NACCHO Ice News :Ice problem in Canberra reaches crisis proportions, Indigenous health service says


‘Ice is devastating our communities’

I lost my business, I lost my wife and children,

After more than two years staying clean, I have continued to deal with a daily struggle.

I’m still battling, I still get urges to have ice, it’s everywhere, it’s hard,

Ice is destroying our communities, not just the Indigenous community, all communities.

Winnunga Nimmityjah-run men’s support group has been invaluable in his rehabilitation

A big thing about dealing with addiction is support and the men’s group is just that,

“They’re not judgemental, they’ve pretty much been through a battle just like you.”

Former methamphetamine user Micah Hill knows only too well the power of the drug ice.

Photo: Canberra man Micah Hill talks about his additcion to ice at a Winnunga Nimmityjah event. (ABC News: Greg Nelson)

We need more Aboriginal case workers and I need to triple my social health team if we’re going to be able to make a real difference.

Julie Tongs, Winnunga Nimmityjah Chief Executive

Crystal methamphetamine is having a dramatic impact on Canberra’s Indigenous community and experts have warned the problem is getting worse.

Canberra’s only indigenous health service said the ice problem in the ACT had reached crisis proportions.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service held a forum in Canberra on Tuesday to help the community better deal with the scourge.

The health service’s Chief Executive Julie Tongs said she had witnessed an enormous increase in the number of ice-affected clients over the past 18 months.

“Every day we see an ice-affected person at Winnunga, there’s often more than one, but we would have somebody probably have a psychotic episode here maybe every couple of days,” she said.

“We’ve always had a big intravenous drug problem in this community, but the impact of ice and the psychosis that it causes for people has been devastating.

“We’re seeing second and third generation users and these are the families that keep getting battered every time and they don’t have the resources to put their kids into private rehabs.”

Ms Tongs said the problem had become harder to manage.

“We have a very small waiting room and a lot of very sick people and people with multiple chronic diseases,” she said.

“We have around 1,900 clients with a diagnosed mental illness and some of them are also drug affected.

“We need more Aboriginal case workers and I need to triple my social health team if we’re going to be able to make a real difference.”

Family members looking for support at the forum were reminded of the value of their role in the rehabilitation process.

Victorian based drug rehabilitation trainer Kathleen Orr said rehabilitation education had been welcomed by family members.

“I think whenever a family member starts using drugs in a dangerous and addictive way the family members get an education that they didn’t want to have, but it’s going to be a useful thing because then they can be more supportive.”

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Warren Mundine responds to $25.4 billion spent on Aboriginal disadvantage lie

Abbott and the Mandine

Warren Mundine responds to “$25.4 billion lie”

On October 26, The Stringer published Gerry Georgatos’ article – $25.4 billion spent on Aboriginal disadvantage is a lie. On October 30, another version of Georgatos’ article was published as the front page story of The National Indigenous TimesA $25.4 billion lie!

As published in the  The Stringer

Dr Warren Mundine’s response:

Last week’s front page of the National Indigenous Times was intended to debunk one of the common myths about Indigenous Affairs funding – that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are personally receiving around $25 billion of special government funding.

NIT points out that this $25 billion figure includes Indigenous people’s share of funding that is provided to all Australians equally (such as social security, education and health). Based on its analysis of the latest Productivity Commission report NIT estimates that, of the funding allotted specifically to Indigenous Australians, a majority is spent on bureaucrats, advisers, contractors and the like, many of whom are non-Indigenous.

These figures are no surprise to me. On the ABC’s Q&A last month I said that Senator Scullion and I had estimated during a quick review that around a third of Government funding for Indigenous programs doesn’t even make it past the front doors of office buildings in Canberra and other cities. It’s like an inverted pyramid – funding passes through several layers of bureacracy and other administration before reaching the people it’s intended to help, by which time it’s substantially depleted.

This is why one of the first acts of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council will be to get a precise understanding of where funding is actually landing. Administrative and auxillary functions will be just as much a focus of the review as anything else.

However, the NIT article also created some new myths.

The first is that the Council has been set up to find savings or improve the budget bottom line. This is incorrect. The Council has not been established because of concern that too much money is being spent. It’s been established because the lives of Indigenous people are not improving enough. I certainly don’t believe that there are “billions to be saved by cutting into Indigenous programs” as the article stated.

The second myth is that the problems could all be solved simply by redirecting funding away from bureacracy and administration and directly to Indigenous people. This is a false hope. Poverty isn’t solved by giving communities money. Poverty is solved by economic development, by communities making money.

This year The Economist reported the extraordinary figure that between 1990 and 2010 the number of people living in extreme poverty globally halved – reducing from 43% to 21% as a percentage of the total population of developing countries. This equates to 1 billion people lifting out of extreme poverty over a 20 year period.

According to The Economist, two-thirds of a country’s poverty reduction comes from economic growth. In the 3 decades after China began to implement economic reform, for example, its extreme-poverty rate fell from 84% to 10%. The remaining third of poverty reduction is mainly through greater equality. This could include things like democracy, reduced corruption and equal access to education for girls, for example.

Indigenous communities will be no different. The only way we’ll see poverty and disadvantage reduce, and ultimately eliminated, is through commercial activity and economic development. Maintaining good community and organisational governance is of course a given.

I think Indigenous media and opinion is misreading the mood in Australia. There is genuine goodwill amongst the Australian public towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a strong desire to see a closing of the gap, particularly the business community. People don’t quote the $25 billion figure to disparage Indigenous people or because of concern about the money. When people quote the $25 billion they are are expressing exasperation that the gap isn’t closing despite Government efforts and despair that if such large amounts invested aren’t making a difference then what will?

The $25 billion figure symbolises the failure of a 40 year strategy to bring Indigenous people to an equal standing with other Australians – even that the part of the funding which is for services and benefits available to all Australians. This is because Indigenous people disproportionately rely on government services and benefits such as public housing, social security and health services. The size of that figure reflects the fact that Indigenous people are far more likely to be poor, unemployed or suffering from chronic illness.

I would like nothing more than for the $25 billion figure to go down – not through cutting services and benefits, but through Indigenous people needing fewer of these services and benefits in the first place. I would like to see fewer Indigenous people receiving welfare and more Indigenous people in real jobs. I would like to see fewer Indigenous people in need of medical treatment for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease and more Indigenous people fit, healthy and smoke-free. I would like to see fewer Indigenous children needing intervention or specialist health care and improved maternal health. I would like to see all Indigenous children going to school every day.

We need to stop being defensive about funding and start working with government to identify and implement real change for Indigenous people. We need to stop being fixated on programs and start focussing on results in education, jobs, commercial activity and economic development.

The Indigenous Advisory Council is not a razor gang but it will only endorse a strategy of spending and service delivery that achieves demonstrated outcomes for Indigenous people. We should all demand this.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine is Chair of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Trust, integrity and respect confirmed as cornerstones of effective Indigenous engagement


Relationships built on trust, integrity and respect are crucial for effective engagement with Indigenous communities, according to two papers released today on the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse website.

Engaging with Indigenous Australia—exploring the conditions for effective relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities reviews the evidence on engagement and outlines the conditions required for effective engagement.


The evidence shows that engaging successfully with Indigenous communities requires:

  • an appreciation of the historical, social, cultural and political complexity of specific Indigenous contexts
  • active Indigenous participation from the earliest stage of defining the problem to be solved and defining aspirations, through to implementing the program and evaluating the results
  • long term relationships of trust, respect and honesty, as well as accessible and ongoing communication and clarity about roles and responsibilities
  • genuine efforts to share power, including through negotiated agreements
  • clarity about the purpose of and scale for engagement and appropriate timeframes
  • attention to strengthening governance and capacity within both the Indigenous community and governments themselves, and good leadership
  • negotiation of clear and agreed outcomes  and indicators of success with monitoring and evaluation processes that meet each parties’ needs.

This paper says evidence shows that effective engagement requires strong and strategic Indigenous and government leadership and adequate governance, and that hurried one-off ‘consultations’ that are organised without Indigenous input do not work.

Fragmented arrangements, where each agency tries to engage with the same Indigenous people and organisations, place unnecessarily heavy burdens on Indigenous people.

These findings are consistent with the findings of the second paper, Engagement with Indigenous communities in key sectors. This paper reviews evidence from studies of Indigenous engagement in early childhood services, environmental and natural resource management activities, and health programs at local, regional, state and national levels.

It outlines the common lessons on different levels of engagement from local engagement through to regional, state-wide and national engagement.

The Closing the Gap Clearinghouse is jointly funded by all Australian governments and provides an online source of information on what works to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. It is delivered by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

Canberra, 2 October 2013

Further information: Nigel Harding, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1025, mob. 0409 307 671

For media copies of the report: 02 6249 5048/02 6249 5033 or email

NACCHO team member news: Arika Errington’s 10-year journey to become a University graduate is a story of true perseverance.

Faculty of Arts & Design and Faculty of Business, Government & Law Graduation Sept 2013

NACCHO team member Arika Errington’s 10-year journey to become a University of Canberra graduate is a story of true perseverance.

An Aboriginal woman who grew up in Canberra, Ms Errington graduated with a Bachelor of Arts after having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety while studying and moving from Queensland to Tasmania and Melbourne before settling back in Canberra.

“It doesn’t quite feel real, I also feel relieved … it was a rough 10 years of starting, leaving, changing disciplines, illness, and self doubt,” Ms Errington said of graduating in a ceremony at Parliament House on 25 September.

“My aim is to one day be a voice for my people, to teach others about who we are as a community and the oldest living culture on earth … I want to change the assumptions/judgements people automatically make about Aboriginal people rather than judging them on their actions as human beings.”

Article Krystin Comino
Arika Errington pictured at her University of Canberra graduation ceremony at Parliament House. Photo: Michelle McAulay

The 29-year-old said she was “proud to even be offered the opportunity” to go to the University, majoring in journalism to follow in the footsteps of her father, William Errington, a former press photographer. Her mother Tjanara Goreng Goreng is an assistant professor at the University’s Ngunnawal Centre, which provides support and education programs for Indigenous students.  Ms Errington said she has been inspired by her parents.

“I’m only attending my graduation so my mum and dad can see. I did it all for them, they have given me nothing but love and respect my entire life, whilst dealing with their own personal traumas,” she said.

“My mob are called the Wakka Wakka and Wulli Wulli people from Queensland and I’ve always known my culture growing up, my parents both made sure I knew who I was and where I was from, my mum used to sing me songs in language and I hope one day I’m blessed enough to share those to my children so some of our language can continue.”

Ms Errington moved to Queensland for a while in her teen years before her mother encouraged her  to do the Ngunnawal Centre’s foundation program to prepare her to study at the University of Canberra, a program she later ended up teaching in, saying “all I wanted was to help students who were like me succeed”.

Despite calling Canberra home, Ms Errington has moved around a lot in her life, including living in a rainforest at a place called Main Arm Upper in NSW.

“We lived on the land without electricity, running water, and a makeshift toilet out the back, checking myself for leaches and ticks at the end of each day.”

Moving back to Canberra to start her studies, she took a break from university to work in Melbourne for a few years before returning to the University of Canberra, where she spent some time living on campus.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to finish something I started. I completed a literature class but I was really unhappy (I eventually was diagnosed with depression/anxiety which I didn’t know about at the time) and moved to Tasmania where my mum was working at a university to have a break and be with my family,” she said.

“I then moved to Melbourne in 2005 and started a job, got my own place, and began finding out who I was and who I wanted to be, then in 2006 I woke up one day and decided to leave behind my life in Melbourne, and finish uni.”

Since 2012 she has worked in the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation as a project coordinator on the ‘Talking About the Smokes’ research project – designed to help Indigenous people quit smoking – in partnership with Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin.

“I’m extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity because it has helped me grow as a person, and understand my true value, and also I get to show other Aboriginal people how to gather data for our project, the youngest I’ve trained to be a research assistant was 17, and the eldest 72, it’s really helping our communities and mob and showing them that anything is possible, no matter where you live or how old you are, it’s been great seeing different communities, community control at its finest.”

She also recently began a communications officer position with the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM), allowing her to draw on her journalism skills.

“I really respect what CATSINaM does for our people and for the Indigenous health sector and I enjoy being a part of two National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies.”

She was also recently awarded a scholarship to attend the ‘She Leads’ program run by the YWCA of Canberra in a Diploma of Management with leadership as a main focus.

There are over 155 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students currently studying at the University


NACCHO JOB Opportunities:

Are you interested in working in Aboriginal health?

NACCHO as the national authority in comprenhesive Aboriginal primary health care currently has a wide range of job oppportunities in the pipeline.

Register your current or future interest with our HR TEAM HERE

NACCHO health award news: Aboriginal health service reaches finals Australia’s leading general practice health awards


Ms Tongs said Winnunga had demonstrated how the work of its Quality Improvement Committee, which met monthly, had seen improved client care and implemented how specific improvements were evaluated while introducing  a wide and varied range of training programs to ensure patients received effective and efficient service delivery.

The CEO of Canberra’s Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service, Julie Tongs, today announced that Winnunga had reached the finals of this year’s Australia’s leading general practice health awards conducted by Australian General Practice Accreditation Ltd (AGPAL).

“This is quite an achievement,” Ms Tongs said.

“AGPAL is the leading provider of accreditation services to Australian general practice with over 80 percent of practices accredited under the AGPAL banner”.

Thousands of practices are AGPAL accredited.

Ms Tongs said AGPAL’s CEO, Dr Stephen Clark, had informed Winnunga that it had been selected as one of AGPAL’s General Practice of the Year finalists.

“This prestigious award will be presented at AGPAL’s International Health Care Conference in Sydney on Friday, September 27, “ Dr Clark added.  “I want to congratulate Winnunga on this outstanding achievement of making the finals.  I wish you luck as one of our finalists in this award category”.

Ms Tongs said this was the first time that Winnunga had reached the finals since becoming a fully accredited health service provider in 2006.

To be considered for an award Winnunga had to demonstrate a number of milestone as a health care provider, such as:

  • Demonstrating how Winnunga’s practice’s quality improvements had changed service delivery and care to its patients/clients
  • A recent achievement or improvement outcome
  • Ilustrate a quality/safety innovation Winnunga was proud of and explain how this innovation had improved the quality and safety in how Winnunga operated
  • How risk and safety management  were being achieved within the service

Ms Tongs said Winnunga had demonstrated how the work of its Quality Improvement Committee, which met monthly, had seen improved client care and implemented how specific improvements were evaluated while introducing  a wide and varied range of training programs to ensure patients received effective and efficient service delivery.

One of the many ways Winnunga had improved its response to community needs was to meet the cost of specialist consultations when patients could not afford to pay them – which was the case with most of its specialist referrals.

“If we hadn’t taken this initiative most of our clients wouldn’t be able to avail themselves of specialist care,” Ms Tongs said.  “They would just be no shows”.

Winnunga had also implemented important improvements to the way  health care information was stored and accessed electronically – such as the issuing of iPads to its doctors when making home visits so that the information and outcomes were better recorded, including data on the issue of prescription medicines.  Winnunga had also introduced another new computerised innovation which enabled all prescriptions to be easily  scanned into a pharmacy computer system.

Winnunga’s had also set new standards of Aboriginal prisoner health care in the way Winnunga staff work with Aboriginal prisoners at Canberra’s Alexander Maconochie Centre, including increasing the visits by its Aboriginal Health Workers. Prisoners now received health care which better addressed not only the needs of the prisoner but also that persons family.

Ms Tongs said Winnunga was also proud of the fact that it had taken the step of being a part of the initiative to introduce nationally a National E-Health Record System.

“We are convinced that the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record can and will make a difference to our ACT and regional patients, including those people who  access our practice while away from their permanent place of dwelling,” Ms Tongs said.   “Aboriginal people frequently move around the country and between services.  The E-Health Record has many benefits for Aboriginal clients”.

Ms Tongs said Winnunga was also proud of continued improvements it had achieved in the way it delivers its monthly Diabetes Clinic.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have the fourth highest rate of Type 2 diabetes in the world.   Over 200 of Winnunga’s clients are diabetics,” Ms Tongs said.

Further information”  Julie Tongs 0418 206156 or Peter Windsor 0400 554603


NACCHO JOB Opportunities:

Are you interested in working in Aboriginal health?

NACCHO as the national authority in comprenhesive Aboriginal primary health care currently has a wide range of job oppportunities in the pipeline.

Register your current or future interest with our HR TEAM HERE

NACCHO ehealth opportunity alert:an initiative to register people to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR)


NACCHO Affiliates are being informed of this initiative, so they can choose to take up the opportunity to work with the Department and the dedicated workforce to offer Assisted Registration to their member health service patients.

The Department of Health and Aging is currently conducting an initiative to register people to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) using a dedicated Assisted Registration workforce (Aspen Medical) supplied through McKinsey and Company (National Change and Adoption Partners).

They will concentrate on conducting Assisted Registration activities, until 30 June 2013, in a variety of healthcare settings across the country.

To ensure that this initiative meets the needs of our Sector, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Canberra has piloted with Aspen Medical a very successful campaign which has to date registered over 260 Winnunga clients and staff for an eHealth record.

As such, NACCHO Affiliates are being informed of this initiative, so they can choose to take up the opportunity to work with the Department and the dedicated workforce to offer Assisted Registration to their member health service patients.

This will be of significance to health services with larger centralised populations with access to a waiting room area, aged care facility or groups of patients where Aspen staff are able to inform and register patients individually.
The Assisted Registration process offers patients a quick, personalised and well-informed way of applying to register for a national eHealth record.

Previous to this process, consumers seeking to apply to participate in the PCEHR, would either do so on the internet, by post, by phone call or at a Medicare office.

The Assisted Registration process allows patients of a health service to fill in a one page application form, and have their identity verified either using a 100 point documentary ID check, or by being a known customer of the health care service. Patients have the opportunity to ask the trained Aspen staff members about the PCEHR and what it would mean for them.

The experience at Winnunga is that patients are quick to see the benefits of having an eHealth record, and are keen to opt in to the system.

The dedicated Aspen workforce tailor their approach to each setting. All  staff deployed will have undergone cultural competency training, and will work with the Affiliates and the service to understand the local context and needs of their patients. The staff would be happy to sign a client confidentiality agreement. Male and female staff members can be deployed if requested. In fact, where there are vacancies, Aspen are open to employing people recommended by the health service to be Assisted Registration staff.

Using Aspen Medical authorised staff members to assist your patients to register does not alter your connectivity with your patients. PCEHR compliant practice software will flag who has an eHealth record (provided the patient has chosen to allow access to clinicians in your service).

Please note that Aspen Medical is not in a position legally to provide a list of patients who have registered through them to a service, however they are more than willing to provide you with data on registration numbers.

Greg Henschke (Acting NACCHO eHealth Project Manager) will be contacting NACCHO Affiliates, with the aim of identifying services that would be interested in participating in this PCEHR consumer registration program.

This resource is currently available until 30th June 2013 and deployment will be managed nationally through DoHA.

It is important to note that the dedicated workforce are not unlimited and we will need to move quickly to identify where we could best use them for our sector.

As more consumers and healthcare practitioners become registered and use the eHealth record system, benefits of the system will be realised through efficiency in healthcare services and increased access to health information.

To this end, I would strongly encourage you to consider working with the Department and the dedicated workforce to offer Assisted Registration to our sector.

For more information on the PCEHR and Assisted Registration,

contact Greg Henschke (Acting NACCHO eHealth Project Manager,

08 89446651 / 0400448159)

or go to the website .

NACCHO political alert:AIHW report:Spending on Indigenous health reaches $4.6 billion


In 2010-11, 3.7% of Australia’s total health expenditure, or $4.6 billion, was spent on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who make up 2.5% of the Australian population, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).


The report, Expenditure on health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2010-11, shows that $4.6 billion was spent on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2010-11, equating to $7,995 per Indigenous Australian.

‘For non-Indigenous Australians, $5,437 was spent per person,’ said AIHW spokesperson Teresa Dickinson.

‘This is an Indigenous per person ratio of 1.47-that is, $1.47 was spent per Indigenous Australian for every $1.00 spent per non-Indigenous Australian.’

This ratio was an increase from the 2008-09 figure of 1.39.

In 2010-11, publicly-provided services such as public hospital and community health services were the highest expenditure areas for the Indigenous population.

‘The average per person expenditure on public hospital services for Indigenous Australians was more than double that for non-Indigenous Australians-$3,631 compared with $1,683,’ Ms Dickinson said.

Conversely, for health services that have greater out-of-pocket expenses, such as pharmaceutical and dental services, Indigenous expenditure is generally lower relative to the non-Indigenous population.

‘The average per person expenditure on dental services was $149 for Indigenous Australians, compared with $355 for non-Indigenous Australians,’ Ms Dickinson said.

‘These differences reflect different patterns of service usage.’

Most health expenditure on Indigenous Australians in 2010-11 (91.4%) was government-funded-46.6% by state and territory governments and 44.8% by the Australian Government. For non-Indigenous Australians, 68.1% of total health expenditure was government-funded.

Between 2008-09 and 2010-11, expenditure by all governments on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people rose by $847 per person. This represents an average annual growth rate of 6.1%, compared with 2.6% for non-Indigenous Australians.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare.

Canberra, 28 March 2013

Further information: Ms Teresa Dickinson, AIHW, tel. 02 6249 5104 mob. 0439 430 577

Are you interested in dementia care for remote Aboriginal communities : hearing will be webcast live

The hearing will be webcast live on:

Friday, 8 February 2013 from 10.00 am


The House of Representatives Health and Ageing Committee will meet with the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services at Parliament House this Friday, as part of its inquiry into dementia: early diagnosis and intervention.

This follows the federal parliamentary committee’s recent visits to Broome and Alice Springs, where it heard from dementia care service-providers who service remote Indigenous communities in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

The committee will also hear from representatives of the Department of Health and Ageing, regarding how the Department will respond to the challenge posed by the expected increase in people with dementia, in line with population ageing. Representatives of the Minister’s Dementia Advisory Group, formed to advise the Minister for Ageing on issues relating to dementia care, will also attend.

Details of the public hearing are as follows:

Date:    Friday, 8 February 2013

Venue: Committee Room 1R4, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT

Time Witness
10:00am Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services
10:45am Break
11:00am Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing
11:45am Minister’s Dementia Advisory Group
12:30pm Close

All are welcome to attend

The hearing will be webcast live on:

 For media comment: please contact the Office of Jill Hall MP on (02) 4947 9711.

 For all other enquiries: please contact the Committee Secretariat by phone on (02) 6277 4145 or visit the Committee’s website: