NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dental Health : #ClosingtheGap : Co-design with ACCHO’s enables much needed health-care services to be delivered in ways that strengthen communities, respect culture and build capacity.

“We’ve now moved through all phases of implementing our co-designed programs, and are focusing on maintaining them with the support of school staff and the local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.

Our research shows engaging communities to design and deliver oral health services was associated with reduced tooth decay and increased healthy behaviours.

The following elements of co-design in our project could readily be incorporated into the design and delivery of health-care services for Aboriginal Australians:

  1. improved cultural safety— Aboriginal people feel safe and welcome
  2. co-design and shared ownership— local Aboriginal people shape the service model
  3. local employment— Aboriginal people work in the service and lead local delivery
  4. skills development— Aboriginal people complete qualifications that are nationally recognised
  5. long-term commitment— programs are designed and delivered with sustainable and reliable funding.

The gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians remains stubbornly wide.

Co-design enables much needed health-care services to be delivered in ways that strengthen communities, respect culture and build capacity.

Original published here 

Read over 40 Aboriginal Dental Health articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years

Aboriginal children in rural Australia have up to three times the rate of tooth decay compared to other Australian children.

Tooth decay can affect a person’s overall health and nutrition because it can affect how they chew and swallow. Tooth decay can also reduce self esteem because of its effect on appearance and breath. And importantly, poor oral health increases the risk of chronic disease such as heart disease.

Yet tooth decay is both preventable and treatable.

Broadly speaking, improving oral health is critical to closing the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and Australians overall. Tackling this gap requires customised, community-led solutions.

Our research demonstrates co-design — that is, engaging communities to design and deliver services for their own communities — is associated with significantly improved oral health among Aboriginal primary school children.

This approach may also hold the answer for closing the gap in other areas of health care.

Oral health among Aboriginal children

In the middle of last century, Aboriginal children actually had significantly better oral health than other Australian children. But today, Aboriginal children have roughly double the rate of tooth decay compared to other Australian children.

A range of factors have contributed to this recent problem, starting with colonisation — the effects of which have been compounded over time — and the shift to a highly processed Westernised diet.

Where interventions to prevent common oral diseases like tooth decay have become available to most Australian children in recent decades, Aboriginal children in rural Australia have historically had limited access to public dental services.

The disparity is compounded by the cost of basic supplies like toothpaste and toothbrushes, which may be unattainable for some families, and poor availability of cool filtered drinking water in remote communities.

We sought to reduce consumption of sugary drinks by installing refrigerated and filtered water fountains in schools and communities. We also engaged teachers to encourage students to fill up their water bottles and drink from them throughout the school day.

As well as this, we sought to increase fluoride intake (a naturally occurring mineral that helps to prevent tooth decay) by establishing daily in-school tooth brushing programs, supplying toothbrushes and toothpaste for school and home, and applying fluoride varnish to the children’s teeth once each term.

We also provided treatment for existing tooth decay and gum disease.

In 2018, we looked at the oral health and oral hygiene behaviours of children from the participating schools. Our findings have recently been published and show the project is working well.

What we found

In just four years we found a reduction in tooth decay, plaque and gingivitis (gum disease).

The average number of teeth with tooth decay per child in 2018 was 4.13, compared to 5.31 in 2014. Notably, the proportion of children with no tooth decay increased from 12.5% in 2014 to 20.3% in 2018.

There was also a dramatic reduction in the proportion of children with severe gingivitis from 43% in 2014 to 3% in 2018.

We also saw an increase in positive oral hygiene behaviour including tooth brushing, consumption of drinking water and reduced consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.

In 2014, 13% of children reported brushing their teeth on the morning they took the survey. This increased to 36% in 2018.

Collaborating with communities

Co-design means working alongside communities to establish the most effective ways to implement evidence-based strategies, and sustain these. It’s about sharing knowledge to enable long-term, positive change to complex problems.

In our project, the co-design process has been central to these outcomes:

  • local Aboriginal staff coordinate the programs and dental treatment services
  • clinical staff live and worklocally
  • we’ve established scholarships for localsto obtain qualifications as dental assistants, allied health assistants and oral health therapists
  • we’ve implemented daily in-school tooth brushing, regular fluoride varnish application and drinking water programs
  • the community decided on the location and installation of water fountains
  • we’ve set up highly cost-effectiveoral health services for the communities.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 87 : #KeepOurMobSafe @VACCHO_org urges Aboriginal people to do the right thing after confirmed cases of #COVID19 detected in Aboriginal Communities Plus @AIDAAustralia calls for public #BlackLivesMatter protest to be postponed

“While news of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ballarat is really concerning, it is an important reminder to remain vigilant in looking after ourselves and our families to stop the slow of the spread of this virus, especially now since it’s entered regional Victoria.

We know communities have been working hard to minimise any infections which has been quite successful to date, but we are entering a very challenging period. We are seeing alarming rates of community transmission – unlike the first lockdown period.

To protect our loved ones and our Elder Aboriginal Communities, people must continue to stay home where they can, wear masks, practice good hygienepractice physical distancing, and follow the limits for public gatherings

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO recognised that seeing triple digit spikes of COVID-19 was an anxiety provoking and uncertain time for many Aboriginal Communities in metropolitan Melbourne and now regional Victoria, but said support was available for those that need it. See Part 1 below

 ” We acknowledge the work of Black Lives Matter protest organisers in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in protests held so far, and do not link existing cases of COVID-19 to previous protests. Despite this, as doctors we are bound to remind everyone that social distancing is still the best way to prevent the further spread of this potentially deadly new virus.

COVID-19 is currently spreading through communities in Victoria and in New South Wales, and restrictions on mass gatherings need to be respected.”

Australian Indigenous Doctors Association press release See Part 2 Below

Part 1 VACCHO Press Release

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) has strongly urged Aboriginal people to stay home where they can, to get tested, and to self-isolate at home for 14 days while waiting for test results after two confirmed cases of COVID-19 were detected in Aboriginal Communities in Ballarat.

While face coverings are now mandatory for people living in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire when leaving their home, Ms Gallagher said that face covering should also be considered in rural areas, especially in areas where social distancing cannot be maintained.

“We can’t force anyone to wear a mask outside of Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, but as the peak Aboriginal health and wellbeing organisation we strongly encourage our communities in rural Victoria to wear a face covering if they own one. Particularly when you cannot apply physical distancing.  Face coverings have been shown to reduce the risk of transmission and should be considered earlier rather than later for our mob,” Ms Gallagher said.

If people have symptoms of COVID-19, Ms Gallagher said it was important that they remain home and get tested no matter how mild.

“Symptoms could include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, loss of sense of smell or taste,” Ms Gallagher said.

“Go home straight after your test and self-isolate while you wait for the results. This usually takes 1-3 days. No heading to the shops or fishing with your mates until you have your results.

“If you are a confirmed case of COVID-19, you must isolate at home for 14 days to stop the virus spreading to other people. That’s really important.”

During this uncertain time, Ms Gallagher said staying connected with family, friends and your community was important.

“Some ways you can do this are calling people for a yarn on the phone, talking about the community and checking if they are OK, talking about the virus and how to stop the spread, connecting with family and friends on social media and sharing your tips on social media #KeepOurMobSafe,” she said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at greater risk of coronavirus if they:

A one-off payment of $1,500 is available to workers who are unable to work during their isolation, have no income during this period, and are not entitled to any paid sick leave, special pandemic leave or other income support.

The Victorian Government will now extend the scheme to ensure that as soon as a person is tested, they will be eligible for a $300 support payment from the Victorian Government – as long as they meet the eligibility of the existing scheme.

People should call 1800 675 398 (option 8) to register for support.

There are three main sites in Ballarat where people can get tested:

  • Ballarat & District Aboriginal Co-operative, 108 Armstrong Street Nth Ballarat, 03 5331 5344
  • Ballarat UFS Respiratory clinic, corner Merz St and Eleanor Dr, Lucas (ph. 4311 1571 for an appointment).
  • A pop up testing site is also available at the Ballarat Senior Citizens Centre, 16 Little Bridge Street (ph. 1800 054 172 for an appointment) operated by Ballarat Community Health.

Clinics around the country to assess people with fever, cough, a sore throat, or shortness of breath.

These are being rolled out gradually. If there is not one in your area yet visit your state or territory health department website for more information on fever clinics and other services.

Find out if there is a clinic near you and how to register for an appointment:

Part 2. The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) unreservedly supports peoples’ right to protest and acknowledges the historic and ongoing role that protest has played in changing laws and practices that have discriminated against Indigenous peoples.

From the 1938 Day of Mourning and the Freedom Rides to the Wave Hill Walk Off, the AIDA remembers those who stood up for equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

We also understand the historic devastation that unchecked viral contagions can bring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

For the sake of our Elders and most vulnerable, AIDA urges people not to attend the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest marches in Sydney until the risks of further spread of COVID-19 can be mitigated.

We acknowledge the work of Black Lives Matter protest organisers in limiting the spread of COVID-19 in protests held so far, and do not link existing cases of COVID-19 to previous protests. Despite this, as doctors we are bound to remind everyone that social distancing is still the best way to prevent the further spread of this potentially deadly new virus.

COVID-19 is currently spreading through communities in Victoria and in New South Wales, and restrictions on mass gatherings need to be respected.

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association recognises the legacy of racism and calls for greater commitment to justice reinvestment strategies, diversion programs and culturally appropriate approaches that address the core issues of injustice raised by the BLM movement.

We do not encourage any action that will increase the risk of COVID-19 entering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

We will continue to support the community’s rights to engage in advocacy and encourage people to protest by other means during this health crisis, due to the inherent danger posed by mass gatherings at this time.

 

 

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 86 : #KeepOurMobSafe @VACCHO_org @ahmrc @TheAHCWA #OurJobProtectOurMob Dr @KelvinKongENT says ” If you’re unwell – get tested to help keep our community safe “

1.Dr Kelvin Kong introduction ” Protecting the community from coronavirus (COVID-19) “

2.Testing for coronavirus

3.Where can I get tested?

4.Update Victoria / VACCHO

5.Update NSW/ AHMRC

6.Help stop the spread

7.Download the COVIDSafe app

8. Download COVID-19 mental health poster / graphics from AHCWA

9. If you’re unwell – get tested to help keep our community safe says Dr Kong

“It’s important we detect any cases in our community early by getting tested if you have even minor symptoms. Don’t be afraid of the people who are taking the tests, because they’re going to be in protective gear. It’s to help keep us all safe from the spread.

Testing is available to all members of the community, for free. Aboriginal communities can contact their local Aboriginal Medical Service or Local Area Health District for information on where to access the test in their area.

The type of test you get might vary depending on where you live and where you go to get tested. You might be tested at the hospital, you might be at a GP practice, or it might be in a drive through testing location.

Some members of the community might be worried about getting the test, not knowing what is involved.

The test is relatively straightforward and simple. It’s not painful at all but can be uncomfortable. The common test involves a nasal swab, which is like a big cotton bud. A swab is taken from inside your nose. It might make you want to sneeze, but it’s over before you even realise that they’ve actually started. It’s really very quick,” 

Like many Aboriginal health professionals, Worimi man Dr Kelvin Kong has been exceptionally busy the last few months, helping to keep communities safe from COVID-19.

Dr Kong is a surgeon at the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, and has leant his voice to support Aboriginal communities across NSW, sharing videos and tips for communities to protect themselves during this time. Section 9 below for full release

Protecting the community from coronavirus (COVID-19)

2.Testing for coronavirus

Testing lets health workers know if people have coronavirus. This helps control and stop the spread of the virus.

Early diagnosis means you can stop spreading the virus to your friends, family, or community. If you have a fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or any other symptoms of respiratory illness, it is important you get tested. Even if you only have one of these symptoms, get tested.

Testing is even more important if you are unwell and:

  • You have recently come back to Australia from overseas. All travellers will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival into Australia;
  • You have been outside of your community and want to go back;
  • You have been close to someone who tested positive for coronavirus in the past 14 days;
  • You are a health care, aged care or residential care worker or staff member with direct patient contact.

3.Where can I get tested?

You can call your doctor or medical service to make an appointment for a test. If you visit your doctor, it is important to call the clinic first and tell them about your symptoms. This will help them prepare for your arrival and protect other people at the clinic.

You can also go to a free COVID-19 clinic without making an appointment. For Melbourne

COVID-19 GP respiratory clinics are health centres that focus on testing people with acute respiratory illness symptoms.

You can find a respiratory clinic near you here, or visit:  www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-covid-19#how-to-get-tested

If you get tested for coronavirus, you need to stay at home and avoid contact with other people at least until your symptoms have gone away. It may take a day or two for your test results to come back.

The COVID-19 Point of Care Testing (POCT) Program helps people in regional and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia get tested more easily. The goal of this program is to make sure that health care services are no more than a two to three hour drive from a testing location. This allows people to get their test results much more quickly than they would if the test had to be sent to a laboratory in a bigger town.

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, you should call 000 for urgent medical attention.

4.Update Victoria / VACCHO

You can find more information on keeping safe, restrictions etc. at                        http://www.vaccho.org.au/about-us/coronavirus/

As of Wednesday 22 July 11.59pm everyone 12 years old and over, living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire will HAVE to wear a face covering (can be a hospital or home made mask or a scarf) when outside their home to protect them from COVID-19.

There will be a $200 fine for those not wearing one.

There is information on making and wearing masks at https://bit.ly/2CafiiI

Info: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/face-masks-covid-19

There are some reasons not to wear one:

  • those who have a medical reason
  • kids under 12 years of age
  • those who have a professional reason
  • it’s just not practical, like when running

Teachers don’t have to wear a face covering while teaching – but students attending for VCE, VCAL or for onsite supervision will, while everyone will be expected to wear one to and from school.

However you will still be expected to carry your face covering at all times to wear when you can.

Otherwise, if you’re leaving your home for one of the four reasons, you need to cover your face.

Face coverings in regional Victoria are recommended in situations where 1.5 metres distance is not possible – however regional Victorians will have to wear a mask when visiting metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire for one of the permitted reasons.

Wearing a face mask does not apply to:

  • children under 2 years of age
  • people with breathing difficulties
  • people who have physical conditions that make it difficult to wear one.

Remember, if you’re sick you should stay at home unless you need medical care.

You can find more information on keeping safe, restrictions etc. at http://www.vaccho.org.au/about-us/coronavirus/

5.Update NSW/ AHMRC

More info HERE

Batemans Bay Soldiers Club cluster: Six more have COVID-19 | Were you there on July 13, 15, 16 or 17?

6.Help stop the spread

To protect our communities, everyone should continue to practise physical distancing and good hygiene. Make sure you stay two big steps away from other people, keep your hands clean, and stay at home and away from other people if you are unwell.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol based rub and cough or sneeze into your elbow. We are all part of keeping our mob safe and stopping the spread of coronavirus.

7.Download the COVIDSafe app

You should download the COVIDSafe app to help protect your family, friends and the community. The app helps health officials to quickly let people know if they have been close to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. The information can’t be shared, even with you. The more people who use the app, the more effective it will be and the faster we can get back to the things we love.

Together, we can keep our mob COVIDSafe. Visit: health.gov.au for more details.

8. Download 4 COVID-19 mental health poster / graphics from AHCWA

Feeling angry 😡 or frustrated during the #COVID_19 lockdown ? Here are a few tips to help you cope.
If you need someone to yarn to, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or find your local Headspace.

Alternatively, you can contact your local ACCHO / Aboriginal Medical Service or GP.

Deadly artwork by Will Bessen provided Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia

4 Downloads

9. If you’re unwell – get tested to help keep our community safe says Dr Kong

Like many Aboriginal health professionals, Worimi man Dr Kelvin Kong has been exceptionally busy the last few months, helping to keep communities safe from COVID-19.

Dr Kong is a surgeon at the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, and has leant his voice to support Aboriginal communities across NSW, sharing videos and tips for communities to protect themselves during this time.

Over his career, Dr Kong has gained extensive experience working in rural, urban and remote communities and knows first-hand the challenges some communities face in overcoming barriers to health care.

Dr Kong says it’s now more important than ever to keep up with regular appointments, encouraging members of the community to get tested if they have any concerns about COVID19 symptoms.

“It’s important we detect any cases in our community early by getting tested if you have even minor symptoms. Don’t be afraid of the people who are taking the tests, because they’re going to be in protective gear. It’s to help keep us all safe from the spread,” explains Dr Kong.

Testing is available to all members of the community, for free. Aboriginal communities can contact their local Aboriginal Medical Service or Local Area Health District for information on where to access the test in their area.

“The type of test you get might vary depending on where you live and where you go to get tested. You might be tested at the hospital, you might be at a GP practice, or it might be in a drive through testing location,” says Dr Kong.

Dr Kong acknowledges that some members of the community might be worried about getting the test, not knowing what is involved.

“The test is relatively straightforward and simple. It’s not painful at all but can be uncomfortable. The common test involves a nasal swab, which is like a big cotton bud. A swab is taken from inside your nose. It might make you want to sneeze, but it’s over before you even realise that they’ve actually started. It’s really very quick,” Dr Kong explains.

While we are seeing reduced community spread of COVID-19 cases, it’s important to continue testing patients that are unwell, to quickly detect any positive cases and stop the spread in the community, through self isolating.

If you test positive for COVID-19 you will need to self-isolate, and this can be a really difficult thing for many families. For our mob there can be extra barriers,” says Dr Kong.

“Sometimes, it’s really hard because we don’t have the space to actually self-isolate, but when you can, and if you can, it’s important to be in your own room. If you do have to be in the same room as someone, wear a mask.

“If you’re going to be getting food, make sure that you’re getting it alone. Wipe down surfaces, don’t interact with other people. It’s better if people can place food at your door,” says Dr Kong

While the whole community plays a part in maintaining good hygiene and regular hand washing, health workers also play a key role in helping to stop the spread between patients.

It’s really important for health workers to stay safe while they’re treating patients. The most important thing is to make sure you wear the protective equipment provided. Face shields or goggles and masks are a must,” said Dr Kong.

“Regular hand washing and wearing gloves and a gown whenever you’re in patient contact is important. These are all simple things to do, and if you’re just seeing one or two patients, it’s very easy. But when you start seeing lots of patients, you get very tired, very quickly.”

Dr Kong is urging health workers and the community to look after their own health and wellbeing too.

“It’s important to have a break. It’s a stressful time and we all need to look out for each other.”

“If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, or concerned about someone close to you, call the Coronavirus mental health line 1800 512 348.”

For the latest information, including resources for Aboriginal communities and health care workers visit nsw.gov.au.

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 78 : June 5 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : Top 10 #COVID19 News Alerts including download the NACCHO AHCWA submission to Senate hearing Governments response to COVID-19 response : And #BlackLivesMatter Support

1.Download the NACCHO submission to Senate hearing Governments response to COVID-19 response.

2.The “Unsung” Impacts of COVID-19 on the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in Western Australia. Download

3.Full transcript this weeks Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 – Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indigenous health.

4.Updated list of operational ACCHO GPRC’s as at June 4

5.Minister Ken Wyatt opens Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service’s Respiratory Clinic in Perth .

6. KAMS ACCHO rolls out first COVID-19 point of care testing site in Kimberley.

7.WA Journey to health and healing video.

8. Summary of national easing of restrictions plus roadmap to easing restrictions in Queensland remote communities.

9.Download the COVIDSafe app : What you need to know about the #COVIDSafe app and how the app will help protect our communities.

10. ACCHO’s support Black Lives Matter marches in Brisbane and Melbourne by providing masks and hand sanitiser

1.Download the NACCHO submission to Senate hearing Governments response to COVID-19 response.

The COVID-19 virus has exposed the vulnerability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to pandemics.

Generations of systemic and ongoing provision of inadequate housing and infrastructure, overcrowding, and social disadvantage, and the high prevalence of comorbidities among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people contribute to higher mortality in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Over 50% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have one or more chronic diseases which places them at high risk of serious COVID-19 infection.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these factors make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people one of the most vulnerable populations to the COVID-19 virus.

If COVID-19 gets into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Download the full submission and all recommendations HERE

The Australian Government, along with its counterparts in the States and Territories, has recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are highly vulnerable and that it would be catastrophic if the COVID-19 virus was to spread to communities. This same recognition did not occur with the 2009 H1N1 influenza epidemic, during which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples suffered a death rate of more than four times higher than non-indigenous Australians1,2.

The high level of collaboration by the National Cabinet has been instrumental in achieving the low number of COVID-19 cases among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, together with the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across our health sector and Ms Pat Turner’s leadership on negotiating a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

2.The “Unsung” Impacts of COVID-19 on the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in Western Australia. Download

Download full AHCWA COVID-19 submission HERE

COVID-19 AHCWA & WA ACCHS summary

3.Full transcript this weeks Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 – Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indigenous health.

Senator McCARTHY: Could I go to funding for mental health. The government has allocated $3 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people for mental health through PHNs. I want to understand the process in which the government provided funding for mental health and why it’s gone to PHNs.

Mr Matthews: First Assistant Secretary, Indigenous Health, Department of Health

We don’t have anyone here from our mental health area, but I think you’re referring to the recent announcement around mental health, which did include $3½ million for Indigenous mental health, which will flow through the Primary Health Networks. So that will be injected into there. A significant amount of the Indigenous mental health funding does run through the PHNs, so that is a strengthening of an existing framework; it injects further funding into that system. The details will be worked through with the PHNs for the PHNs to use flexibly in providing mental health support in the regions.

Senator McCARTHY: It’s going through the PHNs. Why is it that it didn’t it go through the ACCHOs?

Mr Matthews: As I said, that one is a decision—it’s just the way the funding has worked. A lot of the mental health funding does run through the PHNs currently. The mental health work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people does work through PHNs now, so it is an additional injection into that existing process, noting that, obviously, a lot of what the PHNs do is to make arrangements with ACCHOs and Aboriginal community controlled health services locally. Quite a reasonable proportion of the funding does go to ACCHOs. Obviously, the sector has—for some time, I think—been looking to ask questions around those arrangements. That discussion is ongoing with government. But, at the moment, that is an additional injection into the existing funding.

Senator McCARTHY: Did funding for mental health in response to the bushfires go to the ACCHOs or to NACCHO?

Mr Matthews: There was funding, in the bushfire context, that did go directly to the Aboriginal community controlled sector. That was to support a limited number of areas that were directly affected by the bushfires. At the time, going through those Aboriginal community controlled health services was seen as the fastest way to provide support into those areas.

Senator McCARTHY: So you’re saying that, on one hand, you’re strengthening the system by going through PHNs when, in actual fact, you already had a precedent set by sending the mental health funding directly to the ACCHOs, yet you’re not doing it in this situation where it’s even faster for ACCHOs to be dealing directly with First Nations people as opposed to PHNs.

Mr Matthews: I think that, obviously, the majority of the mental health funding does run through the PHN system at the moment. There was some funding, in the bushfire context, provided directly through to the ACCHOs, but, as I said, it was a decision of government for the $3½ million to go into and through the PHN network, noting that a large amount of the money does find a way through to the Aboriginal community controlled sector through the PHNs. As I said, there is an ongoing discussion where the community controlled sector is seeking to discuss those arrangements more broadly. I’m sure that discussion will continue with government.

Download the full 3 hour transcript 

Senate Hearing COVID19 and Indigenous Health

4.Updated list of operational ACCHO GPRC’s as at June 4

5. Minister Ken Wyatt opens Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service’s Respiratory Clinic in Perth .

The first Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Respiratory Clinic opened Tuesday in the Derbarl Maddington Clinic, as part of the Australian Government’s $2.4 billion health package response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Derbarl provides holistic and culturally responsive health care to more than 10,000 active Aboriginal patients in the Perth metropolitan area.

Respiratory disease accounts for 8% of the burden of disease, and is the third leading cause of death for Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people are more than five times more likely to be hospitalised for influenza-related illnesses than non-Aboriginal people, with the highest rate of hospitalisation in children less than five years of age. Derbarl treats more than 1,500 patients each year with chronic respiratory illnesses alone.

The opening of the respiratory clinic is therefore fundamental to meeting the health needs of Aboriginal people.

Chairperson of Derbarl Yerrigan, Ms Francine Eades said “Considering these alarming statistics, I am pleased that Derbarl responded to the opportunity to provide this vital service to our patients and the wider community.

We have joined the growing number of Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Services delivering GP-led respiratory clinics to our people.”

Download read full press release

DYHS Media Release – Maddington Respiratory Clinic Opening (1)

6.KAMS rolls out first COVID-19 point of care testing site in Kimberley.

KAMS CEO, Vicki O’Donnell, is excited to be the first service in the country to offer this testing capability.

“This will be a game changer for our communities. The fact that we will have an immediate test result will save us having to transport people to Broome, where they are separated from family and friends while they await their test result,” O’Donnell said.

“The new point of care tests will allow us to undertake contact tracing with that individual while they wait the 45 minutes for their test outcome.”

“If their result returns negative, they can be treated for the condition they presented at the clinic with and return home. If their result returns positive, we can make an immediate start on contacting anybody they have been in contact with.”

O’Donnell thanked the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Commonwealth Indigenous Health Division, with particular regard to Dr Lucas De Toca and his team. She also extended thanks to the Kirby Institute, whose support enabled the roll out of the point of care testing GeneXpert machines.

Read full article here 

7.WA Journey to health and wellbeing video.

8. Summary of national easing of restrictions plus roadmap to easing restrictions in Queensland remote communities.

Updated June 5 Western Australia will join the Northern Territory in lifting travel restrictions across remote communities on Friday, 5 June 2020.

The Australian Government has taken this action in response to a request by the Deputy
Premier and Minister for Health and Mental Health of Western Australia, The Hon. Roger
Cook MLA, to lift the restrictions currently in place through the Emergency Determination
under the Biosecurity Act 2015.

See Minister Ken Wyatt press release

WA

9.Download the COVIDSafe app : What you need to know about the #COVIDSafe app and how the app will help protect our communities.

10. ACCHO’s support Black Lives Matter marches in Brisbane and Melbourne by providing masks and hand sanitiser

Thanks to the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Inc, Victorian Aboriginal Health Service -VAHS Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council and The Institute for Urban Indigenous Health they able to support the BlacK Lives Matter march in  Melbourne and Brisbane by providing masks and hand sanitiser.
For all the mob in Melbourne VAHS will be present for tomorrow’s Black Lives Matter rally to hand out face masks and hand sanitisers to make sure we take a harm minimisation approach.

For the Melbourne mob : Come see VAHS Staff between 12pm to 2pm, next to Sir Doug Nicholls and Lady Nicholls statue in Parliament Gardens to receive free face masks

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus #NRW2020 News Alert No 73 : May 28 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : @Change_Record launches 10 Recommendations for ” The impact of Covid-19 policies, policing and prisons on our First Nations communities

 

As restrictions ease for some of us in the community, we must not forget that the risk of Covid-19 and human rights abuses within prisons remains extremely high.

We have heard reports of people in prisons being denied soap, having to spend their own money to make phone calls to family after visits were banned, not being able to speak confidentially with their lawyers and being stuck on remand because with the current restrictions it has been impossible for lawyers to prepare adequately for a hearing.

This means once again our people are spending longer in prison in potentially dangerous conditions.

The report also documents the devastating challenges our families are facing staying connected with their children. Our children are still being taken from their families and communities at far higher rates than the rest of the population.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put enormous stress on everyone, but for Aboriginal families the burden is even greater. We’ve heard stories of babies being removed at birth and families having to fight to see a photograph, mothers being denied visits with their young children and the fear that this will impact on their future ability to be reunified as a family.

When we reflect on Sorry Day this week, and the fact that children are still being taken from our families at unacceptable and disproportionate rates, we are calling on the Federal Government to not allow Covid-19 to be yet another excuse to tear our families apart.”

Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair of Change the Record

Download report HERE

CRITICAL CONDITION – the impact of Covid-19 policies, policing and prisons on First Nations communities (2)

Includes editorial from the Guardian

Aboriginal people in prisons are going without soap, and children in out-of-home care are being refused contact with their families under “punitive” restrictions enforced due to Covid-19, a report released on Wednesday has said.

Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 policy responses at a state, territory and commonwealth level, the report by the Change the Record coalition, said.

Change the Record is the Aboriginal-led justice coalition including Amnesty International, the Law Council of Australia, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (Natsils) and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (Naccho), representing hundreds of services across Australia.

The report said there have been increased use of lockdowns and isolation within correctional facilities, and a reduced access to education, family and legal visits.

It cites the case of Daniel*, remanded in prison in Tasmania since early 2020 on his first time in custody.

“His matter was heard by telephone in April but he was refused bail. His lawyer sought an adjournment of his matter because they were unable to prepare a defence without being able to see him, properly take his instructions or go through the material with him.

“Daniel is not allowed any visits with his family or his lawyer because of Covid-19 restrictions. He also has health issues, asthma and has extreme anxiety about the virus getting into the prison.

“He reports having no access to any type of sanitiser in prison and was frequently without soap.”

The report calls on governments to release low-risk prisoners from prisons and youth detention centres, but says it has been “difficult” to get up-to-date information about conditions due to “the withdrawal of independent oversight bodies and external scrutiny in many states and territories”.

Recommendations

We urgently call on state, territory and federal governments to:

  1. Release Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners who are low-risk, have chronic health conditions, are on remand, are elderly, children or are for whatever reason at increased risk of Covid-19
  2. Protect the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in prison by ensuring access to oversight and monitoring agencies, family, legal services, mental health care, education and programs
  3. Raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 years old and urgently release children and young people from youth detention centres during Covid-19
  4. Enact a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection notification and referral scheme to reduce family violence driven child removal through proactive, culturally safe and holistic legal
  5. Connect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who experience family violence, and who are engaged with the child protection system, with culturally appropriate services through their nearest Family Violence Prevention Legal
  6. Increase support and access to safe accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families fleeing family violence to stop further removals of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
  7. Implement immediate short-term changes in legislation, where applicable, in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care to ensure parents don’t lose their children to permanent care during Covid-19.
  8. Resist punitive policy responses to Covid-19 and the over-policing of already targeted communities, and require transparency and oversight in policing;
  9. Ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including those with disability, are given equal access to high quality and culturally-appropriate health care during Covid-19; and
  10. Rebuild our justice system after Covid-19 to focus on investing in community, not prisons, to increase community safety and prevent black deaths in

“As restrictions ease for some of us in the community, we must not forget that the risk of Covid-19 and human rights abuses within prisons remains extremely high,” the Change the Record co-chair, Cheryl Axleby, said.

The report also highlights the “distress and anxiety” about Covid-19 restrictions felt by Aboriginal children and parents in the out-of-home care system.

It cited the case of Benjamin*, born in the Northern Territory in February and removed immediately.

In Tasmania, one Aboriginal legal service reported that “child safety will not facilitate face-to-face contact with children in out-of-home care and their Aboriginal parent”.

Julia* had been having multiple visits with her child every week but due to Covid-19 her contact has been reduced to one phone/video call a week.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put enormous stress on everyone, but for Aboriginal families the burden is even greater,” Axleby said.

The report is one of two released to coincide with national reconciliation week. Amnesty International has renewed calls for state and territory governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14. Currently, the minimum age is 10, which Amnesty and Change the Record said is well below international standards.

“The medical evidence is clear – kids are still developing at 10, 11, 12 years old and need to be in school, at home and with their peers, not behind bars,” Axleby said.

The report also details allegations of police surveillance of Aboriginal communities, under the guise of Covid-19 restriction enforcement.

It quotes a witness to an incident in inner Sydney: “Two police vehicles were coming in the opposite direction. The second vehicle stopped to talk to an Aboriginal man who was walking slightly ahead of me in the same direction. I stopped in case he needed help or a witness.

“He was agitated and told the police he’d already been stopped twice in the preceding 10 minutes and that he was on his way to the Glebe police station to lodge a complaint about racial profiling.

“He had been stopped 37 times in the past month. He had lived in the area for more than 30 years.”

*Names have been changed

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ReconciliationWeek News Alert : #NRW2020 Messages from Minister @KenWyattPM and our @NACCHOChair Donnella Mills : Let’s stand as one and continue being strong. We are all #InThisTogether2020 !’

“ This year’s #NRW2020 theme is ‘In this Together’ – reminds us whether in a crisis or reconciliation we are all #InThisTogether2020.

We have shown during these tough times that we can all do our part to stop the spread of a deadly disease and the results speak for themselves.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be impacted by the legacy of colonisation but what continues is our resilience amidst the adversity we face. When we face adversity together, we see stronger outcomes.

If we all can work together and support the journey of reconciliation, every step forward removes disadvantage and creates a more solid foundation for our country towards a better future for all Australians.”

Read and download full NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills Press Release HERE

Plus details of our Chairs and CEO NRW2020 speaking engagements 27 May

“National Reconciliation Week draws our attention each year to the ongoing efforts to walk together with a shared purpose, and to build a stronger future for all Australians.

This year’s theme, In This Together, resonates in new ways in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and reminds us we all share this land and rely on each other to build a better future.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, has asked Australians to think about what reconciliation means to them and what practical steps they can take to build trust, mutual respect and opportunities for Indigenous Australians. Pictured above with NACCHO CEO Pat Turner 

“The week commences 27 May marking the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum and concludes with the anniversary of the High Court’s Mabo decision on 3 June – both significant milestones in our shared history that had profound impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

“These moments in our reconciliation journey remind us of the tireless campaigners who sought to bring us closer and the success that can be achieved when Australians come together as one.”

“This year also marks 20 years since Corroboree 2000 and the memorable Walk for Reconciliation across Sydney Harbour Bridge where close to a quarter of a million people demonstrated their commitment to reconciliation. The images from that day are still striking and it’s important we do not lose that enthusiasm.”

“While we are unfortunately not able to celebrate with gatherings this year due to COVID-19, there are many events happening online that people can get involved with.”

“From film screenings and book recommendations to panel discussions and streamed concerts, there are opportunities for people to learn about our history, engage with Indigenous culture and reflect on what it means to be in this together.”

“I also encourage all Australians to take part in the National Acknowledgement of Country. At midday on Wednesday 27th May, join Indigenous Australians across the nation by posting a video of an acknowledgement of the country you are on with the hashtags #InThisTogether2020 and #NRW2020.”

Visit https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/articles/aiatsis-map-indigenous-australia for a guide to the Traditional Owners of the land you are on.

Visit reconciliation.org.au or indigenous.gov.au to find out more.

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 61 : May 13 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : AMSANT Peak Health and NT land councils back proposal to lift coronavirus Bio-security travel restrictions for remote communities as early as June 5

“We would need to ensure that strong border controls are maintained and that fully resourced and detailed national, jurisdictional and local outbreak plans are in place that ensure integration and coordination between the NT and Commonwealth governments”.

CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT (AMSANT), John Paterson, expressed support for the relaxation of the Biosecurity measures but noted that to do so safely would require a number of safeguards in place. Quote added by NACCHO / AMSANT

Our mob living in remote communities want to come into major centres to get food, other essential items and medical treatment they cannot get out bush. We want to move about with our kids and family members without having to quarantine for 14 days,

Northern Land Council CEO Marion Scrymgour said the act “adversely affected” the movement of Aboriginal people living on homelands and outstations in comparison to non-Aboriginal people. See further quotes below

We all went into this together, and we’ll get out of this together.

We don’t want to see double standards emerging — where people could get a laksa at Parap Markets and a have bet at the pub from June 5, but the community mob are still locked in.

Central Land Council CEO Joe Martin-Jard said he wanted the Biosecurity Act to be lifted on June 5, a date that coincided with stage 3 of COVID-19 restrictions easing in the NT.

“It is important that we remain cautious in our approach, we don’t want to see COVID-19 entering one of our communities.

Both Indigenous communities and the Government see this as critical. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have more complex health needs than other Australians and my primary concern is continuing to keep this virus out of our communities as much as possible.”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said Mr Gunner was able to request changes to the NT’s Biosecurity Act at any time, and discussions between the Federal and NT governments were ongoing.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner says travel to the NT’s 76 remote Indigenous communities may be permitted as early as June 5, following discussions with NT land councils and peak Aboriginal health bodies this week.

Originally published here

Key points:

  • The Biosecurity Act, barring essential travel to remote NT communities, is scheduled to stay in place until June 18
  • Mr Gunner said land councils asked him yesterday to lift restrictions on June 5
  • But the Chief Minister confirmed easing border restrictions would be the last move by the Government

“The NT is the safest place in Australia,” Mr Gunner said.

“Because we are safe, and because we have strict border controls for the NT, we can look at bringing forward the date for the Biosecurity Act restrictions.”

Under the Biosecurity Act, all non-essential travel to remote Territory communities is currently banned and a 14-day isolation period applies for community residents wanting to return home from regional centres.

The restrictions are scheduled to stay in place until June 18 and align with a 90-day public health emergency declaration.

Mr Gunner said Land Councils asked him yesterday to lift restrictions on June 5 and he would now speak to the Commonwealth about the possibility.

Land councils back proposal

Central Land Council CEO Joe Martin-Jard said he wanted the Biosecurity Act to be lifted on June 5, a date that coincided with stage 3 of COVID-19 restrictions easing in the NT.

“We all went into this together, and we’ll get out of this together,” Mr Martin-Jard said.

“We don’t want to see double standards emerging — where people could get a laksa at Parap Markets and a have bet at the pub from June 5, but the community mob are still locked in.”

At the moment, Mr Martin-Jard said people were locked in their own communities with only one shop to visit, and as the weather cooled in Central Australia, it was important residents could leave to buy warmer clothes and other items they needed — without being forced to quarantine for 14 days upon their return.

Northern Land Council CEO Marion Scrymgour agreed.

“Our mob living in remote communities want to come into major centres to get food, other essential items and medical treatment they cannot get out bush. We want to move about with our kids and family members without having to quarantine for 14 days,” she said.

Ms Scrymgour said the act “adversely affected” the movement of Aboriginal people living on homelands and outstations in comparison to non-Aboriginal people.

“Despite the fact that the intent of the biosecurity measures was to protect Aboriginal people — and this was made clear by both the Prime Minister and the NT Chief Minister from the start — there were elements of the process that were unfair to some Aboriginal people, particularly those living on Community Living Areas — those small areas of land excised for the benefit of Aboriginal people from very large pastoral stations,” she said.

‘We should keep the borders to the NT closed’

Ms Scrymgour and Mr Martin-Jard both said they only supported lifting the Biosecurity Act on June 5 if the NT’s strict border restrictions remained in place.

“We want to see some easing of restrictions in the NT, but only if it’s safe and only if they keep the strong Territory border restrictions,” Mr Martin-Jard said.

Ms Scrymgour also reminded Territorians that — apart from two Australian Defence Force personnel who arrived in Darwin May 1 after testing positive to COVID-19 overseas — there had been no new cases of the virus in the NT for more than a month.

“That’s a really positive indication it’s pretty safe for our mob to travel in and out of remote communities without needing to quarantine upon return. But I agree with the Chief Minister that we should keep the borders to the NT closed for a while longer,” she said.

Mr Gunner yesterday confirmed easing the NT’s tough border restrictions would be the last move by the Government.

He also said it was unlikely the Territory would open borders with WA and SA before the eastern states.

Feds to rule on the Biosecurity Act

The decision about when to lift the Biosecurity Act is one for the Commonwealth, and Mr Gunner will need to write to Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt asking him to sign off on the proposal.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said Mr Gunner was able to request changes to the NT’s Biosecurity Act at any time, and discussions between the Federal and NT governments were ongoing.

“It is important that we remain cautious in our approach, we don’t want to see COVID-19 entering one of our communities,” Mr Wyatt said.

“Both Indigenous communities and the Government see this as critical. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have more complex health needs than other Australians and my primary concern is continuing to keep this virus out of our communities as much as possible.”

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 55 : May 6 #COVIDSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob :“Let’s stand as one and continue being strong, our work is not done! Is the COVID-19 Message update from NACCHO CEO Pat Turner

 ” We as a community and a country have responded remarkably in managing the spread of COVID-19!

Our work has been good, but our work is not done, and we need to continue following the rules around COVID-19.

We cannot afford to stop now. Community transmissions can still grow slowly.

We must safeguard ourselves and our people against the spread and continue to keep it away from our friends and families “

“Let’s stand as one and continue being strong, our work is not done!” is the key message from NACCHO CEO Pat Turner to encourage all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to remain steadfast and cautious under relaxed new rules released by the governments.

Pat Turner has been interviewed for NITV-The Point and the story will go on-air tonight, Wednesday 5 May at 8.30 pm

Download this NACCHO Press Release HERE

NACCHO COVID-19 Messaging May 2020

“I’m happy to hear that governments are easing some of the COVID-19 restrictions. But we must be sensible in continuing to follow the right guidelines to avoid any chance of a second wave.

Now we need to keep it all up more than ever.

This is not the point to start relaxing.

“I want to share with everyone that I have downloaded the COVIDSafe app as soon as it was available. I urge everyone with a mobile phone to do the same. It is free and it could well save your life and the lives of your loved ones.

“It is a way to protect your family and the community from further spread of coronavirus.

If you have the app, you will be told as soon as possible if you have been in close contact with someone infected with coronavirus. You can then isolate before developing symptoms, so you don’t pass it on to others. You will be contacted and advised to get tested as soon as possible.

Download HERE

“I urge everyone to continue to keep good hygiene, with washing our hands for at least 20 seconds and drying them thoroughly, physical distancing, coughing in the elbow, and staying home as far as possible apart from any of the essential needs. All the hard work we have done together so far will all be wasted if we do not safeguard now against a second wave.

“I can assure you that by following these measures and being sensible with these new changes, we are protecting ourselves and keeping our people safe through this pandemic together.”

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 51 : April 30 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : First Nations people leading the way in COVID-19 pandemic planning, response and management

Pandemics are a serious public health risk for First Nations communities here and globally.

Measures to reduce risk of COVID-19 have been addressed swiftly taking the lessons from 2009 H1N1 pandemic .

The involvement of communities has been fundamental and pivotal to early change and action.

Making space for First Nations peoples to define the issues, determine the priorities, and suggesting solutions for culturally informed strategies that address local community needs may reduce health inequities and has potential to influence system changes.

Privileging First Nations voices, within a culturally appropriate governance structure, to develop and implement planning, response and management protocols can make a real difference.

The model has the potential to be replicated where public health agencies and First Nations practitioners and researchers have developed shared understanding.

Only time will tell now how we will fare over the coming months.”

Kristy Crooks, Dawn Casey and James S Ward published in the MJA

Download the article HERE

First Nations people leading the way in COVID-19

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (respectfully hereafter First Nations) peoples of Australia have experienced poorer health outcomes than the rest of the Australian population during recent pandemics (1,2).

In 2009, during the H1N1 pandemic, diagnosis rates, hospitalisations and intensive care unit admissions occurred at 5, 8 and 3 times respectively the rate recorded among non-Indigenous peoples (1,2,3).

The vulnerability of First Nations people to COVID-19 is well understood by community leaders and non-Aboriginal policy makers and clinicians alike.

The risk for First Nations from COVID-19 taking hold are immense – the oldest continuous culture on the planet is at risk.

This is because of all of the following inter-related factors: an already high burden of chronic diseases; long-standing inequity issues related to service provision and access to health care, especially because 20% of First Nations people live in remote and very remote areas; and pervasive social and economic disadvantage in areas such as housing, education and employment.

Finally, and ironically, many of the interventions put in place to curb SARS COV2 are counter-cultural or near impossible because of overcrowded housing and extended family groups living together. This means interruption of cultural life as it has to be adapted to be consistent with new social isolation concepts.

Using lessons learnt from the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 First Nations clinicians, public health practitioners and researchers are strategically leading the way in public health planning, response and management for COVID-19 alongside our non-Indigenous dedicated allies.

The omission of First Nations Peoples from the 2009 National Action Plan for Human Influenza Pandemic (4, 5) not only disadvantaged those who most needed protection, but failed to identify First Nations peoples as being a high-risk population group, which resulted in worse outcomes previously mentioned. Research following the 2009 pandemic found that a “one size fits all” approach to infectious disease emergencies is unlikely to work, and partnerships between communities and government agencies for the management of public health emergencies could be improved (6, 7); and future pandemics should ensure First Nations peoples are appropriately engaged as active and equal participants in pandemic preparedness, responses, recovery and evaluation (6, 8).

During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic we as a community have proactively proceeded to ensure this occurs.

Recognising that public health measures, containment strategies and risk communication often do not consider the socioeconomic, historical or cultural context of First Nations peoples it is appropriate that First Nations Peoples lead the way in pandemic planning. Pandemic plans developed and implemented with First Nations people leading, will likely mitigate risks and prevent from what happened in 2009 again.

On 6 March 2020 the Australian Government’s Department of Health convened the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 to provide advice to ensure preparedness responses and recovery were planned for COVID-19.

The Advisory Group works on principles of shared decision-making, power-sharing, two-way communication, self-determination, leadership and empowerment.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) co-chairs the Advisory Group with the Department of Health and includes membership from the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation Sector, State and Territory Government representatives and Aboriginal communicable disease experts (9). The Advisory Group links to the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) and reports to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC).

Our brief is to ensure all stages of the pandemic are considered with an equity lens, are proportional to the risk of disease in communities, to discuss and work through logistical issues related to the pandemic especially in planning phases and that these actions should be locally-led, holistic and culturally safe to communities. The group initially met three times per week and currently meets twice weekly via video or teleconference.

The Advisory Group has provided strategic input into the development of the National Management and Operational Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Populations (10), and has made significant contribution to the COVID-19 Series of National Guidelines (11).

Added by NACCHO  : Welcome to the second in a series of #CommunityMatters broadcasts by Dr Janine Mohamed, Chair of Croakey Health Media. The broadcast discusses this article by Professor James Ward on the many actions underway to protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from the novel coronavirus.

To prepare communities for COVID-19 actions and advocacy of the Advisory Group have included:

Legislative changes: Strong advocacy and input to Government has ensured minimising non-essential travel by visitors to remote communities (12). The enactment of the Biosecurity Act has enabled restrictions being placed on many state/territory borders as well as national borders. In addition, many Aboriginal Land Councils have closed access and refused to issue new permits for visitors to communities within their remit.

Development of national guidelines on COVID-19 to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are accorded priority in the national response (11). Separate guidance focused on remote communities have also been developed, addressing circumstances and logistical challenges in these areas such as medical evacuation, community wide screening, limited isolation and quarantine spaces if SARS-COV2 initial cases are detected in this setting.

Health services planning: Almost all communities with significant First Nations populations have been in preparedness mode and have enacted local action plans to respond to COVID-19. In many cases this has extended beyond the development of a local plan but has included initiatives such as reconfiguring of clinics to facilitate testing, isolation of suspected cases as well as preparing staff in infectious disease training relevant to COVID-19. The Commonwealth Government has expanded telehealth (phone and video-based calls with health providers), ensuring those with chronic disease and other health conditions can receive health consultations via phone.

Establishing rapid testing in remote communities: The Advisory Group is working with the Kirby Institute to rapidly establish increased SARS COV2 testing capacity in communities across Australia using point of care platforms (nucleic acid amplification testing) that provide a result within 45 minutes from a nasopharyngeal swab. Overall, 87 rapid testing platforms will be placed in remote and regional settings, using a hub and spoke model.

Trained existing health care workers in communities will be provided with online training in the use of the platforms. This strategy will greatly enhance the ability to rapidly turn around test results reducing current test results times down from between 3-10 days to within a few hours for most communities across Australia.

This strategy will enable contacts to be tested early and ensure local action plans and strategies are enacted to minimise community transmission.

Infrastructure planning: Many communities have planned additional spaces for isolation and quarantine in the advent of an outbreak in communities, especially made difficult in the contexts of already overcrowded housing. In some cases, the minerals and exploration industry has offered communities unused accommodation and facilities during COVID-19 period.

Expanding testing sites: The Commonwealth Department of Health has facilitated the opening of GP-led respiratory clinics, including some in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS).

Workforce planning: Much discussion is still ongoing on the need to protect and maintain workforces in Aboriginal health care settings. Much of remote Australia is reliant on locum staff that will require quarantining prior to starting clinical activities within communities but this places additional strain on existing workforce capacity. Recent outbreaks among health care workers in remote Australia highlight the vulnerability of remote community populations.

 

Health promotion materials: Targeted communication resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have been developed (13). Health organisations have stepped up and developed local resources appropriate for their own community populations.

Many of these can be found on the NACCHO website. Other organisations have also created health education materials to help inform and educate their community populations. In many cases the development of culturally specific resources has been conducted by Aboriginal Health Workers and Practitioners.

Epidemiological tracking of COVID-19: Work has commenced to ensure accurate timely surveillance of cases among First Nations Peoples occurs. This will enable responses to be actioned swiftly and prevent loss of precious time in an outbreak situation.

Infectious disease modelling to help inform approaches: Mathematical models are being used to investigate the best approaches to use in communities once cases are identified. Additional social distancing, isolation, quarantine measures, contact testing, testing strategies are currently being developed to inform responses.

Advocacy: Significant advocacy across all levels of the response continue such as the ongoing need for adequate supply of personal protective equipment for the ACCHS sector, quarantine measures, and testing guidelines to name a few.

References

  1. Rudge S, Massey PD. Responding to pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza in Aboriginal communities in NSW through collaboration between NSW Health and the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector. New South Wales Public Health Bulletin. 2010 Apr 30;21(2):26-9.
  2. Flint SM, Davis JS, Su JY, OliverLandry EP, Rogers BA, Goldstein A, Thomas JH, Parameswaran U, Bigham C, Freeman K, Goldrick P. Disproportionate impact of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza on Indigenous people in the Top End of Australia’s Northern Territory. Medical Journal of Australia. 2010 May;192(10):617-22.
  3. Kelly H, Mercer G, Cheng A. Quantifying the risk of pandemic influenza in pregnancy and Indigenous people in Australia in 2009. Eurosurveillance 2009;14:19441.
  4. Council of Australian Governments.Working Group on Australian Influenza Pandemic Prevention and Preparedness, Australia.Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Scuffham PA, Hodgkinson B. National Action Plan for Human Influenza Pandemic. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; 2006.
  5. Miller A, Durrheim DN. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities forgotten in new Australian National Action Plan for Human Influenza Pandemic:“Ask us, listen to us, share with us”. The Medical Journal of Australia. 2010 Sep 20;193(6):316-7.
  6. Massey P, Miller A, Durrheim D, Speare R, Saggers S, Eastwood K. Pandemic influenza containment and the cultural and social context of Indigenous communities.
  7. Driedger SM, Cooper E, Jardine C, Furgal C, Bartlett J. Communicating risk to Aboriginal Peoples: First Nations and Metis responses to H1N1 risk messages. PLOS one. 2013;8(8).
  8. Massey PD, Miller A, Saggers S, Durrheim DN, Speare R, Taylor K, Pearce G, Odo T, Broome J, Judd J, Kelly J. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the development of pandemic influenza containment strategies: community voices and community control. Health Policy. 2011 Dec 1;103(2-3):184-90.
  9. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Health. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 Communiques. Canberra, ACT. 2020. [Updated 1 April 2020; cited 4 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.health.gov.au/committees-and-groups/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-advisory-group-on-covid-19
  10. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Health. Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Management Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Operational Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. Canberra, ACT. 2020. [updated 30 March 2020; cited 4 April 2020] Available from: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/management-plan-for-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-populations.pdf
  11. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Health. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) CDNA National guidelines for public health units. Canberra, ACT. 2020. [updated 6 April 2020; cited 8 April 2020] Available from: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/7A8654A8CB144F5FCA2584F8001F91E2/$File/interim-COVID-19-SoNG-v2.5.pdf
  12. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Health. Keeping communities safe from coronavirus: remote area travel restrictions. Canberra, ACT. 2020 [updated 9 April 2020, cited 14 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/04/keeping-communities-safe-from-coronavirus-remote-area-travel-restrictions.pdf
  13. Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Health. Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and remote communities. Canberra, ACT. 2020 [updated 6 April 2020, cited 14 April 2020]. Available from: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/advice-for-people-at-risk-of-coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-peoples-and-remote-communities

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 47 : April 27 #KeepOurMobSafe : #OurJobProtectOurMob : NACCHO is part of the group of national health professionals / peak health groups supporting the #COVIDSafe app : Plus FAQs

” As key representatives of Australia’s health professions this joint statement, with the Federal Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, supports and approves the COVIDSafe app as a critical tool in helping our nation fight the COVID-19 pandemic, protect and save lives.

The COVIDSafe app has been created as a public health initiative, which will allow state and territory public health officials to automate and improve manual contact tracing.

Accelerating contact tracing will help slow the virus spreading and prevent illness as well as allow an earlier lifting of social distancing and other measures.

The COVIDSafe app will assist health authorities to suppress and eliminate the virus as part of the three key requirements for easing restrictions: Test, Trace and Respond. “

After you download and install the app from the Australian Apple App store or Google Play store, which you can also access from the government’s Covidsafe app page covidsafe.gov.au, you’ll be asked to register your name (or pseudonym), age range, postcode and phone number.

 ” The medical profession and the medical profession has released a joint statement with the government .In alphabetical order – the support and encouragement for people to download the app

Allied Health Professions of Australia, the Australian College of Nursing, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, the Australian Dental Association, the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, the Council of Medical College Presidents of Australia representing all of the medical colleges, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled and Health Organisation, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, the Rural Australian College of Physicians, the Royal Australian College of GPs and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia.

Download the Minister Greg Hunt’s full press conference transcript HERE

We thank Australians for their help in protecting each other and our doctors, nurses, carers, pharmacists, allied health professionals, dentists and support staff through their support for the difficult but life-saving social distancing measures.

We equally ask you to consider downloading the app to help protect our nurses, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, allied health professionals, carers and support staff. This will help us protect you and help you protect us.

The COVIDSafe app will also help keep you, your family and your community safe from further spread of the COVID-19 virus through early notification of possible exposure. It will be one of the tools we will use to help protect the health of the community by quickly alerting people who may be at risk of having contact with the COVID-19 virus.

Receiving early notification that you may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus can save your life or that of your family and friends, particularly those who are elderly. It will mean you can be tested earlier and either be given the support you will need if diagnosed positive, while protecting others, or have the peace of mind of knowing you have not contracted what could be a life threatening disease.

The COVIDSafe app has been developed with the strongest privacy safeguards to ensure your information and privacy is strictly protected. We strongly encourage members of the public to download the app which will be available from your usual App Stores. The user registers to use the app by entering a name, age range, phone number and postcode and will receive a confirmation SMS text message to complete the installation of the COVIDSafe app.

Signing up to the COVIDSafe app is completely voluntary. We hope Australians will choose to support this app so that we can continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and give people more freedom to get on with their day-to-day lives.

The COVIDSafe app is part of our work to slow the spread of COVID-19. Having confidence we can find and contain outbreaks quickly will mean governments can ease restrictions while still keeping Australians safe.

The new COVIDSafe app is completely voluntary. Downloading the app is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and save the lives of other Australians. The more Australians connect to the COVIDSafe app, the quicker we can find the virus.

For detailed questions and answers about this app, see our COVIDSafe app FAQs.

What COVIDSafe is for

The COVIDSafe app helps find close contacts of COVID-19 cases. The app helps state and territory health officials to quickly contact people who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

The COVIDSafe app speeds up the current manual process of finding people who have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19. This means you’ll be contacted more quickly if you are at risk. This reduces the chances of you passing on the virus to your family, friends and other people in the community.

State and territory health officials can only access app information if someone tests positive and agrees to the information in their phone being uploaded. The health officials can only use the app information to help alert those who may need to quarantine or get tested.

The COVIDSafe app is the only contact trace app approved by the Australian Government.

How COVIDSafe works

When you download the app you provide your name, mobile number, and postcode and select your age range (see Privacy). You will receive a confirmation SMS text message to complete installation. The system then creates a unique encrypted reference code just for you.

COVIDSafe recognises other devices with the COVIDSafe app installed and Bluetooth enabled. When the app recognises another user, it notes the date, time, distance and duration of the contact and the other user’s reference code. The COVIDSafe app does not collect your location.

To be effective, you should have the COVIDSafe app running as you go about your daily business and come into contact with people. Users will receive daily notifications to ensure the COVIDSafe app is running.

The information is encrypted and that encrypted identifier is stored securely on your phone. Not even you can access it. The contact information stored in people’s mobiles is deleted on a 21-day rolling cycle. This period takes into account the COVID-19 incubation period and the time it takes to get tested. For more, see Privacy.

When an app user tests positive for COVID-19

When someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, state and territory health officials will ask them or their parent/guardian who they have been in contact with. If they have the COVIDSafe app and provide their permission, the encrypted contact information from the app will be uploaded to a highly secure information storage system. State and territory health officials will then:

  • use the contacts captured by the app to support their usual contact tracing
  • call people to let them or their parent/guardian know they may have been exposed
  • offer advice on next steps, including:
    • what to look out for
    • when, how and where to get tested
    • what to do to protect friends and family from exposure

Health officials will not name the person who was infected.

After the pandemic

At the end of the Australian COVID-19 pandemic, users will be prompted to delete the COVIDSafe app from their phone. This will delete all app information on a person’s phone. The information contained in the information storage system will also be destroyed at the end of the pandemic.

Deleting the COVIDSafe app

You can delete the COVIDSafe app from your phone at any time. This will delete all COVIDSafe app information from your phone. The information in the secure information storage system will not be deleted immediately. It will be destroyed at the end of the pandemic. If you would like your information deleted from the storage system sooner, you can complete our request data deletion form.

Privacy

Your information and privacy is strictly protected.

Read the COVIDSafe Privacy Policy for details on how personal information collected in the app is handled.

A Privacy Impact Assessment was commissioned to ensure that privacy risks have been addressed. See the Privacy Impact Assessment Report and our Agency Response.

The Health Minister has issued a Determination under the Biosecurity Act to protect people’s privacy and restrict access to information from the app. State and territory health authorities can access the information for contact tracing only. The only other access will be by the COVIDSafe Administrator to ensure the proper functioning, integrity and security of COVIDSafe, including to delete your registration information at your request. It will be a criminal offence to use any app data in any other way. The COVIDSafe app cannot be used to enforce quarantine or isolation restrictions, or any other laws.

Get the app

Download on the Apple app store
Download on the Google play app store