NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Management of COVID-19 in community

The image in the feature tile is from ABC News article Indigenous communities won’t be safe from COVID until we act on the lessons learnt in Wilcannia, 28 November 2021. Photo: Micahel Franchi.

Management of COVID-19 in community

A research article published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) says we need to learn from Australia’s response to the pandemic and break down siloes, so we can build a more integrated and resilient health system. While the Australian health care system is well regarded on the global stage in terms of the balance between investment in health care and outcomes delivered, there is considerable fragmentation and poor coordination of care and communication between hospitals and primary care, which limits further improvement. Geographical barriers, workforce shortages and issues relating to acceptability of services limit health care access for residents of rural, regional and remote communities, Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, and together with an inadequate focus on prevention, limit progress towards health equity.

The article says strong advocacy from NACCHO and GPs in outbreak areas (including the Primary and Chronic Care Panel of the National COVID‐19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce) did consider the issues inherent in managing COVID‐19 in remote communities with overcrowded housing, but resource constraints limited execution of solutions. Early central planning and discussion also rarely involved primary care providers — from private, public or Aboriginal community controlled health sectors — and highlighted a lack of regional health care planning structures. The authors claim there is a particular need for purposeful rebuilding of remote PHC, emphasising the primacy of the Aboriginal clinical workforce, demonstrated as essential for overcoming vaccine hesitancy and enabling timely vaccine rollout.

To view The Medical Journal of Australia article Management of COVID‐19 in the community and the role of primary care: how the pandemic has shone light on a fragmented health system in full click here.

NACCHO developed COVID-19 resource. Image source: Croakey Health Media .

Racism is a public health issue

The Yokayi Footy panel has weighted in on the “horrifying chapter” of racism accusations embroiling Hawthorn football club and AFL coaches Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan Program host Megan Waters made a heartfelt plea and said as mob the news makes her feel “sick to the gut” before emotions got the best of former players Andrew Krakouer, Gillbert McAdam and Darryl White.

Hawthorn football staff, including Clarkson and Fagan, are alleged to have targeted three unnamed First Nations players during their time at the club, pressuring them into severing relationships with partners and families to better focus on their careers. “The story of racism is still very much alive in this country,” Ms Waters said.

Krakouer said similar stories of racism seem to come up every week, highlighting the need for stronger processes to better address the issue, cut suicide rates and social determinate factors felt by Indigenous people as a result of its ongoing impacts. “Racism is a public health issue,” he said. “It affects our health, life and our safety so we need to get serious about racism because what has been done previously, it’s not good enough.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article ‘Racism is a public health issue’: Indigenous footy personalities speak out on Hawthorn probe in full click here.

Andrew Krakouver. Photo: AFL.com.au. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Abolition of cashless debit card

The Albanese Labor Government is delivering a long-term plan to ensure certainty, choice and support to communities moving off the cashless debit card program. Following extensive consultation in sites across the nation, the Government has today announced a suite of measures that empowers local communities and will assist in abolishing the cashless debit card program and ensure communities are better off.

This will deliver on our election commitment to end a failed program. The Government will abolish the cashless debit card program and make income management voluntary in Ceduna, East Kimberley, Goldfields and Bundaberg-Hervey Bay. Under the plan, the Cape York region will retain all of its powers of self-determination and referral for community members to go onto income management under the Family Responsibilities Commission.

To view the joint media release Empowering communities with the abolition of the cashless debit card program in full click here.

Photo: Natalie Whitling, ABC News.

WA study to address low vax rate

Pregnant, expectant and breastfeeding First Nations mums will be the focus of new research that seeks to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among Aboriginal women across WA. The project will be led by Dr Anne-Marie Eades from the Curtin School of Allied Health. Dr Eades, a Noongar woman from the Wagyl Kaip region of WA, said First Nations women, particularly of a childbearing age, urgently needed greater access to vaccinations because they were most vulnerable to infection.

“There is currently a lack of research addressing the barriers to the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccination among Aboriginal families,” Dr Eades said. “What we do know is that Aboriginal people are less likely to have been vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to the general population, with the differences most bleak in WA. Our study will evaluate the successes, barriers and opportunities of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program to reach Aboriginal women and their unborn children – and potentially target children under five in the event of an early childhood COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”

Partnering with the South-West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) and Babbingur Mia-Aboriginal Women’s Health Service, Dr Eades will be supported by a team of leading experts in Aboriginal health, COVID-19 vaccinations, immunisation, and midwifery. “We need to determine what factors could have encouraged a greater uptake of vaccination for First Nations mothers who are pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive,” Dr Eades said.

To view the Curtin University media release Study to address low COVID-19 vaccinations among Aboriginal women in full click here.

Michell Farrell gets her first COVID-19 vaccine at the Ngukurr Clinic. Photo: Kate Ashton, ABC News.

Healthy Skin Guidelines online survey

Telethon Kids Institute is inviting you to participate in an online survey to help with the evaluation of the 1st edition of the National Healthy Skin Guidelines (NHSG). The 1st edition of the NHSG was published in 2018 by the Australian Healthy Skin Consortium, and endorsed by NACCHO. It focuses on the prevention, treatment, and public health control of skin infections (such as impetigo, scabies, crusted scabies and tinea) for Aboriginal populations. Available online, the NHSG has been viewed >10,000 times, downloaded > 3,500 times, and the quiz for knowledge assessment completed >300 times.

Telethon Kids Institute want to know your experience of the guideline to help inform the updates to the next edition, or if you haven’t used it, we’d like to know about where you might go to access this kind of information and resources. The survey is intended for any healthcare worker who cares for people with skin infections. There are two separate surveys for those who have, and those who have not, used the 1st edition of the NHSG. You do not have to have used the 1st edition to take part in this survey, and you will only complete one survey.

It is estimated that the survey will take a maximum of 20 minutes. All responses are anonymous.

Click on this link to begin the survey.  If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Asha Bowen using this email link.

Increasing maternal health service uptake

University of Huddersfield researcher Devendra Raj Singh hopes that improvements in public health in disadvantaged communities will be the result of his international collaborations under the UK’s Turing Scheme. Devendra recently spent two months at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where he found that his research drew parallels between health issues faced by Australia’s Aboriginal community and people in his native Nepal.

The PhD research aims to co-design an initiative to improve the delivery and uptake of free maternal and new-born health services in Nepal, where Devendra hails from Madhesh Province in the south of the country. While in Canberra, Devendra worked closely with academics at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at ANU, one of Australia’s highest-ranked universities, and he gained invaluable insights into the issues facing Australia’s First Nations peoples.

“My visit to ANU has provided me with an excellent practical introduction to implementation research methodologies such as co-design, realist review, and policy analysis. But it was my absolute privilege to learn about the historical past, culture, and challenges of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia,” he adds.

To view the University of Huddersfield article Health researcher Devendra aims to build on Turing Scheme experience in full click here.

Natalia Moore-Deagan says the Indigenous health workers are one reason she goes to Danila Dilba. Photo: Lucy Marks, ABC News.

Medicare must be accessible to prisoners

Gerry Georgatos, a suicide prevention and poverty researcher with an experiential focus on social justice has written an article for Independent Australia arguing that Medicare must be accessible for prisoners. “It is my experience, in general, people come out of prisons in worse conditions than when they commenced the situational trauma of incarceration” Georgatos said. Health inequalities and discrimination in this nation’s 132 prisons are rife. Nearly 45,000 prisoners are denied Medicare.  Medicare is denied to prisoners, old and young, and to children as young as ten.

In addition, the incarcerated in effect are denied access to the Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme  and denied access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, with disastrous impacts. It is established and self-evident, nearly all of Australia’s prisoners are comprised of people living in the lowest quintile of income. Additionally, they also comprise the quintile of the weakest primary and secondary health.”

To view the Independent Australia article Medicare must be accessible for prisoners in full click here.

Image source: The West Australian.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: How do GPs practice cultural humility?

The image in the feature tile is of GP Dr Simon Quilty with a patient. Photo: Stephanie Zillman. Image source: ABC News article Specialist on-country healthcare improving outcomes in remote Aboriginal communities, 1 December 2018.

How do GPs practice cultural humility?

Developing professional cultural humility is a ‘key strategy’ to help address health inequalities in Australia, according to researchers from the University of Melbourne. Defined as ‘a shift from the mastering of understanding other cultures, to an approach of personal accountability in advocating against the systemic barriers that impact marginalised groups’, cultural humility is also ‘positively associated’ with improved health outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) patients.

It is why researchers, including RACGP President Adjunct Professor Karen Price, are asking practitioners to take part in a new project focused on assessing cultural humility in Australian GPs. The research will see GPs participate in a 10–15-minute online survey about their interactions with patients of different cultural backgrounds, experience in cultural humility training and their interest in further training in this area.

Dr Olivia O’Donoghue, a descendant of the Yankunytjatjara and Narungga Nations people and the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Censor – the first Aboriginal person to be appointed the role, says cultural humility is an ‘essential attribute’ for GPs. ‘For me, cultural humility is about understanding myself, my values, my affinities and biases, my attitudes and behaviours and how these effect the people around me,’ Dr O’Donoghue said.

To read the RACGP newsGP article How do GPs practice cultural humility? in full click here.

Dr Olivia O’Donoghue. Image source: SBS NITV Radio.

Culturally safe birthing for the Cape

Women in western Cape York’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities will be able to give birth closer to home, thanks to a birthing project led by Weipa rural generalist obstetrician Dr Riley Savage. The Weipa Birthing Unit is set to open soon, with the completion of capital works due this month, September 2022. The unit’s central feature is the Palm Cockatoo Midwifery Group Practice.

‘I’m so incredibly proud of the service we have produced – a women-centred midwifery group practice model of care, focusing on collaboration, community engagement and cultural safety,’ Dr Savage says. ‘Bringing birthing services to Weipa is such important work. It is delivering maternity services to families who would otherwise have to leave their hometown for six weeks or more in order to have their babies, at great financial and psychological cost.’

The 2009 James Cook University (JCU) graduate, who has an advanced skill in obstetrics and gynaecology, was inspired to become a rural generalist while on fifth-year placement on Thursday Island. ‘I was starstruck by the rural generalists there, who were masters of so many disciplines, from critical care in the emergency department to primary care in beautiful island communities,’ Dr Savage says.

To view the National Rural Health Alliance Partyline article Culturally safe birthing for Cape in full click here.

NSW government responds to ice inquiry

The NSW Government has finally issued its response to a landmark report on ice addiction more than two years since it was handed down, and less than a month after the state’s peak legal organisations condemned cabinet’s failure to implement urgent reforms. On 21 September, Premier Dominic Perrottet announced a half-a-billion-dollar investment to deliver health and justice reforms as part of the Government’s final response to the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug Ice. “Ice can ruin lives and have devastating impacts on families and communities. This funding will provide relief, help and hope for thousands of people across NSW,” Perrottet said.

The Law Society of NSW also pushed for the Government to partner with Aboriginal communities to urgently develop and significantly increase the availability of local specialist drug treatment services that are culturally respectful, culturally competent and culturally safe. “Aboriginal people are a priority population in relation to the investment that the NSW Government is making in a range of new programs and activities to increase the availability of specialist drug treatment,” the Government’s response read.

“Funding will support new treatment services, including withdrawal management, substance use in pregnancy and parenting services, rehabilitation and community-based support. There will also be targeted workforce development activities such as increasing the Aboriginal Health/Nursing Workforce, introducing traineeships, and skills development.”

To view the Law Society Journal Online article NSW Government unveils response to ice inquiry in full click here.

Image source: NSW Crime Stoppers.

Helping dads help their partners

For health professionals working to improve the perinatal mental health of women in rural communities, supporting dads is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, recent research into the antenatal psychosocial risk status of Australian women found that over 95% of respondents in the study said they would seek emotional support from their intimate partner. Reported rates for seeking support from health professionals, including GPs, did not exceed 55%.

Clearly, it would be a lost opportunity not to include fathers in efforts to help women who may experience mental health distress in the perinatal period. SMS4dads is a free service that all health professionals supporting women in the perinatal period should be aware of. SMS4dads helps fathers understand and connect with their baby and partner through free text messages that provide information, tips and encouragement. Dads can join from 12 weeks into a pregnancy and throughout the first year of parenthood.

Once enrolled, dads receive three messages a week to help them understand and connect with their baby and support their partner. The messages are brief and some have links to more information or other services. When enrolling, dads enter the expected date of delivery or bub’s birth date, so the texts are linked to the developmental stage of the baby. Some messages provide tips and encouragement. Others are health-related with information on looking after their baby or being mindful of their own health and ways to support their partner.

To read the National Rural Health Alliance Partyline article Helping dads help their partners full click here.

Revised ITC Program for Western NSW

The new year will bring changes to local Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs) in Western NSW following extensive reviews, with a revised Integrated Team Care (ITC) Program designed to improve the capacity of local services. The ITC is designed to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents living with a chronic disease, and has been delivered by Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation since 2016.

Following a 2021 review, the redesigned program will change hands on January 1, changing how Coonamble, Gilgandra, Brewarrina, Walgett, Condobolin and Bourke implement ITC. CEO of Coonamble, Dubbo and Gilgandra AMSs, Phil Naden, has welcomed the funding from Western NSW Primary Health Network (WNSW PHN) for the ITC Program. “I’m looking forward to a strengthened approach in working with WNSW PHN and I’m keen to commence the project in our locations to service Aboriginal Clients in the region.”

To view the Western Plains App article Local AMSs receive funding to broaden services in full click here.

Phillip Naden, CEO of Coonamble and Dubbo AMS. Image source: AH&MRC website.

Advocating for mental health services for youth

Hayley Pymont is using the hundreds of kilometres she is clocking up on the NSW South Coast in preparation for the New York Marathon to build a new purpose for herself and help improve the mental health of others. The 27-year-old Wiradjuri woman, who grew up on Dharawal land is one of the young people selected for the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) for 2022, which was founded by Australian champion runner Robert de Castella.

The program also asks participants to undertake further education and complete a Certificate IV in Indigenous Leadership and Health Promotion. Pymont is putting her energy into building mental health resilience. “I struggled at school with bullying growing up,” she said.” Through the program, Pymont is reaching out to community organisations to urge them to provide more support to young people. “We need organisations out there and services to open their doors for everyone and to let people in regardless of how severe their mental health is,” she said.

To read the ABC News article Hayley Pymont aiming for place in New York Marathon to create positive ‘ripple effect’ for bullying support in full click here.

Hayley Pymont hopes to draw attention to the need for better mental health support services for young people. Photo: Billy Cooper, ABC News.

Sector Jobs

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

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

International Day of Sign Languages

The International Day of Sign Languages is a unique opportunity to support and protect the linguistic identity and cultural diversity of all deaf people and other sign language users. During the 2022 celebration of the International Day of Sign Languages, the world will once again highlight the unity generated by our sign languages. Deaf communities, governments and civil society organisations maintain their collective efforts – hand in hand – in fostering, promoting and recognising national sign languages as part of their countries’ vibrant and diverse linguistic landscapes.

According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are more than 70 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries. Collectively, they use more than 300 different sign languages.

For more information you can access the United Nations webpage International Day of Sign Languages 23 September here. You can also access a related ABC News article Aboriginal sign languages have been used for thousands of years here.

Michael Ganambarr showing the sign for “fruit bat”. Photo: David Hancock. Image source: ABC News.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Palm Island cemetery one of busiest in nation

The image in the feature tile is of Palm Island cemetery. Image source: ABC News article ‘One of the busiest cemeteries in the nation’ fills up as chronic health complications linger on Palm Island, Wednesday 21 September 2022.

Palm Island cemetery one of busiest in nation

People on Palm Island cannot find room to bury their loved ones as increased deaths from suicide and chronic disease prematurely fill the island’s cemetery. Authorities are concerned people on the remote island in north Queensland missed out on essential care when healthcare workers were diverted to the COVID effort.

Palm Island Mayor Mislam Sam said it led to a rise in preventable deaths in the Indigenous community of roughly 3,000 people. “I have one of the busiest cemeteries in this nation,” he said. “Having at least 50 funerals a year, those kinds of stats are unheard of in communities of a similar size.” Mr Sam said there had been a funeral on the island near Townsville almost every week for the past two years. “When you’re constantly lining up and paying your respects, it’s taking a toll,” he said.

Like many Indigenous communities, residents on Palm Island are more than two-and-a-half times more susceptible to chronic diseases such as kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. NACCHO senior medical advisor Jason Agostino said treatment was made harder due to severe health staff shortages. “If it’s harder to get an appointment and it’s more difficult to see people that know you … then managing your chronic disease becomes more complicated,” Dr Agostino said. “So what we’re concerned about is people won’t have chronic health concerns picked up earlier and they might have them picked up later when they’re already a bit sick.”

To view the ABC News article ‘One of the busiest cemeteries in the nation’ fills up as chronic health complications linger on Palm Island in full click here.

Gavin Congoo says the frequency of funerals on Palm Island is taking a toll on the community. Photo: Jade Toomey. ABC News.

Jalngangurru Healing in Kimberleys

On the banks of the Fitzroy River in the Kimberley’s central desert, a group of women gather. They run their hands over the knee of a patient and sing an ancient song. Their meeting is part of a program called Jalngangurru Healing — a pilot project that works with cultural healers to treat patients in the outback Kimberley. The women’s practices are slow and meditative, and among the people of Fitzroy Crossing are said to be effective.

Jalngangurru Healing was developed in 2019, and was aimed at engaging cultural healers to help patients who were complaining of ailments beyond the reach of other health providers. While some families in the Kimberley have their own private access to traditional healers, Jalngangurru tries to “bridge the gap” for those who don’t. The project was put on pause during the COVID pandemic but has recently returned in Derby and Fitzroy Crossing.

Work is also underway to develop a model on how the program can be rolled out across the Kimberley. The pilot is funded by the WA Primary Health Service and is supported by the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service as a part of its suicide prevention strategy. It is auspiced by the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre with Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation and is being evaluated by the Nulungu Research Institute to improve access to services like bush medicine, songs, smoking, maternal health, and palliative care.

To view the ABC News article Jalngangurru Healing links cultural healers with patients in outback Kimberley in full click here.

The women tend to aches and pains, as well as mental illlness. Photo: Andrew Seabourne. ABC Kimberley.

Gel to improve chronic would care

The pigment that gives plums, grapes and berries their deep purple hue could be a key to better health care for people living in remote Australia. That’s the focus of University of Southern Queensland student Dinuki Seneviratne’s PhD project, which involves developing gel wound dressings using the anthocyanin pigment. Ms Seneviratne is investigating using anthocyanins as pH indicators, meaning the dressings would change colour to show whether a wound is healing or deteriorating.

She said the project aims to create better chronic wound care for people in remote areas, particularly Indigenous Australians, who may live far from health services. Several Australian studies have shown First Nations people are more likely to have amputations after suffering diabetes-related chronic wounds than those who are non-Indigenous. “Chronic wound care is an area of great concern when it comes to First Nations’ health,” Ms Seneviratne told AAP. “People often can’t achieve the same type of care they would get in a metropolitan area. I want to make a hydrogel dressing that is effective in healing and preventing chronic wounds and is self-applicable, so there’s no worry about coming into a clinic.”

To view the Bendigo Advertiser article Purple patch to help remote health care in full click here.

Uni student Dinuki Seneviratne wants to improve chronic wound care for people in remote areas. Image source: Bendigo Advertiser.

Our Vision in Our Hands

The Indigenous Eye Health Unit at University of Melbourne refreshed its Advistory Board this year to have majority Indigenous membership chaired by the esteemed human rights leader Pat Anderson AO, who is an Alyawarre woman. It is one step in a move towards Indigenous leadership throughout the organisation. Another significant shift saw the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Conference Leadership Group that led the organisation and development of the 2022 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Conference.

This year’s conference saw a significant shift, with the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Conference Leadership Group (CLG). This transition should be seen in the wider context of the long, ongoing journey to expand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and self-determination into eye care. This shift in leadership is strongly reflected in this year’s theme, Our Vision in Our Hands, set by the CLG, which represents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and ownership of eye health.

This year’s theme is significant as it shows in clear and plain terms the centrality of self-determination to any effort to improve eye care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Moreover, this year’s theme is written from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective for the first time, which also indicates the internal shift in the leadership of the conference, to the all-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander CLG.

To view the Croakey Health Media article Our Vision in Our Hands: eye health conference highlights shift to First Nations leadership in full click here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are three times more likely to suffer blindness than the general population. Image source: The Senior.

Mob invited to speak about medicines

NPS MedicineWise are inviting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to speak about medicines. This will inform the MedicineInsight system and tools that doctors and some ACCHOs can use to improve medicines use.

NPS would like to invite you to help them know what they need for these tools. Once they have made some new tools, they would like to ask you whether they should change them. This will mean online meetings to talk about what they should do. These meetings will happen between September and November.

Your comments will help improve the tools and ensure that they reflect the point of view of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. The resources will be used for MedicineInsight and published online.

For attending the meetings NPS can give you a gift voucher of $50 per meeting, up to $200.

To express your interest in taking part in this project contact Shannon Barnes, MedicineInsight Program Governance Officer, using this email link.

You can find out more about MedicineInsight by clicking here and here.

Image source: The Senior.

Scholarships for women in health sector

Women & Leadership Australia is dedicated to supporting women leaders to achieve their leadership potential, and they are pleased to be able to offer scholarships of up to $5,000 for women working in the Health Sector. When it comes to career advancement, for many women, gender inequity is still a barrier. More than 8 in 10 of women leaders surveyed by Women & Leadership Australia were concerned about dealing with gender bias in the workplace, and more than 7 in 10 were concerned about their limited opportunities for promotion.

By supporting more women to step into leadership positions, Women & Leadership Australia hope to improve opportunities for women in the workplace. They have programs designed for women with limited leadership experience through to executive leaders and scholarships are available across four key levels.

You can access more information about the scholarship here and APPLY for a scholarship here.

Participants in Indigenous leadership course ACU. Image source: ACU website.

National Birthing on Country Conference

The Best Start To Life: a national gathering is an initiative of the Molly Wardaguga Research Centre and the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. First Nations women, community advocates, scholars, researchers, health service providers and clinicians will attend the conference from Monday 10 to Wednesday 12 October 2022 to reflect on the achievements and challenges of returning maternity and childbirth services to First Nations communities.

It follows on from the first Birthing on Country meeting, held in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) 10 years ago, where the Australian Maternity Services Inter-jurisdictional Committee, in collaboration with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), held the first national workshop to progress Australian Government commitment to Birthing on Country.

The conference provides an opportunity for delegates from across Australia to showcase new research and ideas, and to network and invest in a shared vision to address inequities in birthing services for First Nations mothers and babies.

For more information about the conference click here.

Image from the Best Start to Life: a national gathering website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

World Alzheimer’s Day

Today is World Alzheimer’s day.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that impairs memory and other mental function. It is the most common form of dementia that causes memory loss and loss of cognitive abilities causing difficulties with daily life. Raising awareness for individuals with Alzheimer’s and their families is an important part of the work done by Alzheimer’s charities all over the world.

You can access Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and Dementia: A Review of the Research – A Report for Alzheimer’s Australia, Paper 41 October 2014, by Professor Leon Flicker and Kristen Holdsworth here.

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease click here. and for more information about world Alzheimer’s Day click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Aunty Jill’s bowel cancer journey

The image in the feature tile is of Jill Gallagher AO. Image source: Australian and NZ School of Government (ANZSOG) website.

Aunty Jill’s bowel cancer journey

When Gunditjamara woman Jill Gallagher was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer aged 54, she began self-reflecting on lifestyle choices which led her to this point. The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation CEO lived a busy life and found herself constantly tired and overworked, factors she blamed for her diagnosis. Ms Gallagher had experienced fatigue and persistent diarrhoea but had not associated the benign symptoms with bowel cancer.

After undergoing two major surgeries to remove sections of her bowel, part of her liver and growths on her diaphragm in 2010, Ms Gallagher said the path to recovery was lonely. “I’ve always been a very strong woman and never suffered with depression in my life until then, in the recovery phase, waiting to have chemo, waiting to see if I’m going to survive or die,” she said.

“The hospital took care of my medical needs, but there’s not a lot to take care of your emotional and spiritual needs.” After medication left her feeling unmotivated, Ms Gallagher turned to culture for comfort through the Healesville sanctuary where her son worked.

Ms Gallagher is among one in 15 Australians who will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately, it is a cancer which can almost always be treated if detected early. She wants her experience 14 years ago to serve as a warning to others out there to get checked and make use of free screening for those aged 50 to 74.

To read the National Indigenous Times article When Aunty Jill needed guidance while recovering from cancer, Bunjil the creator spirit was there for her in full click here.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

Black Up! national camp for young mob

Blak Up! is a national First Nations event, led by the First Nations Team at Foundation for Youth Australian (FYA) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 16-35 years old. The time is now to build power and create connections for our future – a Blak future. The all Blak line-up will be a 4-day camp, all expenses paid including travel, featuring yarns from Elders and experienced campaigners, practical workshops, art and performances from Blak musicians. Blak Up! will help guide young mob to create connections with each other, strengthening bonds across these lands, and support them to create change in their own communities.

This idea came out of the nation-wide consultation we did for our First Nations Strategy – young mob told us that they wanted more opportunities to gather, connect and learn across communities and generations. The 50 young participants will be selected from applications by a panel of First Nations people. The First Nations team are encouraging and prioritising applications from young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 16–35 years who have lived experience in the justice system, State care, mental health system, housing precarity and those mob who live remote, rural or regionally.

We want Blak Up to be an inclusive and safe place for young First Nations parents, young people with criminal records, disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ communities. There will not be drugs or alcohol allowed at this event. If you have young people in mind who would love to come but need additional support to attend (such as a person to travel with), please get in touch to discuss.

You can find key information about Black Up! here, a flyer here and an information pack here. Young mob who are interested in this event can apply here by Friday 30 September 2022. If you have any questions, please book in a time to discuss here or call 0478 772 390.

Kimberley Mum’s Mood Scale audit results

The Kimberley Mum’s Mood Scale (KMMS) project emerged from the concerns of Kimberley healthcare professionals that the mainstream perinatal depression and anxiety screening tool, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), was inappropriate for Aboriginal women. The first phase of the project involved a community based, participatory research action project with over 100 Kimberley Aboriginal women and 72 healthcare professionals to determine appropriate ways to screen for common perinatal mental health disorders. The resulting KMMS was validated in 2016 through a clinical trial involving 91 Kimberley Aboriginal women.

In 2017 funding was received funds from the National Health and Medical Research Council and WA Department of Health to progress the transferability of the KMMS in other geographic areas and implement the KMMS into routine clinical practice across the Kimberley. During 2017-2022 the KMMS was implemented in the Kimberley.

A recent audit of KMMS implementation demonstrated that it is the primary perinatal depression and anxiety screening tool across the Kimberley Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. Central to all phases of this project has been Aboriginal voice, participation and leadership. This has included ongoing consultation with Aboriginal women (end users); a strong team of Aboriginal Investigators; and robust partnerships with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

You can access the Implementation of the Kimberley Mum’s Mood Scale across Primary Health Care Services in the Kimberley region of Western Australia: a mixed methods assessment research article here as well as a plain language report for community here and a plain language report for clinics here.

Image from KMMS module. Image source: AMSED.

New tool to identify patient sepsis

Sepsis is a life-threatening time critical condition that can occur when the body is fighting any bacterial, viral or fungal infection. It can be difficult to diagnose sepsis as it can be masked behind minor visible symptoms, and if not treated quickly, can lead to organ failure and death. A new tool is being piloted at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD)’s Westmead Hospital, that will help clinicians assess a patient’s risk of sepsis while they are in the emergency department (ED) waiting room.

The Sepsis Risk Tool Dashboard combines a patient’s age, gender and vitals and calculates a sepsis risk percentage for each patient to support the clinician in assessing if sepsis is a risk or not. This dashboard has been designed to complement the existing Sepsis Kills program which was initiated by the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC). “There are other sepsis detection algorithms, but none focus on the ED waiting room, which is where sepsis is most likely to remain undiscovered,” said Dr Amith Shetty, Senior Staff specialist at Westmead Hospital and Clinical Director of NSW Health. “This is what makes this tool unique; it ensures that patients who are waiting for care are not missed or deteriorate.”

To view The Pulse article Innovative new tool to identify patient sepsis risk in Western Sydney emergency departments in full click here.

Image source: The Pulse.

Know your heart disease risk

When you have a family history of a disease, this means a member of your family has, or had that disease. Generally, if you have a family history of a heart condition, you may have a higher risk of developing a heart condition. Inherited conditions are caused by a fault (or mutation) in one or more of your genes. If one of your parents has a faulty gene, there’s a chance you’ll inherit it. Some common inherited conditions are:

  • Heart muscle diseases
  • Life-threatening heart rhythms
  • Very high cholesterol levels.

Family history is more complex. Rather than just a single faulty gene, it could be a combination of shared genes and environments passed down from one generation to the next, which increases the risk of developing a disease. Let your doctor know if you have a family history of heart disease. A Heart Health Check is recommended from the age of 45 (from 30 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples), but your doctor may want to assess your risk of developing heart disease earlier if you have a family history of heart disease. You may not be able to change your family history or genetics, but you can make positive changes to your lifestyle to lower your risk. Adopting the following healthy lifestyle habits can help lower your chances of developing heart disease:

  • Be smoke free
  • Do regular exercise
  • Eat a heart healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Lower your alcohol intake
  • Look after your mental health
  • Manage high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Manage diabetes.

To view the Heart Foundation webpage Know your risk: Family history and heart disease in full click here.

Image source: Heart Foundation.

NT Health Professional of the Year Award winner

A Pine Creek health practitioner has been named among the NT’s most outstanding primary health care workers that were recognised at the NT Health Professional of the Year Awards. Chris Rankine-Johnson from Top End Health Service in Pine Creek was named the Territory’s AMSANT Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner of the Year.

Over the past 12 months, Mr Rankine-Johnson has worked tirelessly to ensure the Pine Creek community was well engaged with health services, hosting BBQs and community meetings on his days off to discuss the risks and benefits of COVID-19 vaccinations. He has provided the community with much needed reassurance, practical assistance, and comfort measures, and also took opportunities to develop and implement other primary and preventative health care initiatives, including a program assisting diabetic patients to effectively manage their medication. The health professional was also recognised for helping raise school attendance in the community and his engagement with local families has led to increased health checks, health literacy and immunisation rates.

To view the Katherine Times article Pine Creek health worker Chris Rankine-Johnson recognised in NT Health Professional of the Year Awards in full click here.

Pine Creek’s Chris Rankine-Johnson among the other winners in this year’s NT Health Professional of the Year Awards. Image source: Katherine Times.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: This is not about money, profit or turf

The Pixabay image in the feature tile is from the ABC News article Pharmacist prescription trial proposed as possible solution to the GP shortage faces indefinite delays, 23 August 2022.

This is not about money, profit or turf

Dr Jillann Farmer, a Brisbane-based GP and former Medical Director of the United Nations has written an article for the Medical Journal of Australia’s InSight arguing that when something looks simple, it can deceptively create a sense that the work is simple. The ease with which health professionals exercise heuristic skills to rapidly synthesise patient demographic and social circumstances, comorbid conditions, pathology and epidemiology and arrive at a diagnosis and treatment choice make that expertise largely invisible and has likely contributed to an overall perception that most of what GPs do is simple and can be safely and appropriately done by alterative health professionals with significantly less training and experience. Some of the work GPs do absolutely can be done by others. But the health system needs those decisions to be informed by actual expert practitioners.

The North Queensland pharmacy trial, an election promise of the Palaszczuk government, followed on the urinary tract infection (UTI) treatment trial/pilot which allowed patients to present to a pharmacy and be dispensed antibiotics for a UTI. There have been significant concerns expressed about the diagnostic acumen of pharmacists in this space – prescribing based on symptoms alone. GPs do the same if we treat a UTI by telehealth, but for most, that is the exception, not the standard.

The UTI program seems to have emboldened the Queensland Government, and the North Queensland Pharmacy Trial was born. The proposal could cut doctors (not just GPs, but all doctors) out of decisions to diagnose and initiate prescription medicines of some pretty significant diseases. Hypertension and diabetes were on the original list where pharmacists would be able to diagnose and prescribe. The details of the proposals are not public domain, but within current funding frameworks, it seems almost impossible that pharmacists would be able to implement current guidelines for appropriate care to the same standard as doctors.

It is of particular concern that the trial was proposed for a region of Queensland where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are a significant proportion of the population. So we target an already disadvantaged population and substitute care that cuts them off from recommended diagnostic and management capabilities. It is no wonder that NACCHO expressed opposition to the trial.

To view the InSight+ article Give GPs problems to solve, not election promises in full click here.

Image source: RACGP newsGP webiste.

What a male midwife learnt in Arnhem Land

It was a dry Thursday afternoon in Arnhem Land, NT, when young mum Tanisha’s [name changed for privacy] waters broke at just 23 weeks of gestation. Approximately 417 kms from the nearest hospital, an aircraft and doctor chaperone were flown in to her remote Aboriginal community within a few hours of the call for medical evacuation. But Tanisha felt anything but relief when her medical retrieval arrived. The doctor disembarking the aircraft was a man, and in her Aboriginal culture it is taboo for men — including medical practitioners — to interact with women about ‘women’s business’.

In an interesting plot twist, however, Tanisha requested for her male midwife Christian Wright to come with her and be present for the birth. Aside from being one of just 448 men to be working in midwifery in Australia (1.6% of the total workforce) Christian is no ordinary practitioner. Recognising the sensitivities around men and women’s interactions in Aboriginal culture, Christian has always thought outside the box about how he can make his patients feel comfortable.

His trust building with Tanisha began early in the antenatal process, when he learnt the local language and used cultural linguistic cues to convey empathy and earn trust. “Speaking to people ‘in language’ is a great way to help them feel culturally safe. In some Aboriginal cultures though, there are other important linguistic considerations,” he said. “For example, when discussing taboo subjects, like women’s health, men should use alternative, almost euphemistic, variations to formal language, to minimise embarrassment.”

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article What I’ve learned as a male midwife in Arnhem Land in full click here.

Midwife Christian Wright. Image source: ABC Conversations Radio National Twitter.

Must be more than a day of checking in

In 2019 WA Coroner Ros Fogliani delivered the results of her inquest into the deaths of 13 children and young people in the Kimberley. The report is incredibly distressing to read and hollows you out with every page you turn. 13 Aboriginal children and young people who died as a result of hanging, with all bar one considered definite suicide (the other being an open finding). The Coroner explained in meticulous detail the cycle of violence, inter-generational trauma, complexities of distance and circumstances which saw the premature death of 13 people aged between 10 and 24 years of age.

What desolate desperation these children and young people must have faced, with hope so lost, that they thought the only solution was suicide. Case 12 was a young man, part of the Wungu community, born in 1994 and he died at age 20. Growing up his health was very poor, at 18 months of age he was presented to Katherine Hospital with anaemia, gastro and abscess so bad it required surgical intervention. At age six, he was referred to a child psychologist where he stated that he wanted to kill himself. Age six. In his mid-teens he witnessed multiple incidents of domestic violence between his parents.

Last Friday was R U OK? Day.If you asked an Indigenous person that question, the chances are that things are pretty tough. In truth we need to move beyond a single day of checking in (which is the real message of RUOK? Day) because if we’re ever going to start making positive change and turning the tide of suicide, it’ll only be a concerted and constant effort of talk the hard truths and face our struggles together.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Things can be tough for Indigenous people. RUOK Day needs to start a conversation for change in full click here.

Photo: Emily Jane Smith. Image source: ABC News.

Milestone contract to deliver GP training

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has signed a milestone contract with the federal Health Department to deliver GP training in Australia from 1 February 2023. It is the largest medical vocational training contract entered into in history by an Australian Government. The signing of the contract comes after the transition of GP training back to Australia’s specialist medical colleges, the RACGP and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), was announced in October 2017 by then federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price welcomed the signing of the contract, “Just as general practice is integral to our health system, GP training is fundamentally important to provide our next generation of GPs, who will care for our communities into the future. We are working to make this a seamless transition, with as little disruption to the delivery of GP training as possible. We are also working closely with numerous stakeholders to make this happen, including the Department of Health, peak bodies representing GP supervisors and registrars, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation or NACCHO, rural workforce agencies and clinical schools, primary health networks, state health organisations, local hospitals and community health services, the list goes on.”

To view the medianet article RACGP welcomes milestone contract to deliver GP training in Australia in full click here.

Dr Tarun Patel trained as a GP in the NT and worked at Wurli Wurlinjan, an Aboriginal Medical Service in Katherine. Image source: ACRRM website.

‘Empathy’ key in dementia care

Nearly 500, 000 Australians are living with dementia. Its most common form, Alzheimer’s disease, is set to cost $26.6 billion over the next 20 years. Dementia, a degenerative brain disease, affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks, interfering with a person’s normal social or working life. First nations’ voices have rarely been heard on dementia care and health services have not always been developed with Indigenous people in mind.

Speaking at the two-day International Dementia Conference 2022 in Sydney last week former Olympian and federal senator Nova Peris – the first Aboriginal woman elected to federal parliament – said dementia care for Indigenous Australians needed to draw on best practice overseas and Indigenous consultation. “Don’t try and reinvent the wheel, look to world’s best practice … acknowledging and respecting the work that’s already been done in the first nations space,” Ms Peris said. She urged the aged care sector to have empath front and centre when caring for Indigenous people with dementia. “Empathy having that understanding of that person’s life and the care that you provide for them, makes them happy,” the former federal politician said.

To view the HealthTimes article ‘Empathy’ key in Indigenous dementia care in full click here. You can also read a related AgedCare News article IDC2022: our wrap-up of a conference promising a Brave New World ahead in full here.

Bidyadanga residents with dementia are supported by workers at the community care centre. From left: Angelina Nanudie, Zarena Richards, Rosie Spencer and Faye Dean. Photo: Erin Parke, ABC Kimberley.

Strengh-based approach to kids’ health needed

First Nations children represent the future of the world’s oldest continuing culture. Of the 66,000 Victorians who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in the 2021 Census, one-third were aged under 15 years. First Nations children in Victoria are doing well in several health outcomes, a recent Aboriginal Data and Action on Prevention Together (ADAPT) report, available here, has found. This report provides valuable insight into nutrition, physical activity and wellbeing among First Nations children living in regional Victoria.

The survey found more than 300 First Nations primary school children were meeting guidelines for physical activity, healthy eating and screen time. Those who met these guidelines also had higher health-related quality of life. However, the study is rare. Before the report, there was no information available about nutrition and physical activity among primary school-aged First Nations children in Victoria.

To examine First Nations childrens’ health, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers from Deakin University partnered with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), the peak body representing Victoria’s Aboriginal community-controlled health sector. VACCHO’s nutrition team works to improve food security and nutrition outcomes among Aboriginal communities across Victoria.

To view The Conversation article Rather than focusing on the negative, we need a strength-based way to approach First Nations childrens’ health in full click here.

Aboriginal childrens’ health data needs to steer away from negative focuses by balancing the findings with respective community’s progresses. Photo: Dan Peled, AAP. Image source: The Conversation.

Indigenous-led research positions

The University of Melbourne Indigenous Studies Unit, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences has two positions available:

Postdoctoral Research Fellow – Indigenous Studies

This is an exciting opportunity to become involved in leading Indigenous health research with a passionate and dedicated team. We are seeking a highly motivated Postdoctoral Research Fellow with a research background in qualitative and/or mixed methods research, particularly using action research approaches. As a member of the NHMRC funded ‘Improving understandings of and responses to alcohol-related family violence for Aboriginal people’ team, the successful applicant is expected to contribute to independent and team-based research aiming to develop the evidence base of alcohol misuse and family violence within Indigenous communities using innovative theoretical and methodological approaches, combining theories of medical anthropology, social network analysis (SNA) and Indigenous Studies.

The successful applicant will be expected to contribute to the development of high-quality research projects and play a key role in the production of outstanding quality outputs. The successful applicant will also contribute to the supervision of honours, Masters and/or PhD students. Indigenous Australians are strongly encouraged to apply for this position.

For more information about the position and details of how to apply click here.

Research Fellow – Indigenous Data Network

The Indigenous Data Network (IDN) is seeking a highly motivated Research Fellow with a background in quantitative and/or mixed methods research, with experience in data linkage. The IDN is a national consortium of organisations and individuals led by the University of Melbourne, within the Indigenous Studies Unit, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population & Global Health. The Research Fellow will be expected to make significant contributions to existing projects and to the development or extension of new, innovative research.

The Research Fellow will work with the IDN leadership team to drive Indigenous data ecosystems transformation, and to develop and undertake ongoing community-led research and national and international engagement. The role will include significant engagement and governance activities with key stakeholders including universities, Federal, State and Local Governments, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities, and private and non-profit organisations.

For more information about the position and details of how to apply click here.

Students from the University of Melbourne Indigenous Knowledge Institute. Image source: University of Melbourne website.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Impact of alcohol-free pregnancy campaign

The image in the feature tile is from the Menzies School of Health Research webpage PANDORA – pregnancy and neonatal diabetes outcomes in remote Australia.

Impact of alcohol-free pregnancy campaign

To mark International FASD Awareness Day, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) has released data that demonstrates the impact of the Every Moment Matters campaign – Australia’s first, nation-wide public awareness campaign supporting alcohol-free pregnancies and safe breastfeeding practices.

Developed by FARE and endorsed and funded by the Australian Government, Every Moment Matters aims to increase Australians’ awareness of the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy, and increase the number of Australian women who intend not to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

With the tagline ‘The moment you start trying is the moment to stop drinking’, the campaign features nationally on television, radio, digital and out-of-home channels and runs until July 2024. The results of the ongoing evaluation led by the University of Adelaide demonstrates that Every Moment Matters is overcoming the mixed messages people often receive about alcohol and pregnancy.

As part of the broader program of work, NACCHO has designed a culturally appropriate awareness raising campaign with regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. NACCHO CEO Pat Turner said, “FASD is a whole of community issue. We look forward to launching the Strong Born campaign with ACCHOs across rural and remote Australia next month. The campaign will support mums, their families, their communities, their health practitioners and health services, to bring everyone together to help prevent and better understand the issues that contribute to FASD.”

You can find the joint FARE, NOFASD Australia and NACCHO media release Celebrating 9 months of impact on 9 September: International FASD Awareness Day on the NACCHO website here.

Referendum Working Group announced

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney has announced members of the Referendum Working Group which will establish the path to a Voice to Parliament. Speaking at the Centre for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) State of the Nation conference at the National Museum of Australia, Ms Burney outlined a “working group of First Nations leaders” with Senator Pat Dodson and herself as co-chairs.

The Referendum Working Group will collaborate with the government to consider and navigate “the big questions” in the next following months. The minister said getting the groups working is the first step, with building a “broad consensus of community support” and “harnessing the goodwill in the Australian community to take Australia forward” being the following.

“[There are] many more steps to be taken on the road to the referendum and let’s be clear government cannot lead this referendum,” she said. “This will come from the grassroots, from communities, because the Voice is a nation-building project.” Included among the  group of 22 are:

  • Co-chairs of Uluru Dialogue Professor Megan Davis and Pat Anderson AO
  • Co-chairs of the Indigenous Voice co-design group Professor Marcia Langton AO and Professor Tom Calma AO
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO, NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM and former Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.

To view the SBS article Linda Burney outlines next referendum steps including working group with Ken Wyatt in full click here.

Image source: National Indigenous Times website.

Dedicated to fighting for mental health

Australians of all ages and backgrounds are increasingly at risk of mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Paul Bird and Alex Speedy of the National Wellbeing Alliance, a First Nations-owned and -operated training provider dedicated to fighting for mental health, are right on the forefront of advocating for “acceptance” of the devastating, hidden conditions plaguing many in the region.

The two spoke to students from Murgon, Proston and Goomeri schools at last month’s careers expo at the Murgon Cherbourg Youth Hub, extending helping hands to those wishing to speak out and start the journey of recovery. “Mental health issues are bad – they’re definitely on the increase,” Mr Bird said. “People are getting younger with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm – and it’s not just for Indigenous people, it’s through all societies and countries!”

The pair are based out of the Murgon area but hold workshops for ‘mental first-aid’ wherever they are needed most -equipping people to have those all important conversations and to be able to respond in a mental health emergency. “Alex is a community member, born and bred here, and my father was born here, but I was born in NSW,” Mr Bird explained. “Through a turn of events I’ve come back to my father’s country to facilitate and engage with community through workshops and mental health first-aid.”

To read The Burnett Today article Locals join in tackling mental health crisis click here.

National Wellbeing Alliance workers Paul Bird and Alex Speedy are passionate about helping others improve their mental wellbeing. Photo: Julian Lehnert. Image source: Burnett Today.

Number of WA ACCOs to increase

The WA Government has announced a new strategy to strengthen the delivery of services to Aboriginal children, families and communities by increasing opportunities for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCO) to deliver culturally appropriate services. The ACCO strategy is directly aligned to Priority Reform Area Two of the 2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap, “Building the community-controlled sector.”

The ten-year strategy was developed by representatives from 11 ACCOs across the State, Department of Communities and the Department of Finance. It aligns to several Priority Reform Areas and Socio-Economic targets identified within the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and aims to empower Aboriginal children, families and communities to choose their own futures from the foundations provided by ACCOs.

“Aboriginal people across WA have repeatedly told us that to truly change outcomes, Aboriginal communities must lead the way, and that is achieved through community-based and family-led solutions,” Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said. “ACCOs usually achieve better results, employ a majority of Aboriginal workforce and are the preferred providers by Aboriginal people over mainstream services,” she continued.

To view The Sector’s article WA Gov will boost the number of ACCOs to improve services for First Nations families in full click here.

Image source: The Sector.

Physiotherapist making a difference

As an elite hockey player, Candice Liddy knew her strength was positioning: putting herself in the right place to maximise the team’s opportunity of moving forward and getting a goal. “There were other players who could run all day, but I just knew I had to be in the right spot,” she says.

Candice lives in Darwin, where she was born and raised on Larrakia land. Her grandparents on her dad’s side were part of the Stolen Generations, taken from other parts of the NT as children to live at Garden Point Mission on Melville Island. Her father grew up in Darwin and nearby Howard Springs but was evacuated after cyclone Tracy in 1974 to Brisbane, where he met Candice’s mother, who was born in India, and moved to Australia with her family.

Sporting talent runs in the family and also led Candice to a career in physiotherapy. Playing for many years at State level for the NT, she noticed the team physiotherapists were good at working in the athletes’ best interests while keeping them game-ready, and they also got to travel with the teams. “I wanted those skills and that lifestyle, and I was going to work as hard as I could to get there.”

A later non-clinical role brought her experience in remote communities as a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) planner, where she quickly realised that all the planning in the world would be useless if services weren’t available where they were needed. “And that’s when I thought, You know what, there’s a gap. A gap I’m trained to fill.”

To view the Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) article 2022 World Physiotherapy Day in full click here.

Candice Lidday. Image source: IAHA website.

Prostate cancer, know the symptoms

The Cancer Council of WA (CCWA) is urging men to visit their doctor and learn the common symptoms of prostate cancer this month. CCWA Great Southern regional education officer Bruce Beamish said prostate cancer awareness month was the perfect chance for men to learn more about how their bodies might be telling them something is wrong. He said unlike for breast, bowel and cervical cancer which have screening tests to confirm the presence of cancer prior to symptoms presenting, there is no such test for prostate cancer. Therefore, it is “vital” to visit a doctor, Aboriginal health care worker or clinic nurse when unusual symptoms present.

“Common symptoms of prostate cancer include waking a lot at night to pee, a sudden or urgent need to pee, problems starting or stopping peeing, needing to pee more often, a slow or weak flow when peeing, or dribbling at the end of peeing,” he said. “These symptoms can be found in other conditions but if you have had any of these for more than four weeks, or you’ve noticed blood in your pee or semen even just once, tell your doctor, clinic nurse or Aboriginal health worker as soon as possible. “It doesn’t mean you’ve got prostate cancer — often it turns out to be something far less serious and your doctor may be able to help reduce the annoying symptoms.”

To view the Broome Advertiser article Men urged to learn the symptoms during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in full click here.

Image source: Vitalii Abakumou, Getty Images, iStockphotos.

Emergency relief centre for Gippsland mob

A groundbreaking emergency relief centre to support members of East Gippsland’s Aboriginal communities in times of crisis is getting underway thanks to a $2.4 million investment by the Andrews Labor Government. Minister for Emergency Services Jaclyn Symes joined Member for Eastern Victoria Tom McIntosh and representatives of the Lake Tyers Aboriginal community to announce the funding and hear about their vision for the new centre.

The Lake Tyers Emergency Relief Centre project will bring together Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC), Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust and Lake Tyers community to co-design a supportive, safe and secure space for Aboriginal communities within Lake Tyers during and after a bushfire disaster. The centre will also bring community together for activities and meetings outside of emergencies.

The need for the dedicated relief centre was identified following the devastating 2019-20 Eastern Victorian bushfires, during which over 1,000 known registered Aboriginal heritage places were damaged and hundreds of Aboriginal Victorians were affected.

To read The National Tribune article First Relief Centre For Aboriginal Community In Gippsland in full click here.

Terylene Hood says residents need a place where they can be comfortable during an emergency. Photo: Bec Symons, ABC Gippsland.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Doomadgee launches first ACCO

The image in the feature tile is from the ABC News article Doomadgee Aboriginal organisation spells end of ‘failed, wasted services’, say local leaders, 2 September 2022. The image caption is ‘The only path to success is one that keeps Indigenous culture at the heart of any programs delivered, Goonawoona Jungai leaders say’. Photo: ABC Open Contributor Kane Chenoweth.

Doomadgee launches first ACCO

Over the past 15 years, the quality of life has not improved in the remote Aboriginal community of Doomadgee. That is despite the Queensland budget overview saying hundreds of millions of dollars in state and federal funding had been thrown at programs and services for Indigenous people over the years. Now, for the first time in Australia, a group of First Nations people are taking power off the government to end years of “failed, duplicated and wasted services”, said Doomadgee Aboriginal Shire Council chief executive Troy Fraser. “At the moment, we find a lot of service delivery is very fragmented and duplicated because the government has been at the helm for a long time and one thing they don’t do well is talk to each other,” Mr Fraser said.

The community’s first Aboriginal community-controlled organisation, Goonawoona Jungai Ltd, launched last week. Mr Fraser said Goonawoona Jungai would be made up of First Nations residents, would stop organisations from copying and pasting programs with weak KPIs into the community, and would help foster services that delivered tangible results. “There is a lot of wastage around resources, around funding. Outcomes and objectives and KPIs that don’t fit in with our practices,” he said.

To view the ABC News article Doomadgee Aboriginal organisation spells end of ‘failed, wasted services’, say local leaders in full click here.

The first community-controlled Aboriginal organisation has been launched in Doomadgee. Photo: Larissa Waterson, ABC North West Qld.

Local CT scans for Torres Strait communities

A new computed tomography (CT) scanner will be installed at Thursday Island Hospital early next year, giving Torres Strait residents access to vital medical imaging services closer to home. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath announced the $2.14 million project when they visited the hospital yesterday. “This is an exciting addition to the region’s health services,” the Premier said. “We know how important it is for First Nations communities to receive health care as close to home as possible. Once this machine is installed, people living in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area will no longer have to travel to Cairns for CT scans.”

To view the Joint Statement from Queensland Premier and Minister for the Olympics, the Hon. Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister for Health and Ambulance Services, the Hon. Yvette D’Ath Local CT scans soon to be a reality for Torres Strait communities click here.

Photo: Jessica Shapiro. Image source: The Canberra Times.

Women’s health declining

Women are continuing to suffer from the health effects of the pandemic regardless of whether they have contracted COVID-19 or not, a new survey has found. The national survey – conducted by researchers for women’s health organisation Jean Hailes – found there had been a significant decline in women’s physical and mental health since the pandemic began. Nearly half of the 14,000 survey respondents said their physical health had declined, citing weight gain, fitness loss and muscle and joint pain as the most common problems. One in five respondents said their mental health had stopped them engaging in everyday activities and 17% reported a pre-existing mental health condition had worsened.

Researchers had expected there would be a significant recovery in women’s health but the data collected for the survey revealed the opposite, Monash University Global and Women’s Health director Jane Fisher said. “We haven’t seen the bounce back in physical or mental health we were expecting to see by now,” she said. The survey also highlighted major health inequities particularly for women living with a disability, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, and in LGBTIQ and First Nations communities.

Nearly 45% of all women said they could not afford to see a doctor or health professional. But the same problem was reported by 70% of women speaking a language other than English, 62% of those with a disability and nearly half of Indigenous women. More than half of women from a non-English speaking background said they could not find health information in their own language.

To view The Canberra Times article Survey reveals decline of women’s health in full click here.

Photo: NATSIHWA. Image source: National Rural Health Alliance.

 

Bringing equity to adolescent health

Working as a youth mentor in his early career, Seth Westhead developed a strong sense of the health and well-being priorities of young Indigenous Australians. Now as co-lead of the Adolescent Health Group in the SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute) Wardliparingga Aboriginal Health Research Unit, he’s working with colleagues to collect evidence and create positive change.

“Support for mental health, addressing racism and discrimination, access to education, health services and employment; these were the big issues then and still now,” Seth says. Seth and the Adolescent Health team at Wardliparingga are leading the development of the first national strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent health. “It’s important to focus on this age group so we can provide support to young people before health crisis or chronic disease have a chance to become established,” Seth says. “But marching in and trying to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do won’t work – young people have to be a part of the process.”

The strategy focuses on people aged 10-24. “We’re asking Indigenous youth what they really want and need to support their health and wellbeing,” says Seth. “We find they engage really well using online platforms.” Once the survey work is complete, the evidence gathered will help create better, more accessible health and well-being services for young Indigenous people.

To view The Lead Health & Medical article Wardliparingga is bringing equity to adolescent health in full click here.

Seth Westhead and the Adolescent Health team at Wardliparingga are leading development of the first national strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent health. Image source: ABC News.

Setting a course for change

When she left high school, Dr Talila Milroy thought becoming a journalist was the way for her to advocate for Aboriginal social justice. She certainly never thought she would become a GP. Luckily for her patients, she didn’t enjoy the media and communications course and not long after, decided a switch to medicine, with a strong feeling it would better satisfy her goals around social justice, health care education and research. “I knew there was a huge discrepancy between the health of Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people. Medicine seemed like the place where I could make the biggest impact. I chose psychology as my major in my science degree which has worked in well.”

A Yindjibarndi and Palyku woman, Talila grew up in Perth, with family in the Pilbara. When she was 13, her mother got a job in Sydney, so she finished school there.  Talila was the only Indigenous medical graduate in her 2015 class at the University of Sydney. She spent her intern and resident years at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. With a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from the University of Sydney, Talila also has a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psychology. 

She spent her undergraduate years working in the Faculty of Economics and Business at Sydney University, The Garvan Institute and Moreton Consulting. She gained further experience doing her rural general practice medical school placement in Roebourne and medical elective team at the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern.  Earlier this year she was awarded her Fellowship with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. She lectures at UWA’s Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health and is considering a masters and PhD.

To read the Medical Forum article Setting course for change in full click here.

Dr Talila Milroy. Image source: Medical Forum website.

Dental Health Week 2022 wrap-up

For this year’s Dental Health Week (DHW), which ran from 1 to 7 August, Australians were asked to love their teeth, with a campaign concept designed by talented ADA member, Dr Elice Chen. Promoting the importance of dental self-care was a timely one, with some Aussies having let their oral health fall by the wayside during the Covid-19 period, and with a good number only just getting back to the dentist.

In an effort to increase the oral health knowledge of non-dental professionals, the ADA holds webinars for other health associations and organisations. During Dental Health Week, ADA held a webinar for members of the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners (NAATSIHWP) to provide an oral health update. The webinar was facilitated by Indigenous dental practitioners, Dr Georgia Clarke, and Ms Kirrily Phillips.

To view the Australian Dental Association article Loving their teeth: Dental Health Week 2022 wrap-up in full click here.

Dr Georgia Clarke. Image source: Brookwater Dental Facebook page. Oral Health Therapist Kirrily Phillips. Image source: 2019 QAIHC Youth Health Summit website.

Prison smokes ban will lead to ‘black market’

The ACT’s Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) is preparing to go smoke-free. Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services CEO Julie Tongs said the government’s plan to ban smoking at the prison is “ridiculous” and could lead to a black-market in contraband tobacco. “There’s no way it will be a smoke-free jail,” said Tongs. “Tobacco will become another contraband. At the moment it’s about $60 for a pouch of tobacco and if they ban it they’ll be paying $300 or $600 depending on the market. It’s ridiculous.”

To view the CBR City News article Smokes ban will lead to ‘black market’ in prison in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Sector Jobs

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

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

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Housing to meet minimum standards by 2031

The image in the feature tile is of the remote NT community, Yarralin, west of Katherine. Photo: Hamish Harty. Image source: ABC News article FOI documents show NT government previously forecast it would not meet target to build 650 remote houses in five years, 5 April 2022.

Housing to meet minimum standards by 2031

State and territory governments will be required to ensure all First Nations houses in homeland communities and town camps meet or exceed minimum standards for essential services within the next decade, under new targets agreed by the Joint Council on Closing the Gap. The Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, the Assistant Minister, Malarndirri McCarthy, and their state and territory counterparts met Aboriginal peak bodies in Adelaide last Friday to discuss progress on social, health, economic and educational indicators.

Burney said all jurisdictions must come together to address the inequities that too many First Nations people experience across the country. “The importance of closing the gap cannot be underestimated,” she said. Access to essential services and poor housing conditions are a problem for many Indigenous families, particularly those in remote and regional areas. States and territories have agreed in principle that essential services – including to households within town camps or town-based reserve – should meet or exceed “jurisdictional standards.”

To view The Guardian article Closing the Gap: states and territories pledge to lift First Nations housing standards in full click here.

Photo: Dr Simon Quilty. Image source: ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health webpage.

Former NRL player now R U OK? ambassador

In his early 20s Kevin Heath fell into a depression he didn’t see coming. The proud K’Gari Indigenous man and former Rugby League player said it was a single conversation which helped him start tackling his mental health and eventually build the life he once might have dismissed as a fantasy. Rocking his eight-month-old daughter, Mr Heath said it was an experience he wouldn’t wish on anyone. “It was through that experience that those close to me told me I needed to speak to somebody,” Mr Heath said.

The former Rugby League player is now a community ambassador for R U OK?, an Indigenous Health Outreach Worker in south east Sydney, and founder of sport-specific training and mentoring company Dream Time Academy. He said his personal experience with mental health proves the message of the R U OK 2022 campaign – that you don’t need a fancy degree to be qualified to ask a mate “are you OK?”.

The article RUOK Day 2022: Kevin Heath, mental health advocate, Dream Time Academy founder referred to above appeared in the Daily Telegraph here.

Kevin Heath. Image source: Daily Telegraph.

GPs fill mental health system gaps

Dr Tim Senior, a long-standing GP at Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Service, an ACCHO in South West Sydney, and a Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Indigenous Health at Western Sydney School of Medicine has co-authored a article for InSight+ with Louise Stone, a GP with clinical, research, teaching and policy expertise in mental health and Associate Professor in the Social Foundations of Medicine group, ANU Medical School and works in youth health.

In the article they say “GPs are used to filling gaps in the health system. Over our careers, we have lived through times where we are seen as underqualified and then essential to a range of services, including maternity care, dermatology, sexual health and more recently, urgent care, infectious disease and psychiatry. An ability to flex with community need is one of the core capacities of generalists, and enables the health system to rapidly adapt to changing community need.”

“If we are to understand and respond to the breadth and depth of mental health issues in the community, we need to think beyond simplistic views of episodic “disorders”. General practice mental health care ranges from disorder management, to prevention, to individual trauma (domestic violence, sexual abuse, medical trauma), to crisis (natural disasters, major medical illness) to life stressors (eg grief, suicide postvention) to social harms (discrimination, harassment) to existential crises (infertility, death and dying).”

To read the InSight+ article General practice: the liquid in the mental health system in full click here.

Dr Tim Senior. Image source: RACGP newsGP.

More NT nurses transition to Country

Ten Territory nurses will spend the next 12 months building their skills and providing services to remote communities under the Transition to Remote Practice Program. This year is the first time the program recruited a second cohort of participants. They will join the 12 nurses who commenced the program at the beginning of 2022. The program is designed to bolster the Territory’s remote nurse workforce and help nurses develop a broad range of skills to cover emergency care and general primary health care issues with a focus on culturally safe practice and Indigenous health needs.

Over the next 12 months the second intake of nurses will work at health clinics including: seven nurses will be stationed in the Top End region including Jabiru, two in Wadeye, Palumpa, Peppimenarti, Gunbalanya and Wurrumiyanga. Two nurses will be based in the East Arnhem region, including Alyangula, and Angurugu.One nurse will work at the health clinic in Numbulwar in the Big Rivers region.

Nurses receive a Transition to Primary Health Care Certificate following completion of the program, enabling them to apply for remote area nurse positions. To view the Chief Minister of the NT, Natasha Fyles media release Another Cohort of Territory Nurses Transition to Country click here.

Below is a short video of the Mpwelarre Health Service Clinic Manager, talking about her work in Santa Teresa, a remote NT town of 600 people. Mpwelarre Health Service is a community controlled health service led by the Mpwelarre Health Aboriginal Corporation. is one of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress’ five remote health services.

Prisons an opportunity to address complex health needs

Police watch-houses present a unique opportunity for medical interventions in high-risk populations, according to the authors of an article recently published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The authors examine the opportunities to “intercept a vulnerable, complex and otherwise hard-to-reach population, and identify unmet health needs” in Queensland police watch-houses.

The report said 43 of the 505 deaths (9%) in police custody between 1991 and 2016 occurred in a police station, police vehicle, police cell, or watch-house. Almost half of those were deaths due to a medical cause (49%). Lead author Julia Crilly, Professor of Emergency Care at Griffith University, studied the key challenges for people and systems responsible for the health and safety of detainees in short-term custody alongside her colleagues.

“As a group, [police watch-house detainees] are largely disconnected from health services, so beyond their immediate, untreated health problems, comparatively little is known about underlying and unaddressed social determinants,” the paper stated. Issues such as substance dependence, mental illness, and chronic health conditions like hypertension and asthma are all significantly more prevalent than in the general population for vulnerable groups. “This is especially evident for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who represent 30% of the custodial population despite comprising only 3.3% of the Australian population.”

To view The Mandarin article Police watch-houses offer opportunity to address complex health needs in full click here.

Melbourne Remand Centre. Photo: Joe Castro, AAP. Image source: The Mandarin.

New forum to give young leaders a voice

Aboriginal youth need to stand up to reverse the declining state of social justice in Australia’s North West, according to the organiser of a young leaders group. The first Empowered Young Leaders Kimberley Youth Gathering was held this week on Gooniyandi Country at a remote Kimberley community. More than 50 Aboriginal youth aged 18–35 were encouraged to raise their concerns at the meeting hosted as part of a series of AGM’s held at Kupartiya Community for the Kimberley Land Council.

West Kimberley Empowered Young Leaders Coordinator Toni Wajayi Skeen said the youth forum was a long time coming. “When you’re constantly being talked to and being told about your community issues you feel as thought you don’t have a say in decisions that affect yourself and community, we intended this space to be solution based,” she said. “We are asking for young people to have a seat at the table, to make their own decisions and create their own voice. In terms of the social justice issues here, it has gotten worse. We hear this term that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, but what are we doing today to make sure they are the leaders of tomorrow.”

To view the National Indigenous Times article New forum launched to give young Kimberley Indigenous leaders a voice in full click here.

Attendees of the first Empowered Young Leaders Kimberley Youth Gathering. Image source: National Indigenous Times.

myGov is changing soon

myGov has given people a simple and secure way to access My Health Record for many years. But the way people use government services is changing, so myGov is getting an upgrade to meet these growing needs. If you access My Health Record through myGov, you’ll start noticing some changes soon.

When myGov changes, you won’t need to do anything different. You’ll still find myGov at the same web address, use the same sign in details and all your linked services will stay the same. The upgraded myGov will be modern, offer personalised information about government services and have a new look.

When your My Health Record is linked in your myGov account, the important health information that you and your healthcare provider organisations have added can be viewed securely whenever it’s needed, including in an emergency.

You won’t need to do anything different to access My Health Record through myGov.

Explore the changes and learn more here. You can do everything you currently do in myGov using myGov Beta – it’s just as safe and secure.

The myGov eKit will help you inform people in your community. You can download the myGov community resources here so you can let people know about the changes.

Sector Jobs

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

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

Women’s Health Week 2022

In 2013, realising that there was no event dedicated to women’s health in Australia, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health ran the very first national Women’s Health Week. Thousands of women across Australia subscribed to take part in a week of events and online activities, learning more their health.

Now in its 10th year, Women’s Health Week is a celebration of women in Australia, women from all walks of life. In 2021 (despite a second year impacted by lockdowns and restrictions), more than 128,000 women participated in 2.277 events, over 54,000 women subscribed to the online campaign and we reached over 3.6 million people via social media. Women’s Health Week is recognised as the biggest week for women’s health and wellbeing in Australia and takes place annually in the first week of September.

For more information about Women’s Health Week visit the Jean Hailes for Women’s Health website here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Rut of policy failure linked to colonial ideas

The image in the feature tile is from The Mandarin article Reports point to failed Indigenous policies, 20 June 2020. Image source: Getty Images.

Rut of policy failure linked to colonial ideas

An article Colonial ideas have kept NZ and Australia in a rut of policy failure. We need policy by Indigenous people, for the people, available here, by Dominic O’Sullivan, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, Auckland University of Technology and Professor of Political Science, Charles Sturt University was recently published in The Conversation. In the article Adjunct Professor O’Sullivan says “Crisis is a word often used in politics and the media – the COVID crisis, the housing crisis, the cost of living crisis, and so on. The term usually refers to single events at odds with common ideas of what’s acceptable, fair or good.

“But in NZ, Australia and elsewhere, Indigenous policy can be portrayed as a different kind of crisis altogether. Indeed, it can often just seem like one crisis after another, one policy failure after another: poor health, poor education, all kinds of poor statistics. A kind of permanent crisis. Policy success, on the other hand, often doesn’t fit the crisis narrative: record low Māori unemployment, for instance, or the Māori economy being worth NZ$70 billion and forecast to grow 5% annually. It may be that crisis makes better headlines. But we also need to ask why, and what the deeper implications might be for Indigenous peoples and policy in Aotearoa NZ and Australia.”

Image source: Shutterstock, The Conversation.

AMA President on health workforce woes

AMA President, Professor Steve Robson spoke yesterday on ABC AM about the health workforce, saying “I think if the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that you can’t have a healthy economy without healthy Australians and that means a healthy workforce. So we need to future-proof the system and because it takes so long to train a doctor, it takes so long to get experience as a healthcare worker, there is no time to waste. All of the changes to the system need to be made now.”

Professor Robson wants incentive programs that’ll encourage more medical graduates to go into general practice, particularly in remote and regional areas, saying “It’s going to mean working conditions, it’s going to mean remuneration, it’s going to mean respect from the Government to make it a job that people want to do.” The same approach needs to be applied to public hospitals to make them more attractive workplace as well. It’s all part of the AMA’s National Health Workforce Strategy, which tries to match community needs with how many doctors need to be trained in particular specialist areas and geographic regions. It means funding more specialist training placements and regional training and research hospitals.

You can view the transcript of the AMA President’s interview in full here. You can also view a related AMA media release Implementing health workforce plan must be a priority for government here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander interpreter. Image source: ABC News.

COVID-19 and vax updates for mob

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care have developed a range of COVID-19 vaccination resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. General COVID-19 vaccine information communication materials, including videos (such as the one below), radio advertisements and interviews, social media, fact sheets, posters and newsletters are available here. In addition subscribers can receive regular newsletters featuring COVID-19 and vaccines updates and other health updates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. You can view the newsletter collection here and also subscribe to the newsletter email list here.

ACCOs should have greater control in CP cases

In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children are nearly 10 times more likely to be removed from their families by child protection services compared to non-Aboriginal children. And data shows the number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care is projected to double by 2029. “The figures are appalling, and we should all hang our heads in shame,” Tanya Harper, from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), said. “Today in 2022, we are continuing to create yet a new generation of stolen children.”

The data, released by Family Matters, has led to renewed calls for Aboriginal-controlled organisations to be given greater control over Indigenous children needing out-of-home care across the country. Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Jamie-Lee Maynard-Burgess knows what it is like to be removed from her family and her culture. She spent much of her childhood in out-of-home care.

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal organisations should be given more control over Indigenous kids in child protection system, advocacy group says in full click here.

Image: Paul Strk, ABC News.

Medicine shortages affecting sector

The NACCHO Medicines Policy and Programs team would like to notify you about a few recent medicines shortages affecting our sector, including:

tenecteplase (Metalyse) injection: shortage predicted to extend over the next 18 months, TGA has extended shelf-life of some batches by 12 months

semaglutide (Ozempic) and dulaglutide (Trulicity) injections: stock is predicted to return to normal supply by the end of August 2022

benzathine benzylpenicillin tetrahydrate (Bicillin L-A) injection: anticipated shortage has been resolved without issue

It is important that ACCHO and patient ordering remains consistent with previous orders, so that medicines are available for the entire sector. Please discourage stockpiling and hoarding behaviours which can prolong shortages or create inequities.  

The Medicines Supply Security Guarantee including the introduction of Minimum Stockholding Requirements (available here on the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) webpage) should help reduce the impact of global medicine shortages that interrupt supply of medicines. Manufacturers will be required to hold a minimum of either 4 or 6 months’ of stock in Australia for certain PBS listed medicines.  

You can search for updates on all shortages at here on the Therapeutic Goods Administration website and subscribe to NACCHO’s monthly medicines newsletter here for tailored advice around shortages and general medicines issues for the sector. To nominate any specific medicines that would result in serious and immediate problems for your ACCHO (for example those with no possible substitute used for life-threatening conditions), contact the NACCHO Medicines Policy and Programs team here.

For further information you can access a NACCHO Medicines Policy and Programs team letter here.

Mike Stephens – Director, Medicines Policy and Program at NACCHO and a registered pharmacist. Image source: Making Connections.

Growing and supporting health workforce

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, says representatives from across Australia’s health workforce including unions, employers and other stakeholders met today to discuss how best to grow and support this vital sector – already Australia’s largest source of employment. Over the next two months the Minister for Health and Aged Care will continue to meet with frontline health care workers, including students and those who have recently left their positions, to understand their issues and what governments can do better.

The feedback from these meetings will inform and advise our new Health Workforce Taskforce as well as the Jobs and Skills Summit process. The Government’s health workforce priorities are: ensuring secure, well-paid jobs, supporting skilled workers throughout their career, and creating a safe work environment.

To view the Minister Butler’s media release Growing and Supporting our Health Workforce click here.

UniSA’s Horizon Hospital and Health Service. Image source: University of SA website.

Cervical screening options for mob

Most women have their cervical sample collected by their health professional. Some women who have never been screened or are overdue for screening may be more comfortable taking their own sample (called self-collection).

Self-collection is one way you can choose to do your Cervical Screening Test every 5 years. It involves collecting your own sample from your vagina, in a private space. These instructions help you to collect your own sample, so you can prevent cervical cancer and live long and strong for yourself and your family.

The Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care have developed a document specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, providing information on the Cervical Screening test and options available for screening. The document, Cervical Screening Test – how to collect your own sample, available here, including an illustrated 10-step instructions.

For further information and to order the cervical screening self-collection resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women click here.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Inquest hears tragic victim statements

The image in the feature tile is of the sign outside the Doomadgee Hospital in the remote north-west Queensland. Photo: Louie Eroglu ACS. Image source: ABC Far North article Queensland coroner to travel to remote Doomadgee for rheumatic heart disease inquest published on 20 May 2022.

Inquest hears tragic victim statements

Family members of three women who died from complications associated with rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in the remote Gulf community of Doomadgee have given emotional victim impact statements to the inquest into their deaths. The three young women, whose families requested they be referred to as Kaya, Ms Sandy and Betty, died in 2019 and 2020.

Outside court, Alec Doomadgee, the brother of Ms Sandy and cultural father of Kaya, said the world needed to know the women were human beings and a crucial part of their families. He hopes the inquest would help bring these women’s lives — and the injustice they faced — to the public’s attention. He said that, if Kaya had been white, her treatment at various hospitals would have been very different. “It is an issue of race. It is an issue of systemic racism, institutionalised racism, and it is an issue of stereotyping Aboriginal people,” he said.

“We’re sick of being helped. We know what’s best for us, and we know how to help ourselves. We just need you to start listening to us.” He called on the state government to take real action and responsibility. “[Ms Sandy] didn’t die due to neglect, didn’t die due to negligence. She died because the system and the people [who are] supposed to help didn’t care.”

To view the ABC News article Inquest into deaths of three Indigenous women in Doomadgee hears tragic victim impact statements from family in full click here.

Alec Doomadgee, Ms Sandy’s husband, Edgar Sandy, and her daughters — Tinisha, Ellisha and Simona — outside the court. Photo: Holly Richardson, ABC News.

Traumatic brain injury data project

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the largest contributor to death and disability in people who have experienced physical trauma. There are no national data on outcomes for people with moderate to severe TBI in Australia. Details of a study to o determine the incidence and key determinants of outcomes for patients with moderate to severe TBI, both for Australia and for selected population subgroups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, was published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) earlier today. The findings will be disseminated by project partners, including NACCHO, with the aim of informing improvements in equitable system‐level care for all people in Australia with moderate to severe TBI.

To read the MJA article The Australian Traumatic Brain Injury National Data (ATBIND) project: a mixed methods study protocol in full click here.

The news of this study comes at the end of this year’s Brain Injury Awareness Week which ran from15–21 August with the theme Life is bigger than a brain injury. For further information about Brain Injury Awareness Week, including access to stories of those living with brain injury, you can access Synapse Australia’s Brain Injury Organisation website here. Below is a video relating to a previous study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traumatic brain injury.

Kowanyama dog control a big job

As the sun begins to take the chill out of the morning air, a litter of puppies emerges from its den of building materials on a vacant block of land. Soon the puppies disperse onto the streets, disappearing among dozens of other dogs that roam without boundary across Kowanyama, a remote Indigenous township in Queensland’s far north. The western Cape York community has a problem with loose dogs. They fight, they breed uncontrollably, they attack other animals and sometimes, they turn their attention on humans.

Samuel ‘Sinker’ Hudson, Kowanyama’s animal control officer is part of a small team of people trying to change the way locals care for their animals in Kowanyama. And he has a big job on his hands. There are 455 dogs registered with Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council, about one for every 2.5 people in the community. It’s not known how many unregistered dogs there are, and unchecked breeding is an issue.

To view the ABC News article Kowanyama dog control reduces disease and keeps community safe, but more is needed in full click here.

Takeaway grog ban hotly debated

As communities in northern WA search for solutions to alcohol-fuelled violence and harm, a proposal to severely restrict takeaway grog is subject of a hotly contested debate. The state’s director of liquor licensing, Lanie Chopping, has been investigating whether all takeaway alcohol except light beer should be banned in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions since mid-2020. Crime rates, domestic violence and antisocial behaviour have led to the regions being compared to war zones.

The inquiry was launched after an application in 2019 by former police commissioner Chris Dawson in an effort to reduce alcohol abuse; his successor, Col Blanch, has given in-principle support. While it’s been met with widespread backlash from the tourism and hospitality sectors, which believe it would damage the area’s reputation, leaders in health care and social services have different views.

To view the ABC News article As officials consider a ban on most takeaway alcohol in northern WA, what do people on the ground say? in full click here.

The proposal has drawn a mixed response from the Pilbara community. Photo: Xavier Martin, ABC News.

Successful early childhood program

The school-based program, Getting on Track in Time has received a substantial financial boost to continue its fantastic work. A highly successful Aboriginal early childhood program has received a $2.7 million funding boost to ensure even more young children, their families and educators are skilled in discussing and managing, challenging emotions and feelings. Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said the Getting On Track In Time program – or GOT IT! – was culturally adapted for Aboriginal communities in partnership with local Aboriginal health services and piloted over four years with positive results.

“This program has united parents, teachers, mental health workers and Aboriginal people to achieve an important goal – to support young Aboriginal children to recognise, regulate and talk about any troubling thoughts and feelings they have,” Mrs Taylor said. “I am delighted more families will benefit from this excellent program, which was developed by South Western Sydney Local Health District in collaboration with local Aboriginal people.” Designed for children aged three to nine years, Aboriginal GOT IT! is a school-based program led by a team of mental health workers (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal). Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said the program aims to support children, families and educators to address emotional or behavioural concerns in children and reduce the emergence of mental health concerns later in life.

To view the NSW Government media release $2.7M for successful Aboriginal early childhood program in full click here.

Female prisoners need protection

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services, is calling on the ACT government to guarantee that female inmates at Canberra’s jail are safe from predatory prison officers. It follows disturbing allegations of inappropriate relationships between prison officers and female detainees and ex-detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

On May 12, Tim Rust – a former senior director of operations at Canberra’s prison – blew the lid on a long-standing culture of drug taking and inappropriate behaviour among some corrections officers. Rust’s allegations – which have been referred to the ACT Integrity Commission –  include cocaine-fuelled staff parties, hot-tub photos with senior and junior prison staff, an affair with an ex-inmate and attempts by prison authorities not to fully investigate the substance of the matters.

Ms Tongs said she was deeply “concerned” by the allegations and has written to three key ACT ministers seeking an assurance that female detainees are safe. The ministers are ACT Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman, Minister for Women Yvette Berry and Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne. “I’m calling on the ACT Government to guarantee the safety of the women detained in the AMC,” Tongs said.

To view the Canberra City News article Protect women from prison predators, says Tongs in full click here.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO Julie Tongs. Photo: Greg Nelson, ABC News.

Innovative pathway to study medical career

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with aspirations of pursuing a career in medicine are encouraged to consider a University of Newcastle pathway program, which could set them on the journey to realising their dream.

The Miroma Bunbilla Program is an alternate entry pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates applying for the University of Newcastle’s Joint Medical Program (JMP). Each year, up to 17 places are set aside for applicants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent for admission into the JMP. There are currently 70 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enrolled in the JMP, and to date, 110 Indigenous doctors have graduated from the medicine program.

The five-day intensive assessment Miroma Bunbilla program, will be delivered from December 5 to 9, pairing students with mentors to successfully start medical school. In 2020, the program was extended beyond Newcastle to reach those outside the Hunter region and now also runs in Armidale, Moree, Tamworth, Taree and Orange.

Applications for the Miroma Bunbilla Program are now open and close on 31 October 2022. For further information about the program and how to apply click here.

Medical student Kieran Shipp. Photo: University of Newcastle. Image source: National Indigenous News.

New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.