Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 81 : June 19 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : Helen Milroy : COVID-19: Equity and ethics in a pandemic: #Indigenous perspectives

” During decades of relative stability and prosperity for Australia as a nation, we could not close the gap in life expectancy, health and mental health outcomes and other markers of disadvantage for Indigenous Australians.

How then, is this going to change over the course of a pandemic, especially if resources become scarce and access to high-quality intensive medical services is limited?

Numerous reports outline the ongoing inequity in health and mental health outcomes as well as the additional burden of disadvantage and discrimination experienced by Indigenous Australians.

In combination, this places Indigenous communities in a state of heightened vulnerability exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of the pandemic, the associated measures such as physical isolation needed to ‘flatten the curve’ will also increase the risk for negative outcomes for Indigenous communities.

Helen Milroy highlights the impact of COVID-19 and the efforts to contain it in Indigenous communities, how it exacerbates existing vulnerabilities and disadvantages, and how we can ensure Indigenous perspectives are integrated in equitable decision-making frameworks going forward. See CV at end of article 

Originally published HERE

The pandemic raises a number of significant issues relating to equity, equality and ethical decision making with many valuable lessons to be learnt along the way.

We have already witnessed the quick action of many of our Indigenous organisations to support, educate and protect our Indigenous communities. Imagine what could be achieved if these issues of equity, ethical decision making, power sharing and funding were shared equally along with support for self-determination for Indigenous communities.

There have been a number of calls from around the world to support and protect Indigenous communities during the pandemic, many outlining their high vulnerability as well as the ongoing historical legacies of past traumas. Shino Konishi (in this Briefings edition) describes the scale and lessons of the 1789 smallpox epidemic upon Indigenous populations across south-eastern Australia.

The Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues released a message [PDF, 0.1MB] urging countries to ensure Indigenous peoples are informed, protected and prioritised, and exercise their right to self-determination during the pandemic.

The message also highlighted the additional concerns related to Indigenous Elders due to their highly valued roles as ‘keepers of history, traditions, and cultures’.

In Western Australia, the Department of Health called for the consideration of Indigenous communities during the pandemic due to their heightened vulnerability through the publication of the Aboriginal Ethical Position Statement [PDF, 0.89MB].

The Statement also calls for health service providers to ensure the provision of equitable and culturally acceptable healthcare and for the inclusion of cultural considerations across all areas of pandemic planning.

While it is difficult to predict what the mortality would be for Indigenous communities if the virus were to take hold, health commentators have stated it could be catastrophic. The only way to prevent this is through isolation until a vaccine is available, which could still take many months or years to develop and disseminate.

Many concerns have been expressed over how to keep our communities, and particularly our Elders, safe during this time. We have the oldest living culture in the world here in Australia, and our Indigenous Elders are considered as the keepers of our cultures, languages and knowledge systems.

They also have an increased vulnerability due to age, chronic health conditions and the impact of disadvantage.

For many rural and remote communities, the only solution currently has been to isolate families, close borders or shift to outstations within homelands. Many Indigenous people have been encouraged – if not coerced – to return home only to find difficulties with overcrowding, food insecurity and few health and community resources.

View above newsletter HERE

Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar recently wrote for the ABC about returning to her homelands near Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia in order to assist her community to live out bush.

She points out the stark contrast between decades of policy to close down remote communities and now being told it is safer to live out bush. Commissioner Oscar points out that the chronic underinvestment and poor conditions of the remote homelands continue to place people at risk.

Although moving to live in the remote communities is part of the right to self-determination, this must now be supported wholeheartedly with a new approach that assists Indigenous communities to not merely live and subsist but rather to thrive in their homelands.

As remote communities closed, much of the mobile workforce also disappeared due to travel restrictions, leaving some communities in a further state of disadvantage. Although the rapid expansion of tele/video health has filled the gap in services in some areas, the coverage outside major regional areas is patchy at best. In some remote locations, communication is reliant on radio transmitters.

Again, this brings into sharp focus the lack of investment in infrastructure, capacity building and workforce development in communities.

Access to health services is already limited, particularly in remote locations. Under these pandemic circumstances, the capacity for medical evacuations is complicated and the availability of intensive medical care is limited in regional and remote Australia. Recent experiences of racism and discrimination in health services have already been reported in the media.

In larger regional or urban centres, there are concerns as to whether Indigenous people would receive the equitable and culturally appropriate care called for in the Aboriginal Ethical Position Statement if resources become scarce.

In the G08 COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery Report, it was estimated the health needs for Indigenous Australians is 2.3 times higher than for other Australians and called for needs-based funding. Is this possible during a pandemic when this issue has not been adequately addressed for the decades prior?

At this point in time, we have been extremely fortunate to have controlled the spread of the virus in our Indigenous communities but the journey is far from over. With the easing of restrictions and the possibility of a second wave, are our communities safe?

We will need to weigh up the risk of returning to the new normal versus the possibility of staying in isolation for prolonged periods of time. We will also need additional resources to manage the unintended consequences of isolation such as the potential worsening of other health and mental health conditions.

People are less likely to seek out health services or have reduced access during this pandemic period. Routine screening or treatment for other conditions will diminish, resulting in the worsening of many health and mental health conditions over time.

Mental health experts predict a significant increase in mental health challenges and suicide as the full impact of the pandemic and the associated measures are experienced across the country. In the 2018 AIHW report [PDF, 0.56MB]on Australia’s Health, 30% of Indigenous people reported high or very high levels of psychological distress compared to 11% for the non-Indigenous population. The levels of psychological distress and associated mental health challenges will worsen with the associated anxiety and aftermath related to the pandemic. Currently, there are limited available, accessible and culturally safe mental health services for Indigenous communities, especially in remote locations where there are very few trained staff available. This is even more critical given the shortage of mental health services for Indigenous children and youth, with the potential for long-lasting effects well into adult life.

There have been many ethical challenges associated with the pandemic with difficult decisions made in order to safeguard the community. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the many gaps that still exist and the tenuous nature of some services reliant on a mobile workforce without the infrastructure and capacity to sustain services once borders are closed. Given the continuing impact of our historical legacy, any ethical framework for decision making during this pandemic must consider equity and the plights of Indigenous communities during such difficult and life-threatening circumstances.

What we have also seen, however, is a population that can act swiftly, mobilise resources and change models of care to maintain the health and wellbeing of the nation.

We have also seen the great strengths of Indigenous organisations and communities coming together and acting quickly to protect their families. If we can do all of this, then surely we can solve the long-standing health crisis and disadvantage that impacts on our Indigenous Australians to ensure the future wellbeing of all our families.

Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia but was born and educated in Perth. Currently Helen is the Stan Perron Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Perth Children’s Hospital and The University of Western Australia. Helen has been on state and national mental health and research advisory committees and boards with a particular focus on Indigenous mental health as well as the wellbeing of children. From 2013 to 2017 Helen was a Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #NRW2020 News Alert No 76 : June 2 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob :The Queensland Government launches 3 stage “Roadmap”  easing access restrictions for Queensland’s Indigenous #remote communities

 

The Roadmap would enable remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community residents more freedom to go fishing, grocery shopping and attend appointments while maintaining necessary restrictions to keep communities safe.

The Queensland Government has listened to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils and leadership, particularly with respect to economic recovery and social and emotional wellbeing.

The three-stage Roadmap is a considered, responsible approach to progressively easing access, in line with the National Cabinet Framework and Queensland’s COVID-19 Roadmap.

Stage 1 of the Roadmap is effective immediately and enables people, to enter a designated community to self-quarantine within that community under approved arrangements, removing a requirement to quarantine for 14 days before entering.”

Deputy Premier and Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Steven Miles yesterday launched the Roadmap to easing access restrictions for Queensland’s remote communities, enabling designated communities to transition from the current federal emergency biosecurity restrictions to state-based arrangements under Chief Health Officer public health directions.

“We’ve been restricted for the last 10 weeks and we need to try and support some of our community members.

People here have commuted for many years to and from Cairns, Gordonvale and Edmonton to do their shopping and banking and daily business, and we’ve got kids that go to school in Gordonvale as well.

The council was considering what exemptions it would seek, while remaining aware of the effect coronavirus could have if it made it into the community.

It’s a challenge for us to find a balance between public health and the best health advice while trying to accommodate some form of relief for community residents,”

Yarrabah Mayor Ross Andrews said the inability to maintain economic and family ties to Cairns had exacerbated community frustration during the lockdown.

Read full story HERE

Picture above A group of protesters gathered at the police checkpoint into Yarrabah, calling for an exemption from Federal biosecurity laws.(Supplied: Brian Cassey)

 “The residents just want a bit of relief and be included in the whole Queensland plan.

The whole biosecurity determination was about protecting, but it has caused a lot of confusion.

Residents wanted the freedom to carry out essential business in Townsville, including shopping, banking, and car services.”

Palm Island mayor Mislam Sam said the council had submitted a plan to the State Government pushing for travel to the mainland to be allowed from June 12.

Read full story HERE

Press release

Stage 1 enables people entering or re-entering a designated community to self-quarantine within that community, where safe to do so. Under Stage 1, quarantine exemptions will remain in place for essential workers, those travelling through communities without stopping and those granted an exemption by the Chair of the Local Disaster Management Group in the designated area.

Under Stage 2, the Chief Health Officer will publish a direction that enables communities to become part of ’safe travel zones’ residents can easily travel within based on public health advice. A ‘Safe Travel Zone’ can be made up of a single community, or several local government areas, depending on the risk profile of the area. Stage 2 can commence following the Commonwealth removal of communities from the Biosecurity Determination.

Stage 3 of the Roadmap removes entry and quarantine restrictions, with remote and discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities — plus the Burke and Cook shires — subject to the same provisions as other areas of Queensland under the Roadmap to Easing Restrictions

The Queensland Government has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in remote communities to agree on a three-stage plan to safely ease restrictions in Federal Government-designated biosecurity areas.

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer will issue public health directions to manage ongoing risk, account for different health risk profiles throughout the State, and reflect the views and needs of Queensland’s First Nations communities.

Deputy Premier Miles said the timeframe and restrictions would likely vary between communities.

“Some areas could move through the stages at different times, depending on the advice of the Local Disaster Management Group, assessment of the public health risk, appropriate enforceability and community consultation,” Deputy Premier Miles said.

“We are working with mayors through the Local Disaster Management Groups on local priorities and requirements for access restrictions, to take into account the different situations in each area and community, including to ensure there is local capacity and capability to address public health risks.”

“The Commonwealth’s Biosecurity restrictions were implemented with the support of the National Cabinet and have resulted in there being no cases of COVID-19 in our remote First Nations communities. This is a testament to the tireless work of the local leadership of mayors in partnership with the Queensland Government.”

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Craig Crawford said while the Federal Government’s emergency provisions of the Biosecurity Act will remain in place u ntil 17 September 2020 this will not impact on the transition of Queensland’s remote and discrete communities from the National Biosecurity Declaration.

“The Queensland Government will ask the Federal Government to remove Queensland’s remote communities from the Biosecurity Determination from 12 June 2020  to enable Stage Two state-based arrangements to commence,” Minister Crawford said.

“We will continue to work local leaders so that they can make decisions for their communities’ safety and well-being.”

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young will write to the Federal government this week with Queensland’s plans to assume responsibility for easing of rules and regulations aimed at keeping COVID-19 out of these communities.

“We want to allow people who’ve been outside of these communities during the lockdown to start returning but we have to be sensible and that means quarantining in their homes community for two weeks once they’re home.”

Currently the majority of the state’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities are locked down under the Federal Government’s tight Bio-security act, aimed at protecting any vulnerable people from COVID-19.

“We know our First Nations people are at real risk if COVID-19 made its way into their communities, protecting them was a priority and I want to thank them for the co-operation we’ve experienced through this arduous period,” Dr Young said.

Queensland’s Chief Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Officer, Haylene Grogan said it’s been tough for a lot of people but the good news is the restrictions have worked, that is the most important thing to remember, but it’s time for some people   to come home and reunite albeit after home quarantining.

The current national Commonwealth Biosecurity Act gives police powers to enforce movement restrictions and issue penalties to anyone deliberately breaching these laws and putting these communities in danger.

The Queensland Government has finalised its’ plans by working alongside communities to enable a staged replacement of remote area biosecurity restrictions in a safe and measured way.

“It’s all about risk management, careful planning and working with locals, we know we have vulnerable people in these Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities and protecting them has to be a priority, it’s just so important,” Ms Grogan said.

“I would also like to pay tribute to our wonderful Queensland Health staff who’ve been working to keep our communities healthy during this period, they do an amazing and very important job” said Dr Young.

“Of course we understand the easing of restrictions is only temporary if COVID-19 cases are kept out of these areas, we need retain the formula, washing hands, social distancing, and following the rules with a healthy dose of common sense, if we keep this up, our cases will stay down” Dr Young said.

More information about remote travel restrictions is available at  ( http://www.datsip.qld.gov.au/travel )

For the most up-to-date information on Queensland’s roadmap to a COVID-safe recovery visit c ovid19.qld.gov.au ( https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/ ).

 

NACCHO #ANZACday2020 tribute : Our black history: #LestWeForget @WingaruEd Educates our kids about Boer War , WW1, WW2 Vietnam etc Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women veterans

” Over 1000 Indigenous Australians fought in the First World War. They came from a section of society with few rights, low wages, and poor living conditions. Most Indigenous Australians could not vote and none were counted in the census. But once in the AIF, they were treated as equals. They were paid the same as other soldiers and generally accepted without prejudice.”

From the Australian War Memorial Indigenous Defence Service Website

Please be advised that this post contains the names of people who are deceased.

Anzac Day is usually an occasion where schools come together to remember those who fought for our country, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. Our children sit in assemblies and learn about the wars that Australia has been part of and how we continue to commemorate those events and the people who fought. Some children would also normally participate in Anzac activities with their families or extra-curricular groups.

This year, these activities won’t happen. Covid-19 means that we will honour our Anzacs differently and reflect on their sacrifices in isolation with the other people we live with.

Aboriginal Anzacs are often overlooked in Anzac commemorations and this year it is likely that fewer kids will hear about:

  • the efforts of our Aboriginal service men and women; 
  • the soldiers who served a country that at the time didn’t recognise them or their families; 
  • a country that denied returned Aboriginal soldiers the recognition and respect that their non-Aboriginal counterparts received.

The stories of these men and women are just as important as every Australian who served. Their families are proud of their ancestors and the sacrifices they made and the resilience they showed by standing up for Country even when its governors denied Aboriginal people. ​


This year the telling of these stories depends on each of us. Talk to your children about what they have previously learned about Aboriginal soldiers and consider sharing some of the stories that I have included below. These are not my stories.

They belong to the servicemen and women and their families. I am honoured to share these stories and privileged to share the attached resources to support your conversations about these great Australians.

Check the WINGARU Website Here

Private Miller Mack served in World War I from 1916-17 alongside fellow Australian troops among the 7th Reinforcements in France.

 ” Private Miller Mack’s image is iconic – frequently used as a symbol of Indigenous Australians’ important contribution to the ANZAC war effort. Yet for nearly a century, the soldier himself has lain forgotten, in an unmarked pauper’s grave. Now, says his grand-niece Michelle Lovegrove, he has finally been given the burial he deserves, as his body has been re-interred on Ngarrindjeri land. ”

Read full story here

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have served in every conflict and commitment involving Australian defence contingents since Federation, including both world wars and the intervals of peace since the Second World War.

Artwork via Lee Anthony Hampton from Koori Kicks Art.

Researching Indigenous service

Little was known publicly about the presence of Indigenous men and women in Australia’s armed forces prior to the 1970s. Subsequent research has established a record of Indigenous service dating back to the start of the Commonwealth era in 1901, and even a small number of individual enlistments in the colonial defence forces before that.

It is impossible to determine the exact number of Indigenous individuals who participated in each conflict, and this research is ongoing. New names are constantly emerging, while some have been removed after research identified them as non-Indigenous.

Before 1980, individuals enlisting in the defence forces were not asked whether or not they were of an Indigenous background.

While service records sometimes contain information which may suggest Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage, many servicemen have been identified as Indigenous by their descendants.

RAAF Leading Aircraftman Brodie McIntyre is a proud Warlpiri man. On Anzac Day this year he will represent the Australian Defence Force at Gallipoli in Turkey.

Here you can find a list of known indigenous service people: https://www.awm.gov.au/indigenous-service

First World War

Over 1000 Indigenous Australians fought in the First World War. They came from a section of society with few rights, low wages, and poor living conditions. Most Indigenous Australians could not vote and none were counted in the census. But once in the AIF, they were treated as equals. They were paid the same as other soldiers and generally accepted without prejudice.

When war broke out in 1914, many Indigenous Australians who tried to enlist were rejected on the grounds of race; others slipped through the net. By October 1917, when recruits were harder to find and one conscription referendum had already been lost, restrictions were cautiously eased. A new Military Order stated: “Half-castes may be enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force provided that the examining Medical Officers are satisfied that one of the parents is of European origin.”

This was as far as Australia – officially – would go.

Why did they fight?

Loyalty and patriotism may have encouraged Indigenous Australians to enlist. Some saw it as a chance to prove themselves the equal of Europeans or to push for better treatment after the war.

For many Australians in 1914 the offer of 6 shillings a day for a trip overseas was simply too good to miss.

Indigenous Australians in the First World War served on equal terms but after the war, in areas such as education, employment, and civil liberties, Aboriginal ex-servicemen and women found that discrimination remained or, indeed, had worsened during the war period.

The post First World War Period

Only one Indigenous Australian is known to have received land in New South Wales under a “soldier settlement” scheme, despite the fact that much of the best farming land in Aboriginal reserves was confiscated for soldier settlement blocks.

The repression of Indigenous Australians increased between the wars, as protection acts gave government officials greater control over Indigenous Australians. As late as 1928 Indigenous Australians were being massacred in reprisal raids. A considerable Aboriginal political movement in the 1930s achieved little improvement in civil rights.

Second World War

Lieutenant (Lt) T.C. Derrick, VC DCM (right) with Lt R. W. Saunders

Hundreds of Indigenous Australians served in the 2nd AIF and the militia. Many were killed fighting and at least a dozen died as prisoners of war. As in the First World War, Indigenous Australians served under the same conditions as whites and, in most cases, with the promise of full citizenship rights after the war. Generally, there seems to have been little racism between soldiers.

In 1939 Indigenous Australians were divided over the issue of military service. Some Aboriginal organisations believed war service would help the push for full citizenship rights and proposed the formation of special Aboriginal battalions to maximise public visibility.

Others, such as William Cooper, the Secretary of the Australian Indigenous Australians’ League, argued that Indigenous Australians should not fight for white Australia. Cooper had lost his son in the First World War and was bitter that Aboriginal sacrifice had not brought any improvement in rights and conditions. He likened conditions in white-administered Aboriginal settlements to those suffered by Jews under Hitler. Cooper demanded improvements at home before taking up “the privilege of defending the land which was taken from him by the White race without compensation or even kindness”.

Enlistment Second World War

At the start of the Second World War Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders were allowed to enlist and many did so. But in 1940 the Defence Committee decided the enlistment of Indigenous Australians was “neither necessary not desirable”, partly because white Australians would object to serving with them. However, when Japan entered the war increased need for manpower forced the loosening of restrictions. Torres Strait Islanders were recruited in large numbers and Indigenous Australians increasingly enlisted as soldiers and were recruited or conscripted into labour corps.

In the front line

With the Japanese advance in 1942, Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders in the north found themselves in the front line against the attackers. There were fears that Aboriginal contact with Japanese pearlers before the war might lead to their giving assistance to the enemy. Like the peoples of South-East Asia under colonial regimes, Indigenous Australians might easily have seen the Japanese as liberators from white rule. Many did express bitterness at their treatment, but, overwhelmingly, Indigenous Australians supported the country’s defence.

The post Second World War period

Returned soldiers

Wartime service gave many Indigenous Australians pride and confidence in demanding their rights. Moreover, the army in northern Australia had been a benevolent employer compared to pre-war pastoralists and helped to change attitudes to Indigenous Australians as employees.

Nevertheless, Indigenous Australians who fought for their country came back to much the same discrimination as before. For example, many were barred from Returned and Services League clubs, except on Anzac Day. Many of them were not given the right to vote for another 17 years.

Enlistment after the war

Once the intense demands of the war were gone, the army re-imposed its restrictions on enlistment. But attitudes had changed and restrictions based on race were abandoned in 1949. Since then Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders have served in all conflicts in which Australia has participated.

Other services

Little is known about how many Indigenous Australians have served in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). The numbers are likely lower than for the army but future research may tell a different story.

RAAF

Throughout the Second World War the RAAF, with its huge need for manpower, was less restrictive in its recruiting than the army. However, little is known about Aboriginal aircrew. Indigenous Australians were employed for surveillance in northern Australia and to rescue downed pilots.

Leonard Waters

Leonard Waters, a childhood admirer of Charles Kingsford-Smith and Amy Johnson, joined the RAAF in 1942. After lengthy and highly competitve training he was selected as a pilot and assigned to 78 Squadron, stationed in Dutch New Guinea and later in Borneo. The squadron flew Kittyhawk fighters like the one on display inthe Memorial’s Aircraft Hall.

Waters named his Kittyhawk “Black Magic” and flew 95 operational sorties. After the war he hoped to find a career in civilian flying but bureaucratic delays and lack of financial backing forced him to go back to shearing. Like many others, he found civilian life did not allow him to use the skills that he had gained during the war.

RAN

As well as an unknown number of formally enlisted Indigenous Australians and Islanders, the RAN also employed some informal units. For example, John Gribble, a coastwatcher on Melville Island, formed a unit of 36 Indigenous Australians which patrolled a large area of coast and islands. The men were never formally enlisted and remained unpaid throughout the war, despite the promise of otherwise.

Kamuel Abednego

The United States Army recruited about 20 Torres Strait Islanders as crewmen on its small ships operating in the Torres Strait and around Papua New Guinea. Kamuel Abednego was given the rank of lieutenant, at a time when no Indigenous Australian or Islander had served as a commissioned officer with the Australian forces.

Life on the home front

The war brought greater contact than ever before between the whites of southern Australia and the Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders of the north. For the whites it was a chance to learn about Aboriginal culture and see the poor conditions imposed on Indigenous Australians. For the Indigenous Australians the war accelerated the process of cultural change and, in the long term, ensured a position of greater equality in Australian society.

Labour units

During the Second World War the army and RAAF depended heavily on Aboriginal labour in northern Australia. Indigenous Australians worked on construction sites, in army butcheries, and on army farms. They also drove trucks, handled cargo, and provided general labour around camps. The RAAF sited airfields and radar stations near missions that could provide Aboriginal labour. At a time when Australia was drawing on all its reserves of men and women to support the war effort, the contribution of Indigenous Australians was vital.

The army began to employ Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory in 1933, on conditions similar to those endured by Aboriginal workers on pastoral stations: long hours, poor housing and diet, and low pay. But as the army took over control of settlements from the Native Affairs Branch during the war conditions improved greatly. For the first time Indigenous Australians were given adequate housing and sanitation, fixed working hours, proper rations, and access to medical treatment in army hospitals.

Pay rates remained low. The army tried to increase pay above the standard five shillings a week and at one stage the RAAF was paying Indigenous Australians five shillings a day. But pressure from the civilian administration and pastoralists forced pay back to the standard rate.

In some areas the war caused great hardship. In the islands of Torres Strait, the pearling luggers that provided most of the local income were confiscated in case they fell into Japanese hands. The Islanders enlisted in units such as the Torres Strait Light Infantry, in which their pay was much lower than whites and often not enough to send home to feed their families

Women

Aboriginal women also played an important role. Many enlisted in the women’s services or worked in war industries. In northern Australia Aboriginal and Islander women worked hard to support isolated RAAF outposts and even helped to salvage crashed aircraft.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker)

Oodgeroo Noonuccal joined the Australian Women’s Army Service in 1942, after her two brothers were captured by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore. Serving as a signaller in Brisbane she met many black American soldiers, as well as European Australians. These contacts helped to lay the foundations for her later advocacy of Aboriginal rights.

Torres Strait Islander units

Since early the early twentieth century proposals were made to train the Indigenous Australians of northern Australia as a defence force. In the Second World War these ideas were tried out.

In 1941 the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion was formed to defend the strategically-important Torres Strait area. Other Islander units were also created, especially for water transport and as coastal artillery. The battalion never had the chance to engage the enemy but some were sent on patrol into Japanese-controlled Dutch New Guinea.

By 1944 almost every able-bodied male Torres Strait Islander had enlisted. However, they never received the same rates of pay or conditions as white soldiers. At first their pay was one-third that of regular soldiers. After a two-day “mutiny” in December 1943 this was raised to two-thirds.

In proportion to population, no community in Australia contributed more to the war effort in the Second World War than the Torres Strait Islanders.

Donald Thomson and the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit

Donald Thomson was an anthropologist from Melbourne who had lived with the East Arnhem Land Indigenous Australians for two years in the 1930s. In 1941 he set up and led the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit, an irregular army unit consisting of 51 Indigenous Australians, five whites, and a number of Pacific and Torres Strait Islanders. Three of the men had been to gaol for killing the crews of two Japanese pearling luggers in 1932. Now they were told that it was their duty to kill Japanese.

The members of the unit were to use their traditional bushcraft and fighting skills to patrol the coastal area, establish coastwatchers, and fight a guerilla war against any Japanese who landed. Living off the country and using traditional weapons, they were mobile and had no supply line to protect. Thomson shared the group’s hardships and used his knowledge of Aboriginal custom to help deal with traditional rivalries. The unit was eventually disbanded, once the fear of a Japanese landing had disappeared.

The Indigenous Australians in the unit received no monetary pay until back pay and medals were finally awarded in 1992.

Kapiu Masai Gagai

Kapiu Gagai was a Torres Strait Islander from Badu Island. He was a skilled boatman and carpenter and was working on pearling luggers when he joined Donald Thomson in Arnhem Land during the 1930s. In 1941 he again joined Thomson, this time in the Northern Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit. As bosun of Thomson’s vessel, the Aroetta, he patrolled the coast to prevent Japanese infiltration. Later he accompanied Thomson on patrol into Japanese-held Dutch New Guinea, where he was badly wounded. Gagai never received equivalent pay to white soldiers, which was also difficult for his family during and after the war.

Indigenous personnel are known to have served in later conflicts and operations (including in Somalia, East Timor, Afghanistan, Iraq, and on peacekeeping operations) but no numbers are available.

In the 1980s the Department of Defence began collecting information about Indigenous heritage, and these figures show that the number of Indigenous men and women serving in the Australian Defence Force has been increasing since the 1990s.

The department claimed that in early 2014 there were 1,054 Indigenous service personnel (on both permanent and active reserve) in the Australian Defence Force, representing about 1.4 per cent of the ADF’s uniformed workforce.

Indigenous service women honoured in Canberra’s Anzac ceremony | NITV

https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/nitv-news/article/2018/04/24/indigenous-service-women-honoured-canberras-anzac-ceremony via @NITV

More about:

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #CoronaVirus News Alert No 28 : April 2 #KeepOurMobSafe : With Contributions from @atsils @NATSIHWA Dr @KelvinKongENT, @DeadlyChoices, #Yerin ACCHO @ahmrc Dr @normanswan and Dr Mark Wenitong @33CreativeAus

1. COVID-19: Information for Indigenous Communities : Looking after our mental health.

2. ATSILS : Sorry business and funerals the COVID-19 crisis.

3 .NATSIHWA CEO Karl Briscoe : Our workforce and the COVID-19 crisis.

4. WA Government : Launches COVID-19 Strong Spirits / Strong Minds website.

5. View: Yerin Eleanor Duncan ACCHO braces for COVID-19.

6. VIDEO : Learn the FACTS about COVID-19 in this 8 minute presentation.

7. VIEW : Dr Mark Wenitong and Dr Norman Swan on ABC TV 7.30 Report : COVID-19 and Indigenous communities.

8. AHMRC : Professor Kelvin kong

9. More than 550 Telstra payphones are now free-of-charge across Indigenous communities in Australia

10.Gallery of COVID-19 on social media images to share.

See how NACCHO protects our mob Corona Virus Home Page

Read all 28 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

1. COVID-19: Information for Indigenous Communities : Looking after our mental health

  • Coronavirus is changing the way we live, work, communicate and connect with people. These changes can be hard for our communities.
  • It’s important to care of ourselves, our family, friends and community.
  • Doing things for your mental health and wellbeing is more important now than ever.
  • There are a number of things that you can do like eating well and keeping active.
  • Going for walks can be a great way to connect to country. Just remember to at least two big steps away from other people.
  • Being physically isolated doesn’t mean you can’t yarn. Stay connected with family, friends and community over the phone or online. It’s important to stay connected.
  • Doing things you enjoy, like art, dance or listening to music can also help you keep feeling good.
  • We all need to protect our Elders and community.
  • Together we can keep our mob safe and stop the spread.
  • Information is changing regularly. Stay up to date via health.gov.au, visit niaa.gov.au or call the Coronavirus Helpline at 1800 020 080.

2. ATSILS : Sorry business and funerals the COVID-19 crisis.

With restrictions in place that limit the gatherings, families need to talk about other ways they can conduct sorry business while restrictions are in place.

3 . NITV and NATSIHWA CEO Karl Briscoe : Our workforce and the COVID-19 crisis

Read Karl Briscoe editrial HERE

4. WA Government : Launches COVID-19 Strong Spirits / Strong Minds website.

View Website HERE

5. View: Yerin Eleanor Duncan ACCHO braces for COVID-19

Watch TV Coverage HERE

6. VIDEO : Learn the FACTS about COVID-19 in this 8 minute presentation

7. VIEW : Dr Mark Wenitong and Dr Norman Swan on ABC TV 7.30 Report : COVID-19 and Indigenous communities

Watch IView here at 10 minute mark :

8. AHMRC : Dr Kelvin Kong explains the symptons of COVID-19

 

9. More than 550 Telstra payphones are now free-of-charge across Indigenous communities in Australia

FREE TO USE PAY PHONES IN REMOTE LOCATIONS
Telstra is providing free service from pay phones in over 550 remote locations to help keep people connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This includes pay phones in Alice Springs and surrounding communities and heaps of other is the NT!
Eligible pay phones will now be displaying “Free Calls from Telstra” on its screen.
REMEMBER:
You must stay 3 steps away from next person, even if you are waiting in line.
Wipe the phone down AND wash your hands before and after you use it!

10.Gallery of COVID-19 on social media images to share.

10.Gallery of COVID-19 on social media images to share.

 

10.Gallery of COVID-19 on social media images to share.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #Stroke #Heart #ClosetheGap Research : @ANUmedia New recommendations for cardiovascular disease risk assessment and management in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults aged under 35 years

This is a great step in reducing the burden of cardiovascular disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Our people have greater rates of heart disease and screening from a younger age will contribute to longer healthier lives. NACCHO encourages all Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to implement these new guidelines in their practices.

The Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Donnell Mills

The updated recommendations are for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals to receive:

  • Combined early screening for diabetes, chronic kidney disease and other cardiovascular (CVD) risk factors from the age of 18 years at latest;
  • Assessment of absolute CVD risk using an Australian CVD risk calculator from the age of 30 years at the latest.

New recommendations for CVD risk assessment and management were published today in the Medical Journal of Australia.

See all Close the gap articles in the MJA Journal HERE

The recommendations were endorsed by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Central Australian Rural Practitioners Association and the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, led by the Heart Foundation.

The approach to early screening was developed in partnership with the Australian National University’s Aboriginal Reference Group (Thiitu Tharrmay) and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in CVD prevention.

Take home messages

  1. Most heart attacks and strokes can be prevented, and in the last 20 years, the rate of deaths from CVD in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples has almost halved.
  2. High risk of cardiovascular disease begins early among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and is mainly due to diabetes and renal diseaseIt is recommended that there should be:
    1. Combined early screening for diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease risk factors from the age of 18 years. This should include assessment of blood glucose level or glycated haemoglobin, estimated glomerular filtration rate, serum lipids, urine albumin to creatinine ratio, and other risk factors such as blood pressure, history of familial hypercholesterolaemia, and smoking status.
    2. Assessment of absolute CVD risk using an Australian CVD risk calculator from the age of 30 years. Outside of Communicare, the best CVD risk calculator to use is auscvdrisk.com.au/risk-calculator/
  3. What you can do: Assessment of CVD risk as part of a health check. The most important part of this check-up is working with your doctor to manage your risk factors to improve your heart health and help you live a healthier, longer life.

” Around 80% of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented with optimal care. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains a leading contributor to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality despite a 40% decrease in deaths in the past two decades and significant decreases in smoking prevalence.

High risk of CVD begins early among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, mainly in people with diabetes and/or renal disease.

Our program of work, funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, is focused on improving prevention of cardiovascular disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through:

  • Revision and alignment of clinical practice guidelines ( see part 2 below )
  • Revision and enhanced Medicare Benefits Schedule items for prevention of chronic disease
  • Workforce education and engagement

See ANU program website

Read over 80 Aboriginal Heart health articles published by NACCHO over past 8 Years 

Read over 100 Aboriginal and Stroke articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years 

To combat high risk of heart attack and strokes, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should have had their heart checked by a GP by age 18 at the latest, according to new national recommendations.

As part of a regular health check with a GP, the recommendations launched today have moved the age Indigenous people should get screened for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) down from 35 to 18.

Based on research from The Australian National University (ANU), a host of health professionals and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander CVD experts have agreed on the latest efforts to continue closing the gap on early heart attacks among Indigenous Australians.

“We have seen great improvements in CVD prevention and this was highlighted in this year’s Closing the Gap speech,” said ANU lead researcher, Dr Jason Agostino.

“However, it remains a leading cause of preventable death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We need to be doing all we can to prevent it.

“Just about every Aboriginal person I know has a family member or a community member who’s died young from a heart attack or stroke. We need to change that.

“We can improve things by picking up conditions like diabetes and kidney disease early and starting conversations about treatment.”

In the last 20 years, the rate of deaths from heart attacks and strokes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples have almost halved.

However, three out of four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults under 35 have at least one CVD risk factor.

Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia’s Senior Cultural Advisor, Vicki Wade, is a 62-year-old cardiac nurse who has heart disease. She said it is important to remind community and health workers about the risks of CVD.

“Although rates have improved, the statistics are frightening. We have generations of Aboriginal people who are not seeing their grandchildren growing up because of heart attack and stroke,” Mrs Wade said.

“This is a chance for local solutions, community engagement and health workers to be educated.”

Fellow author, Heart Foundation Chief Medical Adviser, cardiologist Professor Garry Jennings, said: “Evidence shows that Indigenous Australians have CVD risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol at a young age. We need to prevent, identify and treat these.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should now undergo CVD risk factor screening from 18 years, at the latest, and use Australian CVD risk calculators from age 30.

“It’s easy to do. The assessment involves the normal parts of a health check with a blood and urine test. It is quick and can be done by your local GP,” said Dr Agostino.

“For the vast majority it will be bulk-billed and free.”

The move is backed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance, and the Editorial Committee for Remote Primary Health Care Manuals.

“This is about getting consistency everywhere. This is what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and the evidence is telling us we should do,” Dr Agostino said.

“Many GPs are already screening as early as 15 but some GPs and nurses don’t know about the need to test early.

“This is about doing what we can to pick up risk factors early and close the gap on early heart attacks and strokes.”

RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Chair, Associate Professor Peter O’Mara welcomed the new recommendations, saying they could make a real difference in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“We cannot hope to close the gap without making evidence-based changes – these new recommendations are a positive step to improving early detection and treatment of CVD.

“The RACGP has over 40,000 members, including 10,000 members in the faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. While many GPs know about early screening not all do. These new recommendations will help spread awareness among GPs, improving access to early screening and quality care.”

Under the new recommendations, young adults with type 2 diabetes and microalbuminuria, kidney disease, and very high blood pressure or high cholesterol will be identified as high- risk of CVD.

Want more information and resources?

A team at ANU is developing a toolkit on risk communication in CVD: Healing Heart Communities. Designed as a resource for all clinical staff in primary care, it aims to support conversations about CVD risk.

During development, the team has consulted the Australian National University’s Aboriginal Reference Group (Thiitu Tharrmay) and partnered with We are Saltwater People, an Indigenous-owned graphic design company based in QLD to create original artwork, design and layout.

You can find these initial resources here: [

NACCHO Aboriginal Mental Health News : Download @MenziesResearch and @orygen_aus A practice guide for ‘Improving the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

 ” Menzies Research and Orygen Australia have developed & just published a practice guide for ‘Improving the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’.

Little is known about how best to practically meet the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) needs of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly those with severe and complex mental health needs.

Yet, there is an urgent need for health programs and services to be more responsive to the mental health needs of this population.

Based on recent statistics, 67 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 4-14 years have experienced one or more of the following stressors:

  • death of family/friend;
  • being scared or upset by an argument or someone’s behaviour; and
  • keeping up with school work. “

Download the Report HERE ( See PDF for all research references )

orygen-Practice-Guide-to-improve-the-social-and-emotional-wellbeing-of-young-Aboriginal-and-Torres-Strait-Islander-people

Read over 250 Aboriginal Mental Health articles published by NACCHO over past 8 Years

It is well documented that there are:

  • high rates of psychological distress, mental health conditions, and suicide noted among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people when compared to non-Aboriginal young people;
  • a lack of evidence-based and culturally informed resources to educate and assist health professionals to work with this population; and
  • notable gaps between knowledge and practice, which limits opportunities to improve the SEWB of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This promising practice guide draws on an emerging, yet disparate, evidence-base about promising practices aimed at improving the SEWB of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. It aims to support service providers, commissioners, and policy-makers to adopt strengths-based, equitable and culturally responsive approaches that better meet the SEWB needs of this high-risk population.

Rationale

The Australian Government appointed Orygen to provide Australia’s 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) with expert leadership and support in commissioning youth mental health initiatives.

Orygen has subsequently commissioned Menzies School of Health Research to identify and document promising practice service approaches in improving SEWB among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with severe and complex mental health needs. This promising practice guide is an output of that work.

What do we know about the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people?

It is recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies provided the optimal condition for their community members’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing before European settlement.

However, the Australian Psychological Society has acknowledged that these optimal conditions have been continuously eroded through colonisation in parallel with an increase in mental health concerns.2

There is clear evidence about the disproportionate burden of SEWB and mental health concerns experienced among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The key contributors to the disease burden among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 10-24 years are:1 suicide and self-inflicted injuries (13 per cent), anxiety disorder (eight per cent) and alcohol use disorders (seven per cent).3

Based on recent statistics, 67 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 4-14 years have experienced one or more of the following stressors:

  • death of family/friend;
  • being scared or upset by an argument or someone’s behaviour; and
  • keeping up with school work.4

The stressors have a cumulative impact as these children transition into adolescence and early adulthood. Another study has shown that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are at higher risk of emotional and behavioural difficulties.5

This is linked to major life stress events such as family dysfunction; being in the care of a sole parent or other carers; having lived in a lot of different homes; being subjected to racism; physical ill-health of young people and/or carers; carer access to mental health services; and substance use disorders. These factors are all closely intertwined.

Relevant national frameworks and action plans

The Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 (2015) was developed by the Australian Government Department of Health in close consultation with the National Health Leadership Forum. It has a strong emphasis on a whole-of-government approach to addressing the key priorities identified throughout the plan.

The overarching vision is to ensure that the strategies and actions of the plan respond to the health and wellbeing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across their life course. This includes a focus on young people.6

The National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023 provides more specific direction by highlighting the importance of preventive actions that focus on children and young people.7 This includes:

  • strengthening the foundation;
  • promoting wellness;
  • building capacity and resilience in people and groups at risk;
  • provide care for people who are mildly or moderately ill; and
  • care for people living with severe mental illness.

In addition, the National Action Plan for the Health of Children and Young People 2020-2030 identifies building health equity, including principles of proportionate universalism, as a key action area and identifies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people as a priority population.8

Social and emotional wellbeing frameworks relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

 

Over the past decades, multiple frameworks have been developed to support the SEWB of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.4-8 These have identified some common elements, domains, principles, action areas and methods.7, 9-12

One of the most comprehensive frameworks is the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023, which has a foundation of development over many years.13

It has nine guiding principles:

  1. Health as a holistic concept: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is viewed in a holistic context that encompasses mental health and physical, cultural and spiritual health. Land is central to wellbeing. Crucially, it must be understood that while the harmony of these interrelations is disrupted, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ill-health will persist.
  2. The right to self-determination: Self-determination is central to the provision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services and considered a fundamental human right.
  3. The need for cultural understanding: Culturally valid understandings must shape the provision of services and must guide assessment, care and management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health problems generally and mental health concerns more specifically. This necessitates a culturally safe and responsive approach through health program and service delivery.
  4. The impact of history in trauma and loss: It must be recognised that the experiences of trauma and loss, a direct result of colonialism, are an outcome of the disruption to cultural wellbeing. Trauma and loss of this magnitude continue to have intergenerational impacts.
  5. Recognition of human rights: The human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be recognised and respected. Failure to respect these human rights constitutes continuous disruption to mental health (in contrast to mental illness/ill health). Human rights specifically relevant to mental illness must be addressed.
  6. The impact of racism and stigma: Racism, stigma, environmental adversity and social disadvantage constitute ongoing stressors and have negative impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and wellbeing.
  7. Recognition of the centrality of kinship: The centrality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and kinship must be recognised as well as the broader concepts of family and the bonds of reciprocal affection, responsibility and sharing.
  8. Recognition of cultural diversity: There is no single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture or group, but numerous groupings, languages, kinship systems and tribes. Furthermore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in a range of urban, rural or remote settings where expressions of culture and identity may differ.
  9. Recognition of Aboriginal strengths: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have great strengths, creativity and endurance and a deep understanding of the relationships between human beings and their environment.13

While the principles outlined above are not specific to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, they are considered to be appropriate within the context of adopting a holistic life-course approach.

What’s happening in practice?

This promising practice guide attempts to collate disparate strands of evidence that relate to enhancing youth mental health; improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander SEWB; and strategies for addressing severe and complex mental health needs.

It has been well documented that there are significant limitations in the evaluation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs and services across Australia.22-24 The Australian Governments’ Productivity Commission Inquiry into

Mental Health and the Lowitja Institute are, at the time of producing this document, looking at ways to strengthen work in this space.24, 25

In the absence of high-quality evaluation reports, the term ‘promising practice’ is used throughout this guide.

This is consistent with the terminology used by the Australian Psychological Society through its project about SEWB and mental health services in Australia (http://www.sewbmh.org.au/).

It adopts a strengths-based approach26 which acknowledges and celebrates efforts made to advance work in this space in the absence of strong practice-based evidence.

This is achieved through the presentation of five active case studies.

These reflect organizational, systems and practice focused service model examples. The principles included in the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023 have been mapped against each case study to illustrate how these privilege Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, doing and being.

Each case study includes generic background information to provide important contextual information; key messages or lessons learned, and reflections from staff involved in the project.

They have been developed in consultation with both the commissioning PHN and the service/organisation funded to develop and/or deliver the framework, program and service. Where possible, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders were consulted during the development of the case studies.

Need help ?

Contact your nearest ACCHO or

If the situation is an emergency please call 000
If you wish to speak to someone immediately who can help call:

Kids Help Line

1800 55 1800
www.kidshelpline.com.au

Lifeline Australia

13 11 14
www.lifeline.org.au

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Resources Alert : Download @HealthInfoNet Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019 : Continuing to show important positive developments for our mob

In the Overview we strive to provide an accurate and informative summary of the current health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In doing so, we want to acknowledge the importance of adopting a strengths-based approach, and to recognise the increasingly important area of data sovereignty.

To this end, we have reduced our reliance on comparative data in favour of exploring the broad context of the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people and how this may impact their health journey “

HealthInfoNet Director, Professor Neil Drew

The Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status (Overview) aims to provide a comprehensive summary of the most recent indicators of the health and current health status of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Download HERE 

Overview+of+Aboriginal+and+Torres+Strait+Islander+health+status+2019

The annual Overview contains updated information across many health conditions.

It shows there has been a range of positive signs including a decrease in death rates, infant mortality rates and a decline in death rates from avoidable causes as well as a reduction in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who smoke.

It has also been found that fewer mothers are smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy meaning that babies have a better start to life.

The initial sections of the Overview provide information about:

  • the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • social determinants including education, employment and income
  • the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population
  • measures of population health status including births, mortality and hospitalisation.

The remaining sections are about selected health conditions and risk and protective factors that contribute to the overall health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

These sections include an introduction and evidence of the extent of the condition or risk/protective factor. Information is provided for state and territories and for demographics such as sex and age when it is available and appropriate.

The Overview is a resource relevant for the health workforce, students and others requiring access to up-to-date information about the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This year, the focus will be mainly on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data and presentation is within the framework of the strength based approach and data sovereignty (where information is available).

As a data driven organisation, the HealthInfoNet has a publicly declared commitment to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to advance our understanding of data sovereignty and governance consistent with the principles and aspirations of the Maiam nayri Wingara Data Sovereignty Collective (https://www.maiamnayriwingara.org).

As we have done in previous years, we continue our strong commitment to developing strengths based approaches to assessing and reporting the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

It is difficult to make comparisons between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non- Indigenous Australian populations without consideration of the cultural and social contexts within which people live their lives.

As in past versions, we still provide information on the cultural context and social determinants for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

However, for the selected health topics and risk/protective factors we have removed many of the comparisons between the two populations and focused on the analysis of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data only.

In an attempt to respond to the challenge issued by Professor Craig Ritchie at the 2019 AIATSIS conference to say more about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ not just the ‘what’ where comparisons are made and if there is evidence available, we have provided a brief explanation for the differences observed.

Accompanying the Overview is a set of PowerPoint slides designed to help lecturers and others provide up-to-date information.

  • In 2019, the estimated Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 847,190.
  • In 2019, NSW had the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (the estimated population was 281,107 people, 33% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population).
  • In 2019, NT had the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in its population, with 32% of the NT population identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
  • In 2016, around 37% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in major cities.
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is much younger than the non-Indigenous population.

Download the PowerPoint HERE

Overview+of+Aboriginal+and+Torres+Strait+Islander+health+status+2019_+key+facts

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and @END_RHD Our CEO Pat Turner and @jcarapetis deliver a heart-felt evidence-based Aileen Plant Oration @_PHAA_ #CDCConference2019 on Ending #RHD in Australia #ClosingTheGap

At END RHD, our vision is simple: that no child born in Australia today dies of rheumatic heart disease.

And in theory, it should be just that, simple, because RHD has already been eliminated in Australia’s non-Indigenous population. 94% of people who get RHD are our mob.

Despite widespread improvements to the living standards of most Australians, our First Nation’s people continue to experience disadvantage and conditions that perpetuate the spread of infectious diseases.

In my mind, there is no clearer example of a disease of disparity than rheumatic heart disease.

At NACCHO, we became a founding partner of END RHD not because this disease is a simple fix, but because it is hard.

Because it spans from housing, to clinics, to open heart surgery, and highlights the inequalities within the health system, and in outcomes. “

Pat Turner CEO NACCHO delivering this year’s Aileen Joy Plant Oration with END RHD Co-Chair, Professor Jonathan Carapetis. See Pats speech Part 2 below

Part 1 PHAA Press Release 

Download the full Press Release

PHAA RHD Press Release

The conference was run by the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) and delegates got a sneak preview on an end game strategy to rid Australia of RHD – a detailed report that is due for formal release early next year.

“It’s a strategy that relies on partnerships and empowering Indigenous people,” said Professor Jonathan Carapetis, Executive Director, Telethon Kids Institute

“The time has never been better for us to control this disease.”

Researchers are looking at new formulations so that sufferers don’t have to have monthly penicillin

injections for years. “An implant is being worked on,” Professor Carapetis said.

“For 25 years we’ve all been looking at silver bullets and not seeing improvements but we should have hope as we now pull together all we know especially the environmental determinants.”

“We should be able to reduce RHD prevalence by 70 percent,” Professor Carapetis said.

“It’s complex but not overwhelming. It involves multiple sectors and a comprehensive response.”

“The Australian Government is funding the development of a Strep A vaccine. There is progress in the field as we move towards a trial. But that won’t result in a vaccine for our kids for a decade.”

 

Part 2 Pat Turners Speech 

As an Aboriginal woman of Gurdanji-Arrernte heritage, I wish to acknowledge the Ngunnawal people as the traditional owners of the land where we meet today.

I also acknowledge our continuing and vibrant First Nation’s cultures. I am grateful for the contributions of our past, present, and emerging leaders.

Today, I stand here wearing two hats. As CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation – NACCHO – and as Co-Chair of END RHD, an alliance of peaks, community and research organisations committed to ending rheumatic heart disease in Australia.

It gives me great honour to be here today to deliver this year’s Aileen Joy Plant Oration with my END RHD Co-Chair, Professor Jonathan Carapetis.

RHD begins with a sore throat or a skin sore caused by Strep A.

For our children, these are common infections – but the impact can last a lifetime.

A lifetime which, too often, is cut short.

There is no cure for RHD, but patients must undergo a painful injection of antibiotics every 28 days for at least a decade to keep their heart as strong as possible. Some must also undergo surgery to have their heart valves replaced or repaired.

In our work to close the gap, there are many priorities. Our people are telling us that. There is just so much to be done, we can’t afford to have ‘favourite’ diseases.

But RHD sticks out. It is the greatest cause of cardiovascular inequality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this country. Non-Indigenous people, literally, just don’t get it.

In the Kimberley, the average age of death of people living with RHD is just 41 years old. This is a chronic, life-limiting disease… and it starts from a skin sore or sore throat.

We get it because of crowded houses. Because a lot of our people don’t always have access to hot water. To showers that work. To washing machines that aren’t broken.

We get it because our clinics are overwhelmed with demand, and sometimes skin sores and sore throats go untreated.

We get it because acute rheumatic fever gets missed and sometimes it is too late for treatment.

At NACCHO, we became a founding partner of END RHD not because this disease is a simple fix, but because it is hard. ( Partners in this image )

Because it spans from housing, to clinics, to open heart surgery, and highlights the inequalities within the health system, and in outcomes.

Because tackling this disease offers a way to significantly close the gap.

We are fighting to prevent the next generation of our children experiencing this needless suffering. And we are fighting for our people already living with the disease.

Kids like Tenaya, who you can see in this photo

Read Tenaya’s full story Here

You wouldn’t know it from that gorgeous smile, but when I met Tenaya at the start of the year, she had recently been flown down to Perth in a critical condition suffering from heart failure. Her mother had taken her to the local hospital three times, and each time she had been sent home.

The fourth time, her mother refused to leave until she was flown to Perth, where upon arrival, she was rushed to the intensive care unit and put on life-support for two weeks.

A month later, when she was strong enough, she underwent two rounds of open-heart surgery.

Tenaya is seven years old. And she’ll need monthly injections until she is twenty-one. Most likely, she’ll need further surgery too.

She bears both the physical scars of her surgery, and the emotional scars of months spent away from friends, family and her community.

Her mum says that every time she sees a nurse she bursts into tears, terrified.

And on top of all of that, her family have been forced to make the tough decision to move off country to be closer to the specialist medical treatment needed to keep her alive.

The fact that this suffering was caused by a preventable disease is horrifying.

The fact that RHD persists in a country as wealthy as Australia is a national shame.

The fact that without urgent investment, it’s predicted another 10,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children will develop the disease by 2031, is unconscionable.

We cannot let it happen.

Our people know what needs to happen to end RHD in this country.

In fact, community-driven work is already underway across Australia.

Our communities are rising. They are demanding support.

In March this year, a historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap was signed between COAG and the Coalition of Peaks, and a joint council was formed of which I am Co-Chair.

This means that now, for the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through their peak body representatives, will share decision making with governments on Closing the Gap.

The Partnership Agreement embodies the belief of all signatories that:

  • 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 the decision making.

Rheumatic heart disease exemplifies the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

And we know that by addressing the causes, we can also eliminate other linked conditions that unfairly blight our people such as scabies, otitis media, and kidney disease.

We cannot, and will not, close the gap without ending rheumatic heart disease.

Right now, we have the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and community demand to tackle this disease.

We have a commitment from government to equal partnership in our work to close the gap.

And with over 25 years of research behind us, we have a strong evidence-base to support this community-driven work.

 

 

NACCHO Alert June 22 todays @ahmrc and @NSWHealth 5 th #IndigenousHealthSummit : Download the full program : Aboriginal Health “ Is it time to reset?”

 ” The NSW Government committed to reset its relationship with Aboriginal communities following the release of its Aboriginal affairs plan OCHRE: Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment in 2013.

This commitment came in response to overwhelming community sentiment that services to First Peoples must be provided “with” First Peoples, not “to” or “at” them. This is as true for health services, as it is other services.

First Peoples have long called for co-design of services and programs delivered or funded by Government. Preventative and early intervention measures that are co-designed and delivered by Aboriginal communities are essential to achieving better health outcomes.

The Aboriginal community-controlled health sector in Australia is leading the way in this regard, and must meet the challenge of sustaining these approaches.”

Jason Ardler will be one of five Aboriginal panelists for the Summit session on: “Why do we need to reset?”

As Head of NSW Aboriginal Affairs, he is  responsible to the Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, and was recognised in the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours for outstanding public service to Indigenous people in NSW. He talked to Croakey ahead of the Summit. You can follow him on Twitter at @JasonArdler.

“With the theme ‘Aboriginal Health – It’s Time to Reset’, we acknowledge that we need new ways of working to achieve meaningful change in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be leading conversations about health and wellbeing and this requires government agencies to make space for this to happen”.

Welcome message from Elizabeth Koff, Secretary of NSW Health, who acknowledges the need to privilege Aboriginal voices.

The need for new ways of working and for government agencies to make space so Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can lead the conversations on health and wellbeing is the focus of a major national Indigenous Health Summit to be held this Friday (22 June) in Sydney.

The 5th Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Summit – a biennial event of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Standing Committee, established by the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council (AHMAC) – is being co-hosted by the NSW Ministry of Health’s Centre for Aboriginal Health and the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW (AH&MRC).

Download the full program and see all the speakers and panelists

IndigenousHealthSummitProgram

Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman, public health researcher and Croakey contributing editor, is covering the #IndigenousHealthSummit for the Croakey Conference News Service and sets the scene for the day’s agenda in the article below.

See also below a quick Q&A with Jason Ardler, Head of NSW Aboriginal Affairs, on what he hopes will emerge from the Summit – including the strong message that he says came from NSW Aboriginal communities to the state’s health system to “prioritise healing”, in order to keep people out of the service system in the first place.

Finlay will live tweet from each of the sessions on Friday, conduct live interviews on Periscope (via Twitter) at @ontopicaus, and later file a big wrap of the discussions.

Among those speaking and presenting at the Summit are Federal Indigenous Health and Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard, journalist Stan Grant, researcher Dr Gregory Phillips, Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) CEO Janine Mohamed, and University of Tasmania Pro-Vice Chancellor (Aboriginal Research and Leadership) Professor Maggie Walter and University of Sydney Acting Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Juanita Sherwood.

Click here for the full program or see all the speakers and panelists at the bottom of this post.

Summer May Finlay writes:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have poorer health and wellbeing than other Australians. This is well known. The ongoing gap is despite increased investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, under the Closing the Gap Framework, which was introduced by the Coalition of Australian Governments in 2009.

So what is happening? What needs to be done? Why are the current solutions not working? And what policies need to be in place to see real and meaningful change? Ultimately the lack of substantive change means it’s time to “reset” the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health approach. This cannot and should not be done without Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Aboriginal health – it’s time to reset” is the theme for the 5th National Health Summit being held in Sydney on Friday 22 June. The summit is hosted by the New South Wales Ministry of Health and the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW.

With a program that features almost entirely Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the Summit will be a meeting of the top policymakers in the country, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous, and from the government and the non-government sectors. They are the people who can drive a reset agenda.

One summit will not and cannot address the health outcomes and change policy overnight. What it can do is assist in shifting the approach. Shift the underlying ideology away from being government-led to community-led. And a shift is what is required. There is no hiding that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the country’s first peoples, the traditional owners of this land, have always fared worse than those who have subsequently migrated here.

To call for a reset is brave. The agenda is bold, courageous even. The first panel discussion, with only Aboriginal presenters, will outline why a reset is required. An all-Aboriginal panel is making a statement: that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need to be leading the way if we are to indeed reset.

The second panel, which is mostly Aboriginal, asks “How do we reset?” with a focus on Aboriginal community-led ways to wellness and health. Since the National Aboriginal Health Strategy, the first national attempt to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, there has been a call from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for community-led solutions.

The concept of community-led solutions is not new; however, rarely have we seen policy that genuinely embraces this approach, which is why it is essential it is on the agenda for the National Summit.

Where to from here?

The afternoon session includes a short update on the Closing the Gap Refresh by Professor Ian Anderson, the Deputy Secretary for Indigenous Affairs, Prime Minister and Cabinet. With much of the consultation already completed, it will be interesting to see how the Refresh will align with the approaches suggested during the National Summit.

The meat of the day, however, and probably the most challenging session will be the last: “Where to from here?” This will be led by Professor Kerry Arabena, Chair for Indigenous Health and Director of the Indigenous Health Equity Unit at the University of Melbourne, and journalist, author and filmmaker Dr Jeff McMullen.

Change is challenging. It means that each individual needs to look at their own ways of working and consider how they are contributing to the status quo, i.e. the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health disparity.

It is in the uncomfortable that I believe we will see real change. The uncomfortable is where we start to question and review our own underlying beliefs and attitudes. It is through this process that we can shift our own ways of doing business to assist in creating a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Some of the attendees, an invitation-only group from across government, health and social sector organisations, and research institutions, may be stretched beyond their comfort zones; however, there is no doubt that all levels of governments and non-government sectors want to work towards better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Those who are there on Friday hopefully will walk away feeling reset themselves and with a renewed vigour for the work ahead.

Resetting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health agenda: it’s not an easy task but a necessary one for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and all Australians.

Part 2 Q&A with Jason Ardler, Head of NSW Aboriginal Affairs

Summer May Finlay

Q: Why is the theme important to you?

Jason Ardler:

A: The NSW Government committed to reset its relationship with Aboriginal communities following the release of its Aboriginal affairs plan OCHRE: Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment in 2013.

This commitment came in response to overwhelming community sentiment that services to First Peoples must be provided “with” First Peoples, not “to” or “at” them. This is as true for health services, as it is other services.

First Peoples have long called for co-design of services and programs delivered or funded by Government. Preventative and early intervention measures that are co-designed and delivered by Aboriginal communities are essential to achieving better health outcomes.

The Aboriginal community-controlled health sector in Australia is leading the way in this regard, and must meet the challenge of sustaining these approaches.

Summer May Finlay

Q: What is the one point you hope to get across at the Summit?

Jason Ardler:

A: When the NSW Government asked Aboriginal communities in 2011 what a new Aboriginal affairs plan should include, Aboriginal people across the state warned us that if we continued to focus on providing services to fix people up, we would continue to achieve the same poor outcomes.

Instead, we were told to prioritise keeping people out of the service system in the first place – and that means prioritising healing.

Intergenerational trauma is a significant issue for First Nations’ families and communities and healing is essential to improved health and wellbeing outcomes. As one young person said in the National Youth Healing Forum Report: “We need increased focus on positive programs that keep people happy and healthy rather than only targeting them at crisis point.”

Healing is a process that is necessarily different for every individual, family and community – which is why “co-design” with the First Peoples is critical.

Summer May Finlay:

Q: What do you recommend people read or watch in the lead up to the event?

Jason Ardler:

Healing: www.aboriginalaffairs.nsw.gov.au/healing-and-reparations/healing

Local decision making: www.aboriginalaffairs.nsw.gov.au/working-differently/local-decision-making

About our research agenda: https://www.aboriginalaffairs

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #CloseTheGap Workforce and Training : @IAHA_National and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance #NT @AMSANTaus launch the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Academy #NTAHA

 

“Investment and support from our local organisations, employers and governments will ensure the success of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Academy (NTAHA)

Schools, students and community need to know this will be a secure and sustainable approach to building our local workforce, many of whom will stay in our communities’ long term

A key principle of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community control and engagement, with culture the main overarching priority.

 The NT Aboriginal Health Academy has been unsuccessful in gaining the financial support it requires. However, we have had strong support from key stakeholders such as NT Department of Education, NT Department of Health, Charles Darwin University, Flinders University and the Industry Skills Advisory Council NT “

AMSANT CEO John Paterson

Picture above Creating a strong pathway for their 20 deadly Indigenous youth in to health

 ” This partnership with AMSANT to grow and develop the nation’s future leaders in health is critical to the success of the Academy. Growing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health workforce is critically important in providing sustainable, culturally-responsive holistic healthcare.

An increase in the number of qualified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals is needed to positively address workforce shortages in rural and remote communities across the NT.

Already, we are seeing students and their families engaging, and young mothers re-engaging in education through the Academy. They see it as a more flexible and meaningful pathway to sustainable employment in our communities .

If Governments are truly committed to Closing the Gap then there needs to be greater support shown for community-driven initiatives like the NT Aboriginal Health Academy,”

IAHA CEO Donna Murray.

Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT)  launch the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Academy (NTAHA).

The Health Academy will increase the number of young Aboriginal people completing year 12 and entering into the health workforce.

This project is an innovative community led learning model that is about re-shaping and redesigning how training is delivered to Aboriginal students in high school years.

The model is strengths based and centered on ensuring training and education is delivered in a way that embeds the centrality of culture and has a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.

The model is designed to work collaboratively across health disciplines and sectors. There is an urgent, real need for health professions in sectors such as primary health care, disability, mental health, allied health, medicine and aged care; for providing a sustainable education, training and workforce development approach in the Northern Territory.

From Wednesday opening

“If Governments are truly committed to Closing the Gap then there needs to be greater support shown for community-driven initiatives like the NT Aboriginal Health Academy,” said Ms Murray.

ENDS

Indigenous Allied Health Australia is a national member-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health organisation.

AMSANT is the peak body for Aboriginal community-controlled health services (ACCHSs) in the Northern Territory and has played a pivotal role in advocating for and supporting the development of community-controlled health.