NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health : @DoctorBoffa Meningococcal epidemic targeting Indigenous youth in NT ‘must be taken seriously’

” We need all young people to take this very seriously, visit their local health services and be immunised immediately to stop the spread.

This is a really serious disease, it’s a major outbreak. It’s the biggest Australia has ever seen and its confined to Indigenous children under the age of 10…We need all young people to take this very seriously, visit their local health services and be immunised immediately to stop the spread,”

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, Alice Springs, NT Chief Medical Officer Public Health,  Dr John Boffa has urged everyone in the community to take this epidemic very seriously.

He says Aboriginal community controlled health services and NT government clinics were doing well to stop the spread of the virus but warns parents and Indigenous youth that the correct early prevention steps must be taken

 Dr Boffa says the results of this epidemic “highlights the extreme inequality between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the NT.” He says the NT is desperate for more hands-on help to look after people impacted by the disease.

“We urgently need extra help! We need more nurses throughout the territory. If there are any nurses who want work as locums they should contact the central Australia Aboriginal congress in Alice Springs or send me an email, we want your help!”

Pictures Above Nick Hose : Meningococcal outbreak worries families in Central Australia:

Photo 1 : Vanessa Smith is making sure her three grandchildren are vaccinated against meningococcal

Photo 2 Geraldine Ashby is a remote nurse in Santa Teresa, and a parent

The meningococcal disease outbreak continues to hit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people living in Central Australia, the Barkly, Katherine and Katherine West regions.

Originally Published here with the assistance of NACCHO

This year alone has seen 25 confirmed cases of the W strain, a rapid jump from only three cases last year. All cases have affected only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. To make matters worse, 19 of those cases have been recorded as children younger than the age of 10.


A rare, life-threatening illness caused by bacterial infection of the blood and/or the membranes that line the spinal cord and brain and occasionally infect other sites, such as large joints.


Fever, neck stiffness, headache, difficulty looking at bright lights, vomiting, diarrhoea, sore muscles or joints, drowsiness or a rash. Babies may refuse food and drink and have a high pitched cry.


* With antibiotics, but the infection can progress very quickly, so seeking medical attention urgently is vital to survival.

This week, a mass vaccination program is being rolled out in the affected regions. Coordinated by the NT Centers for Disease Control (CDC), government and non-government health services, including Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations will be able to offer NT Health funded vaccines.

A free vaccine will be offered to all Indigenous people aged between 12 months and 19 years, living in remote communities. Aboriginal people aged between 12 months and 19 years living in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine will also have access to the vaccine.

People are also able to pay for the vaccine at their local doctor. There are two vaccines available – one costs $49 while the other is $118 and authorities have advised that ‘the cheaper one is just as effective’.

Photo: Six-year-old Rexena awaits her vaccination against the disease. (ABC News: Nick Hose)

After working in the public health communal disease sector for nearly 30 years, Mr Boffa, speaking on behalf of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, has urged for action to be taken as soon as possible in the NT, such as changes to the national child immunisation schedule.

“This epidemic means plans need to be sped up so we’ll have populational protection through routine immunisation of children.”

Dr Boffa says Aboriginal community controlled health services and NT government clinics were doing well to stop the spread of the virus.

“The positive thing is the health system has diagnosed people early, gotten them to hospital and out of the 25 cases in the NT so far, We’ve been able to pick them up quickly and get them effectively treated.”

Dr Boffa warns parents and Indigenous youth that the correct early prevention steps must be taken.

“The disease presents differently and is hard to clearly identify – which is why any sick child with a fever needs to be assessed and get to their local clinic to be checked,” he said.

“If you have a late diagnosis, late being you only miss it by 24 hours, it can kill you.”


Meningococcal disease is an uncommon but very serious disease. It is treatable with antibiotics but the infection can progress very quickly. It’s important for people to be aware of the symptoms and to seek medical advice early for either themselves or their children if they have any concerns.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Alcohol : Draft terms of reference for a another comprehensive review of alcohol policy in the #NT

 ” The Northern Territory has the second highest alcohol consumption in the world. Misuse of alcohol has devastating health and social consequences for NT Aboriginal communities.

APO NT believes that addressing alcohol and drug misuse, along with the many health and social consequences of this misuse, can only be achieved through a multi-tiered approach.

APO NT supports evidence based alcohol policy reform, including:

  • Supply reduction measures
  • Harm reduction measures, and
  • Demand reduction measures.

To address alcohol and drug misuse within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the social and structural determinants of mental health must be addressed,

Parliamentary Inquiry into the Harmful use of Alcohol in Aboriginal Communities

On 17 April 2014, APO NT submitted their written evidence to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs on the Inquiry into the harmful use of alcohol in Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities.

The APO NT submission made 16 recommendations to the committee: SEE INFO Here

Read  NACCHO Alcohol and other drugs 164 Articles over 5 years HERE


A SAFER COMMUNITY :  NT Government Press Release 10 March 2017

The Health Minister Natasha Fyles today released draft terms of reference for a comprehensive review of alcohol policy in the Northern Territory.

Minister Fyles said the Government was determined to tackle the cost of alcohol abuse on our community and the review will give all Territorians an opportunity to have their voices heard.

“We recognise that, while everyone has the right to enjoy a drink responsibly, alcohol abuse is a significant cause of violence and crime in our community,” Ms Fyles said.

“All Territorians have the right to feel safe, to have their property, homes and businesses secure from damage and theft.

“They also have the right to access health, police and justice services, without having critical resources diverted by the crippling effects of alcohol abuse.

“That’s why Territory Labor has consistently advocated, and implemented, a range of policies to reduce the harm caused by alcohol abuse.

“When last in Government we implemented the Banned Drinker Register (BDR), described by Police as the best tool they had to fight violent crime.

“In Opposition we were clear we would reinstate the BDR and impose a moratorium on new takeaway licences.

“Since coming to Government we have:

  • worked efficiently across agencies to bring back the BDR by September 1
  • imposed a moratorium on new takeaway liquor licences (except in exceptional circumstances) – October 2016
  • strengthened legislation to ensure Sunday trade remains limited – November 2016
  • limited the floor space for take away alcohol stores – December 2016
  • introduced new Guidelines for liquor licensing to allow for public hearings – 2 February 2017

“While some of these policies aren’t popular, their effectiveness is backed by evidence.

“This review is an important chance for the community to have their say and to ensure that all facets of alcohol policy complement our determination to make the Territory safer.

“An expert panel will be commissioned to look at alcohol policies and alcohol legislation, reporting to government on:

  • evidence based policy initiatives required to reduce alcohol fuelled crime
  • ensuring safe and vibrant entertainment precincts
  • the provision of alcohol service and management in remote communities
  • decision-making under the Liquor Act
  • the density of liquor licences (concentration, type, number and location of liquor licences ) and the size of liquor outlets

“Broad public consultation will be undertaken as part of the review, with multiple avenues for interested people, groups and communities to put forward their views.

“I look forward to hearing from not only the loudest and most powerful voices in our community, but also the many women, children, families and communities who all too often bear the cost of alcohol abuse in the Northern Territory.”

The review will start in April with a report and recommendations delivered to government in late September 2017.

The government will then develop a response to the recommendations for the development of the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy and legislative reform agenda.

These will be released publicly along with the Expert Advisory Panel’s final report.

To view the draft terms of references go to:

Submissions are now being accepted at: