NACCHO Aboriginal #MentalHealth and #CoronaVirus News Alert No 19 #KeepOurMobSafe : Intro @JuliaGillard 10 Help/ supports from @beyondblue Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak plus managing your mental health while in self-isolation or quarantine

1.Try to maintain perspective

2.Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage

3.Access good quality information

4.Try to maintain a practical and calm approach

5.Try not to make assumptions

6.Managing your mental health while in self-isolation or quarantine

7.Children and young people

8.Support for those experiencing financial hardship

9.Health care workers

10.Seek support

See NACCHO Corona Virus Home Page

Read all 18 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Coronas Virus Alerts HERE

“These are uncertain times. There are many unknowns.

As humans, we’re hardwired to crave stability. If you’re feeling worried and unsettled that is perfectly understandable.

I felt that myself during my recent period of self-isolation in London. At an event for young people called WE Day, I spent quite a bit of time with Sophie Trudeau, the First Lady of Canada.

When she became unwell and tested positive for COVID-19, I was concerned about potentially becoming sick a long way from home.

What I found reassuring was that the public health advice that was so clear.  The recommendation to me was to self-isolate for 14 days from the time of contact.

Fortunately, I stayed fit and well in that period and all my London friends and colleagues, as well as visiting Aussie mates, made sure I had food and stayed connected with video conferences, calls and silly messages.

On my return to Australia I will self-isolate for another 14 days, and I know family and friends will help me through.

For me, this experience has reinforced how a significant part of the solution to this pandemic rests with us.

The daily decisions we make now are critical and every single one of us has a part to play.

Our individual acts can have a powerful collective impact, helping protect those most at risk in our community.

Simple things really matter – good hand hygiene, avoiding mass gatherings, keeping a 1.5 metre distance between ourselves and others, and staying home if we’re unwell or if we’ve been in contact with someone who is.

Beyond Blue recognises and understands the feelings of anxiety, distress and concern many people may be experiencing in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and offers the following wellbeing advice.”

Julia Gillard Chair BeyondBlue : Read full Press Release Here

1.Try to maintain perspective

While it is reasonable for people to be concerned about the outbreak of coronavirus, try to remember that medical, scientific and public health experts around the world are working hard to contain the virus, treat those affected and develop a vaccine as quickly as possible.

2.Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage

Being exposed to large volumes of negative information can heighten feelings of anxiety. While it’s important to stay informed, you may find it useful to limit your media intake if it is upsetting you or your family.

3.Access good quality information

It’s important to get accurate information from credible sources such as those listed below. This will also help you maintain perspective and feel more in control.

4.Try to maintain a practical and calm approach

Widespread panic can complicate efforts to manage the outbreak effectively. Do your best to stay calm and follow official advice, particularly around observing good hygiene habits.

The Australian Psychological Society has advice about maintaining positive mental health during the outbreak.

5.Try not to make assumptions

To contribute to a sense of community wellbeing, try to remember that the coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of their nationality or ethnicity and remember that those with the disease have not done anything wrong.

6.Managing your mental health while in self-isolation or quarantine

There are a number of ways to support your mental health during periods of self-isolation or quarantine.

  • Remind yourself that this is a temporary period of isolation to slow the spread of the virus.
  • Remember that your effort is helping others in the community avoid contracting the virus.
  • Stay connected with friends, family and colleagues via email, social media, video conferencing or telephone.
  • Connect with others via the Beyond Blue forums thread: Coping during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.
  • Keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy foods.
  • Try to maintain physical activity.
  • Establish routines as best possible and try to view this period as a new experience that can bring health benefits.
  • For those working from home, try to maintain a healthy balance by allocating specific work hours, taking regular breaks and, if possible, establishing a dedicated work space.
  • Avoid news and social media if you find it distressing.

7.Children and young people

Families and caregivers of children and young people should discuss news of the virus with those in their care in an open and honest way. Try to relate the facts without causing alarm, and in a way that is appropriate for their age and temperament. It is important to listen to any questions they may have, to let them know that they are safe and that it’s normal to feel concerned.

If the media or the news is getting too much for them, encourage them to limit their exposure. This video has some useful tips for talking to young people about scary stuff in the news.

Beyond Blue’s Be You initiative has also developed the following resources to help educators support children and young people’s mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.

8.Support for those experiencing financial hardship

As the ongoing spread of the coronavirus continues to affect the global economy, many people in Australia are losing jobs, livelihoods and financial stability. For information and services provided by the Australian government, please visit Services Australia.

If you are experiencing financial hardship, National Debt Helpline offers free financial counselling.

9.Health care workers

Health care workers may feel extra stress during the COVID-19 outbreak. This is a normal response in these unprecedented circumstances. Such feelings are not a sign of weakness and it’s important to acknowledge this. There are practical ways to manage your mental health during this time, including:

  • getting enough rest during work hours and between shifts
  • eating healthy foods and engaging in physical activity
  • keeping in contact with colleagues, family and friends by phone or online
  • being aware of where you can access mental health support at work
  • if you’re a manager, trying to create mentally healthy work structures.

It’s important the general public recognises the pressure that health systems and workers themselves are under and takes steps to support them where possible. Following government advice about ways individuals can help slow the spread of the virus will support the health care workers who are saving lives and keeping people safe.

10.Seek support

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or stressed by news of the outbreak. We encourage people who have experienced mental health issues in the past to:

  • activate your support network
  • acknowledge feelings of distress
  • seek professional support early if you’re having difficulties.

For those already managing mental health issues, continue with your treatment plan and monitor for any new symptoms.

Social contact and maintaining routines can be supportive for our mental health and wellbeing. In circumstances where this is not possible, staying connected with friends and family online or by phone may assist. Beyond Blue also has a dedicated page on its forums about coping during the coronavirus outbreak.

Acknowledge feelings of distress and seek further professional support if required.

Beyond Blue has fact sheets about anxiety and offers other practical advice and resources at

The Beyond Blue Support Service offers short term counselling and referrals by phone and webchat on 1300 22 4636.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Communities #CoronaVirus News Alerts March 13- 16 : Contributions from our CEO Pat Turner, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Dr Mark Wenitong, Dr Norman Swan and Marion Scrymgour

In this special Corona Virus edition

1.Pat Turner NACCHO Appearance on The Drum

2.Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s press conference

3.Department of Health download videos

4.Dr Norman Swan

5.DR Mark Wenitong

6.Marion Scrymgour CEO NLC

Read all previous Aboriginal Health and Corona Virus articles published by NACCHO since January

1.Pat Turner NACCHO Appearance on The Drum

Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), warned tonight that if the novel coronavirus gets into Aboriginal communities, “it will be absolute devastation without a doubt”.

In particular, she urged state and local governments to lift their games, but acknowledged that some local governments, like those in Alice Springs and Halls Creek, were acting.

Turner also called for action to address “the national disgrace” of inadequate Aboriginal housing given the implications for infection control, and for screening of communities in vulnerable areas, stating that the docking of a cruise ship in Broome today had caught health authorities unawares.

The ACCHO sector had been working very hard to get out information to communities and clinics, but needed the Government to fund their services at a realistic level, she told ABC TV’s The Drum program.” 

Urgent calls for more resources to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from COVID-19 From Croakey Read HERE in full 

Watch the full episode of The Drum on IView (Available till 20 March )

2.Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s press conference

 “Today, I now want to move to the decisions that we have taken that were consistent with the plan that I’ve outlined to you.

First of all, the National Security Committee met before the National Cabinet today and we resolved to do the following things; to help stay ahead of this curve we will impose a universal precautionary self-isolation requirement on all international arrivals to Australia, and that is effective from midnight tonight.

Further, the Australian government will also ban cruise ships from foreign ports from arriving at Australian ports after an initial 30 days and that will go forward on a voluntary basis. The National Cabinet also endorsed the advice of the AHPPC today to further introduce social distancing measures.

Before I moved to those, I just wanted to be clear about those travel restrictions that I’ve just announced. All people coming to Australia will be required, will be required I stress, to self isolate for 14 days.

This is very important. What we’ve seen in recent, in the recent weeks is more countries having issues with the virus.

And that means that the source of some of those transmissions are coming from more and more countries.

Bans have been very effective to date. And what this measure will do is ensure that particularly Australians who are the majority of people coming to Australia now on these flights, when they come back to Australia, they’re self-isolation for 14 days will do an effective job in flattening this curve as we go forward.

And there are major decisions that were taken today that reflect changing where we are heading.

The facts and the science, the medical advice will continue to drive and support the decisions that we are making as a National Cabinet, as indeed as a federal Cabinet at the Commonwealth level.

But the truth is that while many people will contract this virus that it’s clear, just as people get the flu each year, it is a more severe condition than the flu, but for the vast majority, as I said last week, for the majority, around 8 in 10 is our advice, it will be a mild illness and it will pass. “

 Prime Minister Scott Morrison press conference 15 march : Download full Transcript here 

PM Scott Morrison press conference full transcript

Download PM Press Release

Prime Ministers Press Release

3.Department of Health campaign download videos 

Download Videos

Coronavirus video – Help Stop The Spread

Coronavirus video – Recent Traveller

Coronavirus video – Stay Informed

Coronavirus video – Good Hygiene Starts Here

Dr Norman Swan provides some simple advice regarding Coronavirus.

– Wash your hands regularly with soap and water; or with hand sanitiser.

– Try to keep your distance from other people; and avoid physical contact

– If you need to sneeze or cough, do it into a fresh tissue which you then discard; or into your elbow.

– If you have a cough or a cold, it’s most likely that you have just a cough or a cold; but talk to your Doctor about it before turning up to a surgery.

For more information visit or

5. Dr Mark Wenitong

Dr Mark speaks with Black Star Radio about Coronavirus and the simple steps you can take to protect yourself.

“If you’re not sure, give the clinic a call and we’ll tell you what to do.” Dr Mark


6.Marion Scrymgour CEO NLC

“The NLC has received many calls from community members asking that we do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of Aboriginal people in their communities who are very concerned about the spread of COVID-19.

Should this virus break out in our communities, we don’t have the manpower to deal with this.

The NLC will be launching an information campaign in Indigenous languages to inform people about hygiene, testing for coronavirus and for them to avoid travel outside communities.

NLC staff have also cancelled their non-essential travel to communities including its regional council meetings.

“Somebody could come out and they could get infected and then go back into the community.

“The position we’re taking is if we can push back that virus taking hold in our communities, that’s a good thing. It means we can work at getting better prepared.”

The decision comes after the Northern Territory Government decided it will stop its employees from making non-essential travel to remote communities.

The NLC has received many calls from community members asking that we do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of Aboriginal people in their communities who are very concerned about the spread of COVID-19 “

Chief executive officer Marion Scrymgour said the move was to protect Aboriginal people in the communities who already faced issues like chronic health conditions, lack of resources and overcrowded housing.

Read in full HERE

NACCHO Aboriginal Mental Health News : Download @MenziesResearch and @orygen_aus A practice guide for ‘Improving the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

 ” Menzies Research and Orygen Australia have developed & just published a practice guide for ‘Improving the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’.

Little is known about how best to practically meet the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) needs of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly those with severe and complex mental health needs.

Yet, there is an urgent need for health programs and services to be more responsive to the mental health needs of this population.

Based on recent statistics, 67 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 4-14 years have experienced one or more of the following stressors:

  • death of family/friend;
  • being scared or upset by an argument or someone’s behaviour; and
  • keeping up with school work. “

Download the Report HERE ( See PDF for all research references )


Read over 250 Aboriginal Mental Health articles published by NACCHO over past 8 Years

It is well documented that there are:

  • high rates of psychological distress, mental health conditions, and suicide noted among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people when compared to non-Aboriginal young people;
  • a lack of evidence-based and culturally informed resources to educate and assist health professionals to work with this population; and
  • notable gaps between knowledge and practice, which limits opportunities to improve the SEWB of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This promising practice guide draws on an emerging, yet disparate, evidence-base about promising practices aimed at improving the SEWB of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. It aims to support service providers, commissioners, and policy-makers to adopt strengths-based, equitable and culturally responsive approaches that better meet the SEWB needs of this high-risk population.


The Australian Government appointed Orygen to provide Australia’s 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) with expert leadership and support in commissioning youth mental health initiatives.

Orygen has subsequently commissioned Menzies School of Health Research to identify and document promising practice service approaches in improving SEWB among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with severe and complex mental health needs. This promising practice guide is an output of that work.

What do we know about the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people?

It is recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies provided the optimal condition for their community members’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing before European settlement.

However, the Australian Psychological Society has acknowledged that these optimal conditions have been continuously eroded through colonisation in parallel with an increase in mental health concerns.2

There is clear evidence about the disproportionate burden of SEWB and mental health concerns experienced among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The key contributors to the disease burden among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 10-24 years are:1 suicide and self-inflicted injuries (13 per cent), anxiety disorder (eight per cent) and alcohol use disorders (seven per cent).3

Based on recent statistics, 67 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 4-14 years have experienced one or more of the following stressors:

  • death of family/friend;
  • being scared or upset by an argument or someone’s behaviour; and
  • keeping up with school work.4

The stressors have a cumulative impact as these children transition into adolescence and early adulthood. Another study has shown that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are at higher risk of emotional and behavioural difficulties.5

This is linked to major life stress events such as family dysfunction; being in the care of a sole parent or other carers; having lived in a lot of different homes; being subjected to racism; physical ill-health of young people and/or carers; carer access to mental health services; and substance use disorders. These factors are all closely intertwined.

Relevant national frameworks and action plans

The Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 (2015) was developed by the Australian Government Department of Health in close consultation with the National Health Leadership Forum. It has a strong emphasis on a whole-of-government approach to addressing the key priorities identified throughout the plan.

The overarching vision is to ensure that the strategies and actions of the plan respond to the health and wellbeing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across their life course. This includes a focus on young people.6

The National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023 provides more specific direction by highlighting the importance of preventive actions that focus on children and young people.7 This includes:

  • strengthening the foundation;
  • promoting wellness;
  • building capacity and resilience in people and groups at risk;
  • provide care for people who are mildly or moderately ill; and
  • care for people living with severe mental illness.

In addition, the National Action Plan for the Health of Children and Young People 2020-2030 identifies building health equity, including principles of proportionate universalism, as a key action area and identifies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people as a priority population.8

Social and emotional wellbeing frameworks relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people


Over the past decades, multiple frameworks have been developed to support the SEWB of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.4-8 These have identified some common elements, domains, principles, action areas and methods.7, 9-12

One of the most comprehensive frameworks is the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023, which has a foundation of development over many years.13

It has nine guiding principles:

  1. Health as a holistic concept: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is viewed in a holistic context that encompasses mental health and physical, cultural and spiritual health. Land is central to wellbeing. Crucially, it must be understood that while the harmony of these interrelations is disrupted, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ill-health will persist.
  2. The right to self-determination: Self-determination is central to the provision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services and considered a fundamental human right.
  3. The need for cultural understanding: Culturally valid understandings must shape the provision of services and must guide assessment, care and management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health problems generally and mental health concerns more specifically. This necessitates a culturally safe and responsive approach through health program and service delivery.
  4. The impact of history in trauma and loss: It must be recognised that the experiences of trauma and loss, a direct result of colonialism, are an outcome of the disruption to cultural wellbeing. Trauma and loss of this magnitude continue to have intergenerational impacts.
  5. Recognition of human rights: The human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be recognised and respected. Failure to respect these human rights constitutes continuous disruption to mental health (in contrast to mental illness/ill health). Human rights specifically relevant to mental illness must be addressed.
  6. The impact of racism and stigma: Racism, stigma, environmental adversity and social disadvantage constitute ongoing stressors and have negative impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and wellbeing.
  7. Recognition of the centrality of kinship: The centrality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and kinship must be recognised as well as the broader concepts of family and the bonds of reciprocal affection, responsibility and sharing.
  8. Recognition of cultural diversity: There is no single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture or group, but numerous groupings, languages, kinship systems and tribes. Furthermore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in a range of urban, rural or remote settings where expressions of culture and identity may differ.
  9. Recognition of Aboriginal strengths: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have great strengths, creativity and endurance and a deep understanding of the relationships between human beings and their environment.13

While the principles outlined above are not specific to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, they are considered to be appropriate within the context of adopting a holistic life-course approach.

What’s happening in practice?

This promising practice guide attempts to collate disparate strands of evidence that relate to enhancing youth mental health; improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander SEWB; and strategies for addressing severe and complex mental health needs.

It has been well documented that there are significant limitations in the evaluation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs and services across Australia.22-24 The Australian Governments’ Productivity Commission Inquiry into

Mental Health and the Lowitja Institute are, at the time of producing this document, looking at ways to strengthen work in this space.24, 25

In the absence of high-quality evaluation reports, the term ‘promising practice’ is used throughout this guide.

This is consistent with the terminology used by the Australian Psychological Society through its project about SEWB and mental health services in Australia (

It adopts a strengths-based approach26 which acknowledges and celebrates efforts made to advance work in this space in the absence of strong practice-based evidence.

This is achieved through the presentation of five active case studies.

These reflect organizational, systems and practice focused service model examples. The principles included in the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023 have been mapped against each case study to illustrate how these privilege Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, doing and being.

Each case study includes generic background information to provide important contextual information; key messages or lessons learned, and reflections from staff involved in the project.

They have been developed in consultation with both the commissioning PHN and the service/organisation funded to develop and/or deliver the framework, program and service. Where possible, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders were consulted during the development of the case studies.

Need help ?

Contact your nearest ACCHO or

If the situation is an emergency please call 000
If you wish to speak to someone immediately who can help call:

Kids Help Line

1800 55 1800

Lifeline Australia

13 11 14

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and #COVID19 News : A decade on, swine flu legacy shapes our Indigenous response to #coronavirus : With commentary from James Ward , Olga Havnen and FAQ’s AMSANT

We definitely didn’t get it right in 2009, and there have been plenty of papers written about that.

But Aboriginal people are much more engaged in this (COVID19 ) planning process, so we’re in a much better position than we were then.”

University of Queensland Indigenous health expert James Ward, a member of the working committee that drafted the new guidelines, released on Wednesday .

Full article Part 2 below and for Indigenous guidelines see Part 3 below or Download HERE.


Read all NACCHO Corona Virus articles HERE

” Major issues include housing people, and the deployment of additional health workforce capacity.

We would need deployment based on where the need is greatest, and will people want to do it? This will need a dynamic response.

But the commonwealth has a clear sense of the need to provide good structures for the vulnerable in our communities.

“The key thing is getting good information, clear and consistent, to our communities.

And the big message is hand-washing.”

There are major issues to consider, “depending on how serious it gets, and events as they unfold”, according to Olga Havnen, a member of the taskforce and CEO of the Darwin-based Aboriginal health organisation Danila Dilba

See Guardian article Part 1 below

AMSANT is engaging with our members, NACCHO and the Northern Territory Government and  Commonwealth Governments  about supporting our members and Aboriginal communities through a potential COVID 19 outbreak : Download


The federal government has set up a national Indigenous advisory group to fast-track an emergency response plan for Aboriginal communities that are among the most vulnerable to any potential spread of Covid-19.

The taskforce met last Thursday as remote Aboriginal communities in South Australia began to strictly limit visitors for the next three months, worried that if Covid-19 arrives it will be “devastating” for their elders and people with existing health problems.

The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) have introduced strict rules for entry to their lands, which they can to do under the APY Land Rights Act.

“We are protecting our people, especially those who hold our ancient cultural knowledge, and we know they are already vulnerable as they are quite old,” APY general manager Richard King said.

“A lot of our people present with comorbidities like diabetes and renal failure. We have high smoking rates, overcrowding in housing, overall poor hygiene.

“It’s almost a perfect storm to support the transmission of these types of diseases.

“The problem with this one is it has a 3.4% fatality rate, which is high, but with our cohort, if it gets here, it’s going to be devastating.”

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advisory group on Covid-19 is made up of leaders from the Aboriginal community controlled health sector, state and territory health and medical officials, Aboriginal communicable disease experts, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

The new taskforce will consider the health, social and cultural needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, using principles of shared decision-making and co-design. The management plan will focus on current containment activities as well as preparations for mitigation and treatment phases.

The APY board decided on Thursday to refuse entry for the next three months to anyone who has been in mainland China since early February, or been in contact with someone confirmed to have coronavirus, or who has travelled to Iran, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Mongolia.

Anyone in those categories who wants to visit needs to have tested negative for the virus, and will have to submit a copy of the test results along with a statutory declaration to be considered for entry.

State and federal agencies don’t need to apply for a permit to enter but King said he hoped they would comply with the ban.

Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt has agreed to postpone a scheduled visit next month.

There have been no known Covid-19 cases on APY lands to date, but the prime minister, Scott Morrison, has expressed concern about the vulnerability of those in remote Indigenous communities.

During the 2009 swine flu outbreak, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 11% of all identified cases, 20% of hospitalisations and 13% of deaths.

The Northern Territory is also developing a remote health pandemic plan, due to be released this week .

NT Chief medical officer Dianne Stephens acknowledged the “significant” logistical problems with using self-isolation as a response in remote communities, where overcrowding in housing is a major issue.

“So we are working out ways in every community where we can institute social distancing, where we can have a safe place for people to be quarantined if they’re unwell,” she said.

The NT health minister, Natasha Fyles, announced yesterday that a pandemic clinic had been set up at Royal Darwin hospital

Part 2

Australian health authorities preparing for the threat of a widening COVID-19 outbreak have taken the unprecedented step of producing specific guidelines to protect highly vulnerable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

The initiative is underwritten by memories of the devastating toll on Indigenous communities from the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

An Aboriginal person from a Central Desert community was the first national casualty of that outbreak, with the Indigenous population ultimately suffering death rates six times higher from that crisis than the general population.

“Aboriginal people are much more engaged in this planning process, so we’re in a much better position than we were then”: University of Queensland Indigenous health expert James Ward.

“We definitely didn’t get it right in 2009, and there have been plenty of papers written about that,” said University of Queensland Indigenous health expert James Ward, a member of the working committee that drafted the new guidelines, released on Wednesday.

“But Aboriginal people are much more engaged in this planning process, so we’re in a much better position than we were then.”

Aboriginal health researcher Kristy Crooks said the exclusion of Indigenous people from decision-making was a crucial failure in the government response to the 2009 pandemic.

“The flu pandemic showed that the one-size-fits-all approach to public health emergencies are unlikely to work for our communities, so tailoring approaches to meet the needs of families is important,” said Crooks, a PhD candidate with the Menzies School of Health Research at Charles Darwin University.

It is the first time federal authorities have tailored an epidemic response plan to a specific community.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in any Indigenous communities, however health authorities confirmed the first case of the virus in Darwin on Wednesday, raising the prospect that it may spread to remote communities in the Northern Territory.

Ward said that Indigenous Australians faced a number of risk factors for respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.

One quarter of the Indigenous population lives in remote areas, which makes access to health services difficult. While many communities had some health services, he said, they are already at capacity and therefore ill-equipped to handle the surge in demand an outbreak of COVID-19 would bring.

The Indigenous population is also highly mobile, with people frequently travelling between communities, often over long distances. Many also live at close quarters in overcrowded housing, meaning disease can spread rapidly and widely.

Then there is the reality, underlined in the latest Closing the Gap Report to Federal Parliament, that Indigenous Australians are already sicker than the rest of the population, and have far more comorbidities, which can make respiratory illnesses much more severe. This was often compounded by a reticence within the Indigenous community to seek medical care, Ward said.

“I think it’s quite clear that Aboriginal people have had very negative experiences with health care services,” he said. “So our population might ignore or not recognise symptoms, or think ‘why would it be coronavirus?’.

“So they might present late to a hospital or clinic, and that may be too late to prevent major outbreaks in communities.”

The newly published guidelines include six “key response strategies” for assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the event of an outbreak.

Several focus on appropriate communication and engagement with community leaders, to ensure Indigenous people are at the heart of the decision-making process.

Kristy Crooks said the direction for people to isolate themselves from the rest of their community during the flu pandemic was unrealistic due to cultural and family obligations outweighing national health policies.

“Celebrations are seen as important as sorry business, so people might have still attended large events and gatherings while sick with respiratory problems.”

Crookes will be considering how pandemic planning for COVID-19 can be tailored to communities through First Nations panels.

The research, supported by the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies, will empower Indigenous people to determine what the best strategies are to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading in their communities, Crooks said.

The working committee responsible for the Indigenous response will remain in constant communication with both the chief medical officer Brendan Murphy, as well as hundreds of health organisations and Indigenous community leaders around the country.

“We will be monitoring very closely to ensure that appropriate messaging and communication goes out to Aboriginal communities,” said Ward. In the Northern Territory, this will include delivering messages to remote communities in the local language.

But Ward said it was equally important to involve non-Indigenous organisations in the preparations.

“We need to make sure there is an adequate response from other organisations too, because this will ensure flexibility in delivering the necessary health care services.”

The new guidelines also include provisions for quarantine and isolation in Indigenous communities, emphasising that families need to be involved in the decision-making around quarantine.

“This can be achieved through exploring with families what quarantine looks like, working through how it might impact on the family and their way of living, and identifying ways around it.”

Ward said at this stage Indigenous health services, including those in remote communities, were not being sent any extra medical supplies or personnel.

“There’s a whole lot of activity going on, obviously, but at the moment there is no coronavirus in a remote community and we don’t expect it’s an immediate threat.”

Part 3 : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Key drivers of increased risk of transmission and severity

  • Mobility: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are highly mobile, with frequent travel often linked to family and cultural connections and community events involving long distances between cities, towns, and communities. In addition, remote communities have a high flow of visitors (e.g. tourists, fly-in fly-out clinicians and other workers). This increases the risk of transmission even in generally isolated
  • Remoteness: A fifth of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population lives in remote and very remote areas. There is often reduced access health services, these are usually at capacity in normal circumstances and are often reliant on temporary staff. Limited transport options may further inhibit presentations and delay laboratory
  • Barriers to access: Unwell people may present late in disease progression for many reasons including lack of availability of services, institutional racism, and mistrust of mainstream health
  • Overcrowding: Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have insufficient housing infrastructure, which results in people living in overcrowded conditions. This facilitates disease transmission and makes it difficult for cases and contacts to maintain social distance measures and self-quarantine.
  • Burden of disease: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience a burden of disease 2.3 times the rate of other Australians. This may increase the risk of severe disease from SARS-CoV-2.

Key response strategies

  • Shared decision-making and governance: Throughout all phases, COVID-19 response work should be collaborative to ensure local community leaders are central to the response. Further risk reduction strategies and public health responses should be co-developed, and co-designed, enabling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to contribute and fully participate in shared decision-making.
  • Social and cultural determinants of health: Public health strategies should be considered within the context of a holistic approach that prioritises the safety and well- being of individuals, families and communities while acknowledging the centrality of culture, and the addressing racism, intergenerational trauma and other social determinants of health.
  • Community control: The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) sector provides a comprehensive model of culturally safe care with structured support and governance systems. The network of ACCHS and peak bodies should be included in the response as a fundamental mechanism of engagement and
  • Appropriate communication: Messages should be strengths-based and encompass Aboriginal ways of living, including family-centred approaches during both prevention and control phases. They should address factors that may contribute to risk such as social determinants of health, including living arrangements and accessibility to
  • Flexible and responsive models of care: Consider flexible health service delivery and healthcare models (e.g. pandemic assessment centres, flexible ACCHSs clinic hours/location with additional staffing, and home visits). Consider employing the use of point of care influenza tests, where available, to help determine whether influenza is implicated in presentations in the
  • Isolation and quarantine: Families should feel empowered and be part of decision- making around quarantine. This can be achieved through exploring with families what quarantine looks like, working through how it might impact on the family and their way of living, and identifying ways around it. Family members will want to visit unwell people in hospital. It should be made clear that there are other ways to be with sick family members in hospital, maintain communication with families and communities in lieu of gatherings (e.g. staying socially connected through the internet and video calling).






NACCHO Aboriginal Health #InternationalWomensDay #EachforEqual #IWD2020 : Our tribute to our 10 Women NACCHO Board of Directors and 71 #ACCHO CEO’s of our majority female workforce

1.National : Donnella Mills – Chair NACCHO and Wuchopperen Health Service   

2.NT: Donna Ah Chee Central Australian Aboriginal Congress

3.NSW: LaVerne Bellear Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service

4.TAS: Raylene Foster Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation

5.NT: Olga Havnen Danila Dilba Health Service

6.VIC: Karen Heap Ballarat & District Aboriginal Co-operative

7.SA: Willhelmine Lieberwirth South Australia

8.WA: Lesley Nelson South West Aboriginal Medical Service

9.ACT: Julie Tongs Winnunga Nimmityjah Health and Community Service

10. QLD: Gail Wason Mulungu Primary Health Care Service

International Women’s Day 2020 campaign theme is #EachforEqual

An equal world is an enabled world.

Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.

We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements.

Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.

Let’s all be #EachforEqual.

Aboriginal women are the best advocates and leaders for health and wellbeing in their own families and in the broader community.

They are proving to be effective role models, mentors and influencers for the next generation of Aboriginal female leaders.

Recently NACCHO CEO Pat Turner told a women’s leadership summit (Pictured above in centre )

As mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters and daughters, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have culturally and historically always played a pivotal role in supporting and caring for families in our communities so working in the health sector was a natural progression.

For over 47 years Indigenous health activists like Dr Naomi Mayers, Coleen Shirley (Mum Shirl) Smith AM MBE, Jill Gallagher AO, Vicki O’Donnell, Pamela Mam, and the late Mary Buckskin have been just some of our leaders who have successfully advocated for community controlled, culturally respectful, needs based approach to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes of our people.

See previous NACCHO #IWD Tribute HERE 

As a result of their leadership and years of commitment as role models they have now paved the way for 10 women to be on the NACCHO board, 71 Indigenous women promoted to CEO’s out of 145 Organisations who employ over 6,000 staff with a majority being Indigenous woman

Our ACCHO network has successfully provided a critical and practical pathway for the education, training and employment for many Indigenous women.But much more needs to be done to develop viable career pathways to graduate more Indigenous women doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.

Last year NACCHO, RANZCOG and other medical college Presidents met with the Minister for Indigenous Health and other ministers in Canberra who are all determined to do everything possible to Close the Gap in health outcomes.

Creating career pathways for Indigenous women in our workforce will be a good starting point to continue supporting the theme ” More powerful together ”

1.National : Donnella Mills – Chair NACCHO and Wuchopperen Health Service QLD 

Donnella is a Torres Strait Islander woman with ancestral and family links to Masig and Nagir in the Torres Strait.

She is a Cairns–based lawyer with LawRight, a Community Legal Centre which coordinates the provision of pro-bono civil legal services to disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the community. Donnella is currently the project lawyer for the Wuchopperen Health Justice Partnership through a partnership with LawRight. This innovative Health Justice Partnership is an exciting model of providing access to justice, where lawyers and health professionals collaborate to provide better health outcomes and access to justice for patients with legal issues.

Donnella said she was “very excited about the opportunity to contribute to working the new Chairperson, the new board and the NACCHO Executive to drive the national health debate, develop community led solution, and to champion why Community-Controlled is the pinnacle model in achieving greater autonomy and self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Utilising a legal lens in which to view health, social justice, human rights, and access to justice, my commitment is to deliver expanded and enhanced innovative health services that are community driven and community led, addressing core systemic social determinant issues that have a direct impact on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

2.NT: Donna Ah Chee CEO Central Australian Aboriginal Congress

Ms Ah Chee is the Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation, the Aboriginal community controlled primary health care service in Alice Springs.

Ms Ah Chee is a Bundgalung woman from the far north coast of New South Wales and has lived in Alice Springs for over 25 years.

She has been actively involved in Aboriginal affairs for many years, especially in the area of Aboriginal adult education and Aboriginal health. In June 2011, Ms Ah Chee moved to Canberra to take up the position of Chief Executive Officer of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation before returning to Congress in July 2012.

Ms Ah Chee convened the Workforce Working Party under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Forum, was Chairperson of the Central Australian Regional Indigenous Health Planning Committee, a member of the Northern Territory Child Protection External Monitoring Committee and jointly headed up the Northern Territory Government’s Alcohol Framework Project Team.

She currently sits on the National Drug and Alcohol Committee and at a local level, represents the Congress on the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition.

3.NSW: LaVerne Bellear CEO Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service

LaVerne Bellear a descendant from the Nunukle Tribe of south-eastern Queensland, grew up in the northern part of the Bundjalung Nation (north coast New South Wales).

LaVerne strongly believes that empowering Aboriginal people will create opportunity to make better informed decisions and choices regarding personal management of health care, ultimately resulting in better health outcomes. LaVerne has extensive experience in Aboriginal health, having worked in community health, Aboriginal controlled health services and as the Director, Aboriginal Health, Northern Sydney Local Health District.

Recently, LaVerne has taken up the position of CEO, Aboriginal Medical Service Cooperative at Redfern, New South Wales.

She has been a state representative on a number of working parties and committees concerning Aboriginal health. LaVerne has a Bachelor of Business, a Professional Certificate in Indigenous Research in Training and Practices and is studying a Master of Public Health at The University of New South Wales.

4.TAS: Raylene Foster Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation

Raylene Foster is a palawa women from the Cygnet area. She commenced her career in hospitality, becoming a chef, and then moved into adult teaching within the TAFE institute.

Raylene took on a six-month secondment to Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre in 1995 and stayed; she has now been with the TAC for over 20 years

She’s had varying roles within the TAC, including the Director of the Aboriginal Community School, Workforce Development Officer, Emotional and Social Wellbeing Coordinator and over the past 15 years the Manager of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre in the South, which includes the Aboriginal Health Service.

Raylene has a Graduate Certificate in Administration and an Advanced Diploma in Human Resources, as well as Diploma of Alcohol and Other Drugs and Mental Health and a facilitator in the SMART Recovery program. Raylene is passionate about children’s wellbeing and keeping families connected to break the cycle of institutionalisation, separations and trauma-related illnesses.

Raylene’s Abstract For This Months Rural Health Conference in Hobart 

See Website 

The Aboriginal cultural camp was an initiative that commenced in 2016 for Tasmanian registrars, GPs and members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. We wanted to go beyond the basic requirements of attendance at cultural training, to offer an immersion in to Aboriginal culture, on Aboriginal country, with mutual benefit for the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.

The camp is held annually at trawtha makuminya, Aboriginal-owned land in the Central Highlands of Tasmania, from a Friday afternoon until a Sunday afternoon. Registrars, General Practitioners, Practice Staff and General Practice Training Tasmania staff and family members attend, in addition to the TAC staff Camp Organisers and Caterers, Cultural and Land Educators, Elders and community members.

The weekend involves an official welcome speech, dance and music, yarning around the campfire, guided walks with discussion about Aboriginal history, the land and stone tools, kayaking, basket weaving, hand stencilling, clap stick making, and a session of “You Can’t Ask That”. There is a medical education session and participants hear from an Aboriginal Health Worker and Aboriginal Enrolled Nurse about the services offered by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.

There is a lot of informal discussion about culture and life stories shared by both the adults and the children.

The feedback given to date, both informally and through the evaluation forms, is overwhelmingly positive. Participants value the beautiful location, the opportunity to spend time with community members outside the clinical setting, the obvious connection to country displayed by the Aboriginal community and the sharing of stories in a cultural exchange.

5.NT: Olga Havnen CEO Danila Dilba Health Service Darwin 

Olga is of Western Arrente descent and grew up in Tennant Creek. Her great-grandfather was Ah Hong, a Chinese cook who worked on the Overland Telegraph Line[2] whose partner was an Aboriginal woman in Alice Springs.

Their daughter Gloria, Havnen’s grandmother, was the first Aboriginal woman to own a house in Alice Springs. Havnen’s father was a Norwegian sailor who jumped ship in Adelaide and her mother, Pegg lived in Tennant Creek. Havnen went to boarding school in TownsvilleQueensland.[3]

Olga Havnen has held positions as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs Co-ordinator for the Australian Red Cross, Senior Policy Officer in the Northern Territory Government’s Indigenous Policy Unit, Indigenous Programs Director with the Fred Hollows Foundation, and Executive Officer with the National Indigenous Working Group.

And was the Coordinator General of Remote Service Provision from 2011 until October 2012, when the Northern Territory Government controversially abolished the position.[4]

She released one report which detailed deficiencies in Northern Territory and Commonwealth Government’s service provision to remote communities in the Northern Territory.[5]

She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Danila Dilba Health Service in Darwin, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.[1]

Havnen gave evidence at the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory critical of the outcomes and delivery of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response, commonly referred to as the Intervention stating “the experience of the Intervention was such a debacle you’d never want that repeated, but I do think that there is a role for the federal government in here in the Northern Territory”,

6.VIC: Karen Heap Ballarat & District Aboriginal Co-operative : Chair VACCHO 

Karen Heap, a Yorta Yorta woman, has been the CEO of Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative for 12 years and brings with her a vast amount of knowledge and skillsets procured from extensive experience within the Aboriginal Service Sector.

Karen Heap was recently the winner of the Walda Blow Award ( pictured above )

This award was established by DHHS in partnership with the Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, in memory of Aunty Walda Blow – a proud Yorta

Yorta and Wemba Wemba Elder who lived her life in the pursuit of equality.

Aunty Walda was an early founder of the Dandenong and District Aboriginal Cooperative and worked for over 40 years improving the lives of the Aboriginal community. This award recognises contributions of an Aboriginal person in Victoria to the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and young people.

Karen ensures the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and young people are always front and centre.

Karen has personally committed her support to the Ballarat Community through establishing and continuously advocating for innovative prevention, intervention and reunification programs.

As the inaugural Chairperson of the Alliance, Karen contributions to establishing the identity and achieving multiple outcomes in the Alliance Strategic Plan is celebrated by her peers and recognised by the community service sector and DHHS.

Karen’s leadership in community but particularly for BADAC, has seen new ways of delivering cultural models of care to Aboriginal children, carers and their families, ensuring a holistic service is provided to best meet the needs of each individual and in turn benefit the community.

7.SA: Willhelmine Lieberwirth South Australia 


A Kokatha and Antakirinja woman, Wilhelmine honours her rich family ancestry. She has worked in human services roles, most recently as an Aboriginal Cultural Consultant with Child and Family Health Services and has been instrumental in the Safely Sleeping Aboriginal Babies in South Australia.

Wilhelmine and her family have lived in Whyalla for generations and have been active participants advocating on local health matters, including supporting the local ACCHO Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service Inc.

8.WA: Lesley Nelson CEO South West Aboriginal Medical Service

SWAMS are united by the drive and passion to provide culturally safe, accessible and holistic health care to the Aboriginal people of the South West. WA

As an organisation, they continue to attract and employ culturally appropriate and professional staff members. SWAMS employs over 70 staff members including specialist Aboriginal Health Practitioners, Dietitians, Nurses, Midwives, Mental Health workers and Social Workers and because of this, we are able to provide a large and diverse range of services to the community.

In addition to this, they strive to create Aboriginal career pathways and opportunities across the sector and maintain a positive percentage of ATSI employees

Last year as preparations got underway for the South West Aboriginal Medical Service’s 20th anniversary, centre chief executive officer Lesley Nelson has reflected on how far indigenous health has advanced in the South West in that time.

Ms Nelson said the centre started small with a handful of staff and a desire to improve Aboriginal health outcomes in the region.

Over the next 20 years, it expanded with clinics in Bunbury, Busselton, Manjimup, Collie and Brunswick.

“We started after local elders held discussions with a number of key groups about developing a culturally appropriate service to address the health-related issues of the South West’s Indigenous population,” she said.

“Since then we’ve gone from strength-to-strength, offering a number of employment opportunities in the sector, training programs and improved health outcomes.”

Ms Nelson said the local service played an important role in the community.

“Being based in a number of country towns ensured locals can access our services conveniently, especially if they lack transport options to the bigger cities,” she said.

“We offer an important service because we intervene and manage issues early on and slowly we are improving the health of the South West Noongar people.

“We are also standing out nationally when it comes to maternal and child health.”

Moving forward, SWAMS are keen to continue growing, participating in more research studies and working collaboratively with other similar services to offer a whole of community approach to improved health.

9.ACT: Julie Tongs Winnunga Nimmityjah Health and Community Service

Julie Tongs OAM has been the Chief Executive Officer of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services since 1998.  Julie has more than 30 years experience working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs and in particular has extensive experience in advising, formulating, implementing and evaluating public health initiatives, programs and policy at a local, regional and national level.

Julie has been a national leader and strong advocate of quality improvement initiatives within the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector.

Julie is the recipient of a number of awards, including the ACT Governor General’s Centenary Medal and the ACT Indigenous Person of the Year. In 2011 Julie received the ACT Local Hero Award within the Australian of the Year Awards 2012, and in 2012 Julie was honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia.

Julie’s vision is that Winnunga continues to build on its reputation as a national leader in the provision of holistic primary health care services delivered in a culturally appropriate environment that achieves improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Julie is committed to ensuring that Winnunga offers services that are delivered consistent with best practice standards.

10 .QLD: Gail Wason Mulungu Primary Health Care Service

We see the best way to build capacity and capability within our corporation is by encouraging strong leaders, maintaining effective governance, ensuring strong systems, and keeping focused on accountable performance management.

Mulungu help our clients to make informed decisions. We work in health but we also work across education and job opportunities. Our model supports individuals who want to do the best for themselves, their family and their community.’

CEO Gail Wason.

Gail is the Chief Executive Officer of Mulungu Primary Health Care Service in Mareeba. She has over 25 years’ experience in Aboriginal affairs and health, and an unwavering commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of her community.

Gail strives to ensure that the community has access to the full range of high quality, culturally appropriate primary health care services that empowers clients to fully participate in the management of their own health.

She has served as QAIHC’s Far North Queensland Director and Chairperson of QAIHC’s Finance Committee and has worked closely with the Board for many years.

Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre is an Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation working to improve the lives of Indigenous people in and around Mareeba.

The centre was established in 1991 and incorporated under the CATSI Act in 1993.

The rural town of Mareeba—a word from local Aboriginal language meaning ‘meeting of the waters’—is located on the Atherton Tablelands where the Barron River meets Granite Creek. Traditionally Muluridji people inhabited this land.

‘Although the bright lights of Cairns are only 65 kilometres away we feel like a stand-alone, small country town,’ says chair of the Mulungu board of directors (and valued volunteer) Alan Wason. ‘We have a population of 10,000 and our own identity separate from Cairns.’

The town of Mareeba may be a little tucked away but it has much to offer, including Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre—a bright, open, modern building—which employs a large professional staff who work as a team and support each other. Everyone is passionate about providing top quality holistic health care to the community through Mulungu’s programs and services.

Mulungu’s mission is to provide comprehensive primary health care to the community in culturally, socially and emotionally appropriate ways. It’s about handing back power to the people to manage their own health, wellbeing and spiritual needs. So as well as providing clinical health care services Mulungu ‘auspices’ other important primary health care programs, including the Mareeba Children and Families Centre (CFC), Mareeba Parent and Community Engagement (PaCE) Program, and the Mareeba Young and Awesome Project (MY&A).

The MY&A Project tackles the problem of binge drinking in the community. Its aim is to motivate young people (aged 12 to 25) to get involved in constructive activities that they might enjoy—and to get them away from drinking alcohol. This two-year project is funded by the Australian Government.

‘We help our clients to make informed decisions,’ says Gail Wason. ‘We work in health but we also work across education and job opportunities. Our model supports individuals who want to do the best for themselves, their family and their community.’

It’s all about changing and improving lives.

To learn more about Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Medical Service visit

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #HearingAwarenessWeek A/Prof @KelvinKongENT is working to #closethegap in ear health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids by finding better treatments and preventative approaches so kids are not limited by their hearing.

I aim to make a national profile of the problem of ear disease and hearing loss. It is an important issue for all Australian levels of government, policy makers and health service providers.

The severe impact imposed by hearing loss needs greater acknowledgement, especially in communities where a majority of people are affected, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

We are also seeing too many children in our urban, regional and rural communities being affected and waiting too long for access to specialist care.

This is a health problem that costs our nation a great deal of money, not just in medical treatments but in the social cost of people not receiving enough education to get a good job and provide security for themselves and their families in the future.

Associate Professor Kelvin Kong : Read interview full BIO Part 2

Read over 40 Aboriginal Health and Ear Hearing articles published by NACCHO

 “ Up to nine in every ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under the age of three in the Northern Territory, suffer from otitis media, or “glue ear”, in one or both ears. If left untreated this can have a devasting impact on a child’s entire life trajectory.

The Hearing for Learning Initiative will increase early detection of otitis media, by training local community members to become ear experts that support on the ground health and education services. This will decrease the need for fly-in fly-out specialists, reduce the treatment waiting period and create employment opportunities for up to 40 community-based workers in the Northern Territory. ” 

Download Menzies Press Release 

Media release Hearing for learning a focus on Bathurst Island

World Hearing Day was on 3 March 2020. The theme this year is “Don’t let hearing loss limit you”.

World Hearing Day coincides with Hearing Awareness Week in Australia (1 to 7 March).

This year’s theme is “Don’t let hearing loss limit you”. This theme highlights how timely and effective interventions can help people with hearing loss reach their full potential.

World Hearing Day coincides with Hearing Awareness Week in Australia (1 to 7 March).

Hearing loss in Australia

In Australia, almost 4 million people have some form of hearing loss. This continues to grow as our population ages.

The most common causes of hearing loss are:

  • age-related
  • excessive exposure to loud noise

Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise is preventable. The best interventions for hearing loss are early interventions, no matter how old you are.

If you or someone you know is worried about hearing loss, we encourage you to have your hearing checked.

The Healthdirect website provides more information on the signs of hearing loss and ways to help prevent hearing loss.

Hearing Services Program

The Australian Government is working to reduce hearing loss and the consequences of hearing loss in Australia.

The Government’s $581 million Hearing Services Program provides high quality hearing services and devices to some of our most vulnerable people.

In 2018-19, the program delivered services to over 785,000 clients, including:

  • older Australians
  • veterans
  • young children
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • people living in rural and remote areas

The Australian Government has also committed $4 million in funding for up to 600,000 free online hearing tests for children. Parents of children aged between four and 17 can visit the Sound Scouts website for more information.

Find out more about hearing and hearing loss on the Hearing Services Program website.

Part 2 Interview with Associate Professor Kelvin Kong


Ear disease in Australian Indigenous populations is deplorable. I am working to closing the gap in ear health to bring all Indigenous Australian children to the same level of well-being and health care access as their non-Indigenous counterparts.

The rates of ear disease are higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children across Australia, with some communities having 90% of young children affected. This causes hearing loss leading to massive disadvantage in early learning and development of language and social skills, which can have devastating repercussions throughout life.

Our Newcastle ear research team works to understand the pathophysiology of chronic ear disease in Australian Indigenous and non-Indigenous sufferers to understand the nature of ear infections and find better treatments and preventative approaches in early childhood.

Unfortunately, some babies will acquire infections within the first months of life and go on to have recurrent infections that impact upon their ability to hear and learn. Importantly missing on hearing the voices (and stories) of their family members at this vitally important period of early development.

I aim to make a national profile of the problem of ear disease and hearing loss. It is an important issue for all Australian levels of government, policy makers and health service providers.

The severe impact imposed by hearing loss needs greater acknowledgement, especially in communities where a majority of people are affected, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. We are also seeing too many children in our urban, regional and rural communities being affected and waiting too long for access to specialist care.

This is a health problem that costs our nation a great deal of money, not just in medical treatments but in the social cost of people not receiving enough education to get a good job and provide security for themselves and their families in the future.

The journey of solving the ear health issues must be community led and translated into models of care that have a holistic approach. Our research must also have capacity and ensure any solutions are sustainable.


Why did you get into research?

It was heartbreaking growing up in the Worimi community enduring the health disparities first hand. I have always had a passion to help address the inequality and have been lucky enough to be afforded the opportunities to allow me to complete the full circle and be a care giver.

As an ENT surgeon I have treated people all across Australia, including people in Newcastle (Awabakal country), with terrible states of ear disease.

The lack of access to health care and the escalation of a problem that should have been addressed long ago, is a driver to increase the momentum of a solution.

The impact of research into the causes and interventions, cannot be overestimated, so that young babies will not progress to the stage where surgery is desperately needed to restore some hearing so they can participate in a normal childhood and have aspirations and dreams not limited by their hearing.

What would be the ultimate goal for your research?

The ultimate goal is for all Australian children, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to have the same chance of having healthy ears, no matter where they reside in Australia.

We need everyone to have enough awareness of the problems, to put the time and resources into finding treatments and interventions, so that no child should expect to go through life suffering the loneliness, loss of self-esteem and lack of education that many children experience with ear disease and as adults in later life.


Kelvin graduated from the University of NSW in 1999. He embarked on his internship at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst and pursued a surgical career, completing resident medical officer and registrar positions at various attachments. Along the way, he has been privileged in serving the urban, rural and remote communities.

He was awarded his fellowship with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 2007. Once completed he pursued further training in Paediatric ENT surgery, being grateful and honored by his fellowship at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne in 2007-8. He is now practising in Newcastle (Awabakal Country) as a Surgeon specializing in Paediatric & Adult Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery (Ear, Nose & Throat Surgery).

He has joined an outstanding group of surgeons at Hunter ENT and together they provide a varied comprehensive practice. He has a very broad adult and paediatric Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology practice, whilst having special interests in Paediatric Airway, Adult and Paediatric Cochlear Implantation, Voice and Swallow disorders and Head & Neck Cancer management.

He is an active member of RACS and ASOHNS, serving on the Indigenous Health and Fellowship Services Committees. He has published articles and presented on a variety of ear, nose and throat conditions as well as Indigenous health issues both nationally and internationally.  He is active in reviewing articles for publication, lecturing and teaching allied health professional, medical students at several universities and both unaccredited and advanced medical and surgical trainees. His commitment and professionalism was recognised in July 2017 when he was appointed the Secretary of the Australian New Zealand Society of Paediatric Otolaryngology. He was also honored to have won the Australian Indigenous Doctor of the year in 2017.

As Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Assoc. Prof. Kong is committed to improving the ear health of Indigenous children and has often participated in news articles and television interviews to bring the attention of the Australian public to the disparity in Indigenous and non-Indigenous child health. He makes regular trips to Australia’s remote regions to provide ear health services that would otherwise not be available.

Kelvin hails from the Worimi people of Port Stephens, north of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Being surrounded by health, he has always championed for the improvement of health and education. Complementing his practice as a surgeon, he is kept grounded by his family, who are the strength and inspiration to him, remaining involved in numerous projects and committees to help give back to the community.

Future Focus

Being able to hear is such a privilege often taken for granted. The quality of life through the enjoyment if sound and education is a human right. I want everyone to understand the importance of ear disease in childhood and particularly how vital it is that we stop this problem from affecting so many Australian Indigenous children. We need to work together to raise the standards of living and access to medical care so that our First people are not living from one generation to the next in sub-standard circumstances.  We need to see our children finishing their education, able to gain employment and live alongside non-Indigenous Australians with the same opportunities and the same quality of life. We need see them to strive toward their dreams.

Specialised/Technical Skills

  • Consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon
  • Causes of ear infections
  • Paediatric Airway
  • Adult and Paediatric Cochlear Implantation
  • Voice and Swallow disorders
  • Head & Neck Cancer management
  • Randomised controlled trials
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • Educator
  • Policy development
  • Mentor
  • Father, Husband, Brother, Worimi man



NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #Voice : The Indigenous voice co-design process will move into high gear with the announcement of the membership of the national and local and regional co-design groups.

” Though some say progress is slow in today’s hurried world, we must remember that lasting change takes time. This is an ­important process and we need to take the time to get it right or we risk losing the opportunity that has been presented to us. This is too important.

The fight for rights over the past few decades will be an inspiration. We will honour the fight of our elders, past and present, in the work that we do and we will encourage our youth to share their vision for the future to ensure their voice is heard.

Securing a future voice for our children, and their children, that presents the same opportunities and expectations as their non-­indigenous counterparts will be our purpose. Let’s not wait another 10 years or 100 years. Let’s continue this now.

Help us, engage with us — and let’s create this future together.”

Marcia Langton and Tom Calma are co-chairs of the senior advisory group to co-design the Indigenous voice to government. See full editorial Part 1 below.

Read all 40 + NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the Voice/ Uluru Statement articles HERE

“As I travel to communities around the country, Indigenous Australians are saying to me they just want to be heard and involved in decision-making for their communities.

They want to know who will listen to their ideas and be in a position to do something about them.”

Following advice from the Senior Advisory Group, I have appointed members bringing a diverse range of skills and experience to identify the best approaches to affecting change on the ground for Indigenous Australians.

Professor Buckskin has served as a member of the Senior Advisory Group since its formation, and has now accepted this new appointment as a co-chair of the Local & Regional Co-design Group.

Professor Buckskin will bring his wealth of experience in the education and public service sectors, as well as his extensive involvement in senior positions at a wide range of Indigenous community organisations, to his new role.

A local and regional voice will empower Indigenous Australians and communities by establishing a framework and guiding principles for models and options that lead to improved and enhanced decision-making, and link through to the national Indigenous voice.

Working in genuine partnership will improve shared decision making, and ensure shared responsibility and shared accountability for the development and delivery of government programmes at a local and regional level.

There will be opportunities for everyone to engage throughout the process and I encourage all Australians to get behind this important work.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP has today appointed the members that will make up the Local & Regional Co-design Group that will develop options for local and regional voices.

Download Minister Wyatt Full Press Release

Minister Wyatts Press Release

More information about the Indigenous voice co-design process is available on the National Indigenous Australians Agency website,

The full membership of the new Local & Regional Co-Design Group is:

  • Professor Peter Buckskin PSM (Co-chair)
  • Cr Ross Andrews
  • Ms Ruth Davys
  • Ms Triscilla Holborow
  • Mr Paul House
  • Mr Chris Ingrey
  • Mr Des Jones
  • Ms Fiona Jose
  • Cr Getano Lui Jr AM
  • Mr Albert McNamara
  • Mr Wayne Miller
  • Ms Karen Milward
  • Ms Lavene Ngatokorua
  • Ms Vicki O’Donnell
  • Dr Aden Ridgeway
  • Ms Marion Scrymgour

Part 1 The Indigenous voice co-design process will move into high gear with the announcement of the membership of the national and local and regional co-design groups.

The groups will be co-chaired by senior indigenous leaders Donna Odegaard and Peter Buckskin, respectively, supported by a government co-chair from the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

We are under no illusions. This will be hard work, and the process is likely to ruffle feathers and challenge old ways of thinking. But we must effect real and permanent change for our people or this will be an opportunity lost.

We have an opportunity to ­design our future. We are at the table with the Australian government. Make no mistake, this is a step forwards — and we encourage you to embrace this and ­engage with us.

There has been, and will continue to be, distractions that try to disrupt our course — some welcome, others unnecessary, inflammatory and determined to set us backwards.

We will persevere. We will not allow people to question our culture and resolve. We have overcome all adversity on this continent for more than 60,000 years. It is an unforgiving land, but our country has ingrained strength and resilience in us all.

There are close to 800,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait ­Islander voices in this country today, and this will grow towards one million in the coming years.

Diversity is another of our strengths. Our lived experiences will be key to designing systems that work for us.

There are numerous representative bodies and structures already in place, and each of these will be critical to this process. We also know that states and territories have existing processes in place. Their integrity will not be undermined.

Our role on the senior advisory group is to work through the co-design groups; hear, consider and record Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s aspirations for models; and advise the minister to ensure that views are heard by government.

Throughout the process, we will continue to build understanding both across indigenous communities and with non-­indigenous Australians.

We will support the work of the national and local and regional co-design groups, provide advice and input at key points, and ensure the process continues to move forward.

The focus of the national group is to develop options and models for a national voice. It will work in partnership with the local and regional group at key points, to ensure that options for a ­national voice can be informed by, and connect with, local elements of a voice.

In turn, the local and regional group will focus on local and regional models of decision-making and governance, including options to enhance this and highlight what’s already working. This will include considering how existing arrangements and structures feed into local and regional elements of a voice.

Later in the year, we will be consulting on these models and options across the nation, ensuring they work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the diversity of contexts and circumstances we find ourselves in today. Everyone will have an opportunity to have a say through this process. We will work with indigenous leaders, communities and stakeholders across the country to refine models.

The groups have a lot of country to cover, and the weight of ­expectation of 800,000 people is significant. But we will remain ­focused on the opportunity ­before us.

The full membership of the National Co-Design Group is:

  • Dr Donna Odegaard AM
  • Mr Jamie Lowe
  • Mr Rodney Dillon
  • Prof Gracelyn Smallwood AM
  • Mr Richard Weston
  • Prof Cheryl Kickett-Tucker
  • Ms Katrina Fanning PSM
  • The Hon Jeff Kennett AC
  • Mr Damian Griffis
  • Mr Steve Wanta Patrick Jampijinpa
  • Ms Fiona McLeod SC
  • Mr Marcus Stewart
  • Ms Kristal Kinsela-Christie
  • The Hon Fred Chaney AO
  • Mr Joseph Elu AO
  • Ms Zell Dodd

Senior Advisory Group members

  • Professor Tom Calma AO
  • Professor Dr Marcia Langton AM
  • Professor Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO
  • Professor Peter Buckskin PSM
  • Ms Josephine Cashman (suspended )
  • Ms Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM
  • Ms Joanne Farrell
  • Mr Mick Gooda
  • Mr Chris Kenny
  • Cr Vonda Malone
  • Ms June Oscar AO
  • Ms Alison Page
  • Mr Noel Pearson
  • Mr Benson Saulo
  • Ms Pat Turner AM
  • Professor Maggie Walter
  • Mr Tony Wurramarrba
  • Mr Peter Yu
  • Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu AM

Minister Wyatt media release 8 November 2019 – Voice Co-Design Senior Advisory Grou


NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #CoronaVirus #COVID19 : PM @ScottMorrisonMP says work is being done to prepare Indigenous communities for possible coronavirus outbreak

Given the level of chronic disease Aboriginal people suffer that makes them vulnerable.

People are concerned about the spread of this – but putting in place a whole series of measures that’s what we have to do.

Communication was essential towards educating communities about the risks posed by the virus – but cautioned against undue panic.

Everyone is better equipped in terms of information this time around and are better informed.

What’s important is we don’t take our feet off the pedal that we continue to make sure people are engaged.”

NACCHO Deputy Chief Executive Officer Dawn Casey told SBS News it is well known Indigenous people suffer 2.3 times the burden of disease compared with other populations

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has begun reaching out to community health services to implement possible emergency response plans. See full article Part 2 below

Read all previous Aboriginal Health and Corona Virus NACCHO Articles Here

And we also suffer a lot of chronic disease, which makes elderly patients more susceptible to any infection.

Testing is another worry — it takes at least a week if you live in a place like Balgo because the sample has to go to the nearest town, Broome, and then down to Perth.

She said she understood that one Pilbara community was restricting access by outsiders as an infection control measure, but Kimberley communities were open.

A number of workers in the Kimberley medical service’s five remote clinics servicing 10 communities had “self-selected” and isolated themselves for a time after returning from countries flagged as of concern.

We may end up with staffing problems in remote clinics if that escalates.”

Lorraine Anderson, medical director of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service, said remote clinics were already on the lookout for symptoms consistent with the virus.

Indigenous health organisations will gather in Canberra next Tuesday to discuss the threat the virus poses to communities with little ability to isolate patients.

Dr Anderson said it was difficult to isolate people in communities where housing was scarce. See Part 3 Below 

Part 1 :NSW Health and the AH&MRC will be hosting a webinar this Wednesday 4th March 2020 from 12-1pm.

This webinar will focus on coronavirus and influenza and what you and your service can do to protect your communities.

The following people will be speaking and there will be an opportunity to raise and discuss concerns and needs that you have:

  • Reuben Robinson, CEO, Galambila Aboriginal Health Service
  • Dr Kerry Chant, Chief Health Officer, NSW Health
  • Kylie Taylor and Kristy Crooks, Hunter New England Public Health team

The link to participate in the webinar is here:

For further information please contact Megan Campbell, Centre for Aboriginal Health on

Part 2 The Federal Government is concerned about the potential for coronavirus to spread in remote Indigenous communities.

There have been no known COVID-19 cases among Indigenous Australians to date – but work is already being done to prepare the “vulnerability” of these populations against possible infection.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said authorities have reached out to these communities to increase their preparedness against an outbreak in

“We have been engaging with Indigenous leaders because in remote Indigenous communities if the virus were to get to those places, obviously there is a real vulnerability there,” he said.

“So we have been reaching out to those communities to work through how preparedness can be put in place.”

Some 10,000 coronavirus tests have been carried out here, with 34 people returning positive results including the first person-to-person transmissions in the country.

The University of Queensland’s Professor James Ward is one of those who has been working “hard” behind the scenes to prepare Indigenous communities.

The Federal Government will be distributing national guidelines over how to respond to COVID-19 if it appears in these populations.

Mr Ward told SBS News the remoteness, limited access to health services, vulnerability to disease and mobility of Indigenous communities could all make them more at risk.

“The longer this goes on … the greater the chances are of it reaching some of our most remote communities,” he said.

He said the potential for individuals to live in crowded living situations could also be a factor.

“We are working very hard behind the scenes to get our communities prepared,” he said.

“We’ve already seen in previous pandemics in 2009 – it affected the most remote of our communities.”

Research published following the 2009 A(H1N1) swine flu outbreak showed that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 11 per cent of all identified cases, 20 per cent of hospitalisations and 13 per cent of deaths.

This is despite them making up just three per cent of the population – meaning Indigenous people were 8.5 times more likely to be hospitalised.

Mr Ward said steps are being taken to make sure Indigenous communities are better prepared this time and ensure they are not deterred from accessing health services.

He said communication needed to involve families and communities in decision-making over quarantine measures and in providing local health services additional support as required.

“The response has to proportionate to the risks in individual communities around the country,” he said.

“How do we communicate this in a way that doesn’t create fear and panic and moves populations away unnecessarily from other communities to their own?”

Globally there have been more than 88,500 infections and at least 3000 deaths spanning some 70 countries and regions.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has begun reaching out to community health services to implement possible emergency response plans.

Part 3 The Australian Continued

A Pilbara miner is at the centre of a coronavirus scare, with resources workers and remote communities fearing they could be dangerously exposed.

The worker at the Fortescue Metals’ Christmas Creek mine has been placed in isolation after returning from Indonesia with flu-like symptoms.

“One of our team members has presented with symptoms that meet the Department of Health’s minimum criteria for testing for COVID-19,” FMG chief executive Elizabeth Gaines said. “We are implementing all necessary precautions in accordance with health guidelines.

“The employee has been isolated pending the outcome of the test, which we anticipate receiving within 48 hours.”

Clinics in Aboriginal communities are also concerned, particularly given relatively high rates of diabetes and heart and lung conditions.

Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that the federal government was talking to Aboriginal leaders “because in remote indigenous communities if the virus were to get to those places, obviously there was a real vulnerability there”.

“And so we’ve been reaching out to those communities to work through how preparedness can be put in place,” the Prime Minister said.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health Resources Alert : Download @HealthInfoNet Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status 2019 : Continuing to show important positive developments for our mob

In the Overview we strive to provide an accurate and informative summary of the current health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In doing so, we want to acknowledge the importance of adopting a strengths-based approach, and to recognise the increasingly important area of data sovereignty.

To this end, we have reduced our reliance on comparative data in favour of exploring the broad context of the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people and how this may impact their health journey “

HealthInfoNet Director, Professor Neil Drew

The Overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status (Overview) aims to provide a comprehensive summary of the most recent indicators of the health and current health status of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Download HERE 


The annual Overview contains updated information across many health conditions.

It shows there has been a range of positive signs including a decrease in death rates, infant mortality rates and a decline in death rates from avoidable causes as well as a reduction in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who smoke.

It has also been found that fewer mothers are smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy meaning that babies have a better start to life.

The initial sections of the Overview provide information about:

  • the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • social determinants including education, employment and income
  • the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population
  • measures of population health status including births, mortality and hospitalisation.

The remaining sections are about selected health conditions and risk and protective factors that contribute to the overall health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

These sections include an introduction and evidence of the extent of the condition or risk/protective factor. Information is provided for state and territories and for demographics such as sex and age when it is available and appropriate.

The Overview is a resource relevant for the health workforce, students and others requiring access to up-to-date information about the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This year, the focus will be mainly on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data and presentation is within the framework of the strength based approach and data sovereignty (where information is available).

As a data driven organisation, the HealthInfoNet has a publicly declared commitment to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to advance our understanding of data sovereignty and governance consistent with the principles and aspirations of the Maiam nayri Wingara Data Sovereignty Collective (

As we have done in previous years, we continue our strong commitment to developing strengths based approaches to assessing and reporting the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

It is difficult to make comparisons between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non- Indigenous Australian populations without consideration of the cultural and social contexts within which people live their lives.

As in past versions, we still provide information on the cultural context and social determinants for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

However, for the selected health topics and risk/protective factors we have removed many of the comparisons between the two populations and focused on the analysis of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data only.

In an attempt to respond to the challenge issued by Professor Craig Ritchie at the 2019 AIATSIS conference to say more about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ not just the ‘what’ where comparisons are made and if there is evidence available, we have provided a brief explanation for the differences observed.

Accompanying the Overview is a set of PowerPoint slides designed to help lecturers and others provide up-to-date information.

  • In 2019, the estimated Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 847,190.
  • In 2019, NSW had the highest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (the estimated population was 281,107 people, 33% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population).
  • In 2019, NT had the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in its population, with 32% of the NT population identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
  • In 2016, around 37% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in major cities.
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is much younger than the non-Indigenous population.

Download the PowerPoint HERE


NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #RuralHealth : @RuralDoctorsAus President and CEO says quality rural and remote health care essential to #ClosingtheGap

“Both Federal and State governments, right across the country, need to step up and invest in rural health if they are serious about this.

There have been numerous examples of initiatives developed to improve access to health care in rural and remote areas being extended into urban areas to prop up under-funded services in for the socially disadvantaged.

This has resulted in the unintended consequence of further disadvantaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in rural and remote Australia.

We need continued investment in health infrastructure and services aimed at addressing the disparity in health outcomes between those who live in the city and those who live in the bush… and this extends across both our Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

Without this, as a nation we are never going to close the gap, and the divide for the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people living in rural and remote Australia will never be addressed.”

Dr John Hall, President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA), said that without access to high quality health services in rural areas, the gap will never close.

Photo above : Here is what GPs said about working in Indigenous health

” I’m particularly concerned with successive government failure to halve Indigenous child mortality rates.

A lot of this is about access, it’s around health literacy.

It’s also about the holistic care, it’s also around education, housing and a whole range of other things”.

Australia needs to boost hospital and birthing facilities in rural and regional areas in order to overcome entrenched Indigenous health disadvantage, according to Rural Doctors Association of Australia CEO Peta Rutherford told SkyNews .

Watch SkyNews interview HERE 

Read over 70 Aboriginal Rural and Remote Health NACCHO Articles HERE

Another disappointing Closing the Gap Report, released this month [12 February 2020], demonstrates why health care in rural and remote Australia is a key driver to Closing the Gap in health.

“The Government’s Closing the Gap Report 2020 showed that the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on key health indicators has not closed,” Dr Hall said.

“Two key health-related benchmarks were chosen by the

Government in 2008, with a target of halving the gap in child mortality by 2018, and to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031.

“Neither of these targets are on track.

“The main cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child deaths are perinatal conditions such as complications of pregnancy and birth.

“With 85 per cent of these deaths occurring during the first year of life, maternal health and risk

factors during pregnancy play a crucial role.

“Access to quality, culturally safe, medical care is the most direct way of improving these outcomes,” Dr Hall said.

Similarly, life expectancy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is strongly influenced by health and health care, with the report attributing 34 per cent of the gap to social determinants (such as education, employment status, housing and income), 19 per cent to behavioural risk factors (such as smoking, obesity, alcohol use and diet), leaving 47 per cent attributed to what is clearly a disparity in health outcomes and associated health care issues.

In rural and remote areas there is a noticeable difference of a more than six year reduction in life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females, when compared to those living in major cities.

This demonstrates a failure across the board in these key areas, all of which are influenced by the provision of quality health care.

“Clearly we can’t close the gap without a functional health system in rural and remote Australia,” Dr Hall said.

“And this cannot just be solved through funding Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS); the other parts of the health system need to be equally funded to service these communities in order to be able to provide the standard of care that will result in a reduction in the gap in health outcomes.

“We can’t have hospital services downgraded and expect to close the gap.

“We can’t have communities with no access to medical birthing services and expect to close the gap.

“We can’t have people needing to travel hundreds of kilometres to access cancer or surgical treatment and close the gap.

“We need quality rural hospitals, staffed by Rural Generalist doctors, with the skills needed to meet the needs of these communities in both the General Practice and hospital settings, if we are serious about improving health outcomes and actually closing the gap.