NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: $4.4 billion gap in funding for First Nations health

$4.4 billion gap in funding for First Nations health

An Equity Economics report commissioned, and released today, by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has identified a $4.4 billion gap in Commonwealth, State and Territory Government and private health expenditure.

The report’s findings are alarming and highlight some of the obstacles to improving the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Conservative estimates indicate there is a gap of $5,042 in health expenditure per Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person.

Pat Turner, CEO of NACCHO, said, ‘It is no wonder that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to live lives 8-9 years shorter than other Australians. It is no wonder that our children are 55 times more likely to die of rheumatic heart disease than non-Aboriginal children.’

The report’s calculations account for the burden of disease being more than twice the rate for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population than for the non-Aboriginal population, which translates to at least twice the cost-of-service provision.

Donnella Mills, Chair of NACCHO said, ‘I am disturbed by the findings of this report and how extensive the funding gap is. How can we improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when there is a $4.4 billion funding deficit? Structural reform and substantial funding investment is required and we have shown how this process can commence in our last pre-budget submission.’

Pat Turner said, ‘The Commonwealth has had the opportunity to fix its share of the funding gap in three big-spending budgets focused on stimulus measures during the pandemic. If it had invested in our sector, it could have delivered, at the same time, financial stimulus to the 550 local economies where our services are located.’

‘NACCHO calls upon all governments ahead of the election to close the funding gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.’

The full report can be accessed on NACCHO’s website here.

NACCHO’s media release can be viewed on the NACCHO website here and two related infographics are available here.

Image of NACCHO CEO Pat Turner AM in The OZ article It’s time to close the health gap between Australians. 9 May 2022.

NACCHO CEO contributes to The Policymaker

The James Martin Institute for Public Policy (JMI) has today launched The Policymaker, a new digital publication for policymakers across Australia, profiling policy innovations and new insights on significant and hard policy challenges. From public health to education reform and the circular economy, The Policymaker covers a wide spectrum of contemporary issues. To tackle these challenges, contributing authors present new, practical, insights drawn from their expertise or experience. Launch authors include: Laureate Professor Peter Doherty AC, (Melbourne) Nobel Prize-wining immunologist and pathologist, Professor Ian Hickie AM, (Sydney) Co-Director of the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, Professor Veena Sahajwalla (UNSW), 2022 NSW Australian of the Year, and Ms Pat Turner AM, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

The articles written for the launch of The Policymaker represent the range and ambition of JMI which aim to give policymakers in NSW and across Australia easy access to leading thinkers from a diverse range of disciplines and areas of practice, in order to propel the policy discussion forward.

To view the JMI media release Peter Doherty AC and Pat Turner AM among those contributing ideas to shape the future of Australian Public Policy in full click here.

Doctors struggle to communicate with mob

Doctors at Royal Darwin hospital struggle to communicate with Aboriginal patients, and that shortcoming can sometimes be fatal. A podcast featuring Aboriginal elders answering doctors’ questions aims to help better deliver culturally safe care.

On Health Report with Dr Norman Swan on ABC Radio National How doctors communicate with Indigenous patients hosted by Tegan Taylor with guest Vicki Kerrigan, a  from the Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin.

In the Royal Darwin Hospital there is a well documented divide, the majority of the patients are Aboriginal and the majority of the healthcare provides are not and the culture and language barriers wrapped up in this have real health implications for patients. Vicki Kerrigan, a researcher in intercultural communication at the Menzies School of Health Research has found that doctors really want to deliver good care to Aboriginal people but they aren’t always sure how to, so she and her colleagues have created a podcast that brings together common questions that healthcare workers have and put them to the experts in this case Aboriginal leaders. The podcast is called Ask the Specialist – Larrakia, Tiwi Yolgnu stories to inspire better health care.

You can listen to the ABC Radio National Health Report episode here.

Photo: Johnny Greig, Getty Images. Image source: ABC Rational National website.

PrioritEYES survey closes this FRIDAY!

Attention all Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations. The PrioritEYES eye health and vision care survey is CLOSING THIS FRIDAY!  

A link to complete the survey has been sent from NACCHO to all member services CEOs and Practice Managers via email.   

We need to hear from you to help us determine the priorities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander eye care. 

The survey closes on Friday 13 May 2022, have your say!

$6.1m boost for Preventing FASD Project

Mental Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the McGowan Labor Government is expanding WAs successful Preventing FASD Project with a $6.1 million funding boost to be included in the upcoming State Budget. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) describes a range of permanent and lifelong conditions caused by prenatal alcohol exposure, including physical, mental and behavioural disabilities. Developed as part of the McGowan Government’s Commitment to Aboriginal Youth Wellbeing in 2020, the Project aims to reduce the incidence of FASD by raising awareness that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause permanent damage to the brain of the developing baby.

To view the WA Government’s media release $6.1 million to boost to Preventing FASD Project to change lives for the better in full click here.

Image source: The Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education website.

Living with COVID-19 resources for mob

A range of COVID-19 resources list below have been developed by the Australian Government Department of Health specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, covering the following topics:

  • I have COVID-19. What should I do?
  • Get tested if you feel unwell
  • COVID-19 can affect everyone in our community
  • I have COVID-19 and feel really sick. When should I call 000?
  • Look after yourself while you’re isolating at home
  • Don’t be shame
  • Easily spread
  • Keep 2 big steps away from people
  • Stay at home. Stop the spread.

You can download all of these resources from the Department of Health’s website here.

Don’t be shame tile from Department of Health website.

National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study

As part of the National Plan to Respond to the Abuse of Older Australians, the Attorney-General’s Department commissioned an extensive empirical examination of elder abuse in Australia, the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study. The report notes that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, the understanding of elder abuse is situated within the history of colonisation and its consequences, including dispossession from traditional lands, removal of children and the disruption of cultural norms in relation to respect and care for elders. Research on elder abuse among Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander communities is scarce but existing sources have drawn attention to cultural norms concerning resource sharing being distorted as a lever for financial abuse. The ‘I never thought it would happen to me’ report concluded that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older people are at ‘greater risk’ of elder abuse and that it may occur at a younger age for these groups.

Further research on elder abuse among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups outside of WA is also required, including research that takes into account the diverse circumstances of communities in rural, regional and remote areas in keeping with recognition of the need for policy and services to be developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in a culturally safe way such research should be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

You can view the National Elder Abuse Prevalence Study: final report on the Australian Institute of Family Studies website here and watch a No More Humbug animation illustrating the negative effects of financial abuse of Aboriginal elders below, from the Kimberley Community Legal Services website.

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: History is Calling Campaign

History is Calling Campaign

A new education campaign pushing for a First Nations voice to parliament is being rolled out by the creators of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The History is Calling campaign will urge Australians to answer the Uluru Dialogue’s 2017 invitation to legally enshrine First Nations people in the constitution via a referendum as an urgent election issue. Uluru Statement leader Roy Ah-See said First Nations people had been “at the whim” of consecutive governments that had failed to protect their rights and it was “long overdue” for their voice to be constitutionally enshrined. “The data’s there, in terms of overrepresentation in the criminal justice system, health statistics, infant mortality rates; it’s appalling, we’ve gone backward,” he said.

“In 1967, I was six months old when … non-Aboriginal citizens of this country gave my mother citizenship. Now it’s time to give my kids a voice in this country and future generations and we can do that through a referendum. “We don’t want a green voice, we don’t want a red voice, we don’t want a blue voice: we want a black voice.” Ah-See said the Uluru Statement was “never for the politicians”, but was a gift to the Australian people, who were best placed to vote on constitutional recognition. “Consecutive governments haven’t had our best interests at heart and legislation isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “The momentum’s there, the mood has shifted. We’ve lost a lot of First Nations people that haven’t seen a voice realised. It’s time.”

To view the article Australians urged to back Indigenous voice to parliament in History is Calling campaign published today in The Guardian click here.

some of the women artists who created the artwork surrounding the Uluru Statement from the Heart sitting around the painting on ground near Uluru

Some of the artists who created the artwork surrounding the Uluru Statement from the Heart in-situ. Photo: Clive Scollay. Image source: Barani Sydney’s Aboriginal History website.

ACCHO staff present at Sax Forum workshop

The Sax Forum is an initiative through which the Sax Institute is helping to share knowledge across its membership and understand what we can do better together. Earlier this month nearly 200 people from the Institute’s member organisations, Aboriginal-controlled health services and NSW Health met online to discuss how best to work collaboratively with Aboriginal communities while conducting important health research.

Attendees heard insightful presentations from speakers who have been intimately involved in working with Aboriginal communities to produce impactful Aboriginal-led research., including Jamie Newman, a Wiradjuri man and CEO of the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) who stressed how important research is in his sector. “We are very open to research and we understand why it is so critical for us,” he said. In order to secure funding, “we need to provide evidence that we have researched what we’re doing and properly evaluated what we’re doing. Evidence-based needs are what governments want to fund.” He said researchers should go out and meet people in the AMSs and start building partnerships and relationships, not just contacting them when they want a partner for a grant application. “We are more than happy to talk to universities, individual researchers. We’re open to everyone who can add something to our service, and if you can do that, the door will be open.”

Another speaker, Christine Corby OAM, CEO from Walgett AMS, spoke about the importance of conducting research that is respectful, builds relationships and contributes to local capacity. Any research program must reflect the needs and interests of the community, she said. Sandra Bailey, Senior Adviser in Aboriginal Health at the Sax Institute, joined the panel discussion after the presentations and provided some background to the partnership work that led to the creation of the Coalition for Research to Improve Aboriginal Health.

You can watch a video of the workshop in full below and access the relevant Sax Institute webpage here.

Mob 2.5 times more likely to visit ED

Westmead, Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals are the subject of a new $2.8 million research project that aims to improve the safety and quality of care in emergency departments. Macquarie University will lead this project addressing the needs of people with complex health conditions, who often spend longer than average there and have worse outcomes than the general population when they attend an emergency department — including greater likelihood of multiple return visits. This includes people who are older; have a disability; present with a mental health condition; are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; and/or come from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds

Macquarie University has been awarded $2,836,550 from the Medical Research Future Fund for this 5-year project led by Associate Professor Robyn Clay-Williams at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation. The  project will work to improve people’s experience while they are in the emergency department, reduce their length of stay and improve their care outcomes — including receiving a diagnosis or treatment plan, or being admitted to a hospital ward.

Associate Professor Robyn Clay-Williams, who will lead the project said “These communities have higher rates of presentation to emergency departments than other Australians and improving their care will reduce hospital waiting times for everyone.” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples visit an emergency department 2.5 times more than other Australians and their rate of metal health presentations is more than four times higher. People with a disability visit emergency departments twice as often as people without disability. People over the age of 85 years have the highest rate of presentation to emergency departments.

To view the article $2.8 million to reduce emergency wait times in western Sydney hospitals published in The Pulse click here.

Image source: The Pulse website.

Our Kids Count birth registration campaign

The NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (the Registry) is hitting the road to promote the registration of Indigenous births with the Our Kids Count campaign. NSW Registrar Amit Padhiar said Our Kids Count would visit the Central West and Orana region to provide on the ground support to help Aboriginal parents register their child’s birth. “Birth certificates are an essential pathway to enrol in school, open a bank account, join sporting clubs, enrol to vote and apply for a job, a driver licence or a passport,” Mr Padhiar said. “Ensuring kids have a birth certificate as soon as possible makes it easier for them and their families when growing up and navigating life.”

What you need to know about registering bub

  • It’s free
  • Hospitals do not register bub for you
  • Medicare and Centrelink do not register bub for you
  • It’s bub’s right to be registered within 8 weeks of birth

To view the media release in full click here.

Calls to improve lives of First Nations children

The peak national body for Indigenous children, the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), has called on the major parties contesting the upcoming Federal election to deliver policy to improve the lives of First Nations children. SNAICC – National Voice for our Children wants to see investment into prevention and early support services for families led by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, and creation of a National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children.

SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle said policy change was needed for the Federal Government to start to close the gap. “Under the national partnership all governments have agreed to work with the Coalition of Peaks to reduce over-representation in out of home care by 45% by 2031,” she said. Ms Liddle said by achieving these targets there would be a reduction in child removals from families and pressure on the justice system. “Our children will have a better start in life with access to quality, community-controlled early childhood education and services,” she said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Peak Indigenous children’s body puts Federal election wish-list on the table in full click here.

SNAICC CEO Catherine Liddle. Image source: SNAICC website.

36,000 NSW mob impacted by floods

Thousands of NSW school students, including 16-year-old Wirajduri student Ethan Lyons, have participated in a march to raise awareness about the severity of climate disasters such as the recent floods across NSW and Queensland and call on the state government for more action on climate change. Mr Lyons, one of the organisers, pointed specifically to how Indigenous Australians are “disproportionately affected by the climate crisis”, and that more action was needed by the federal and state governments to move towards renewable energy by 2030. At the height of the floods, it is estimated that more than 36,500 Indigenous residents who live in the officially declared natural disaster zones in NSW had been directly, or indirectly, impacted by the natural disaster.

Cabbage Tree Island, where multi-generational Aboriginal families have lived for more than 100 years, was particularly hit hard during the relentless floods. Both state and federal governments have committed to disbursing $70 million to build new homes for more than 170 residents who were displaced. An extra $50 million will also go towards the repair and reconstruction of Aboriginal community infrastructure owned by Local Aboriginal Land Councils.

To view The Rural News article NSW students walk out for climate policies article in full click here.

cleaning up after floods

More than 180 residents live on Cabbage Tree Island, NSW in 23 homes. Photo: Rani Hayman, ABC News.

Women the victims of forced evictions

Julie Tongs, CEO Winnunga Nimmityjah (Strong Health) Aboriginal Health and Community Services was one of 14 to sign an open letter – addressed to ACT Housing Minister Yvette Berry and Minister for Homelessness and Housing Services Rebecca Vassarotti and signed by community organisations working with vulnerable Canberrans living in public housing – calling on the ACT government to end all forced relocations under the scheme, and instead revert to a voluntary, opt-in program of relocation.

87% of social housing tenants to be forced from their homes under the ACT’s government’s Growth and Renewal program are women living alone or with children. 61% have disabilities, chronic health conditions or are caring for dependents who do, and 17% of tenants facing evictions are single mums with children. The data – captured through a survey of the affected tenants conducted by Canberra Community Law also shows that 14% of tenants affected by the scheme are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people. “It is this cross section of elderly tenants, women, people with disabilities and people with lived experience of mental illness that makes this group of tenants particularly vulnerable,” the letter reads.

To view the CBR City News article Revealed: Women the victims of Housing’s forced evictions in full click here.

Image source: Women’s Agenda.

Ahpra to recruit 7 permanent identified jobs

Ahpra is excited to be recruiting seven (7) permanent Identified positions who’ll play an important role in creating a culturally safe healthcare system free of racism for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples:

The positions will be supported by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Unit and are linked to implementing deliverables in the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025.

Please apply for these exciting roles here and share with your Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander networks who want to be a part of driving safer healthcare.

If you’d like any further information on the roles, a contact and their details have been provided on the job listing.

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.

Lung Health Awareness Month

Respiratory diseases are conditions that affect the airways, including the lungs and the passages that carry air from the mouth and nose to the lungs. Common conditions include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. Nearly one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a respiratory condition; with Asthma and COPD contributing to the highest burden of disease.

May is Lung Health Awareness Month and aims to raise awareness about the importance of lung health and the signs and symptoms of lung disease. Anyone, no matter your age or background, can get lung disease – it affects approximately 1 in 4 Australians and is the second leading cause of death in this country, with 45 Australians dying of lung disease and lung cancer every day.

Despite this, many people ignore the signs and symptoms of lung disease for far too long. Breathlessness – A cough lasting more than 3 weeks – Fatigue are just some of the signs many of us ignore or put down to aging and lack of fitness. Don’t miss the signs that something isn’t right. Taking action could save your life.

You can access the Lung Foundation Australia website here which includes:

  • a checklist of lung disease signs
  • an interactive Lung Health Checklist
  • lung health tips: commit to quit smoking; prevention is your best protection; protecting your lungs at work; lifestyle matters

You can access more information about respiratory health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website here.

Willy Willy Lungs by proud Badimia, Noongar, Yamaji artist Nerolie Bynder. Image source: Telethon Kids Institute Many Health Lungs website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Midwife program closing infant mortality gap

Image if the feature tile is by Aboriginal photographer Bobbi-lee Hille, Daily Mail.

Midwife program closing infant mortality gap

When Kelsey Muhl’s midwife caught her new baby in a hospital shower it was a shared moment between two women who had built a relationship over months. “Gravity helped,”  The mother of three described her latest birth as poles apart from her earlier experiences. Ms Muhl and her midwife, Storm Henry, are part of a midwifery program pairing First Nations mothers with midwives for the duration of their pregnancy, delivery and the first days of the baby’s life. About one in 10 Australian mothers opt to have a single midwife, or caseload midwife, throughout their pregnancy, but for mothers of First Nations babies that rate has historically been much lower. “We know when women have a main midwife or continuity-of-care model there’s reduced childbirth complications,” La Trobe University professor Helen McLachlan said. “Babies are less likely to get sick, mothers are less likely to need caesarean sections.”

More than 18,000 First Nations babies are born across the country each year. Those babies are at a higher risk of arriving early, being born underweight or needing special care. “Outcomes for [First Nations] mothers and babies are pretty much twice as bad as non-Aboriginal mothers and babies — double the rate of preterm birth, almost triple the rate of maternal mortality,” Professor McLachlan said. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 13% of Indigenous babies were born underweight in 2019. Reducing that number is a key target of the Closing the Gap agreement.

The culturally safe Baggarrook midwifery care program, being led by Latrobe University and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, has now matched more than 700 women giving birth to Indigenous babies with either a First Nations midwife or one who has been through cultural awareness training. “We’ve gone from 5% of Aboriginal women receiving access to this gold-standard model of care to over 90% of Aboriginal women presenting at one of the three hospitals participating,” Professor McLachlan said.

To view the ABC News article Aboriginal midwife program works to close the gap in infant mortality and birth complications in full click here.

Kelsey Muhl enlisted a midwife from a First Nations program to help deliver her daughter Emilia. Photo: Nicole Asher, ABC News.

Helping older Australians avoid ED

Improving the care of older Australians in a bid to help them avoid hospital emergency departments will be the focus of a new project that federal Health Minister Greg Hunt says has been awarded funding from the Medical Research Future Fund. Led by Flinders University in partnership with SA Health’s Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN) and the SA Ambulance Service, the research will engage patients and the medical community to find the best way forward for treating older Australians, who make up almost a quarter of all ED visits. “Emergency departments across Australia are often overwhelmed by the high demand from our growing ageing population but nearly half of the visits are potentially preventable,” says Flinders University’s Associate Professor Craig Whitehead, Director of Rehabilitation, Aged, and Palliative Care at SAHLN and the project’s Chief Investigator.

The project will also explore what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers look for in emergency care, as well as seek to understand the barriers they face, with the team including two Aboriginal researchers – Associate Professor Tamara Mackean and Shane D’Angelo – from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Public Health group in Flinders University’s College of Medicine and Public Health. They bring both public health and Indigenous health research experience and will engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through yarning circles. “This is an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worldviews and experiences to be incorporated into the conduct of the research from the beginning,” said Associate Professor Mackean.

To view the Flinders University article Helping older Australians avoid ED click here.

Image source: Flinders University News webpage.

Lower healthcare costs, but no PHC reform

The Consumers Health Forum (CHF) welcomes recent announcements from both major parties that the cost of prescriptions will be eased by reducing the PBS co-payment. In addition, both parties have committed to raising the threshold for access to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC). CHF CEO, Leanne Wells, said that these two measures will help to bring down costs for people on fixed incomes in the face of rising inflation pressures. “Commitments to lower the cost of prescriptions if either side wins the election will be a much needed saving for health care consumers. When medicines become unaffordable, the costs to the nation’s healthcare system becomes more burdensome, as people are missing essential treatment,” said Ms Wells.

“However, we remind both parties that there are many others in the community such as young people, those who have had their NDIS packages cut, and people living in poverty on Jobseeker for whom access to affordable healthcare is dire.  Measures to support their capacity to access healthcare are sorely needed. CHF would like see more health care affordability measures directed to people on low incomes, who need it most,” she said. “We are acutely aware that many families in Australia will be forgoing items in the household budget to make ends meet,” said Ms Wells, “but affordability and access to healthcare goes beyond the cost of medicines.”

To view the CHF media release Parties promise to reduce costs but what about health care reform? in full click here.

Image source: The Conversation.

Inquiry highlights rural NSW’s health crisis

The NSW government has been handed a scathing report finding the rural health system is “in crisis and is failing residents of rural, regional and remote areas”. A cross-party committee has made 44 recommendations, following hundreds of hours of evidence held across NSW, to try to overhaul the system. What was found was people living outside of the city have “significantly poorer health outcomes, greater incidents of chronic disease, and greater premature deaths”.

To address “historic failures” by both levels of government to fix workforce shortages, particularly in relation to doctors and nurses, it put forward a range of sweeping changes. They include the state government collaborating with the Commonwealth on a 10-year workforce strategy, a single employer model for GPs, and for the committee to hold another inquiry in two years’ time to see if the changes have been implemented.

You can view the ABC News article Inquiry into rural, regional and remote healthcare hands down findings to NSW government in full here.

The AMA (NSW) has welcomed the final report from the NSW parliamentary inquiry into health outcomes and access to health and hospital services in rural, regional, and remote New South Wales, but says achieving the report’s recommendations will not be feasible unless Governments make a meaningful funding commitment to improving health. “The report underscores the paucity of investment made into rural health to date and the absolute necessity to rethink current funding arrangements,” said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen. “The

To view the AMA’s media release Rural health inquiry highlights desperate need for more funding, AMA (NSW) says in full click here.

Image source: Careers Connections.

80% + Aboriginal people speak Kriol

Sylvia Tkac was born to be an Aboriginal interpreter but fell into the profession quite by accident. “My grandmother was an interpreter,” Ms Tkac said. “She said to me, ‘I need another interpreter, are you interested in interpreting?’ “I did it for the first time and I thought, ‘Gee I’m fluent’, because I spoke it as a child.” Kriol interpreter services are still used regularly across Australia. Interpreters hold an important role in communities for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. “A Kriol interpreter is needed in the local courts,” Ms Tkac said. “Darwin use them, (as well as) Katherine and Alice Springs — they’re also used in the Supreme Court and in hospitals as well.”

Ms Tkac is an Anindilyakwa Interpreter from the Groote Eylandt archipelago and is based in Darwin with the Aboriginal Interpreter Service. She interprets for a wide range of service providers in topics such as health, education, and law at the Local, Supreme and Children’s courts. The service collaborates on recordings with other agencies and mining companies, and produces a range of aids and resources, including DVDs, animations, driving apps and video interpreting. The service is vital to the 80% of Aboriginal people in Australia who speak Aboriginal English or Kriol, which has been recognised as a language since the 1970s.

To view the ABC News article More than 80% of Aboriginal people speak Kriol — why is it still widely misunderstood? in full click here.

Research Institute to tackle health inequities

Charles Sturt University’s new Rural and Regional Health Research Institute will work with communities to address the local burden of disease in lower socio-economic communities within rural, regional, and remote areas. Professor of Medicine and Executive Director of the Institute, Professor Allen Ross is applying his extensive international experience in rural and remote health to establish an organisation that delivers regional, national, and international impact. The Institute received $18 million over five years from the Australian Government to develop a world-class rural health and medical research facility that will support the needs of rural communities in Australia and beyond.

The Institute will focus on conducting research that:

  • addresses First Nations people’s health inequities
  • improves the experience of ageing and aged care in rural communities
  • improves child development health outcomes
  • promotes consumer-driven rural health research
  • boosts clinical research capability and
  • enables research to improve health and medical service delivery in regional cities, rural towns, and remote communities.

Professor Ross said “We will work with community leaders, such as the local Aboriginal Medical Services, to identify chronic health issues of the highest priority.”

To view the Charles Sturt University article Rural and Regional Health Research Institute, a world-class facility to tackle health inequalities in full click here.

Image source: Charles Sturt University.

People urged to get vax as flu cases rise

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Sonya Bennett, and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Professor Alison McMillan, say with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s winter season will likely see both an increase in transmission of the coronavirus and, for the first time since 2019, a resurgence in influenza. Given this, it is important that people, particularly those in at-risk population groups, maximise their protection against both viruses by being vaccinated – and continue to practise all of the safe hygiene measures we have become accustomed to throughout the pandemic. Both influenza and COVID-19 are highly contagious viral infections that can lead to serious illness, hospitalisation or even death. Everyone 6 months and older is recommended to get a flu vaccine each year.

To read the Dr Bennett and Professor McMillan’s media release in full click here.

In a related media release NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said flu is circulating widely in the community for the first time in two years, coinciding with ongoing high levels of transmission of COVID-19. “It is crucial everyone gets vaccinated against flu to not only protect themselves, but their colleagues and loved ones against serious illness or worse,” Mr Hazzard said. “Whilst we know there is vaccination fatigue, I urge the more vulnerable members of our community to book in for a flu jab with their GP or pharmacist as soon as possible. The elderly, pregnant women, children aged under five years, Aboriginal people and those with serious health conditions can get a free flu shot now, so please book in.”

To read Minister Hazzard’s media release in full click here.

Image source: The Department of Health website.

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.

World Ovarian Cancer Day

World Ovarian Cancer Day was stablished in 2013 by a group of leaders from ovarian cancer advocacy organisations around the world. May 8 – World Ovarian Cancer Day, is the one day of the year we globally raise our voices in solidarity in the fight against ovarian cancer.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.4 times as likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer as non-Indigenous Australians, are 0.9 times as likely to die and have only a 45% change of surviving for five years. You can access the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report containing these figures about ovarian cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here.

For more information about World Ovarian Cancer Day click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: CTG PBS script co-payment – register NOW!

CTG PBS script co-payment – register NOW!

As of 30 June 2022, Closing the Gap (CTG) PBS scripts will not be available for people who aren’t registered correctly with Services Australia.

Early this year the Closing the Gap Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme scripts deadline was extended from 31 January 2022 to Thursday 30 June 2022. As of 30 June 2022, Closing the Gap (CTG) PBS scripts will not be available for people who aren’t registered correctly with Services Australia.

Unfortunately, not all patients who previously received CTG prescriptions were transferred to the new database, resulting in some people paying more for their medicines. Potentially many thousands of people who have previously had CTG scripts are still affected NACCHO is urging all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to talk with their health service, GP and/or pharmacy to check if they are correctly registered for the program on the new registration database. If this is not resolved by July 2022, then the cost of that person’s medicines will increase. 

A new national registration database run by Services Australia began on 1 July 2021. It aims to make it easier for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access medicines through the CTG PBS Co-payment program. Patients only need to be registered for the program once in their lifetime via Health Professional Online Services (HPOS), to get free or reduced cost PBS medicines from any community pharmacy in Australia, without the need for each script to be marked ‘CTG’.   

NACCHO’s media statement advising of the extension can be accessed here. For more information, NACCHO maintains a webpage on the CTG reforms and can run workshops for ACCHOs wishing to know more about the measure, registration system and upcoming deadline.  Services Australia information here. 

We want your good news nursing stories 

International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world each year on 12 May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. On Thursday next week NACCHO wants to showcase the amazing nurses working in ACCHOs around Australia. Please inundate us with your good news nursing stories and go in the draw to win a voucher for your efforts.

You can access more information about International Nurses Day 2022 on the Australian College of Nursing website here.

DREAMT dementia telehealth project

For many people living in remote areas, the idea of leaving home and travelling to the city is an expensive and scary prospect. Increased financial pressures from unintended travel costs and loss of income, mixed with fears of the unknown can be very real barriers to treatment and prevent people from receiving the proper healthcare they need. Telehealth aims to bridge this gap by providing the same specialist health services via telephone or video conference, removing the need for locals to travel from remote communities to the city. The University of Queensland’s DREAMT project (Dementia, Regional and remote, Empowering, Aboriginal and Torres Strait, Medicine and Telemedicine and telehealth) aims to improve choice and access to dementia care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in rural and remote areas. The DREAMT project looks at issues and its clinical effectiveness from multiple perspectives to ensure it meets the true needs of the communities it serves.

For more information including an additional film Using telehealth to support Torres Strait Islander people with dementia click here.

Integrating ACC aged care with PHC

There is a growing number of older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and an unmet demand for accessible, culturally safe aged care services. The principles and features of aged care service delivery designed to meet the unique needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have not been extensively explored and must be understood to inform aged care policy and primary health care planning into the future.

A research paper Aboriginal community-controlled aged care: principles, practices and actions to integrate with primary health care published in the Cambridge University Press looks identifying 1) best practice aged care principles and practices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander older peoples, and 2) actions to integrate aged care services with Aboriginal community-controlled primary health care.

A range of principles guided Aboriginal community-controlled aged care service delivery, such as supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, connection with elders and communities and respect for self-determination. Strong governance, effective leadership and partnerships, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce and culturally safe non-Indigenous workforce were among the identified enablers of aged care. Nine implementation actions guided the integration of aged care with primary health care service delivery. Funding limitations, workforce shortages, change management processes and difficulties with navigating the aged care system were among the reported challenges. These findings contribute to an evidence base regarding accessible, integrated, culturally safe aged care services tailored to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

To view the research article in full click here.

Aboriginal elder Mildred Numamurdirdi of Numbulwar

Aboriginal elder Mildred Numamurdirdi of Numbulwar. Image source: The Senior.

First Nations health data state of play

According to the an article Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information: Progress, Pitfalls, and Prospects recently published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health despite significant developments in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health information over the last 25 years, many challenges remain. There are still uncertainties about the accuracy of estimates of the summary measure of life expectancy, and methods to estimate changes in life expectancy over time are unreliable because of changing patterns of identification. Far too little use is made of the wealth of information that is available, and formal systems for systematically using that information are often vestigial to non-existent.

Available information has focussed largely on traditional biomedical topics and too little on access to, expenditure on, and availability of services required to improve health outcomes, and on the underpinning issues of social and emotional wellbeing. It is of concern that statistical artefacts may have been misrepresented as indicating real progress in key health indices. Challenges and opportunities for the future include improving the accuracy of estimation of life expectancy, provision of community level data, information on the availability and effectiveness of health services, measurement of the underpinning issues of racism, culture and social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB), enhancing the interoperability of data systems, and capacity building and mechanisms for Indigenous data governance. There is little point in having information unless it is used, and formal mechanisms for making full use of information in a proper policy/planning cycle are urgently required.

To view the article in full click here.

Image source: Healthcare IT News.

Public drunkenness decriminalisation delayed

Victoria will delay repealing public drunkenness as a crime. The offence was to be officially repealed in November last year, however may not take effect until 2023 – more than five years after the death of 55-year-old Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day, who was arrested in December 2017 after being found drunk on a train, and later died in hospital from head injuries sustained in a prison holding cell. Last year, the Andrews government passed landmark legislation to decriminalise public drunkenness in line with a recommendation made after a coronial inquiry into Day’s death. The state government has said however that delays in establishing trials of sobering-up centres – as part of a shift to a health-based response – meant that the decriminalisation would be pushed back.

Yesterday Victoria Legal Aid released a statement saying they support the removal of the offence of public drunkenness as soon as possible in favour of an appropriate and culturally safe health-based response. “31 years ago, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended that being drunk in public should not be a criminal offence,” said Dan Nicholson, Executive Director Criminal Law.

Mr Nicholson said “It is important for the government to take the time to get the details right, in consultation with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and other stakeholders and communities who are directly affected. From our practice experience we know these laws have a direct and harmful effect on First Nations peoples in Victoria. Repealing this offence remains a crucial step in recognising this harm and in working towards racial and social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

You can view the Guardian article Decriminalisation of public drunkenness delayed by Victorian government in full here and the Victoria Legal Aid’s statement A culturally safe health-based approach to public drunkenness remains crucial in full click here.

Apryl & Kimberly Watson with photos of their mother Tanya Day outside Vic Coroners Court

Daughters Apryl Watson and Kimberly Watson outside the Victorian Coroners Court with photos of their mother Tanya Day. Photo: Justin McManus. Image source: The Age.

Pharmacogenomics of Indigenous populations

While pharmacogenomic (the ‘science of personalised medicine’ is a branch of genetics research that focuses on predicting a given individual’s responses to specific therapeutic drugs) studies have facilitated the rapid expansion of personalized medicine, the benefits of these findings have not been evenly distributed. Genomic datasets pertaining to Indigenous populations are sorely lacking, leaving members of these communities at a higher risk of adverse drug reactions (ADRs), and associated negative outcomes.

Australia has one of the largest Indigenous populations in the world. Pharmacogenomic studies of these diverse Indigenous Australian populations have been hampered by a paucity of data. In this article, we discuss the history of pharmacogenomics and highlight the inequalities that must be addressed to ensure equal access to pharmacogenomic-based healthcare. We also review efforts to conduct the pharmacogenomic profiling of chronic diseases among Australian Indigenous populations and survey the impact of the lack of drug safety-related information on potential ADRs among individuals in these communities.

To view the article The Gene-Drug Duality: Exploring the Pharmacogenomics of Indigenous Populations published in the Frontiers in Genetics in full click here.

pills, capsules laid out in gene pattern

Photo: Katy Pack, Shutterstock.com. Image source: News Medical Life Sciences.

ACCHO praises health battalion for COVID support

An Aboriginal community-controlled health service in Port Augusta, SA, has praised the invaluable support of the 3rd Health Battalion (3 HB) during COVID-19 outbreaks over the past two years. Vaccination Coordinator for the Pika Wiya Health Services Aboriginal Corporation (PWHS), Rebecca Simpson, said: “The support from 3 HB came just in time as the number of COVID cases in the community increased and the demand for vaccinations and testing within the Aboriginal community was on the rise and resulted in a 50% decrease in the time to taken to conduct its outreach clinic, and get swabs out to their community members.

3 HB received an honorary mention in the 2022 Australia Day Awards for their community engagement work with Pika Wiya and the Stepping Stones day centre in SA, having received a joint nomination for Community Event of the Year. Members of 3 HB were in Port Augusta as recently as February, providing support in response to a surge in the number of positive COVID-19 cases. They focused on administrative support to PWHS, allowing them to accelerate the process for vaccinations and Rapid Antigen Testing as part of their outreach program.

To read the Department of Defence article Health battalion praised for vital COVID support article in full click here.

Private Tori Doherty, Lieutenant Joshua Mildrum and Captain Michele Muncaster, from the 3rd Health Battalion, provide administrative support during the pop-up clinic at Stepping Stones in Port Augusta, SA

From left: Private Tori Doherty, Lieutenant Joshua Mildrum and Captain Michele Muncaster, from the 3rd Health Battalion, provide administrative support during the pop-up clinic at Stepping Stones in Port Augusta, SA. Image source: Department of Defence Defence News webpage.

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.

Primary Care COVID-19 update

The latest in a series of webinars to update primary care on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout will be held from 11:30 AM–12:00PM (AEDT) Thursday 5 May 2022.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM, Deputy Chief Medical Office, Australian Government Department of Health (DoH) this week will be DoH Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response. The panel will provide key updates and answer

GPs and all health professionals are welcome to attend the webinar and can join using this link. If you’re unable to view this webinar live, you can view it on-demand using the same link, within a few hours of the live stream ending.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Sister Scrubs could improve baby outcomes

Image in feature tile is of midwife Mel Briggs, wearing the “Sister Scrubs” to identify herself as Indigenous, Yuin woman Hayley Williams and baby Jaari. Photo: Janie Barrett. Image source: ABC News.

Sister Scrubs could improve baby outcomes

Jaari was Hayley Williams’ third baby, but her first experience working with an Indigenous midwife. Yuin woman Williams, 28, gave birth in Shoalhaven Hospital in Nowra a month ago with the support of midwife Mel Briggs from the Waminda South Coast Women’s Health Clinic. Williams said having an Indigenous midwife meant she felt “relaxed and receptive” to the information being provided, allowing for better communication about issues such as her diagnosis of gestational diabetes.

“I feel like another midwife would be able to build that rapport but with Mel being Indigenous, it was almost instant,” Williams said. “It takes away the formalities – the relationship felt very casual, and I felt very comfortable that she had my best interests at heart.” An initiative called “Huggies Sister Scrubs” will make it easier for mothers to know when they are being cared for by an Indigenous midwife, with the aim to improve better outcomes for Indigenous mothers and babies.

The Sister Scrubs, an initiative of the Rhodanthe Lipsett Indigenous Midwifery Charitable Fund supported by Huggies, is a special uniform for Indigenous midwives to visually identify themselves, helping engender trust and better communication. Nationwide, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies are twice as likely to die in the first year of their life, according to the Closing the Gap Report 2020. In NSW, the perinatal mortality rate among babies born to First Nations mothers is 47% higher than the rest of the population, based on the Mothers and Babies Report 2020. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has also found First Nations women were three times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth, compared with other women, between 2012 and 2019.

To view The Sydney Morning Herald article ‘Sister Scrubs’: How new uniform could improve outcomes for Indigenous babies in full click here.

Melanie Briggs (left) was the first endorsed Aboriginal midwife in NSW, pictured here with Kady Colman. Image source: Bounty Parents.

Calls for cultural reform in health sector

Growing up in Milingimbi in NE Arnhem Land, Yolngu man Dr Mangatjay McGregor was always drawn to a career in medicine. “From a young age, I felt really in tune with the way people felt and [that] naturally progressed into medicine,” he said. Dr McGregor is a mental health registrar in Melbourne and is believed to be the first Yolngu doctor from the NT.

While the 29-year-old has made great strides in his career, his journey has not come without its challenges. During his time as a junior doctor, he said he experienced bullying and discrimination by senior staff in the workplace. “There are times where [the discrimination] is more overt and in your face, then there are times where it’s a little bit more insidious,” he said. “Often it’s coming from consultants, so they’re specialists or registrars [who] are quite senior — there is that power imbalance.”

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) has described the disproportionately high rates of workplace bullying and discrimination as “unacceptable” and raised concerns that it could drive First Nations trainees out of the profession. “It’s something that most of us have faced when we’ve gone through our own training,” AIDA Vice President Dr Simone Raye said. “We had hoped that things would improve for the future generation.” “It’s very concerning because senior staff can actually set the tone for the culture of the organisation that they’re working within.

To view the ABC News article Indigenous doctors call for cultural reform in health sector to address workplace discrimination in full click here and to watch a short video of Dr Mangatjay McGregor speaking about how he faced bullying and discrimination by senior staff during his time as a trainee doctor click here.

Dr Mangatjay McGregor. Photo supplied by: Peter Healy. Image source: ABC News.

Improved social determinants data needed

An article published in The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) today looks at why Australia needs better data on health inequities. The article says the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic shone a light on longstanding inequities in societies. Yet, too often, these inequities are effectively invisible, and we can only know if we are tackling them if we can measure them. A lack of appropriate data is an important reason why research that has helped our understanding of health inequities is unevenly distributed internationally, with much concentrated in Europe and North America. Although Australia has some leading global centres for population health research, a lack of appropriate data creates a barrier to undertaking such research here. However, the available evidence indicates that socio‐economic health inequities have increased since the 1980s.

A better understanding of what is happening is important for many reasons, not least the law of unintended consequences; policies designed to improve overall health can inadvertently widen health inequities. It is only by understanding the scale and nature of existing inequities and differential impacts of responses to them that we can assess the effect of policies and monitor progress. Improved data collection and analysis is the first essential step to building back fairer from the impacts of COVID‐19.

To view MJA article The need for improved Australian data on social determinants of health inequities in full click here.

Social determinants of health. Image source: PWC.

Major parties lack rural health commitment

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) have issue a media release pointing out that recent media reports have focused on the major parties’ lack of serious commitment to addressing the rural health crisis. The reports have highlighted the real-life implications for people struggling to access health care and the devastating consequences for communities. The Alliance emphasised that rural Australians are still waiting for any major party to address the glaring gap in election commitments to date and is calling on all political parties to commit to bold and immediate initiatives to address the rural health crisis now.

The Alliance is calling on political parties to recognise the critical needs of rural Australians and commit to addressing the rural health crisis immediately. The Alliance is promoting a model of rural primary care called RACCHOs (Rural Area Community Controlled Health Organisations) modelled on and complementing the successful and long-standing ACCHO (Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) model of primary care delivery.

You can view the Alliance’s media release Rural Australia can’t wait any longer for action on health care in full here.

Image source: The Medical Journal of Australia.

A related ABC News article Doctor availability in regional Australia limited by declining workforce describes how Mount Gambier residents are waiting two or three weeks to visit their regular GP as a result of a shortfall that has failed to gain traction in federal election campaigning. It is an ongoing issue regional and rural Australians have been facing for more than a decade, with COVID placing additional pressures on an already overstretched workforce.

Despite this, Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Megan Belot said there had been almost “total silence” on rural health issues throughout the federal election campaign. “So far this election we have seen the Coalition budget initiative of more rural medical students and Labor promise more money for psychiatric telehealth appointments,” she said. “I’m sorry but that is just not enough. We need initiatives that will deliver doctors on the ground in the near future in addition to rural doctor training pathways and positions after they complete their university studies.”

To view the article in full click here.

Image source: Health Times.

Portable ultrasounds for more equitable health

Imagine if family doctors, nurses, technicians could use handheld ultrasound devices to screen for everything from hip dysplasia to wrist fractures to heart disease from anywhere. A new approach to scans developed at the University of Alberta pairs the accessibility of portable ultrasound with an artificial intelligence app that can analyse thousands of previous results and provide remote diagnostic support within seconds. The goal is to make access to health care more equitable and improve outcomes for patients, said project lead Jacob Jaremko, a radiologist, associate professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Artificial Intelligence (CIFAR) Chair at the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. “It really is a whole different model of care,” Jaremko said. “You’re taking expertise learned from the experts in the hospital and delivering it to the patients, rather than having the patients come to the hospital.”

It will help improve access to timely medical diagnoses and care, particularly for those living in remote and Indigenous communities. With Jaremko’s system, a non-expert can learn with brief training how to use a portable ultrasound device to scan for thyroid cancer, hip dysplasia in infants, breast cancer, heart and lung problems, and arm fractures. The images are uploaded and the AI app compares them with the results of many previous tests to determine whether there is an abnormality. In the video below Jacob Jaremko explains how his AI-based ultrasound system works and why it could increase access to vital diagnostic support for conditions like hip dysplasia.

To view the University of Alberta article Making health care more equitable one ultrasound image at a time – AI-powered portable ultrasound system makes scans and diagnoses accessible from anywhere in full, click here.

First Nations uni students paving the way

In Australia, only 1.9% of university students enrolled in 2018 identified as Indigenous, according to the most recent figures from Universities Australia. And of them, only 47% complete their degrees, compared to 74% of non-Indigenous students. Those figures are improving every year, but it’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure First Nations Australians are given every possible opportunity to go to uni, and to obtain their qualification. There are a multitude of hurdles that First Nations people face when going to university from language barriers, to discrimination to cultural differences obligations.

But, in the NT, where around 30% of the population is Indigenous, Charles Darwin University is on a mission to change the status quo, with a goal of becoming the most recognised university for Australian First Nations training, education and research. Deputy Vice-Chancellor for First Nations Leadership and Yuin/Wandandian and Ngarigo man, Professor Reuben Bolt, said there are a range of fundamental challenges potential Indigenous uni students face.

To view the Northern Beaches Review article Meet the First Nations university students paving the way to a more equal future in full click here.

Nyikina woman Hayley Shields

Nyikina woman Hayley Shields started a Bachelor of Environmental Science last year. Photo: Sarah Matthews. Image source: Northern Beaches Review.

Healthy Ears Clinic marks 10 year milestone

A landmark Victorian health partnership is heralding 10 years of work supporting the health of Indigenous populations. April marked one decade since the union between Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, and the launch of the Healthy Ears Clinic for Indigenous Children. Since 2012, the Ear and Eye Hospital has provided more than 220 ear, nose and throat surgeries, while the Healthy Ears Clinic has care for more than 1500 youths.

Eye and Ear hospital surgeon Stephen O’Leary said the partnership was born from a desire to improve health among Indigenous youth. Since the programs’ launch self-reported hearing problems in Indigenous children have reduced from 11% in 2001 to 6.9% in 2018-19. That rate is, however, still more than twice the rate for non-indigenous children.

Wormi man Kelvin Kong, Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, said an underlying barriers for Indigenous people to access healthcare remained an issue. “The system is designed poorly – it is unfriendly,” he said. “The system also doesn’t allow us to get the access we need.” Mr Kong said generationally disproportionate health problems could not be solved through biomedical intervention alone, adding structural change was needed. “We need to develop the pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a meaningful and real contribution,” he said.

To view the National Indigenous Times article Victorian Indigenous health services mark 10-year partnership milestone in full click here.

Image source: Macquarie University website.

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.

World Asthma Day

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects the airways, causing them to become inflamed, narrowed, swollen and sometimes blocked by mucus, making it hard to breathe. Common symptoms may include wheezing, felling short of breath, tightness in the chest and coughing. The exact cause of asthma are unknown, however, factors thought to contribute to it occurring include: genetics; exposure to tobacco smoke in the womb, or as a baby or child; air pollution; mouldy houses; being born premature (with a low birth weight) and prolonged intense exercise (occurring over several years).

Asthma is the most common chronic respiratory condition among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a major cause of morbidity. This may be due to risks such as smoking, as well as a lack of access to culturally appropriate health services and other social and environmental factors.

World Asthma Day (WAD) Tuesday 3 May 2022 is organised by the Global Initiative for Asthma, (GINA), a World Health Organization collaborative organisation founded in 1993.  WAD is held each May to raise awareness of Asthma worldwide. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage asthma to reduce and prevent asthma attacks.

GINA has chosen ‘Closing Gaps in Asthma Care’ as the theme for the 2022 World Asthma Day. There are a number of gaps in asthma care, including access to diagnosis and treatment, which require intervention in order to reduce preventable suffering as well as the costs incurred by treating uncontrolled asthma.

For more information on World Asthma Day click here.

banner text 'closing gaps in asthma care World Asthma Day May 3, 2022

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Rural and regional health system is broken

Image in feature tile from Bulgarr Ngaru Medical Aboriginal Corporation, NSW website.

Rural and regional health system is broken

Dr Rob Phair, GP in Bairnsdale Victoria, and President of the Rural Doctor’s Association of Victoria. Dr Robin Williams, GP in Molong NSW, and Chair of the Western NSW Primary Health Network and Dr Gabreille O’Kane, CEO of the Rural Health Alliance were guests this morning on an episode of ABC Radio National Life Matters hosted by Michael Mackenzie discussing the question ‘Is the medical system in rural and regional Australia still fit for purpose?’

Rural doctors say the death, earlier this month, of a 72-year-old man in Bairnsdale, eastern Victoria, died in an emergency room bathroom after waiting more than three hours for treatment is the latest example of a broken medical system, which, they argue, needs a radical restructure to meet the changing needs of the times.

Dr O’Kane said the ACCHO model of care is appealing to the rural health sector and is proposing a community-led model of care employing a range of healthcare professionals, from GPs and psychologist to nurses and physiotherapists, similar to ACCHOs.

You can listen to the Life Matters interview in full here.

Photo: Ian Waldie, Getty Images. Image source: ABC News RN Life Matters webpage.

Health sector needs ‘whole-of-workforce’ strategy

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) is urging all political parties to recognise the importance of our workforce in establishing a health system that can deliver the care Australians deserve. ‘Matching and forecasting the needs, demands and supply of the health workforce is complex in any context,’ says AHHA Acting Chief Executive Kylie Woolcock. ‘However, ahead of the upcoming Federal Election, urgent action is needed to address workforce issues in Australia’s heath system if it is to continue to provide vital services to the community.’

To view the AHHA media release Whole-of-workforce strategy needed to deliver healthcare that Australians deserve in full click here.

RHD not purely due to remoteness

Lynette Bullio’s son Jalil was just seven years old when he found out he would need painful injections each month until at least his 21st birthday. The Cairns boy was limping around but he and his mother thought it was because he had tripped over at school. When, by the end of the week, Jalil couldn’t even manage a short walk from his mother’s car to the school gate, Ms Bullio knew it was something more serious. Jalil, now 11, was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease(RHD).

He is one of thousands of mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across northern Australia with the condition that was largely eradicated in Australia’s urban non-Indigenous population about 60 years ago. “It still is traumatic, I think, when I talk about it and realise how huge this disease is,” Ms Bullio said. “I start getting a lump in my throat.”

Ben Reeves, a paediatric cardiologist at Cairns Hospital, said while the disease was often associated with isolated communities he still saw new cases of rheumatic fever in Cairns children every week. “This is not purely due to remoteness,” Dr Reeves said. “It’s a lack of access to appropriate facilities and it’s a lack of awareness among the community and some health staff and we’re trying very hard to turn this around.”

You can access the ABC Far North News article Rheumatic heart disease strategy launched in Queensland as more people get sick in large centres in full here.

Image source: newsGP.

Major Parties ‘Nowhere on Health’

The AMA is disappointed the federal election campaign is half-way through and ‘nowhere on health’, while calls for politicians to address health policy are getting louder in the community. State Premiers, Health Ministers and State Treasurers have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Federal Health Minister previously to ask for a 50-50 split on hospital funding, and to remove the annual cap on activity, in order to deal with the backlog of care in the community following COVID-19 lockdowns.

“State and Territory Ministers, and even Premiers, have stated their clear, unequivocal support for a 50-50 agreement that removes the cap on funding growth – this is not something an incoming government is going to be able to ignore. So instead, political parties should be outlining how they will fix our hospital system, should they win government,” AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

To view the AMA’s media release Halfway to Nowhere on Health, AMA says future PM and Government can’t hide from urgent need for new hospital agreement in full click here.

Fears NT bill will open booze floodgates

Three Indigenous bodies are calling on the NT government to immediately shelve legislation which could allow take-away alcohol into more than 430 communities from mid-July this year. The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT (AMSANT), the Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency and Aboriginal Housing NT have proposed the bill be dismissed.

Under the 2007 Federal Intervention, these communities in NT became Alcohol Protected Areas, which continued under the Stronger Futures legislation. AMSANT CEO John Patterson said consultations for the proposed change have not begun. “There has been no proper consultation, and there simply cannot be any in the short time available,” he said. “Aboriginal health organisations and peak bodies did not know about the Bill. This Government has introduced many excellent alcohol reforms, and this sudden and puzzling change is a backward step that has not been explained properly to anyone. Why not move to an opt-out system instead which would ensure all communities make an active decision about what they want to do rather than simply have the current protections taken away.”

North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency executive officer Priscilla Atkins said the mixture of dry and unrestricted communities would be impossible to monitor. “The biggest issue we’ve got is a lot of criminal matters that come before the court are alcohol related,” she said. “You’re going to have alcohol coming into the remote communities there’ll be more violence, more pressure on the courts, more pressure on the police…and it’s disappointing that we’re talking about this now and the legislation expires on the 30th of June.

You can view the National Indigenous Times article Fears NT Govt bill will open booze floodgates in dry communities in full here.

Photo Tim Wimborne, Reuters. Image source: The Guardian.

Agent Orange poisoned WA mob

Premiering from June onwards on both NITV and SBS online platforms, a documentary On Australian Shores, produced and directed by Ngikalikarra Media, will tell the harrowing story of a large number of Aboriginal men and their families, who were knowingly and unwittingly poisoned by government in order to enhance the profits of the agricultural industry. The story of the wanton neglect of the WA Agricultural Protection Board (APB) via a series of interviews with survivors, their family members that have outlived them, and current generations still affected by Agent Orange poisoning.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers has spoken to Ngikalikarra Media co-producer, director and editor Dr Magali McDuffie about how despite numerous inquiries and reports the overwhelming majority of victims remain uncompensated, while the WA government continues to deny any of it ever happened.

You can read the article WA Poisoned First Nations With Agent Orange: An Interview With Ngikalikarra’s Dr Magali McDuffie in full on the Sydney Criminal Lawyers website here.

One of the APB work crews employed to unknowingly spray Agent Orange around the Kimberley. Image source: Sydney Criminal Lawyers website.

NDIS access in the Kimberley region

An article Equity in Access: A Mixed Methods Exploration of the National Disability Insurance Scheme Access Program for the Kimberley Region, WA has been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The article describes a study exploring the process and early outcomes of work undertaken by a program to increase Aboriginal people’s awareness of, and access to, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The Access Program was reported as successful by staff in its aim of connecting eligible people with the NDIS. Vital to this success was program implementation by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector. Staff in these organisations held community trust, provided culturally appropriate services, and utilised strengths-based approaches to overcome barriers that have historically hindered Aboriginal people’s engagement with disability services. The results of the study demonstrate the Access Program is a successful start in increasing awareness of, and access to, the NDIS for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region, however much work remains to assist the large number of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region believed to be eligible for NDIS support who are yet to achieve access.

To view the article in full 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.

Get ready for Heart Week

One Australian is having a heart attack or stroke every 4 minutes.

This Heart Week from Monday 2 -–Sunday 8 May 2022, presents an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of heart health and for GPs, nurses and general practice staff to deliver Heart Health Checks for more at-risk Australians. It is an opportunity for health professionals and the Australian public to start a conversation about heart health and take steps to reduce their risk of heart disease. General practice teams and health professionals have a pivotal role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and have the power to change the one every 4 minute statistic by focusing on simple, routine practices that have a measurable lifesaving impact.

For more information about Heart Week 2022 click here.

Image source: Heart Foundation website.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Labor releases Indigenous health policy

Labor releases Indigenous health policy

Labor have issued a media release outlining the focus of their Indigenous health policy. An Albanese Labor Government will train 500 additional First Nations Health Workers and invest in life-saving dialysis and rheumatic heart disease treatments to help close the gap in First Nations health outcomes.

Aboriginal community-controlled health services worked tirelessly to keep First Nations communities safe during the pandemic. Their workforce has been stretched to its limits and vital programs such as chronic disease prevention and First Nations health checks have had to be scaled back.

Labor will work in partnership with community-controlled and other health services to strengthen the sector and improve health outcomes for First Nations people by:

  • Training 500 First Nations Health Workers – building the First Nations health workforce, creating jobs and revitalising community-controlled health services after the pandemic.
  • Delivering up to 30 new dialysis units – so people living in the city and the bush can access lifesaving treatment for chronic kidney disease.
  • Doubling federal funding to combat Rheumatic Heart Disease – so that fewer people miss out on lifesaving screening, treatment and prevention programs in high-risk communities.

To view the Labor media release Labor will Strengthen First Nations Health in full click here.

Bibbulmun woman Corina Abraham-Howard from Perth receives dialysis at the Purple House in Alice Springs. Photograph: Photo: Mike Bowers. Image source: The Guardian.

Calls for healthcare language boost

A NT collective responsible for aiding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika manage a serious illness say appropriate health messaging could halve medical conditions in Aboriginal communities. Mr Marika recently underwent a second operation to treat his rheumatic heart disease thanks to education provided by Why Warriors co-founder Richard Trudgen.

For years Mr Marika lived with his condition without properly understanding it as language used by doctors was difficult to comprehend. Mr Trudgen said this has been a failure of the system for some time. Why Warriors aim to provide First Nations people with radio and on-demand content presented in language for this purpose.

In cases like Mr Marika’s, messaging form Western and Aboriginal medical services are not adjusted for patients who use English as a second language, if at all. Mr Trudgen said simplifying the information does little more than restrict people from the important details. “They want evidential information that shows the cause and effect right down to a biomedical level.” Why Warriors hope to secure funding to stretch their processes to First Nations communities around the country.

To view the ABC News article Yothu Yindi legend undergoes operation amid calls for healthcare language boost in full click here.

Founding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika

Founding Yothu Yindi member Witiyana Marika. . Image source: NT News.

Why Western therapy is not the answer

Portia Walker-Fernando was 16 when she first saw a counsellor, overwhelmed by anger and distress that her brother was being bullied at school because he was Indigenous. “The racism was fairly frequent,” says Walker-Fernando, a Bundjalung woman, from the Northern Rivers of NSW, who, at 24, still carries anxiety and depression.

“As a 16-year-old who was trying to understand why, it really, really hurt. Being Indigenous and being black is something you can’t change.”

Walker-Fernando says intergenerational trauma and racism have contributed to her mental health issues, with her anxiety spiking every year about January 26. “Looking at our history and our story, there’s so much trauma embedded in that. I have a panic attack pretty much every Survival Day – or Australia Day – because of that really strong impact that it has on me,” she says. “No one’s been given the life tools to be able to heal from these traumas, so we’re still carrying them today.”

Half the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience racial discrimination report feelings of psychological distress, according to a Victorian study by the Lowitja Institute, meaning they are vulnerable to developing anxiety and depression.

To view The Age article ‘I have a panic attack every Survival Day’: Why Western therapy wasn’t the answer for Portia in full click here.

Portia Walker-Fernando from Casino pictured with her children. Photo: Natalie Grono. Image source: The Age.

Broncos support IUIH’s Deadly Choices

The Brisbane Broncos will continue to encourage Queensland’s Indigenous youth to get active and healthy, as part of its ongoing support of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health’s (IUIH) Deadly Choices preventative health program.

By prioritising healthy eating, exercise, the avoidance of tobacco and alcohol use, and ensuring individuals continue to complete an annual health check, the Club hopes to unearth and foster future talent of the calibre of current players, Selwyn Cobbo and Kotoni Staggs.

Cobbo, a proud Wakka Wakka man from Cherbourg was today joined by the Burnett’s original Broncos flyer, current and fellow Deadly Choices Ambassador, Steve Renouf to unveil a new suite of health check shirts, used as incentives to encourage local communities to visit the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane for an annual check-up.

Broncos CEO Dave Donaghy said: “Deadly Choices is an outstanding program making a real difference and we are proud of our partnership with the IUIH that now extends beyond a decade.

To view the Broncos promote ‘Deadly’ Communities media release in full click here.

Selwyn Cobbo. Image source: Broncos website.

NT AHW Excellence Awards noms open

The NT’s best and brightest Health Workers and Practitioner’s have the chance for their efforts and work to be recognised, with nominations opening for the 2022 Northern Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards.

The awards are held annually to recognise and acknowledge the significant contribution Aboriginal health workers and practitioners make to their families, communities and the healthcare system across the Northern Territory. These awards acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by our highly valued Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners workforces within the previous 12 months.

Nominations are open from Tuesday 26 April 2022 to Sunday 19 June 2022. To submit a nomination, visit the awards webpage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards – Department of Health here, or contact Aboriginal Workforce Development
using this email link or ring (08) 89227 278.

To view the NT Government Health Minister Natasha Fyles’ media release in full click here.

Aboriginal health workers, Sherryl King and Keinan Keighran, from Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service were recognised for their work at the 2021 NT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker and Practitioner Excellence Awards. Photo: Charlie Bliss. Image source: Katherine Times.

Swapping the screen for nature

Model and actor Magnolia Maymuru is careful about how she spends her time. When not in the make-up chair, she retreats into nature – a habit she wishes the rest of the world would adopt, too.

Modern science may have only recently uncovered the link between exposure to nature and increased wellbeing, but Indigenous Australians such as Magnolia Maymuru have been aware of it for thousands of years. “Up here, we have connections to everything around us, from the ground to the sky,” the model and actor said.

Born in Darwin, Maymuru belongs to the Yolngu people – a group of Aboriginal clans from north-east Arnhem Land – who believe that they don’t only come from the land, they are the land, too. “We’re born into our connection [with the outdoors],” she explains. “Every time I come back from the city and hear the waves crash, it just does something to me.”

To view the Body + Soul article Magnolia Maymuru on swapping screen time for real connections with nature in full click here.

Magnolia Maymuru. Photo: Body+Soul. Image source: BodyAndSoul.

Barriers to physical activity for mob

Physical activity has cultural significance and population health benefits. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults may experience challenges in participating in physical activity. A review that aims to synthetize existing evidence on facilitators and barriers for physical activity participation experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in Australia has been undertaken.

The review identified 63 barriers: 21 individual, 17 interpersonal, 15 community/environmental and 10 policy/program barriers. Prominent facilitators included support from family, friends, and program staff, and opportunities to connect with community or culture. Prominent barriers included a lack of transport, financial constraints, lack of time, and competing work, family or cultural commitments. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults experience multiple facilitators and barriers to physical activity participation. Strategies to increase participation should seek to enhance facilitators and address barriers, collaboratively with communities, with consideration to the local context.

To view the Facilitators and Barriers to Physical Activity and Sport Participation Experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adults: A Mixed Method Review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in full click here.

Photo: IUIH. Image source: Exercise Right website.

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.

World Immunisation Week

World Immunisation Week, celebrated in the last week of April, aims to highlight the collective action needed and to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.

The World Health Organisation works with countries across the globe to raise awareness of the value of vaccines and immunisation and ensures that governments obtain the necessary guidance and technical support to implement high quality immunisation programmes.

The ultimate goal of World Immunization Week is for more people – and their communities – to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

In a related article parents and carers are being reminded of the importance of getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19 in a new information video from the Department of Health.

The video features GP and Senior Doctor at Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (HSAC), Dr Aleeta Fejo who answers important questions about children and the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr Fejo, a Larrakia and Warumungu traditional owner and Elder, said fake stories and misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines were unfortunately very common, especially on social media.

She said it was natural for parents to have questions about giving their kids the jab. “COVID-19 is a serious illness that can affect everyone—including children,” Dr Fejo said. “Vaccines can help stop your child becoming very sick, or even dying, if they catch the virus,” she said.

You can view a three-minute video featuring Dr Fejo below.

Also related is a advice from AMA NSW: with shorter days and cooler temperatures, NSW residents are urged to talk to their GP about getting their flu jab. “Flu season usually occurs from June to September in Australia, and we urge patients to time their vaccination to achieve the highest level of protection during the peak of the season,” said AMA (NSW) President, Dr Danielle McMullen.

“Your GP can provide you with advice on when to get your flu shot. Patients should also know that influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone aged six months and over and is free for patients most at risk. “This includes adults over 65 years and over, children under five, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people with certain medical conditions.”

To view the AMA NSW media release Flu season around the corner – time to plan click here.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Mob 15 times more likely to have RHD

Image in feature tile is of Tenaya Bell, one of 1000s of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the incurable disease, RHD. Image supplied to ABC News by Telethon Kids Institute.

Mob 15 times more likely to have RHD

In a media statement released earlier today NACCHO commented on a report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) concerning the rate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) in comparison to other Australians. The media statement is reproduced here in full:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with Rheumatic Heart Disease than other Australians

In a report released on 12 April 2022, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) highlight the alarming findings that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 15 times more likely to be diagnosed with RHD than all Australians. New diagnoses of Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF) and Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are also increasing. Previous research has also shown that Aboriginal children between 5 to 15 years of age are 55 times more likely to die from RHD than other Australian children.

Pat Turner, NACCHO CEO said, “ARF and RHD are preventable conditions. Despite this, too many of our communities continue to experience the effects of these diseases of disadvantage. This updated report provides further evidence that a new approach to ending ARF and RHD is needed. It is imperative the ACCHO sector now plays the lead role in identifying and implementing future solutions.”

To address some of the significant issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly in rural and remote areas, NACCHO, with funding support from the Department of Health, is co-designing a new program of activities with the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector. These activities will be designed to support early detection and effective treatment of RHD and ARF and ensure services are provided in a culturally safe way, targeting highest need communities.

You can view the media statement on the NACCHO website using this link.

Image source: AIHW ARF and RHD in Australia, 2016–2020 website page.

Galiwin’ku AHP clocks up 30 years

Wanamula Dorothy Gondarra, who celebrated her 70th birthday yesterday, has shown dedication to health promotion in the Galiwin’ku community over the last three decades. During that time Wanamula has worked at Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation for almost 20 years.

AMA gives major parties ‘F’ on health

AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid and Victorian emergency physician Dr Stephen Parnis where interviewed this morning on Channel 9’s Today show about the crisis in health and what Labor and the Liberal National Party are promising for health in the federal election.

Dr Omar said “what we need is a solution for our epidemic of chronic disease in the community. That means modernising our Medicare system and making sure that GPs can look after those things properly in the community and take the pressure on off our hospitals. And of course, the other thing we need is both sides of politics to get real, to understand that the ambulance ramping crisis is actually affecting people’s lives on a daily basis now in Australia. They’ve got to find a solution to work with the states, properly fund those hospitals and make sure that every Aussie who gets sick knows that when they go to the hospital, they’re going to get the care they need, when they need it.”

Dr Paris said “a whole number of things were needed, including better resourcing, and part of that means a better financial contribution from the Federal Government for hospitals. It needs better support for staffing, some of that in the short-term to ensure that staff can have time away – there is no substitute for that when you’ve got thousands of people who are burned out. And you also need the support of systems that take away pressure from hospitals, as Omar said, with general practice, but also in the area of aged care which puts an enormous amount of pressure on emergency departments and inpatient wards.”

To view the AMA’s transcript of the interview in full click here.

Calls to shelve NT alcohol legislation

The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory (AMSANT), the Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and the Aboriginal Housing NT (AHNT) are calling on the NT Government to immediately shelve legislation that could allow take-away alcohol into more than 430 Community Living Areas, town camps and other small communities from mid-July 2022. These communities became Alcohol Protected Areas (APAs) under the 2007 Federal Intervention, and this continued under Federal Labor’s Stronger Futures legislation. The alcohol-related Stronger Futures provisions will expire on 16 July this year. Territory communities that were already ‘dry’ General Restricted Areas for many years, through their own choice, will keep that status – but the APA communities will have to apply to stay alcohol-free or the condition will lapse and they will have no restrictions.

If the Government’s amendments to the Liquor Act Bill is passed in May, it will open the floodgates to take-away alcohol unless communities ask the Director of Licensing to declare them ‘dry.’ “There has been no proper consultation, and there simply cannot be any in the short time available. Aboriginal health organisations and peak bodies did not know about the Bill,” said Mr Paterson, CEO of AMSANT. “Consultations for the proposed changes have not even begun”, Mr Paterson. “We call on the Chief Minister in the strongest terms to cease playing with Aboriginal people’s lives. High levels of alcohol consumption continue to lead to serious health and social problems in the Territory. This Bill must be withdrawn now, or the Federal Government must act.” concluded Mr. Paterson.

To view the joint AMSANT, Aboriginal Housing NT and North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency media release in full click here.

Photo: Claire Campbell, ABC News.

Deadly Choices drives positive health

The Men’s Health Golf Day marks one of Deadly Choices’ first community participation events for 2022, driving positive health behaviour from the Gold Coast’s Palm Meadows Golf Course.  The annual event brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men from across Queensland to ‘drive home’ the messages associated with healthy lifestyles, with a focus on raising awareness of mental health and encouraging men to seek out support from their local ACCHOs.  As with all Deadly Choices events, participants must have an up to date 715 Health Check.

The event will allow recently named Birmingham Commonwealth Games weightlifter and Olympian Brandon Wakeling a chance to limber up before international competition in July, joined by fellow Olympian, Australia’s fastest man and 2032 Brisbane Olympic Organising Committee member, Patrick Johnson. The Olympic feel is complemented by a distinct NRL presence, with league legends and fellow Deadly Choices Ambassadors Petero Civoniceva, Steve Renouf, Willie Tonga, Brenton Bowen and Tyrone Roberts enjoying the Gold Coast fairways.

“Mental health overarches everything we do with Deadly Choices relating to overall health and wellbeing, so when men can get on top of that, everything else seems that little bit easier to manage,” said Renouf. “These issues can blind men from their responsibilities as a son, as a husband and as a father – they become closed off and that’s when depression can take hold.”

Deadly Choices Ambassadors Petero Civoniceva, Steve Renouf, Willie Tonga, Tyrone Roberts, Brenton Bowen, plus Olympians Brandon Wakeling and Patrick Johnson joined150 men from right across Queensland to tee off this morning.

Deadly New Dads video competition

Entries are now open for the SMS4dads Deadly New Dads Video Competition, which invites soon-to-be and new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers to submit a short video (under two minutes) showcasing what they love about being or becoming a new dad.

Click here For more information. Those who enter the competition will go into the draw to win from a total prize pool of $10,000. For each category, prizes include:

  • overall winner – $3000
  • second prize – $1000
  • third prize – $500.

Entries close on Sunday 22 May 2022.

Real time prescription monitoring

Minister for Health, Natasha Fyles, says a new medicine management system is now live across the NT ensuring greater care for patients. NTScript was jointly funded by the Territory Labor Government and the Federal Government, and it provides real time prescription monitoring (RTPM) information for controlled drugs at the point of care, helping to improve clinical decision making.

Through using NTScript, Clinicians in the NT now have greater access to prescribing records, including up-to-date information about the supply of high risk medicines. NTScript will assist with the identification of people who may be at risk of harm from medicine use. This will enable clinicians to have informed conversations with patients and help reduce the risk of medication related harm.

To view the media release in full click here.

TB in Australia’s Tropical North study

The NT has the highest tuberculosis (TB) rate of all Australian jurisdictions. A study has been undertaken combining TB public health surveillance data with genomic sequencing of Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates in the tropical ‘Top End’ of the NT to investigate trends in TB incidence and transmission. This retrospective observational study included all 741 culture-confirmed cases of TB in the Top End over three decades from 1989–2020. The findings of the study support prioritisation of timely case detection, contact tracing augmented by genomic sequencing, and latent TB treatment to break transmission chains in Top End remote hotspot regions.

To read the research paper Tuberculosis in Australia’s tropical north: a population-based genomic epidemiological study published in The Lancet Regional Health Western Pacific click here.

L-R: Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium which causes TB. Image source: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. TB most commonly causes pneumonia, The Conversation. A Mantoux test for TB being administered in a Darwin Clinic – Katherine Gregory, ABC 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.

Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS + Sexual Health Conferences

For 30 years the Joint Australasian HIV&AIDS Conference, the leading HIV conference in Australasia, has brought together delegates from Australia, NZ, Asia, and the Pacific. Importantly, the Conference reaches beyond Australasia, with keynotes and invited speakers from around the world. This makes for an event with global and local relevance, giving delegates a global platform with access to state-of-the-art research and evidence.  ASHM coordinates the conference to disseminate new and innovative research findings among delegates from a range of backgrounds

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM)’s vision for reconciliation is that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience equity, dignity, and respect in all aspects of life. Therefore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples representation in research, policy and health education is an ongoing goal for both ASHM and the Conference, and we welcome all Indigenous delegates and submissions from Indigenous professionals. 

The four-day face-to-face conference will be held from Friday 29 August – Monday 1 September 2022 at The Sofitel Central Brisbane Centre.

For more information visit the Australasian Sexual Health Conference (ASRHA) website here.

Abstract Submission Deadline: Sunday 1 May

Early Bird Registration Deadline: Thursday 30 June

Standard Registration Deadline: Sunday 14 August

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Eye treatment could reduce vision loss

Image in the feature tile is from the Brian Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) website.

Eye treatment could reduce vision loss

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience three times more vision loss than non-Indigenous people, creating a concerning gap for vision. Associate Professor Hessom Razavi from The University of WA explains that much of this is due to diabetic macular oedema (DMO).  Macular oedema blurs the central vision, diminishing the ability to recognise people’s faces, to drive and work, and perform other essential tasks. DMO affects around 23,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia with most of them of working age.

The good news is DMO is treatable, with medications known as anti-VEGF agents. A world-first clinical trail has been undertaken to test longer-acting DMO treatment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people patients find it impractical, for complex and varied reasons, to attend 10–12 appointments a year. There is, therefore, a need for an alternative. Longer-acting medications do exist. One example is a dexamethasone implant, a steroid injected into the eye which only needs to be dosed every three months.

You can view the Longer-acting eye treatment could reduce vision loss for Indigenous Australians article in full here and a short video from The Fred Hollows Foundation website explaining the prevalence of eye problems among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Help stop the flu in 2022

Annual vaccination is the most important measure to prevent influenza and its complications. Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection that can cause widespread illness and deaths every year. This year, it’s even more important to get the influenza vaccine as we are more vulnerable to influenza. This is due to lower recent exposure to the virus and lower uptake of influenza vaccines in 2021. With international borders reopening, it’s likely we will see more influenza in 2022.

Who should get an influenza vaccine – vaccination experts recommend influenza vaccination for all people aged 6 months and over. Under the National Immunisation Program, free influenza vaccines are provided to the following groups who are at higher risk of complications from influenza:

  • children aged 6 months to less than 5 years
  • all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 6 months and over
  • people aged 6 months and over with certain medical conditions that increase their chance of severe influenza and its complications
  • pregnant women (at any stage during pregnancy)
  • people aged 65 years and over.

Influenza vaccines are available NOW – FREE influenza vaccines under the National Immunisation Program became available this month and can be administered by GPs, community health clinics, and eligible pharmacies. To locate a service in your area you can search the National Health Services Directory. Book your appointment to get vaccinated to ensure you have the best protection at the peak of the season (usually June to September). However, it’s never too late to get  vaccinated as influenza can spread all year round.

For further information you can access the Department of Health’s Help stop the flu in 2022 website page here.

Telehealth’s role in modern health care

In recent years teleconsultations have played a growing role in the delivery of healthcare and support services across Australia. Far from a stop-gap measure, these services are set to become one of the standout legacies from the global pandemic. The government has announced it will invest AU$100 million towards making telehealth a permanent option in the healthcare system. This comes on the back of consistent research indicating confidence in the method and a lasting appetite for its convenience. A recent white paper by Deloitte, Curtin University and the Consumers Health Forum of Australia found that seven in 10 Australians are willing and ready to use virtual health services.

The research also found that geographical disparity is one of the biggest causes of inconsistent patient outcomes across the country. With the availability of videoconferencing services, people no longer need to leave their homes to receive care, and providers can ensure those in inaccessible areas aren’t left behind. We saw an example of this in the remote aboriginal community of Tjuntjuntjara in WA, which, during March 2020 and January 2021, faced a shortage of healthcare professionals due to a state border closure with SA. Following the introduction of telehealth services, the 160 residents had reliable access to virtual care for chronic conditions and mental health issues.

To view the Hospital and Healthcare article The role of telehealth in modern health care click here.

welcome to Tjuntjuntjara hand painted sign beside outback red sand road

Image source: ExporOZ.

New COVID-19 oral treatment on PBS

From Sunday 1 May 2022 the second, prescription-only, COVID-19 oral treatment will be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for Australians at high risk of developing severe COVID-19.

Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir) is an oral anti-viral medicine which can be used by patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing severe disease. This medicine will help reduce the need for hospital admission.

Adults who have mild to moderate COVID-19 – which is confirmed by a PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test and verified by the prescribing doctor or nurse practitioner – and who can start treatment within five days of symptom onset, can be prescribed the oral anti-viral medicines if:

  • they are 65 years of age or older, with two other risk factors for severe disease (as increasing age is a risk factor, patients who are 75 years of age of older only need to have one other risk factor)
  • they are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, and are 50 years of age or older with two other risk factors for severe disease, or
  • they are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

To view Minister Greg Hunt’s media release in full click here.

Image source: ABC News.

AIHW releases mental health papers.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) have released two important publications:

Employment and Indigenous mental health

  • this paper provides an overview of policies and programs that address Indigenous employment and mental health and evaluates the evidence that labour force outcomes can improve Indigenous mental health.

Indigenous self-governance for mental health and suicide prevention

  • this article provides a synthesis of the information about Indigenous self-governance in relation to mental health and suicide prevention. It explores the ways in which Indigenous organisations embody and enable processes, structures, institutions, and control associated with self-governance and how these contribute to Indigenous wellbeing and suicide prevention.

You can view the Employment and Indigenous mental health paper in full here and the Indigenous self-governance for mental health and suicide prevention article here.

Aged and dementia care scholarships 

Aged Care Nursing and Allied Health Dementia Care Scholarships.  Applications for studies in 2022 are open until 5 May 2022 to nurses, personal care workers and allied health professionals.

The  Department of Health’s Ageing and Aged Care Sector Newsletter article Aged Care Nursing and Allied Health Dementia Care Scholarships available here includes comments from Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Adjunct Professor Alison McMillian, Chief Allied Health Officer Dr Anne-marie Boxall, and previous scholarship recipients.

Additional information about the scholarships is available on the Australian College of Nursing website here.

Kurranulla’s Aboriginal aged care and disability worker Larissa McEwen with her client, Aunty Loyla Lotaniu. Photo: John Veage. Image source: St George & Sutherland Shire Leader.

$25m to fix ‘dehumanising’ Banksia Hill conditions

The Banskia Hill juvenile detention centre will receive a $25.1 million upgrade after it was slammed by a Perth Children’s Court judge as a “dehumanising” space. The money will go towards a $7.5 million crisis care unit, improvement to the centre’s intensive supervision unit, in-cell media streaming for education and therapeutic purposes, and a new Aboriginal services unit.

While sentencing a 15-year old boy for a range of offences, in February, Perth Children’s Court President Judge Hylton Quail said “if you wanted to make a monster, this is the way to do it”.

To view the ABC News article Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre gets $25 million to address ‘dehumanising’ conditions, cut incarceration rates in full click here.

parents of children inside Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre protesting

Parents of children inside Banksia Hill have recently spoken out about conditions inside the centre and are considering a class action. Photo supplied by Megan Krakouer. Image source: ABC News.

In a related story Condobolin Health Worker Ellen Doolan says while people have got to feel safe in their own homes, sending more Indigenous kids into juvenile detention is not the solution. Elderly Aboriginal people in Condobolin are just as frightened as elderly whites, she says. Many of the kids ­involved have grown up in ­“extremely tough circumstances” and are being raised by elderly grandmothers. “We’ve already got the highest rate of incarceration of any people in this country and so a lot of the fathers are in jail and now a lot of the mothers are too,” ­Doolan says. To view Ellen Doolan speaking click here.

Condobolin AHW Ellen Doolan

Condobolin health worker Ellen Doolan. Image source: The Australian.

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.

Primary Care COVID-19 update

The latest in a series of webinars to update primary care on the COVID-19 response and the vaccine rollout will be held from 3:30 PM–4:00 PM (AEDT) Thursday 21 April 2022.

Joining Professor Michael Kidd AM, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health on the panel this week will be Australian Government Department of Health Dr Lucas de Toca, First Assistant Secretary, COVID-19 Primary Care Response, Department of Health.

GPs and all health professionals are welcome to attend the webinar and can join using this link. If you’re unable to view this webinar live, you can view it on-demand using the same link, within a few hours of the live stream ending.

NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: First Nations housing in crisis

Image in feature tile of Cassandra Chula, Gloria Chula, Heather Tcherna and Majella Tipiloura in their home where 16 people live in Wadeye. Image source: SBS NITIV, 21 February 2020.

First Nations housing in crisis

An election forum on Indigenous housing will today hear that at least 8,500 new codesigned, culturally appropriate, climate resilient properties are needed in the next four years to address severe overcrowding and disadvantage. The call comes in an election priorities paper jointly released by Change the Record and Everybody’s Home.

The paper First Nations Housing – Election Priorities also calls for further funding to the states and territories to ensure existing public housing stock is retrofitted and properly maintained as the climate crisis worsens. The paper recommends sustained, long-term commitments to increasing and properly resourcing Aboriginal Community-Controlled housing, to meet the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

To view the Everybody’s Home media release in full click here.

Aboriginal house on outskirts of Alice Springs

Part of an Aboriginal town camp on the outskirts of Alice Springs. Photo: Helen Davidson, The Guardian.

A related ABC News story illustrates at a personal level the impact of inadequate housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Karen Sebastian breaks down in tears as she contemplates life after COVID-19. “I don’t know where we’ll go after this,” she sobs. “Me and the kids will probably go squat at a house or try camp out with some family, if they’ll have us.”

The Broome woman has been homeless for 10 years, but was taken on a 220-km taxi ride to stay at a rundown hotel after contracting COVID-19. She and her teenage sons went into isolation in the tourist accommodation for a week as part of the WA government’s pandemic response.

Vicki O’Donnell, who heads the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services, said “We’ve pushed for people to be put into hotels where it’s appropriate, purely so they can be looked after better, particularly for the homeless. Part of the reason people need to be taken to hotels is the terrible overcrowding we’ve got and poorly maintained houses and that’s been an issue for 20 years. It’s been highlighted during the virus and it’s something governments have to address.”

To view the ABC News article in full click here.

Aboriginal woman with hands against security door to motel

The WA government booked Karen Sebastian and her sons into a hotel to isolate while they had COVID-19. Photo: Andrew Seabourne, ABC News.

Bushfire impact disproportionate for mob

First Nations Australians suffered worse impacts from the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires due to inappropriate planning and unsuitable interventions by authorities during the crisis, researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) argue.

The researchers have published a report examining the first-hand experiences of Indigenous Australians during the 2019-2020 bushfires, and say the findings are also reflected in the current northern NSW floods. Indigenous Australians experienced racism and unfair treatment in the face of the bushfire catastrophe, in addition to loss of home, land and lives, the ANU researchers found.

To view the ANU’s media release in full click here.

burnt forest Yuin Nation S Coast NSW 2019 bushfires

Solutions to remedy nation’s dental system

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) says the coming election is a golden opportunity to remedy the enormous mess that the nation’s dental system. The peak body for dentists has a number of remedies on its election wish list to fix the system and is putting these to the major political parties for their pre-election consideration.

Over recent years the ADA has repeatedly called on the Federal Government to address the overwhelming and urgent need to set up a targeted and sustainable funding scheme to meet the needs of older, rural and low-income Australians. ADA president Dr Mark Hutton said “People often ask the ADA why there isn’t such a scheme and I have no answer as to why this is not yet in existence. Governments of all colours have consistently failed to address this issue which affects millions.”

TOne of the ways to address the issue according to the ADA is to ensure all over 75s, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over 55 and residents of aged care facilities get a mandatory and reportable oral health assessment.

To view the Bite Magazine article ADA offers solutions to fix a broken dental system in full click here.

Aboriginal man in dental chair receiving treatment

A patient is treated at the Armajun Aboriginal Health Service at Inverell. Photo: Bridget Brennan, ABC News.

NT Melioidosis on the rise

Top End residents and visitors are being urged to take extra precaution to avoid melioidosis following a recent spike in case numbers. Melioidosis, a potentially deadly disease, is caused by the bacterium, Burkholderia pseudomallei, found in tropical soil and water.

Dr Vicki Krause, Director of the NT Centre for Disease Control, said people are more likely to come in contact with these bacteria during the wet season, when they can be found in soil surface layers and muddy surface waters. “This wet season’s high rainfall has led to a 50% increase in the number of melioidosis cases than expected,” Dr Krause said. “On average, 32 cases of melioidosis are reported in the NT each wet season. So far this wet season, 48 cases have been recorded.”

To view the NT Government’s media release in full click here.

Bare feet walking on soil image from NT News and the motile bacteria that causes  melioidosis from the Eye of Science.

Resources for mental health workers

A series of video interviews about the risks of poor mental health and other social issues for young people have been produced by True Pictures for the NSW Ministry of Health.

The videos, like the one below, explain how mental health workers can provide culturally safe services and programs. You can access the Working with Aboriginal People Enhancing Clinical Practice in Mental Health Care Discussion Guide here and the ​video resources on the WellMob website here.

Services for LGBTIQSB+ youth ineffective

There is an absence of research into the effectiveness of service provision for First Nations LGBTIQSB+ young people in Australia. To address this gap, young people’s perspectives on essential components of service provision have been gathered. Concerns were expressed about the ongoing impact of implicit and explicit settler-colonial heteronormativity and racism on services providing support for young First Nations LGBTIQSB+ peoples.

Although set in Australia, this research supports the body of international research and has the potential to create policies and practices centered on the voices and needs of First Nations LGBTIQSB+ youth. To view the abstract of Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services research article “I felt invisible”: First nations LGBTIQSB+ young people’s experiences with health service provision in Australia in full click here.

Photo: Getty Images. Image source: Maxwell Medical Group.

COVID-19 booster vax and RAT demo

In a recent video Dr Aleeta Fejo, Larrakia and Warumungu traditional owner and Elder, and a General Practitioner, Senior Doctor at Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in South Hedland, WA explains why you should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose. Dr Fejo emphasises how getting a booster dose can reduce a person’s risk of  spreading COVID-19 to family and community members, getting seriously ill, going to hospital, and dying.

Getting tested for COVID-19 and knowing when you should stay home helps protect the whole community. If you are feeling unwell, the quickest way to get tested is with a  rapid antigen test, also known as a RAT. In these videos, Dr Mark Wenitong walks us through the testing process step by step:

You can buy RATs from pharmacies, grocery stores, and other retail and online outlets. It’s good to have a few at home, so if you feel sick you have one ready to go. If you have an eligible Commonwealth concession card, you can get up to 20 free RATs from participating pharmacies until the end of July 2022.

And remember, if you test positive, stay at home and isolate from others in your house if you can for at least 7 days. You should also let your friends and family know that you have COVID-19, so they can also monitor for symptoms and take a test if needed.

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.