NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations advocate for better problem gambling support

Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations advocate for better problem gambling support

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) published the third edition of The National Guide to a Preventative Health Assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in 2018. The document is an evidence-based series of recommendations for primary health care.

With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at a higher risk of developing problem gambling, the document recommends primary health care workers screen for problem gambling during health checks. It’s recommended workers then assess the impact of problem gambling on families and children, and refer people with identified problem gambling to financial counselling and legal support services.

Dr Mary Belfrage is the clinical lead for the NACCHO and RACGP partnership working group which, in 2019, reviewed and updated the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander annual heath check templates.

“For gambling in primary care, there can be huge impacts on people’s mood and general wellbeing. People can even be suicidal; I have definitely seen that. There is also often shame and stigma around problem gambling so a lot of it can be hidden,” said Dr Belfrage.

Dr Belfrage said someone may need psychological support, support with secondary addictions such as drugs or alcohol, or access to financial support services.

Read the full story in the National Indigenous Times here.

Two-Way: Learning from each other series

An interesting webinar series! The Sydney Institute for Psychoanalysis invites you to join them as they bring together First Nations’ thinkers with psychoanalysts and psychotherapists in a series of six webinars in the spirit of Two Way – working together and learning from each other.

All profits to CASSE’s Shields for Living, Tools for Life, a dual cultural and therapeutic program, based in the Alice Springs region for ‘at-risk’ youth, providing an alternative to detention and reducing the likelihood of offending or reoffending.

Click for webinar program and registration on this link here.

© Queenie McKenzie Dreaming Place – Gija country 1995

Two weeks left to have your say on the CATSI ACT

The comprehensive review of the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI Act) will close its public consultations in two weeks, on 21 September. Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, said this is the opportunity for any interested parties to comment on the draft report and let the Government know what changes they would like to see in the CATSI Act.

“This review is looking at all parts of the legislation that regulates Indigenous corporations incorporated under the CATSI Act to ensure it remains fit-for-purpose,” Minister Wyatt said. “It is important for anyone who is interested in having a say to do so now, so the final report captures the views of Indigenous corporations and their members, key stakeholders who work with and rely on those corporations, and the wider community.”

To read the full press release click here.

Close the gap in preventable blindness rates 

Australia has led a successful push for worldwide action to tackle two key global health issues – cervical cancer and eye health.

The Morrison Government welcomes the recent adoption of two Australian-led resolutions by member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO):

Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control: Accelerating the Elimination of Cervical Cancer as a Public Health Problem.
Integrated People-Centred Eye Care, including Preventable Vision Impairment and Blindness.

Image of ophthalmologist with Aboriginal patient lying on medical bed under eye equipment

Image source: Fred Hollows Foundation website.

Australia’s global leadership aligns with our strong domestic eye health agenda. This includes Federal Government support for a five-year plan to improve access and close the gap in preventable blindness rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, funding for eye checks for people with diabetes under the KeepSight program, and activities to raise awareness about macular disease in line with the National Strategic Action Plan.

To read the full article click here.

Dhara Daramoolen Indigenous Higher Education Unit at ACU Canberra

If you or someone you know is interested in finding out how to obtain a Bachelor or Master degree in Social Work from the Australian Catholic University Canberra campus RSVP to the event on 30 September.


ACU have the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entry pathways into undergraduate degrees,to find out more click here.

For more information on the Dhara Daramoolen Indigenous Higher Education Unit download the prospectus here.

Once you RSVP more event information will be sent to you, if you are unable to attend in person but are still interested, we will be streaming video, but you will still be required to RSVP your attendance preference as well as any dietary requirements.  The campus map can be found here.

VACCHO pleads for further community organisation support

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) has written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling for further support for Aboriginal communities responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

VACCHO wrote on behalf of their 32 members, who have been working to ensure community safety. In Victoria, there were a total of 68 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the Aboriginal community, with 61 recovered cases and 7 currently active.

Read the full article here.

Danila Dilba NT (Various locations)

Danila Dilba Health Service is going through a dynamic period of expansion and growth and currently has the following vacancies across various locations. Applications for the positions close on Sunday 20 September 2020.

REGIONAL MANAGER – CLINICS & SERVICES (*Total Salary: $144,975 – $167,279) 

CLINIC MANAGER – DARWIN CLINIC (*Total Salary: $125,367- $133,877)

SERVICES COORDINATION MANAGER (*Total Salary: $125,367- $133,877)

GENERAL PRACTITIONER (*Total Salary $234,019 – $247,391)

For more details visit the Danila Dilba website here.  

NACCHO Aboriginal News Alert: Support for remote Indigenous communities at high risk from COVID-19

Support for remote Indigenous communities at high risk from COVID-19

While no cases of the coronavirus have yet been reported among Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities, the modelling shows that continuing efforts are needed to limit the effects of an outbreak.

The Impact of COVID-19 in remote and regional settings presentation is intended to inform and support Health Service decision-makers and community leaders to decide how a remote community will respond to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The modelling was conducted for the Australian Government by the University of Melbourne and the Kirby Institute pandemic modelling team, guided by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 and endorsed for release by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt said, “Travel restrictions to remote areas were imposed by a determination I made early in the pandemic, following requests from Aboriginal communities, organisations and leaders. These restrictions can be reinstated if needed.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt said the Australian Government has also worked with the Indigenous health sector to ensure communities are prepared.
“The Australian Government places a high priority on protecting the health of Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islander people during the pandemic,” Minister Wyatt said.

The modelling also highlights the need for all people to get tested if they have even mild symptoms because finding the first case quickly will be key to stopping the spread.

The importance of these actions and the lessons from the modelling are all reflected in the Management Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Populations that has been guiding the response since March, and the updated National Guidance for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities for COVID-19.

For further information visit the Department of Health website.

Indigenous residents in Central Australia train to become coronavirus contact tracers

Western Arrernte man Damien Willie says many remote communities are overcrowded and affected by disproportionately high rates of chronic illness, and he dreads what could happen if the virus finds its way into one of them.

“Our elders, our sick — it’s scary stuff,” Mr Willie said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of confusion,” he said.

“My community doesn’t really understand what the COVID thing is all about — lots of myths are circulating.”

Mr Willie says the remote communities he has strong ties with around Alice Springs are not prepared for the virus.

“We’re trying to un-train 40,000 years of how we interact, do our funerals and stuff like that; it goes against all of the social-distancing stuff,” he said.

“There might be 50, 70 people who come through a house in one day.”

So, when he was given the opportunity to train to become a coronavirus contact tracer, Mr Willie took it. He is now one of dozens of Indigenous people in Central Australia who have been trained in how to perform contact tracing in an Indigenous context.

Read the full article in the ABC here.

Have your say on the National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap

Cancer Australia is inviting the public to have their say on the National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap through a dedicated Consultation Hub. All interested stakeholders are invited to have their say.

The National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap will identify key priority areas for action over the next five years to improve outcomes for people with pancreatic cancer. It will consider all aspects of the cancer pathway, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, supportive and palliative care.

The Consultation Hub will be open until 30 November 2020 and will be available here.

For further information on this initiative, visit National Pancreatic Cancer Roadmap.


3x Housing Officers in Canberra and Batemans Bay offering positions as SCHADS level 2 (traineeship) – SCHADS 4 (Cert. IV).

  • Passionate about helping your community and want to learn new things?
  • Permanent Part Time opportunities Canberra & Batemans Bay
  • SCHADS Level 2 – Level 4

Aboriginal Housing Officer – Canberra and Batemans Bay: For more information click here. 

2 x Aboriginal Housing Officers – Batemans Bay and Canberra: For more information click here.

Or both positions together available atEthical Jobs

NCACCH is currently seeking a Chief Executive Officer

North Coast Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health (NCACCH) is a not for profit, community-controlled health corporation providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members of the Sunshine Coast and Gympie regions with choice and access to a wide range of health care provider

For the full job description click here.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Tens of thousands train in contact tracing for the bush – online modules, developed by the Australian National University (ANU)

Tens of thousands train in contact tracing for the bush

More than 50,000 people have accessed specialised pandemic training for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers and health practitioners to help protect remote Australian communities from coronavirus outbreaks.

The five online modules, developed by a team at the Australian National University (ANU), include training on how to conduct contact tracing within remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.  The training was developed following a request from the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Australian Government.

“Overcrowding in housing and poor condition of houses will mean that COVID-19 spreads extremely quickly in these communities. To keep communities safe, we must act quickly and to do that we need to use local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who have the cultural knowledge and skills to isolate cases and find contacts,” Ms Alyson Wright, an epidemiologist from the ANU Research School of Population Health who co-ordinated the development of the modules, said. 

“The Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector has done a lot of work in stopping the virus. This training is a part of building capability of Aboriginal Health Workers and practitioners to keep these communities stay safe,” Ms Wright said.

Dawn Casey, Deputy CEO NACCHO said, “Aboriginal Health Workers have been invaluable in managing previous outbreaks in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“We need to use their expertise in contact tracing for COVID-19, and these training modules give them the information to do this effectively and safely.

“We need public health units across Australia to draw on the expertise within our ACCHOs to manage outbreaks rapidly and in a culturally safe way.”

The training modules includes an introduction to COVID-19 epidemiology, contact tracing, interviewing, the use of PPE in remote communities and data management.

They can be found online here:

To read the full press release click here.

AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid welcomes new aged care sector funding

New Federal Government funding announced today will help the chronically-underfunded aged care sector to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, but much more will need to be done to address the long-term issues, AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said.

Almost 70 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in Australia relate to people in residential aged care, one of the highest rates in the world. “The AMA welcomes the additional $563.3 million to extend support for the aged care sector’s response to COVID-19,” Dr Khorshid said.

“The decades-old issues in aged care have only been amplified by the pandemic, and have resulted in unnecessary deaths of our oldest and most vulnerable Australians.

“The announcement of a national plan to tackle COVID-19 in aged care was welcome. However, plans mean nothing without adequate resources to carry them out.

“The aged care and health systems must be provided with additional supports and funding to get through the pandemic.”

Read the full media release here.

Source: Aged Care Online

CATSINaM appoints new CEO

The Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM) today announce the appointment of a new Chief Executive Officer, Professor Roianne West. CATSINaM Chairperson, Marni Tuala welcomed Professor West and said “The Board and I are excited about the future of our organisation and the work we will do together. We truly believe we have secured the country’s best to lead CATSINaM”. Professor Roianne West is a Kalkadunga and Djaku-nde woman hailing from her grandmother’s ancestral lands near Mount Isa giving her an excellent appreciation of challenges facing our members in rural, remote and regional settings.

To read the full media release click here.

Photo of Professor Roainne West - new CATSINaM

Image source; Pathways to Postgraduate Study for Indigenous Australian Students website.

Diabetes during pregnancy and birth-weight trends

The August edition of the Diabetes Newsletter from the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet (HealthInfoNet) is out in its new avatar.  One of the programs featured in the newsletter was on:

To view the complete newsletter click here.

Remote Vocational Training Scheme (RVTS) GP Fellowship Training

Apply Now: 31 August – 13 September 2020

RVTS is an established training provider with 20 years’ experience delivering GP Fellowship Training across Australia. Our AMS training stream now in its 7th year offers an annual intake of 10 doctors to train towards Fellowship qualifications of the RACGP and/or ACRRM.

RVTS is fully funded by the Australian Government – and there’s no cost to apply!

Check your eligibility and apply now click here.

World Suicide Prevention Day goes virtual

This World Suicide Prevention Day, Lifeline will call on Australians to send the clearest signal yet to those who are struggling, that they are not alone. Annual Out of the Shadows events goes virtual in a show of support for those bereaved by suicide and those who are struggling with their own mental health.

Every year, Lifeline centres across the nation bring their communities together to observe World Suicide Prevention Day through Lifeline’s Out of the Shadows events. Local community walks traditionally take place at sunrise and create a safe place of acceptance to mourn loved ones lost to suicide and reduce stigma by bringing suicide out of the shadows and into the light. However, this year with physical distancing restrictions created by COVID-19, Out of the Shadows will be providing opportunities for connection virtually.

To know more click here.

World Suicide Prevention Day & orange & yellow ribbon cross over point hands

Changes to MBS item numbers for cardiac imaging services

Make sure you know the right item numbers to use when you claim cardiac imaging services for your patients.

To read the latest news for health professionals for the month of September from Services Australia visit the health professionals section of the Services Australia website.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert: Kidney disease early detection campaign

Kidney disease early detection campaign

Kidney Health Australia will formerly launch an awareness campaign, #nofilter, on Wedensday 2 September 2020. The campaign shows the reality of life on dialysis and urges people to understand the risk factors for kidney disease to they can take active steps to manage their kidney health, and prevent a life with no filter. While the campaign has a sombre message, it also offers hope because if caught early enough, the progression of kidney disease can be delayed on even halted.

To access Kidney Health Australia’s website click here.

Are you a F.A.S.T hero?

This year on National Stroke Week❤️ 31 August – 6 September 2020, the Stroke Foundation are celebrating everyday Australians who know and can recognise the signs of stroke. They are F.A.S.T. Heroes! Across Australia, F.A.S.T. Heroes can save lives, simply by knowing and recognising the F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) signs of stroke and calling an ambulance immediately.

For more information click here.

Chronic Kidney Disease Management in Primary Care new edition

Kidney Health Australia have released the 4th edition of their handbook Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Management in Primary Care. This handbook provides health services with guidance and clinical tips for detecting, managing, and referring patients with CKD.

CKD Management in Primary Care is produced by Kidney Health Australia’s Primary care education advisory committee (PEAK) and has been endorsed by the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology (ANZSN), the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) (accepted clinical resource), and the Australian Primary healthcare Nurses Association (APNA).

To download the digital version of the 4th edition handbook here.

Aboriginal arm receiving dialysis.

Image source: newsGP – RACGP.

Getting Through This Together

The longevity of COVID-19 and the fatigue that many are experiencing, and the impact of uncertainty on people’s mental health and wellbeing is a reality for all Australians. Acknowledging that mental health is just as important as physical health, the Australian Government National Mental Health Commission has developed a Getting Through This Together (GTTT): Supporting our mental health during COVID-19 program. The GTTT program practical tips to stay connected and mentally well during this challenging time

To access information about the communication pack click here.

Greg Inglis' face & text 'I want people to know that they're not alone'

Greg Inglis opens up about mental health battles. Image source: ABC Australian Story.


COVID-19 ‘blame game’ not helpful to public safety

The mass media’s coverage of the pandemic health crisis carries an important responsibility to offer balanced messaging about COVID-19 and public behaviour, according to Flinders Univeristy public health researchers. While the initial media coverage was objective and generally authoritative, it has over time moved to apportion blame to particular groups and individual politicians. This can be harmful to rational, sensible debate which keeps a sound perspective on the situation and the need for a united front to overcome the pandemic.

To read the full article How the Media Places Responsibility for the COVID-19 Pandemic – An Australian Media Analysis click here.

Black Lives Matter protest in Brisbane - photo of the crowd, Aboriginal woman fist in air, Aboriginal flag on white t-shirt

Image source: SBS News.

COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan required

AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, has said a COVID-19 vaccination is likely to be the only way Australia will successfully be able to emerge from the Coronaviurs pandemic. The greatest challenge however is likely to be accessing enough doses of an approved vaccine for the whole population. Dr Khorshid says “We need to develop a plan for a TGA endorsed vaccine to be distributed to at risk groups first, particularly the aged and those with other health conidtions leaving them at increased risk.”

To red the AMA’s media release click here.

healthworker gloved hands injecting arm

Image source: scimex website.

Important information for victims of family violence

In times of crisis, incidences of family violence, in all communities, of all cultural backgrounds, often increases. Help is Here is an Australian Government national campaign to ensure all Australians, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities, know where to go for help if they are at risk of or experiencing violence.

For more information on the Help is Here campaign, including access to a range of resources click here.

A crisis doesn't excuse abusive behaviour at home Help is Here campaign banner

Image source; Help is Here website.

WA – Broome

FT Regional Sexual Health Facilitator

Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Ltd (KAMS) is a well-established regional Aboriginal community controlled health service which provides centralised advocacy and resource support for 6 independent member services, as well as providing direct clinical services in a further 6 remote Aboriginal communities across the region.

KAMS has an opportunity for a Regional Sexual Health Facilitator to join their team in Broome, on a full-time fixed term contract basis until 30 June 2021.

To view a full position description click here.

VIC – Shepparton

FT Project Officer

Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative Ltd. have a vacancy with their Justice and Community Services area for a project officer to lead the development, planning, implementation and establishing of therapeutic wraparound support services and other initiatives related to family violence.

Applications close at 4:00 PM on Wednesday 16 September 2020. To view details of the position click here.

Feature image tile "My people keep dying" & woman in Aboriginal flag shirt holding Stop Aboriginal Deaths in Custody sign

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: WA Suicide Prevention Taskforce long overdue

WA Suicide Prevention Taskforce long overdue

The WA government has set up a new taskforce to review the treatment of at-risk prisoners after the fourth death in jail in three months, three of them Aboriginal people. The taskforce will assess whether prisons are following the state’s suicide prevention strategy. The director of the National Suicide Prevention Trauma Recovery Project Megan Krakouer, said the taskforce is long overdue, “my people keep dying”. “The 1991 royal commission [into Aboriginal deaths in custody] made recommendations about the removal of ligature points, but suicide prevention is not just about ligature points. It needs to be a holistic approach of investing in intensive psycho-social supports and of 24/7 outreach to families. If the WA government is serious, they need to implement these wraparound services and make social investments in our communities. Prisons should be about rehabilitation, not a death sentence.”

To view the full article in The Guardian click here.

Essendon Football Club health initiative for Tiwi communities

The Essendon Football Club has instigated a community health initiative that will see Deadly Choices, the preventative arm of Australia’s Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) implement a range of programs to bring about positive change across the NT communities of the Tiwi Islands. Tapping into the well-established relationship the Victorian AFL Club has with its namesake, the Tiwi Bombers, is a perfect vehicle to bring about desired change by motivating and empowering community members towards taking control of their own health. IUIH will directly subcontract Essendon Football Club to employ a Deadly Choices Program Officer who will be based full-time on the Tiwi Islands.

To view the media release click here.

8 Tiwi Island boys sitting in row with a football, Essendon Football Club logo, Deadly Choices logo

Image source: NT News.

AMSA concerned about proposed HELP funding cuts

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has called on the Federal Government to reconsider proposed cuts to HELP funding for university students, warning they could significantly affect student mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. AMSA pointed out that government funding and subsidies are particularly vital for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and those from rural and regional backgrounds, and low socioeconomic backgrounds to pursue medical education. These vulnerable student groups, the AMSA said, already carry a heavier mental health burden than average Australians.

To view the AMSA’s media release click here.

Two images: Aboriginal flag with stethoscope & Dr Vinka Barunga

Image sources: AMA, ABC News – Dr Vinka Barunga.

National cancer screening health worker engagement project

The University of Melbourne is undertaking a project to understand how the primary healthcare workforce engages with the national cancer screening program (bowel, breast and cervical). Findings from the study will lead to the development of materials and initiatives to assist in boosting cancer screening participation.

During the first phase of the project the researchers are interested in interviewing nurses, GPs and Practice Managers to understand more about their role, their go-to-resources when they need more information about the screening programs and resources they would like to have access to.

Everyone that will be interviewed will be reimbursed with a $50 Gift Card. We intend to carry out interviews during the month of September. The interviews will be recorded with your permission.

For information about how to become involved in the project please contact Ebony Verbunt, Research Assistant, University of Melbourne over or phone 0429 928 039.

Aboriginal male & female cartoon figures with ages for breast, bowel, cervical cancer screening tests

Image source: Cancer Council Victoria website.

Working from home – anywhere in Australia

On-call Psychologist

CRANAplus is the peak professional body for health professionals working in remote and isolated areas across Australia with the purpose of ensuring the delivery of safe, high quality primary healthcare to remote and isolated communities. The Bush Support Line is a flagship service provided by CRANAplus and offers phone counselling (psychological services) 24 hours a day/7 days per week, by a team of experienced psychologists.

CRANAplus is seeking experienced registered and clinical psychologists to join CRANAplus’ Bush Support Services Team to offer after hours care through an on-call roster.

You can view the CRANAplus website here and find details of the psychologist position here.CRANAplus logo & image of 4-wheel drive in outback

Perth – WA

FT or PT Social Worker x 1

Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Aboriginal Health Service Corporation (DYHS) is the largest Aboriginal community-controlled health service in Perth, employing over 130 staff to deliver culturally safe holistic and integrated primary health care services to over 15,000 Aboriginal people across four clinics in the Perth metropolitan region. DYHS is seeking to employ a Social Worker to a new position responsible for providing a culturally responsive Social Work assessment and intervention service to clients to build self-efficacy, sufficiency and resilience.

To view the job description click here – applications close Monday 31 August 2020.Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service WA Logo


NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert: NACCHO upholds the theme, ‘We are the Elders of tomorrow, hear our voice’ on National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations improving life and health outcomes for our Elders of tomorrow

Referring to the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) coordinated National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day held on 4 August each year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families to celebrate the strengths and culture of their children, NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills said:

“For decades, our Elders have shown great resolve and have sacrificed and fought for advancing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights. Their efforts cannot be forgotten as they paved the way for our children to live healthier and stronger lives.

“We are so proud of the work done by our members – Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, towards improving the health outcomes of our children, our Elders of tomorrow.

“We are pleased that our recently signed National Agreement for Closing the Gap targets commits governments to build a strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector to deliver services and programs. Within the commitments, one of the sector strengthening plans focuses on early childhood care and development and another key priority is education, thereby looking at holistic life and health outcomes for our future generations.”

Wuchopperen Health Service Qld – First Time Mum’s Program

One of the many NACCHO member programs promoting child health and wellbeing is the Wuchopperen Health Service in Cairns QLD. This ACCHO delivers the Australian Nurse-Family Partnership Program (ANFPP), known in the community as the ‘First Time Mum’s Program’. It is a client-centred, home visiting program that provides care and support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums throughout their first pregnancy, right until their child turns two.

Wuchopperen Health Service have successfully supported over 400 families since the program began and Nurse Supervisor of the ANFPP, Samantha Lewis said, “100% of the babies who have come through the program were fully immunised by the time they turned two, which has had a significant impact on the long-term health of babies. Also, 97% of our babies were within a healthy birth weight range. This is a huge achievement and sets up a solid base for the rest of the child’s life.”

This year, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day’s theme ‘We are the Elders of tomorrow, hear our voice’ honours our Elders, custodians of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional knowledge, passed down to our children through stories and cultural practice.

Click here to download National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day resources to share within your communities.

Download our What does culture mean to me? resource. Have fun drawing and email it to to be part of our Children’s Day promotions.

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  ( )

For the most up-to-date information on Queensland’s roadmap to a COVID-safe recovery visit c ( ).


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:

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.


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.


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


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 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, visit 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

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.
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.