in regions where Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors (PALIs) were stationed at bottle shops, and saw no decline in areas PALIs don’t man takeaway liquor outlets, “This data does not support a minimum floor price – this data supports the use of Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors. The government’s own report shows areas with Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors had lower total alcohol consumption, and where there were no PALIs there was no drop in consumption. Yet the report states that this success was due to the minimum floor price.”
Noi.heen.ner is an event focused on bridging the gap between the Tasmanian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community. The event’s name means ‘in good spirits’. Reconciliation Council Tasmania co-chair Bill Lawson AM said the event was about building curiosity and a warm dialogue about Aboriginal culture in the Tasmanian community, “I think a lot of Tasmanians have been curious for a long time but have been cautious to get involved as they don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. I think things, festivals like this, they’re a safe place for people to come and hear a Welcome to Country, be involved in a smoking ceremony, and realise it’s not all as we think, and that we have things to learn.
To view the Noi.heen.ner marks a ‘good spirited’ connection of cultures article published in The Advocate click here.
Cruze Smart-Pitchford, 12, painting mother Karen Smart-Pitchford with ochre before a welcome to country ceremony at the Noi.heen.ner event. Image source: The Advocate.
Broncos ‘Deadly’ Health Plan for 2021
Brisbane Broncos CEO Paul White and players Kotoni Staggs and Patrick Carrigan, plus club legends and Deadly Choices Ambassadors Steve Renouf and Petero Civoniceva have announced the Broncos ‘Deadly’ Health Plan for 2021.
Equipped with the most comprehensive suite of Brisbane Broncos Deadly Choices Health Check shirts ever produced in the 10-year history of its partnership with the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Service providers from throughout Queensland will be able to maintain strong and essential connections with the people that matter most.
The 2021 Broncos Deadly Choices preventative health campaign, instigated by IUIH, represents a calculated response to the global, COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, the empowerment of individuals and families to take control of their own health through the maintenance of regular health checks remains a top priority. “Our Deadly Choices partnership with the Brisbane Broncos has netted some amazing health successes over the last decade and we see the club’s role in the anticipated delivery of the COVID-19 vaccination as an evolutionary shift forward,” said IUIH CEO Adrian Carson.
Indicative of the direct impact Deadly Choices is having in communities, Queensland has the highest number and the highest rate of use (40%) of 715 heath checks of any State or Territory in Australia. This statistic isn’t lost on the CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane, Jody Currie who is already excited by the New Year acquisitions, “The Broncos-Deadly Choices partnership provides a very strong community engagement tool to enhance positive health messaging and continue to encourage health checks among Indigenous communities right from right across South East Queensland”.
Gunggari and Gubbi Gubbi man Steve Renouf holds the record for the most tries for the Broncos. Image source: Deadly Choices website.
Sexual Health Week
Sexual Health Week, 14–21 February 2021, is an opportunity to celebrate and discuss sexual health in all of its facets, and during this week the WA AIDS Council (WAAC) has shared some advice on how you can make sure you’re looking after your sexual health.
Size is an issue – did you know that 70% of men who do not like wearing condoms are wearing the wrong size? Contrary to popular belief, condoms are not one-size-fits-all. And this small misconception is one of many that get in the way of people being able to have the most fulfilling, healthy and enjoyable sexual life possible. For many people, young and old, they got more of a sex education watching Sex Education on Netflix than in any sex-ed class in school. There is a pervasive thought that you need to pick between pleasure and safety, protection versus orgasm, as if they are opposites when they are very much not.
WAAC has partnered with the Department of Health to provide small grants of up to $1,000 to organisations and services working in regional and remote parts of WA. The grant enables organisations the opportunity to run sexual health programs that they would not have been able to run without funding.
This year they have been able to provide the grant to four organisations, including NACCHO members Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS), who will run a project to increase sexual health testing with young people and increase their knowledge, and Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (GRAMS) who will travel over 1,200kms around the Mid West to educate young people about sexual health and offer testing services.
To view the full article It’s Sexual Health Week – when did you last check your sexual health?click here.
One in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience chronic ear disease in Australia. Luke Carroll (Actor and Playschool Presenter) and Emma Donovan (Musician), who are both parents, have joined the Hearing Australia campaign to help promote the importance of HAPEE Ears For Early Years.
Hearing Australia’s ongoing ‘Hearing Assessment Program – Early Ears’ or HAPEE, is a result of a $30 million investment by the Australian Government to reduce the long term effects of ear disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children not yet attending full time school are eligible for a free hearing check, and this service is now available across the country, as the program has expanded to care for more communities in urban, regional and metro areas.
Gumbaynggirr, Dhungatti, Yamatji and Bibbulman woman, Emma Donovan is urging other parents and carers to have their children’s ears checked regularly. Emma’s youngest child’s hearing loss was detected early. Wiradjuri man, acclaimed actor and father, Luke Carroll, has a similar message for parents and carers,
“I think it’s extremely important for kids to get their hearing checked. It helps with their speech and their growth as a young person.
To view Hearing Australia’s press release click here.
Emma Donovan with daughter Jirriga & Luke Carroll with son Enzo. Image source: Hearing Australia.
Ophthalmologists call for Voice to Parliament
The Fred Hollows Foundation, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), and Australia’s first Aboriginal ophthalmologist Associate Professor Kris Rallah-Baker have joined forces to call for a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution. The call supports From the Heart’s Week of Action to promote the Uluru Statement from the Heart and advocate for a constitutionally enshrined Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Voice to Parliament.
“As a Nation, Australia is far behind other former British colonies in addressing issues that remain as a consequence of the dispossession and occupation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, which began on 26th January 1788 and has not yet ended,” Associate Professor Rallah-Baker said. “These issues affect us all today and are not a dark and distant memory – they affect the very fibre of who we are as a Nation. Without appropriate address we can never truly decolonise and heal the scars that haunt our collective psyche. The Uluru Statement from the Heart lays out a sensible and collaborative pathway required to move forwards and make Australia truly a place of the ‘fair go’.”
Dr Kris Rallah-Baker, a Yuggera & Biri-Gubba-Juru/Yuggera man, became Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist. Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation.
Pharmacists integral to health outcomes
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) has called on the Federal Government to implement four strategic measures in its 2021–22 Budget Submission that will enable pharmacists to significantly improve health outcomes for Australians. Among the PSA recommendations for the 2021–22 Federal Budget is a rebate for non-medical health professionals, such as pharmacists, for their attendance at case conferences (this will foster better collaboration and enhanced safe and quality use of medicine outcomes for patients), the establishment of a digital nationally coordinated pharmacovigilance system for primary care and funding of pharmacists within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
PSA National President Associate Professor Freeman said these recommendations provide an opportunity for the government to take action to reduce medicine-related harm and utilise the skills of pharmacists to improve health outcomes for Australians. “Pharmacists are approachable, knowledgeable and highly trusted within the community and the Australian public want to see the skills of pharmacists put to full use,” he said.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) is urging pharmacists to join Australia’s fight against COVID-19 by taking up the Federal Government’s call to assist in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination program to the community. Community pharmacists will join with other healthcare professionals such as GPs to administer the COVID-19 vaccine for the community from Phase 2 of the Commonwealth’s COVID strategy.
The PSA is encouraging pharmacists to respond to the Government’s Expression of Interest (EOI) to be trained and equipped to assist in vaccinating Australians against the coronavirus. “COVID-19 has dramatically changed our lives and pharmacists have supported our community on the frontline – I am confident community pharmacists will step up to join Australia’s vaccination workforce, just as they have done throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” PSA National President Associate Professor Freeman said.
To view the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s media release click here. and to view the related Minister for Health and Aged Care’s media release click here.
Image source: Pharmacy Magazine.
Find Cancer Early campaign
Published Australian research shows that people living in regional Australia are 20–30% more likely to die within five years of a cancer diagnosis than people living in metropolitan areas. Previous research in WA shows regional people present at the GP at a later stage because they are less aware of cancer symptoms, more optimistic, more laid back, less willing to seek help and sometimes make excuses for not seeking help, therefore resulting in later stage cancer diagnoses.
Cancer Council WA have launched a new mass media campaign, Regional Champions, through their Find Cancer Earlyprogram to highlight some of the lesser known symptoms of cancer to motivate regional West Australians to seek medical advice earlier. Putting off seeing your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker could be costly. 62-year-old Derek Chapman from Donnybrook, one of six regional champions featured in the campaign said “When you’re out here you can’t muck around. Stop making excuses for symptoms.”
The campaign began on Sunday 31 January appearing on regional and Aboriginal television stations across WA as well as regional and Aboriginal radio stations, regional newspapers, Facebook and YouTube.
A recently launched first-of-its-kind program will help reduce gambling harm in Indigenous communities across NSW by creating a safe space online. The Talking About Gambling(TAG) project will be community driven and has been designed by experts at NSW Aboriginal Safe Gambling Service and The Australian National University (ANU), along with other research partners. According to Dr Megan Whitty, gambling is often referred to as the “hidden addiction” in Indigenous communities. But starting an open and honest discussion can help break down some of the stigma so communities can identify if gambling is a problem, and how it could be addressed.
To read the ANU media release about this project click here.
Image source: ABC News website.
NCSR Cervical Program survey
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health (DoH) is conducting an independent review of the performance and operation of the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) in relation to the Cervical Program. The scope of the current review does not include the Bowel Program which may be included in a future review.
DoH is seeking your support for this review by completing this survey and forwarding it to your members for their completion. You can access a letter from Andrew Gately, Assistant Secretary, National Cancer Screening Register Branch with further information about the review by clicking here.
PwC is conducting this survey via Qualtrics. Your participation in this survey is voluntary. The survey should take approximately 10–15 minutes to complete.
Please provide your responses by 5 February 2021.
Please follow this link to participate in the NCSR Review Survey.
Image source: The University of Sydney website.
Mental illness far higher in bush
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that reside in rural Australia, the risk factors associated with remote living are perpetuated by intergenerational trauma and unaddressed socioeconomic deprivation. As a result, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 12–24 years on average are three times as likely to be hospitalised with a mental health illness than non-Indigenous young people of the same age.
Mental health-related services, where they do exist, predominantly rely on locum professionals that work on a varying, fly-in-fly-out basis. The irregularity of these services contributes to low community participation, voiding citizens of the stable and consistent support required to address mental health issues. In 2016–17, 81 in every 1,000 people in remote areas accessed Medicare-funded mental health services, compared to 495 per 1,000 people in major cities.
To view the Independent Australia article in full click here.
Image source: Triple J Hack podcast website.
Poor mental health an incarceration risk
Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are 18 times more likely to be in custody and 17 times more likely to be on a community based supervision order than non-Indigenous young people. Successive reports over decades have shown troubling rates of incarceration among young Indigenous people.
A Productivity Commission report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing released in December 2020 found that while most Indigenous people had never been in jail, they faced more risk factors that made it more likely, including unemployment, low socioeconomic status and poor mental health.
To view the full article click here. A related article argues that waiting for solutions to youth incarceration is a choice by government to invest in hurting kids and making communities less safe in the meantime – to read this article in The Guardianclick here.
Image source: The Conversation website.
Beyond Blue supports healing and unity
Beyond Blue supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart and have said they will continue to play our part in supporting Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing by listening to First Nations people, advocating for culturally appropriate policies and services led by them, and encouraging action to address racism and Close the Gap. Beyond Blue says they want to see institutional and intergenerational disadvantage meaningfully addressed.
To view the full article, including a traditional Ngangkari healing story click here.
Image source: Beyond Blue website.
Virtual care survey
What has been your organisation’s experience of virtual care?
With a view to producing a report based on the results, Telstra Health is conducting a survey to understand the different organisational experiences of virtual care, particularly since the pandemic. For example, perhaps you’ve recently increased the number and range of virtual care services provided but you don’t know what to do next to maintain them. No matter your organisation’s situation, the team at Telstra Health wants to hear from you! They will explore how to support Australian healthcare providers with delivering effective and efficient virtual care solutions.
Telehealth consultations with GPs are booming among urban and rural patients since the Government introduced temporary Medicare Benefit Scheme (MBS) support in March last year – and authors of a new report analysing GP visits at 800 practices across Australia argue the MBS changes should be permanent.
Professor Andrew Georgiou and his co-authors found that phone consultations with GPs in NSW and Victoria climbed from zero during 2019 to more than 138,000 per week between January and September 2020. Despite the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers found that people consulted GPs more often from January to September 2020, than they did in the same period in 2019. “We think much of that is because people could access telehealth,” said Georgiou, from Macquarie University’s Centre for Health Systems and Safety Research.
Since its establishment with funding from the Australian Government in 1999, the Public Health Information Development Unit (PHIDU) has been committed to providing information on a broad range of health and other determinants across the lifespan. Located at Torrens University Australia since November 2015, PHIDU’s emphasis continues to be on the publication of small area statistics for monitoring inequality in health and wellbeing and supporting opportunities to improve population health outcomes.
Since 2008, PHIDU has offered free online access to a comprehensive range of current (and some historical) data at national, jurisdictional, regional and small area levels for Australia. Socioeconomic and geographical variations in health are highlighted in interactive atlases and graphs, and supported by data tables and metadata. This web-based source of data on health and its determinants is unique in Australia, and has been acknowledged internationally by agencies such as the World Health Organization. To access the Indigenous Social Health Atlas of Australia click here.
Image source: Indigenous Social Health Atlas of Australia website.
Support for COVID-19 vaccine ads in language
The Puntukurnu Aboriginal Medical Service (PAMS) in the East Pilbara region services thousands of Martu and Nyiyaparli people who will be among the early recipients of the vaccine when it rolls out in coming weeks. The WA Government, which is working with the Commonwealth on the rollout, said that vulnerable patient cohorts such as people in Aboriginal communities would receive the vaccine early after frontline workers in health care, quarantine facilities, and airports.
The new PAMS clinic in Newman services thousands of mainly Martu and Nyiyaparli people. Image source: ABC News website.
VIC – Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd
Rumbalara is one of the largest providers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health services in Victoria. Rumbalara currently have a number of vacancies within their Health & Wellbeing services area and their Justice & Community services area. Their Health & Wellbeing services provide community members with a full range of services to help address general health issues such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, poor diet and nutritional health, eye health, ear health, contagious diseases, drug and alcohol related issues, mental health and emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Rumbalara’s Justice & Community Services have two vacancies based at its Shepparton office.
Mooroopa Health Promotion Coordinator x 1 FT Aboriginal Health Practitioner/Aboriginal Health Worker x 1 FT Nurse – Lead Chronic Care Coordinator x 1 FT
Shepparton Aboriginal Family Violence Team Leader x 1 FT Aboriginal Family Violence Practitioner x 1 FT
To view position descriptions for the jobs based in Mooroopna click here and for those in Shepparton click here.
Applications close Tuesday 9 February 2021.
National Condom Day – Sunday 14 February
The countdown has well and truly begun, with only 12 days until on National Condom Day and NACCHO is running a fun contest to drive awareness around safe sex and condoms.
Watch this video by Her Rules Her Game Kimberly Aboriginal Medical Services Council for some great inspiration, then unleash your creativity and submit a PHOTO/VIDEO showing your best condom hack and/or send us your BEST SLOGAN on using condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections.
Email your entries to email@example.com with the subject line “Condom hacks & slogans” by Wednesday 10 February 2021.
You can also upload your creations on your social media pages. Make sure to tag us so we can keep sharing your cool posts.
We have some AMAZING PRIZES from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sporting teams and businesses for the top entries:
a signed NRL Indigenous All Stars football. PRICELESS!
A year ago, Connor Bamford, a Research Fellow, Virology, Queen’s University Belfast, wrote about a mysterious outbreak of pneumonia in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which transpired to be the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of writing, very little was known about the disease and the virus causing it, but Conor Bamford warned of the concern around emerging coronaviruses, citing Sars, Mers and others as important examples. Every day since we continue to learn so much about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, finding new ways to control the pandemic and undoubtedly keep people safer in the decades that will follow.
To view The Conversation article in full click here.
Image source: SA Government Department of Health YouTube image.
Healing Foundation supports Uluru Statement
As feedback is sought on the second stage of the Indigenous Voice co-design process, The Healing Foundation has reiterated its strong support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Petersen said that Stolen Generation survivors and their descendants see all elements of the Uluru Statement – the Constitutional change, the Legislative change, and the Makarrata Commission – as crucial to the process of healing for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Stolen Generations survivors and the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community know what they need to heal, and they have been telling governments for years,” Ms Petersen said. “The benefits of healing flow to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and, ultimately, to all Australians.”
To view The Healing Foundation’s media release in full click here.
Intergenerational Trauma Animation screenshot. The Healing Foundation.
New permanent GP clinic for Katherine
Katherine’s only general practice closed late last year, but the town has now secured a new locally delivered service.
Talking to newsGP in November last year, following the closure of the only general practice in Katherine, NT, RACGP Rural Chair Dr Michael Clements said ‘It’s very disheartening and disappointing. The impact on this community can’t be underestimated … So we really must see the relevant agencies … look to see what novel solutions there are.’
Now, along with the local community, hospital and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs), Dr Clements is welcoming the announcement of a permanent general practice, Katherine Family Medical Practice, opening in April 2021 saying ‘I am very excited for them [the new practice owners]. What they are doing in terms of linking in the ACCHOs, hospital, Northern Territory Primary Health Network [NT PHN] and Territory Government is excellent, and [they have] a good plan in mind’.
Decade-long syphilis outbreak needs national response
Australia’s peak medical body is calling for a coordinated national response to bring an end to a syphilis outbreak that has spread through the country for 10 years. The sexually transmitted infection is easily treatable but has been moving through parts of Queensland, the NT, WA and SA since January 2011. It has primarily affected young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote and rural areas, particularly Northern Australia.
More than 3,600 people have been diagnosed since the outbreak began, according to federal Department of Health data. “It was fairly clear that there was a very ineffective response to this very significant disease epidemic across four states, and there was a total lack of coordination from the various states and territories in dealing with it,” the Australian Medical Association’s NT president, Dr Robert Parker, said.
In 2017, a group of state and federal government health officials developed a strategic approach to deal with the outbreak. $21.2 million in federal funding was given to Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations to fund extra staff and point-of-care testing until 2021. John Paterson, the CEO of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT), says the funding is due to expire next month. He’s questioned what that will mean for screening and education programs in remote areas, which he says already need more resourcing. “It’s not enough,” he said. “We need a commitment from the Commonwealth Government to ensure we can get the appropriate ongoing funding.”
Image source: National Indigenous Television (NITV) website.
NT David and Goliath liquor laws battle
A David and Goliath battle is being waged in the NT as health and social welfare organisations and Indigenous leaders battle business behemoths and the Territory Government over the issuance of new liquor laws. In a reversal of previous policy and decisions, including a five-year moratorium on new liquor licences, the NT Government has given the go ahead to a Dan Murphy’s megastore in Darwin, two new Coles outlets in Palmerston, and takeaway alcohol sales in the Tiwi Islands community of Pirlangimpi.
At stake are, on the one hand, huge social costs from the increased availability of alcohol, especially for Indigenous communities, and on the other hand, the commercial interests of large corporations. There is particular concern for what this new Dan Murphy’s will mean for the three dry Aboriginal communities – Bagot, Kulaluk and Minmarama – that are within walking distance of the proposed megastore in Darwin. Indigenous leaders have led the opposition to it, fearing the health and social consequences.
But alcohol harm is not limited to Indigenous communities. The per capita alcohol consumption of the NT is among the highest in the world, estimated at 11.6 litres of pure alcohol per year, compared to the Australian average of 9.5 litres.. Moreover, while alcohol abuse is a serious problem in impoverished Indigenous communities, research shows that more Indigenous people abstain from booze than non-Indigenous people.
Not surprisingly, the per capita costs and harms of alcohol consumption in the NT have long been the highest in the nation. In 2015–16 the health and social costs for the NT were estimated by the Menzies School of Health Research at $1.4 billion a year, or four times the national average; this included $100 million for healthcare, $58 million for road accidents; $272 million for crime; and $171 million for child protection.
Learning about healthy lungs has just become a lot easier for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and health practitioners thanks to an expanded interactive app. The app, produced by the Menzies School of Health Research’s (Menzies) Child Health Division, uses interactive images, audio and quizzes to teach people about various conditions affecting the lungs and is available in eight different languages used in northern and central Australia. Originally released in 2020 with a focus on asthma, the app has been expanded to include other common childhood lung conditions such as bronchiolitis, pneumonia and bronchiectasis.
In Australia, the burden of ill health from acute and chronic lung diseases remains high among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Health education that is culturally appropriate is important to reduce language and context barriers to health equity. Menzies senior research fellow and project lead Dr Gabrielle McCallum says that the expanded app is an innovative way to help people access important health information about common lung conditions in their home and at their own pace. “The team evaluated the app with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers and found that knowledge of lung health significantly improved after using the app, particularly how lung conditions are treated,” Dr McCallum said. “Health care professionals also described the app as an innovative and effective method of providing lung education to culturally and linguistically diverse groups.”
To view the Lung Foundation Australia and Menzies School of Health Research media release in full click here.
Image source: National Indigenous Television (NITV) website.
Monsoon rains increase melioidosis risk
Recent monsoonal rains in the Top End have increased the threat of the potentially deadly disease, Melioidosis. There are between 40 and 90 cases of the soil-borne disease reported in the NT each year with the majority diagnosed across the Wet Season between October and May. Dr Vicki Krause, Director of Disease Control and Environmental Health, Top End Health Service said recent heavy rains and the monsoonal weather expected in the coming weeks increased the risk of the disease. “In past years around 10 per cent of infections have been fatal, even with the best medical care. Last season there were 45 cases of Melioidosis and one death in the NT,” she said.
To view the NT Government’s media release in full click here.
Image source: NT News.
Time to revamp Medicare for 21st Century
The most exhaustive inquiry into the mechanics of Medicare in its 36 years makes a compelling case for extensive reforms that must be commenced now if Australians are to retain access to best available 21st Century health care, according to the Consumers Health Forum (CHF). The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Taskforce has reviewed more than 5,700 Medicare items and made more than 1,400 recommendations “to strengthen, modernise and protect Australia’s world class health system”. Its final report states it has identified numerous opportunities to improve health outcomes for all Australians into the future.
“CHF welcomes this deep and detailed report An MBS for the 21st Centuryand its advocacy of consumer-centred health care,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said today. “The 1980s Medicare model is being rapidly overtaken by the huge shifts in health care and the escalation of chronic conditions and this report shows why the Government and providers must change in areas such as remuneration to meet consumer needs and make the most of modern medicine.
The second paper from the Nini Helthiwan Project looking at Kimberley women’s antenatal care experiences Aboriginal women’s experiences of strengths and challenges of antenatal care in the Kimberley: A qualitative study has been published. While the Australian pregnancy care guidelines note the importance of culturally safe care, this is not always assured for Aboriginal women. Studies exploring Aboriginal women’s antenatal care experiences in various locations have identified local strengths and priority areas.
Throughout the Kimberley, 124 Aboriginal women who had accessed antenatal care in 2015–2018 provided qualitative data during the Nini health assessment or standalone interview with an Aboriginal researcher. Most women expressed that overall they had a positive antenatal care experience. Key themes were. The experiences shared by these Kimberley women add to evidence from other parts of Australia, showing a need to improve culturally safe antenatal care for all Aboriginal women. This includes having more local Aboriginal antenatal care providers. There also needs to be more support for the large number of women and their families who need to travel for care.
To view a summary of the project click here. You can access the paper, including a plain language version, via the KAMS research website.
Image source: #LoveBroome.
AMSANT calls Darwin CBD quarantine ‘ludicrous’
More than 80 foreign military personnel and their family members staying at a Darwin CBD hotel are being released from quarantine over the next two days, despite concerns from an Aboriginal health group that genomic sequencing on two positive coronavirus cases detected at the hotel last week is yet to be made public. Last Wednesday, a foreign military official and the partner of another official tested positive to COVID-19 at the Darwin Travelodge, where up to 300 foreign military staff and their families were given approval by the NT’s Chief Health Officer to quarantine for 14 days. The decision to allow the cohort to stay at the inner-city hotel, rather than at the government-managed Howard Springs quarantine facility, which is considered Australia’s ‘gold-standard’ for infection control, has previously been labelled as inexplicable..
Earlier this week Associate Professor John Boffa, a spokesperson for the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), said it would be a serious mistake to release any of the foreign military personnel before health authorities know which variant of the virus had been recorded within the Travelodge. Dr Boffa added his voice to the growing chorus of criticism from organisations like Danila Dilba and the NT Branch of the Australian Medical Association regarding military personnel quarantining in a CBD hotel rather than Howard Springs. “It’s ludicrous, it makes no sense that this exemption is given. It’s the position of AMSANT and other leading Aboriginal organisations in the NT that this is not good enough,” he said.
The level of vaccination uptake will be the most important factor in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new position paper by an international consortium of scientists which compared COVID-19 vaccination strategies. The position paper – authored by scientists and health experts from the University of Sydney’s Centre for Complex Systems and the Faculty of Medicine and Health in collaboration with scientists and epidemiologists from India and Europe – emphasises that, given the limited availability of vaccines at the initial stage of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, effective prioritisation and optimal use of vaccination resources will be crucial to contain the pandemic in the near future. “It is not desirable to expose a significant portion of the population to the pathogen in order to acquire herd immunity,” said lead author, Dr Mahendra Piraveenan, who is a senior lecturer in complex systems in the Faculty of Engineering.
To view the University of Sydney’s media release in full click here.
Image source: MIT News.
Where are all the public health workers?
Significant gaps in the size, training, structure and credentialing of the public health workforce have been exposed as a result of the demands generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This problem has been highlighted by the need to scale up to levels of activity never previously required by a communicable disease outbreak in Australia. However, the demands on the nation’s public health workforce go beyond the management of a communicable disease outbreak alone. With the heavy and growing burden of preventable Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), workforce shortages are perhaps less urgent but just as real. Government capacity should be adjusted in line with this increasing threat and disease burden.
There is a broad scope of practice in public health, from epidemiologists and biostatisticians, through to contact tracers, community health promoters, transmissible disease experts, health economists, environmental health, nutrition and food safety workers, Aboriginal Health Workers, nurses, physicians, policy analysts, policy makers and more. A clearly agreed definition of those to include and exclude remains difficult. One size will not fit all in terms of training needs, employment options and support. There will also be differing demands depending on the extent of workforce and skills shortages.
Current best estimates suggest that about 80 per cent of the public health workforce is employed by government, academia and the not-for-profit sector. What little data we have suggests that the rate of growth of public health professionals currently in the workforce is very low to zero. Certainly, the growth rate of the public health workforce is behind that of most other health professions, and indeed most other professions generally.
Image source: General Practice Training Queensland.
Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Report
The recently released Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices): Securing our Rights, Securing our Future 2020 Report holds the voices and stories of over 2,000 First Nations women and girls of all ages, from all across Australia, belonging to hundreds of different ancestral countries. The report carries their incredible strengths, unyielding determination and diverse lived realities. This is not a report for the shelves, it is a landmark report that puts a First Nations female-led plan for change on the table.
Aboriginal medical groups are calling on the NT and Federal Governments to fund long term studies into the causes of a cancer cluster and high fetal death rates in the vicinity of the now defunct Ranger uranium mine in Kakadu. A Health Department study into the cancer cluster couldn’t reach any firm conclusions. The groups also want a similar monitoring program extended to other Aboriginal communities near major mines.
An ABC News PM report with Linda Mottram includes comments from John Paterson, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance CEO, Dr Michael Fonda, Public Health Association of Australia, Justin O’Brien, Gunjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation CEO and Dr Hugh Heggie, NT Chief Health Officer.
To listen to the ABC News PM news report click here.
Image source: ABC News website.
NT – Darwin – Danila Dilba Health Service
Danila Dilba Health Service (DDHS) is going through a dynamic period of expansion and growth and in order to meet increasing client need, DDHS is looking to fill several vacancies within the operations area. The roles are at the core of DDHS’ services and are critical in ensuring delivery of culturally safe, comprehensive primary health care services.
As part of the DDHS team you’ll contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians and be provided with great learning opportunities, given the chance to grow your skills and progress your career.
You’ll IMPACT the community, helping close the gap in Indigenous healthcare and wellbeing, one helping hand at a time.
You’ll be PROUD, both of the work you do and who you work for.
You’ll work with a TEAM, alongside people who are down to earth and truly dedicated to what we do.
You’ll EXPERIENCE and learn something new every day through the variety of your role.
You’ll embrace the OPPORTUNITY to progress your career – follow your path at Danila Dilba.
Head of ICT x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Darwin
Clinic Team Leader x 1 FT – Bagot Clinic – Darwin
General Practitioner (After Hours) x 1 PT – After-Hours Malak Clinic – Darwin
Medical Receptionist x 1 PT (after hours and weekend) – After-Hours Malak Clinic – Darwin
NDIS Support Worker x 1 FT (Fixed Term) – Darwin
Finance and Contract Officer x 1 FT – Darwin
Dentist x 1 PT (Fixed Term) – Palmerston – Darwin
Indigenous Outreach Worker x 1 FT – Rapid Creek Clinic – Darwin
To view position descriptions and to apply click here.Applications close 1 February 2021.
“ In 2020 after a decade of a comprehensive closing the gap framework through COAG, the evidence is incontrovertible, the bureaucracy cannot close the gap in disadvantage.
Thirty years ago, the royal commission predicted this.
The resolution of the “Aboriginal problem” was beyond the capacity of non-Aboriginal policy makers and bureaucrats.
The report was very blunt: “It is about time they left the stage to those who collectively know the problems at national and local levels; they know the solutions because they live with the problems.”
This is something Prime Minister Scott Morrison knows already. This is precisely what he did during the pandemic, he left it to the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector to shut down their own communities and they had already mobilised late January. And it worked.
That so many Australians who “turned up” in solidarity in cities and towns across Australia this weekend accords with the research commissioned by the From the Heart project from CT Group that found Australians want Indigenous Australians to get a fair go.
Seventy one per cent agree that Indigenous Australians are best placed to decide matters that affect them.
Saturday was no mere protest, my friends, in the words of the Uluru Statement, it was a movement of the Australian people for a better future. And the Australian people are ready for real change. ”
There is no denying the nationwide protests on Saturday, leveraging off Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in the US, reflect a growing sentiment in Australia about Indigenous affairs.
There is something in the zeitgeist when tens of thousands of Australians descend on the streets to march for Aboriginal justice while the nation is transitioning out of lockdown.
One of the perennial challenges of protest is how to translate it into substantive and durable change. I remember marching as a young person through the streets of Brisbane protesting against Aboriginal deaths in custody and calling for the implementation of the royal commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody’s recommendations.
It has been almost 30 years since the royal commission and my nieces and nephews were marching on Saturday through the same streets of Brisbane. Yet we know what needs to be done.
The royal commission was set up in October 1987 following national outrage about the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody. It investigated 99 deaths that occurred between January 1, 1980 and May 31, 1989, in prisons, police stations or juvenile detention institutions.
A key finding was that the deaths in custody investigated were not the product of deliberate violence or brutality of police or prison officers but that there was a lack of regard for the duty of care that is owed to people in custody by police officers and prison officers.
The commission made many recommendations but one of its primary reforms centred on the structural powerlessness that renders Indigenous voices silent in a liberal democracy.
The commission singled out the importance of Indigenous participation in decision-making to transform Aboriginal affairs and the right to self-determination. It found that the government had the power to transform the picture of Aboriginal affairs, “not so much by ‘doing’ things – more by letting go of the controls; letting Aboriginal people make the decisions which government now pretends they do make”. At the heart of the findings was that Indigenous peoples should have a say in the decisions that are made about them.
Sound familiar? It should. The Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017 said the same thing. In 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was issued to the Australian people as an invitation to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.
The statement was the culmination of regional constitutional dialogues conducted over 2016 and 2017 under the supervision of the Referendum Council established by Malcolm Turnbull.
The Uluru Statement decided upon a consensus reform agenda aimed at fixing the same structural problems the royal commission highlighted 30 years ago.
Thirty years on the Uluru Statement singles out the same crisis in public policy, incarceration, youth detention and child removals. The systemic injustice operates along a continuum:
“Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.”
Of over-representation and child removals, the Uluru Statement says, “These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem.” Crime may be a state government matter, but the structural solution is constitutional.
The royal commission said at the time of its work that “it is difficult for non-Aboriginal people to comprehend just how absolute the domination of Aboriginal people has been”.
This is precisely what the Referendum Council heard in the dialogues in 2017 about the Commonwealth Indigenous Advancement Strategy, that the bureaucracy dominates in communities and the control is stifling.
” I truly believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be impacted by the legacy of colonisation in every aspect of our lives.
But what also continues is our resilience amidst the adversity we face.
When we face adversity together, we see stronger outcomes.
Accordingly, today I would like to talk about the topic of ‘In This Together’.
I would like to focus on four aspects of what togetherness looks like currently for our people — aspects that we can and must build upon.
First, I want you all to know about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations came together from across the nation to form the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak Organisations.
Second, I want to discuss the unprecedented opportunity we have for genuine shared decision-making in the Partnership Agreement between the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peaks.
Third, I want to alert you to the negotiations now underway to finalise a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which came out of the Partnership Agreement that also advances this idea of ‘In this Together’.
Fourth, without engaging in any premature celebrations whatsoever, as we still have a long way to go, I will talk about the strong, coordinated work of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations that have come together from across Australia to successfully protect our people from to COVID-19.
I will then bring together the four — how the work of the Coalition of Peaks can help in optimising the health and wellbeing of our people and communities amidst the impacts of the pandemic.
NACCHO CEO Pat Turner opening Reconciliation SA’s Reconciliation Week Breakfast May 27 see full speech Part 1 below
Good morning everyone, thank you for inviting me here today.
My name is Pat Turner, and I am the daughter of an Arrente man and a Gurdanji woman.
I am also the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), and the Lead Convener of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak organisations.
Before we start, I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands that we are meeting upon today.
I am speaking to you from Canberra, which is Ngunnawal country.
I also want to acknowledge and thank Reconciliation South Australia for the opportunity to be the keynote speaker for your annual breakfast, in this case I assume the first ever virtual one.
Peter Buckskin, a co-chair of Reconciliation South Australia, and I worked together in ATSIC and he has made a great contribution to improving life outcomes for our people. Meanwhile, Shona Reid is Eastern Arrente, and like me we can both trace our ancestry back to Central Australia with pride.
Our people have lived in a climatically harsh country for more than sixty thousand years, which has required great knowledge and custodianship of the environment and close cooperation between our people to succeed.
This cooperation continues to be evident in our recent collaboration in forming the Coalition of Peaks to make sure that we share decision making in relation to Closing the Gap.
The Coalition of Peaks comprises nearly 50 national, State and Territory community-controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations.
This is every community-controlled peak organisation in Australia. They include NACCHO, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, First Peoples Disability Network and First Nations Media Australia.
The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement has led South Australia’s involvement in the Coalition of Peaks. To its credit, it has facilitated the establishment of the South Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation Network that has brought together other Aboriginal peaks in South Australia to work together at the state level.
Never have community controlled peak bodies and organisations come together in this way – to develop policy and negotiate with governments.
Number two – The Partnership Agreement between the Coalition of Peaks and COAG
The historic Partnership Agreement, which commenced in March 2019 and is a public document, was also an initiative of the Coalition of Peaks. Of most importance is that the signatories are COAG and the Coalition of Peaks – that is, legitimately appointed community representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from across Australia.
We proposed the Partnership Agreement after gaining the support of the Prime Minister and the Council of Australian Governments to a partnership being formed with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to underpin the next phase of Closing the Gap.
Prior to this, COAG had decided on its own to refresh the Closing the Gap strategy that was originally agreed to in 2008 and given effect to by the National Indigenous Reform Agreement.
To do this refresh, in 2018 COAG undertook a series of consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia — which were inadequate and lacked transparency.
While the rhetoric was about partnership, there was no real commitment to it and the refresh was proceeding on the basis that COAG would make all the decisions.
To be frank, at this point in time, we did not consider we were ‘In This Together’ with them.
NACCHO and other community-controlled peaks decided that this could not continue and took a risk in publicly insisting that we be able to share decisions about the Closing the Gap strategy instead of COAG making decisions on its own.
We wrote to all First Ministers to put forward three (3) main propositions—
When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are included and have a real say in the design and delivery of services that impact on them, the outcomes are far better;
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to be at the centre of Closing the Gap policy; the gap won’t close without our full involvement; and
COAG cannot expect us to take responsibility and work constructively with them to improve outcomes if we are excluded from decision making.
Under the Partnership Agreement, the Coalition of Peaks are already sharing decision making on developing, implementing, monitoring and reviewing the Closing the Gap strategy for the next ten years.
A new COAG Council, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, is also established under the Partnership Agreement.
For the first time, this COAG Council has members from outside Governments. In fact, it has 12 members elected from the Coalition of Peaks including a representative from each jurisdiction. Ruth Miller is the representative for South Australia.
In addition, each jurisdiction nominates a Minister with responsibilities for Closing the Gap. It is co-chaired by the Federal Minister, Minister Wyatt, and me.
Number 3 – the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap
Following a review of the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap agreed that it should be replaced with a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
Joint Council also agreed that the new Agreement should not only be signed by First Ministers but also the Coalition of Peaks on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. That is incredibly significant for our people and for Australia.
Once in place, the National Agreement will be a platform to address the structural inequalities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face arising from years of unmet need.
Instead of targets being the focus, which was the case with the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the Coalition of Peaks have also gained support from the Joint Council and all Governments that four priority reforms will underpin the new National Agreement. These are:
establishing formal partnerships between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives across the country on closing the gap
building and strengthening our community-controlled organisations to deliver the services we need
transforming mainstream agencies and institutions of governments, such as the police and universities, to make a much bigger contribution to Closing the Gap; and
ensuring government data and information is shared with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities to support us being able to make good decisions about our lives.
Finally, Joint Council also agreed to the Coalition of Peaks leading engagements with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia to see what they thought about the priority reforms and what else should be included in the new National Agreement.
Those engagements took place between September and December last year including in South Australia and included an online survey and over 4000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had a say.
We have published the outcomes of those engagements and are making sure that what people said is reflected in the Agreement currently being negotiated with COAG.
Number 4 – Our ACCHO’s and communities’ coordinated COVID-19 response
I would also like to speak on our ACCHO’s and communities’ coordinated COVID-19 response.
Only three months ago the Prime Minister announced to the nation that last year the gap in infant mortality rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians increased.
In the three months since then COVID-19 has been a whole new stark reminder to us all just how vulnerable the health of our people is.
We have been reminded of the significantly greater risk we face of being profoundly impacted due to the pre-existing co-morbidities many of us battle.
The pandemic has highlighted the fault lines of disadvantage endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for generations, from health and education to housing.
Overcrowded housing, poverty and other social determinants are the root cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples being at high risk from pandemics and other communicable diseases.
The pandemic has exposed what we have been advocating for decades – better and less crowded housing for our people.
Overcrowding makes self-isolation and stopping the spread of a virus incredibly difficult, if not impossible.
NACCHO continues to advocate for greater federal, state and territory investment in housing for our people, and for housing initiatives to be developed in genuine partnership with us.
And as we know, there will be long term social, economic, health and cultural costs of the pandemic.
The risk facing our communities is a direct result of years of neglect, disinvestment and failed policies and programs that have been developed without our input.
But our organisations and communities are best placed to respond to this crisis and to drive progress towards the longer-term priority of closing of the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector began actively preparing to respond to a possible COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020, in advance of the public response by the government. As a result, many of our ACCHOs had a level of preparedness prior to the pandemic which many general practices could not match.
This pandemic has demonstrated the community-controlled health sector collaborates extremely well, and the high level of information sharing and joint decision making must continue into the future.
Throughout the pandemic, the Government has been committed to taking the advice of our community controlled health sector, and listening to the recommendations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 to implement response plans to keep our mob safe.
Those of our organisations with strong existing partnerships with governments have been able to respond quickly to the threat of COVID-19.
Well-established and properly funded community-controlled organisations across numerous sectors have been able to accelerate measures that support our communities.
One example is the formal relationship between governments and Aboriginal Peaks Organisations in the Northern Territory (APONT) and the Aboriginal Advisory Council of Western Australia, which has enabled an informed response to the needs of our remote communities impacted by the swift travel restrictions out in place.
Other examples include —
First Nation’s media sector has been able to get health information out quickly in a way that people can understand
The New South Wales Coalition of Peaks has supported our young people to stay engaged in their education and make sure our older people have access to food, and
The Victorian Aboriginal Executive Council is working to make sure our kids continue to have access to safe early childhood services.
What NACCHO and our Affiliates and ACCHOs have been doing
During these past few months ACCHOs have once again proven themselves to be the best in the business at —
knowing our people
our people feeling safe to access our services
being a well-established sector
having strong formal relationships with government
Together, collectively and nationally, as a sector we have been able to respond quickly and decisively to protect our people.
This is despite our ACCHOs and other Aboriginal community-controlled organisations having borne the brunt of repeated funding cuts and a roller coaster of policy and administration changes.
As soon as it became evident in January just how deadly the COVID-19 virus was, well in advance of the Commonwealth response, NACCHO, our Affiliates and Members initiated awareness campaigns for our communities and planning for prevention and response.
Before the first case of coronavirus in Australia our communities were preparing to close borders, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts were discussing measures needed to protect our mob across the nation.
In January I began sending COVID-19 health messages to all our Affiliates and ACCHOs, with gave me the opportunity to ask them how prepared they felt they were for the impending pandemic.
It was clear there were PPE shortages in many clinics, and concerns around how to prepare a pandemic response — including quarantine measures.
ACCHOs are barely funded for their regular day to day activities, let alone for a pandemic response.
I discussed options with the Department of Health for ways additional funding for ACCHOs and Affiliates to support the preparation of pandemic plans.
The government was receptive of the advice I provided and allocated $6.9 million to NACCHO and Affiliates to prepare a pandemic response and $5 million to assist remote communities prepare for COVID-19.
I also wrote to the Prime Minister on 16 March to propose a range of specific measures which needed to be taken to protect our communities.
The government again responded positively from the outset, and this spirit of collaboration has been crucial to our successful response to the pandemic.
With our Affiliates and ACCHOs in WA, the NT and QLD I strongly argued for the immediate application of travel restrictions and quarantine measures to protect our people and communities, and for urgent additional support to be deployed to Affiliates and ACCHOs to combat the virus.
I continue to pursue funding for quarantine/isolation facilities for remote, urban and regional communities which will be critical if we are going to properly manage an outbreak in our communities.
And our Affiliates and ACCHOs — they have initiated their own creative and innovative awareness campaigns for our communities in January.
These campaigns have been successful because they were created by Aboriginal people, health groups and organisations for Aboriginal people and communities.
ACCHOs are busily facilitating phone consults, home visits to Elders and those self-isolating and seeing some patients at the clinic for flu vaccinations.
All the while, despite staff and equipment shortages and the challenges of working in a restricted environment due to lockdown, our ACCHOs have not wavered from treating those in our communities with chronic conditions as they continue to provide their comprehensive primary health services to their communities.
Up to now, as a sector, together, we have done exceptionally well, keeping infections out of our communities.
As of 3 May 2020, only fifty-five cases (0.8% of all cases tested) have been people identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
There have been absolutely no cases in our remote or very remote communities.
But, as stated earlier, there is a long way to go.
NACCHO and our Affiliates will continue to work collaboratively with the different tiers of government throughout this crisis, including pointing out the danger of moving too quickly to relax restrictions without a clear roadmap.
Despite the tireless work of our ACCHOs and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, there is a clear absence in this time of crisis of a national policy platform for governments to systemically re-build our communities and address the inequities too many of our people continue to face.
There is also a clear absence of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national body for pooling collective expertise to work in partnership with governments to respond to the impacts of the pandemic.
It is because of this policy and process vacuum that the Coalition of Peaks was formed and why we have been continuing our work, in partnership with Australian governments, to chart a meaningful way forward, across a range of sectors and initiatives for bringing about real, sustained change.
The new National Agreement and the Coalition of Peaks will be crucial to rebuilding our communities post-pandemic.
The federal, state, territory and local governments must continue to work in full partnership with the Coalition of Peaks as a collective and as individual members to ensure that we emerge from this crisis stronger.
And, I must add, this pandemic cannot and should not be used by anyone as a reason to delay the finalisation of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
The pandemic has disrupted governments, but it has disrupted us also. Community-controlled organisations, including in health, have had to face much bigger workloads. Nevertheless, we have continued to work to finalise the National Agreement and we expect governments to do the same.
Our response to the pandemic can and must galvanise our collective efforts and sharpen our focus to the task of closing the gap.
The National Agreement must be sorted by mid-July and I am confident this is achievable. If it isn’t, we risk the Agreement being put on the “never- never” because of upcoming elections in jurisdictions like Queensland and the Northern Territory and because governments will be pre-occupied with their delayed budgets.
I ask all participants in this virtual Breakfast, and in fact make a call to Australia, that everyone support the leadership of the Coalition of Peaks, made up of our own community controlled organisations, in achieving a new Closing the Gap agreement.
There is no better demonstration or more important priority for being ‘In This Together’.
Coronavirus has made this all very real: as China stares down Australia and US President Donald Trump — himself accused of undermining democracy — threatens to tear up the relationship with Beijing.
The historical injustice and the ongoing rights claims of First Nations people form part of these global fault lines. Not nearly enough thought goes into connecting these dots: Indigenous issues suffer from a myopic parochialism.
We cannot continue to ring-fence these questions only within our border. “
” The Uluru Statement from the Heart offered a new compact with all Australians that would reset our national identity and enhance our political legitimacy. But its poetic vision and pragmatism proved its death knell.
Trying to reconcile two historically divergent if not hostile ideas – Indigenous sovereignty and the sovereignty of the Commonwealth – asked the nation to embark on a project of rehabilitation: “Voice, Treaty, Truth”.
Stan Grant is the vice-chancellor’s chair of Australian/Indigenous Belonging at Charles Sturt University and a journalist
Symbolic gestures don’t help
Indigenous affairs appear stuck in a cul-de-sac of tired ideological culture wars, symbolic gestures and failed policy reinforcing intergenerational disadvantage. Only by opening the lens can we see how we might transcend old thinking.
The assault on global democracy has powerful lessons for us.
If Australian politics cannot meet Indigenous demands for justice, what does it say about the strength and legitimacy of our own democracy?
This is the question posed by the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, that proposed a three-pronged program of democratic rehabilitation: Voice, Treaty, Truth.
The cornerstone was a proposed constitutionally enshrined national Indigenous representative body — a Voice.
But this was rejected by the then Turnbull Government, labelling the Voice a “third chamber of Parliament” that would put race in the Constitution.
Those claims didn’t see the pragmatism and liberalism of what Indigenous people were asking for.
Political philosopher Duncan Ivison describes the Uluru Statement as an opportunity for a “possible re-founding of Australia”.
Our liberalism, he argues, needs to confront its own history of colonisation, empire, dispossession, genocide and political domination.
That is the wellspring of Indigenous rights claims. Failure to resolve or reconcile this history impedes Indigenous acceptance of the legitimacy of the state.
History can be a weapon
All around the world we are reminded how history can be a weapon.
Polish Nobel laureate poet Czeslaw Milosz who wrote about the “dark instinct” that drew him to explore Europe’s blood stained 20th century once said: “Crimes against human rights, never confessed and never publicly denounced, are a poison which destroys the possibility of a friendship between nations.”
Historical blood feuds feed toxic identities that Indian philosopher and economist Amartya Sen said savagely challenges our shared humanity. Identity, he said, “can also kill — and kill with abandon”.
History hangs heavily in our world.
Political leaders stoke a virulent nationalism by perpetuating narratives of grievance: Vladimir Putin laments the end of Soviet empire and accuses the West of humiliating Russia; Hungary’s Viktor Orban sees outsiders as oppressors and pledges to never forget the post World War I Treaty of Trianon which stripped Hungary of territory, and China’s Xi Jinping holds fast to what China calls the “one hundred years of humiliation” by foreign powers.
History can be a breeding ground terrorism and hatred: Islamic State and the extreme right both drink from the same poison well.
Australia is thankfully spared such violence, but history here too is a roadblock to reconciliation.
We need a rejuvenated Australian identity
The Uluru Statement offered a way through this impasse, proposing a rejuvenated Australian identity where we “can walk in two worlds” — black and white.
Uluru was a triumph of ambition but its rejection was a failure of political vision and courage
Rather than see it as detracting from Australia — creating an “us and them” — we could have seen it as strengthening Australia bringing “us” closer “them”, by meaningfully recognising First Nations people in our nation’s founding document.
Liberalism can be guilty of imposing conformity and homogeneity under the guise of neutrality.
But it can also embrace a liberating pluralism where deep political and social disagreements need not fracture civic unity.
That Indigenous people, for so long excluded from Australian democracy, can pledge a commitment to a shared future seeded in our constitution should have been a highpoint of our liberalism.
The simple power of communication
Ivison says we should look for the glue of liberal democratic belonging, and that belonging will emerge from a practice of democratic citizenship.
Simply: we must be able to speak to each other.
That is increasingly rare. We live in what the Indian writer Pankaj Mishra calls “an age of anger”.
We form our tribes and yell from the margins.
The impact of coronavirus — forced isolation, economic uncertainty and vulnerability — may indeed give us a sense that “we are all in this together”, but it can just as easily lead to more entrenched nationalism, leading to harder borders and economic protectionism, as the thread of globalisation unravels.
The question for our democracy this Reconciliation Week is the question for all democracies: will we emerge from this moment stronger with a greater appreciation of the need to work for our freedoms, or will we be less immune to that other virus: the virus of authoritarianism?
Stan Grant is the vice-chancellor’s chair of Australian/Indigenous Belonging at Charles Sturt University and a journalist.