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RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health newsletter

30 May 2018

Message from Chair, Assoc Prof Peter O'Mara

This week is National Reconciliation Week, an annual commemoration that honours two significant milestones in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history – the successful 1967 referendum and the 1992 High Court Mabo decision.

However, this week is about so much more than historical events – it is a time for all of us to reflect on our individual reconciliation journey to date and where we want that journey to take us in the future. As people working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, I encourage you all to use this week to consider how we, in our workplaces, homes and communities, can improve relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. 

The National Guide workshop roadshow started earlier this month and continues to travel around the country until the end of June. There has been an outstanding response to the third edition, and I cannot thank the RACGP and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) project  team enough for their hard work in promoting the National Guide to the key stakeholders.

The 2018–19 Federal Budget was also delivered this month. There are a few commitments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health that are welcome, but as the RACGP budget overview points out, it ‘lacks any clear commitment to strategically address the social and cultural determinants of health’. There is also concern that ‘there is only minimal mention of the Closing the Gap agenda, which is due to be refreshed later this year, suggesting a lack of commitment to deliver on the targets.’ RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health will continue to work with NACCHO and relevant stakeholders to campaign and advocate for improved funding commitments from the Federal Government and, with an election not too far way, also the opposition and minor parties.

Finally, I am very pleased to introduce you to the new staff members. Daniela Doblanovic joins the Education and Events team and Brooke Riley as Executive Assistant and Membership Administrator. Welcome! 

You can contact the staff of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health through our webpage.

The impact of the 2018–19 Federal Budget for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The budget delivered some good news for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector. Funding has been allocated for:

  • eye disease ($34.3 million)
  • hearing loss ($30.0 million)
  • crusted scabies ($4.8 million), and
  • new investment in remote renal services with a Medicare Benefits Schedule item for dialysis.

Additional funding was also made available through the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program.

There is a commitment of $83.3 million over five years to support the work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professional organisations, including the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers Association, Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives, Indigenous Allied Health Association and, RACGP partner organisation, the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association.

Broadly, this budget does not holistically support the overall health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. No new funding was committed to the Closing the Gap strategy, which the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to refresh this year. Housing, which is essential to good health in remote communities, was only funded in the Northern Territory.    

There was no commitment addressing the social and cultural determinants of health; in fact, a few welfare initiatives included in the budget measures will, very likely, cause further harm to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recipients.

The RACGP Overview of the Federal Budget 2018–19 includes an examination of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health items.

Closing the Gap Refresh – Submission and next steps

Thanks to all of you who contributed to the RACGP's submission to the Closing the Gap Refresh consultation, which has been submitted to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 

It is 10 years since COAG first committed to Closing the Gap. COAG agreed to refresh the national Closing the Gap strategy as four of the seven national Closing the Gap targets expire this year.

RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health developed its submission in response to a series of questions outlined in the Closing the Gap: The next phase public discussion paper and consulted with the RACGP membership, including all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members. The submission outlines a number of key lessons from the implementation of the strategy to date and highlights principles needed to drive the Closing the Gap strategy into the future.

The next stage of the consultation process will focus on design and will include a series of technical workshops, that will look at potential targets and indicators in greater detail.

For members based in Victoria, the Victorian Government will host its second statewide event on Closing the Gap and the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework on 20 June 2018 in Melbourne. For further information, please visit the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s event website

COAG is aiming to complete the refresh by the end of October 2018. 

The National Guide roadshow

The RACGP and the NACCHO delivered the first National Guide workshop in Sydney on Saturday 12 May. 

After a warm ‘Welcome to country’ from Gadigal Elder, Uncle Allen Madden, participants explored the key features of the National Guide and applied the new recommendations in the third edition to case studies.

The participants represented a wide range of experience and expertise. They included GPs working in Aboriginal, mainstream and custodial health settings, as well as representatives from Primary Health Networks and even a Masters of Public Health student. They enjoyed robust and insightful conversations supported by facilitators Dr Penny Abbott and Ms Lauren Trask.

The feedback from participants was positive and the roadshow continues to roll out across Australia.

Details of upcoming workshop locations, access to the National Guide resources and podcast series are available on the National Guide webpage

Pictured: Dr Libby Hindmarsh leading case study discussion at the Sydney workshop

Join us on shareGP

RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health now has its own space on shareGP.

Visit the space now for a report on the Lowitja Institute forum – Community priorities into policy (held in Canberra earlier this month) and the continuing series of National Guide podcasts.

When visiting the space, please feel free to add your own comments and posts by using the pencil tool in the top right corner. You can receive updates by clicking the ‘follow’ button on the top right of your screen when visiting the space.

National news and opportunities

RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health awards – Close 11 June 2018

Nominations for the following awards are now open.

Growing Strong Award recognises registrars on their GP training pathway with a demonstrated interest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and a commitment to contributing back to the community.

Standing Strong Together Award recognises GPs working together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people or community groups to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The student bursary recipient will receive free GP18 registration, travel, meals and accommodation for the duration of the conference from Thursday to Saturday 11–13 October.

For further information, visit the RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health awards page. Nominations close on Monday 11 June 2018.

RACGP John Murtagh Library – Services and resources for members

The John Murtagh Library offers members a range of services including loans (books, CDs, DVDs), journal articles  (supplied from stock or other libraries), remote training and support using screen-sharing technology, and information and literature search services. Services can be requested through the online form, email or by calling 03 8699 0519.

The library’s staff-delivered services are complemented by a range of online resources, including subject searchable database, point-of-care resources, ebooks, ejournals and subject portals, which are available for members to access directly via the John Murtagh Library web pages

One of the library’s subject portals covers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. The portal gathers together a collection of relevant resources, including:

  • a selection of online articles and resources on Closing the Gap
  • a link to a tailored PubMed search of the recent literature
  • a selection of links to relevant websites on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
  • a catalogue of the available books, reports and DVDs in the Library collection
  • a link to the Library’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health e-Table of contents (eTOC) service
  • a link to Informit’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health bibliography (ATSIHealth) compiled by researchers at Edith Cowan University. This bibliography indexes published and unpublished works, including reports, conference papers, book chapters, working papers and statistical documents.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health information portal is a member-only resource (RACGP website login required).

External news and opportunities*

Pain management – ‘It’s everyone’s business’

Jenni Johnson, Network Manager, NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) Pain Management Network writes about the new culturally appropriate resources in pain management for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Chronic pain affects all aspects of life with physical social and emotional wellbeing impacted. In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, chronic pain is estimated to affect one in three people across all ages.

While pain clinics provide specialist services, including assessment and treatment of pain, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander presentation rates appear to be low. The reasons for this are many and may relate to a mistrust and lack of cultural sensitivity in the service model. The NSW ACI Pain Management Network has been working to understand cultural relevance and to provide culturally accessible resources.

As such, the ACI has spent the last two years working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to develop a suite of evidence-based tools and resources to better meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are suffering in pain.

These resources are freely available at Our mob – Resources for Aboriginal People and provide great support for clinicians working with Aboriginal people. The ‘My deadly pain plan’ bridges the communication gap between patients and clinician by providing a simple, culturally appropriate communication platform to set goals.

For further information, please contact Jenni Johnson.

Our -mob -large

Position statement on paediatric prescribing

The RACGP was represented in the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC) working group that consulted on the position statement on paediatric prescribing

In its rationale behind the development of the position, the ACSQHC presented evidence showing that while medication errors are one of the most common and preventable adverse events in healthcare settings, children are more prone and vulnerable to them. A worldwide systematic review has estimated that 100 to 400 prescribing errors occur per 1000 paediatric patients. Dose calculation errors are one of the most common types of medication errors with children.

The position statement recommends that clinicians document the date of birth and current body weight, dose per unit mass (mg/kg) and dose in mass (mg) whenever possible in all paediatric prescriptions.

The statement also recommends that GPs who are prescribing, dispensing and administering medicines must verify all dose calculations and the total dose.

Read the position statement here.

SISTAQUIT – Support pregnant smokers to quit

Accredited for 40 Category 1 QI&CPD points

Tobacco smoking is the most preventable risk factor of chronic lung disease and many other health complications in babies whose mothers smoke.

The rate of smoking among pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is approximately four times that of non-Indigenous people (45% versus 12%). Pregnancy is an important window to assist pregnant patients with giving up smoking; however, health providers often lack the skills and confidence to address their patients' smoking habit.

The Supporting Indigenous Smokers to Assist Quitting (SISTAQUIT) intervention provides healthcare providers with the training and resources to provide culturally appropriate smoking cessation care for their pregnant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

The SISTAQUIT research trial aims to improve provision of timely, evidence-based smoking cessation care for patients attending Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS), general practices and other health services. The multi-component, culturally appropriate SISTAQUIT intervention is based on RACGP guidelines and trains multidisciplinary teams using live, interactive webinars.

The research team is currently recruiting AMS and general practices for the study. Participation is accredited for 40 Category 1 QI&CPD points.

For further information, visit the SISTAQUIT website

AIDA Conference 2018 – Vision into action

Call for absracts closes on Sunday 1 July 2018.

The AIDA Conference 2018 will be held on Wednesday to Friday 26–28 September in Perth.

The conference presenters include sector experts, key decision makers, medical students and doctors in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health-focused academic and scientific program.

The organising committee is currently seeking abstracts for four-hour, two-hour and 90-minute workshops, 20-minute presentations and 10-minute student presentations. Abstracts must be submitted through the abstract portal by Sunday 1 July 2018.

Registrations are now open. Early bird registration closes on Thursday 31 May 2018.


Click for more information