Indigenous Health

Aboriginal Project @ACON

Aboriginal Project @ACON


A new series of Indigenous health resources was launched today by the ACON Aboriginal Project as part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week. The Aboriginal Project encompasses health promotion for, by and with Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people of diverse sexuality and gender, especially those living with HIV, or at highest risk of being affected by HIV. The Project aims to build knowledge and skills-based resilience, health and wellbeing via a culturally appropriate model of holistic health that recognises emotional, spiritual, social and mental wellbeing. The team also work with different groups to tackle racism in the community.

To celebrate the launch, special guests, elders and families were invited to a lunch and performance by Gumaroy Newman and brother Mike. Here they are in full flight performing a series of traditional dances for the crowd. Deadly!




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Congratulations to Stephen Morgan, Mish and the ACON Aboriginal Project team for a great event on the eve of World AIDS Day 2015.

Find out more about ACON’s work with Aboriginal people 

Follow Aboriginal Project ACON on Facebook

Follow @RedRibbonsHIV on Twitter and Facebook 





Koori KnockOut

Koori KnockOut

If you live in NSW or Queensland and you’re into NRL - your time starts NOW!

This weekend’s Rugby League Grand Final promises to be a testosterone fuelled battle of the titans -  Bulldogs vs. Rabbitohs

Driving through downtown Canterbury today we copped an eyeful of blue n white streamered houses, blue n white jerseys and blue n white fans cruising the hood in their blue n white Commodores proudly flying their giant Bulldogs flags. Would’ve been great to have been in Redfern to see how the Rabbitohs fans were preparing…  C’mon the Bunnies!


The other Big One to watch is the Koori KnockOut held in Raymond Terrace, NSW.

The NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout has been held annually since 1970 and is the largest Koori gathering of its kind in Australia. This year the Newcastle Yowies are the hosts and there’ll be both women’s and men’s knockout games being played over the entire October long weekend.

Our good friend Amanda James has been documenting KnockOut for 15 years and she’ll be there taking photos, catching up with old mates, screaming her support from the sidelines and yarning with young fellas, Uncles, Aunties and Elders.

Photo Amanda James copyright-6892

Photo Amanda James Copyright 2014

Check out AJ’s photos of KnockOut, festivals, sporting events, family and indigenous community.

Indigneous ink and contemporary tattoos are AJ’s passion and she’ll also be talking about tattoos and tattoo safety up at KnockOut this year.

Look out for AJ with the big camera - she’s going to be recording interviews about your tattoo stories for our KnockOut Hep C project so get ready for a yarn and to show off your ink!


Photographer AJ takes a shot of the man with the goanna tattoo


Watch live coverage of the 44th Annual KnockOut on NITV

Follow @NiTV on Twitter 

Watch KnockOut Hep C on YouTube #Tattoo

See the making of Photo blog - The Man with the Goanna Tattoo 






Man with the Goanna Tattoo

Man with the Goanna Tattoo


Shannon is a man who appreciates tattoos - and why not? His unique goanna tattoo has been a work in progress for a couple of years with several visits to the artist for outlines, fills and detail.

Here’s a short 1 minute video we shot of Shannon at the NCIE - National Centre for Indigenous Excellence in Redfern.


The Tattoo Safely video is part of our KnockOut Hep C project - an exciting health promotion initiative we are taking to KnockOut Festivals and other sporting events. Basically our message is: If you’re gonna get a tatt - do it safely. Choose a place that’s clean, where the tattooist uses clean needles and equipment every time. If you don’t follow those simple tips, you could run the risk of getting hepatitis C. And that’s the point of the KnockOut Hep C project - to get people to think about the risks


Check out our Tumblr photos from the making of our KnockOut Hep C video

Find out more about Koori Knockout 


Walking together for Indigenous Cancer

Walking together for Indigenous Cancer

Over 200 people walked in the inaugural Musgrave Park Cancer Walk at Musgrave Park, South Brisbane, on Sunday, 2 February 2014 to raise cancer awareness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.

The Musgrave Park Cancer Walk was a precursor to World Cancer Day on 4 February 2014 and brought together over 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people.  The event was an opportunity to talk about cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, cancer treatment and care options, the importance of early detection and the need for regular cancer checkups.

Senior Menzies cancer researcher, Associate Professor Gail Garvey said it was fitting for the inaugural walk to coincide with this year’s World Cancer Day theme, ‘Debunk the myths’

In her opening comments, Assoc Prof Garvey mentioned common cancer myths in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that discourage discussion, leaving people to deal with a diagnosis or course of treatment alone, disoriented and fearful.

  • Myth 1: Cancer = death
  • Myth 2: If I talk about cancer, I might get it
  • Myth 3: If I get cancer, it’s payback

The aim of the Musgrave Park Cancer Walk is to encourage open, honest discussion about cancer. Dispelling these myths and moving foward will help to support members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community through their cancer journey.

“Until recently cancer has been a low priority on the Indigenous health agenda, despite the disease being the second leading cause of death among Indigenous people and accounting for a greater number of deaths each year than diabetes and kidney disease,” Assoc Prof Garvey said.

Smiling group of walkers in Musgrave Park, arms raised in unity having completed the first Indigenous Cancer Walk 2 February 2014

“The Musgrave Park Cancer Walk was a great success as 146 people registered for the Musgrave Park Cancer Walk and another 50 people who also joined in”.

“The community spirit and togetherness was clearly evident on the day with families travelling from Tweed Heads, NSW and south–west of Brisbane to attend the Musgrave Park Cancer Walk to speak at and join the Musgrave Park Cancer Walk”.

“Over 20 Aboriginal men, women and children formed the Lola Brown Memorial Group in honour of their mother, aunty and grandmother who recently passed away travelled over 200km in total from Laidley, southwest of Brisbane, to join the Musgrave Park Cancer Walk”.

The walk was a joint initiative between the National Indigenous Cancer Network (NICaN), Menzies School of Health Research, the Aboriginal and Islander Community Health Service – Brisbane Ltd, Musgrave Park Family Fun Day, Cancer Council Queensland, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and Qld Aboriginal and Islander Health Council.

The second Musgrave Park Cancer Walk will be held the weekend before World Cancer Day in 2015.

Indigenous women from Menzies Health Research Centre listen to speaker Gail Garvey talking about Indigenous Cancer myths




  • Cancer survival is lower for Indigenous Australians than it is for non-Indigenous Australians
  • It is the second leading cause of death among Indigenous people, accounting for a greater number of deaths each year than diabetes and kidney disease
  • The death rate for all cancers combined and for most individual cancers is significantly higher for Indigenous than other Australians: e.g. cervical cancer (4.4 times), lung cancer (1.8), pancreatic cancer (1.3) and breast cancer in females (1.3)
  • Indigenous Australians have a much lower incidence of some cancers compared to other Australians (breast, prostate, testicular, colorectal and brain cancer, melanoma of skin, lymphoma and leukaemia) but they have a much higher incidence of others (lung and other smoking-related cancers, cervix, uterus and liver cancer).
  • Cervical cancer incidence rate is almost three times as higher for Indigenous Australians as for non-Indigenous Australians (18 and 7 per 100,000 respectively).
  • Incidence rates of lung cancer are significantly higher for Indigenous Australians than for non-Indigenous Australians (1.9 times)


Useful Links

National Indigenous Cancer Network (NICaN)

Menzies School of Health Research/Indigenous Cancer

Lowitja Institute





Smiling female Indigenous elder carries the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flag, supported by proud Aboriginal man.



Could Do Better: Mental Health Report Card 2013

Could Do Better: Mental Health Report Card 2013

Professor Allan Fels, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, used the launch of the 2013 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention to call for political courage in reforming mental health and providing better outcomes for the 45% of Australians who will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime.

Prof. Fels said: “We speak about Australia as the lucky country, but mental health is a weak point in our society as well as our health system.

“For example, it’s scandalous that only seven per cent of the 340,000 people who have co-existing mental illness and substance use disorders each year are estimated to receive treatment for both problems.  These people have their lives cut short by an average of between 20 and 30 years, they are more likely to be in prison or homeless, and they are more likely to take their own lives.

Criminalise Mental Health? Expect Poorer Outcomes

“The Commission is also highly concerned about how we as a society criminalise people who live with a mental health difficulty. People living with mental illness are over-represented in our prisons, in the number of police incidents and in the number of police shootings.  We believe that each stage of the justice system needs significant reform.

“In 2012, 38 per cent of all people entering our prison system reported being told they have a mental illness, and 87 per cent of young people in the juvenile justice system in NSW alone were found to have at least one psychological disorder. “Compared to other prison entrants, people with poor mental health have more extensive and early imprisonment histories, poorer school attainment, higher unemployment rates and higher rates of substance abuse. Incarceration and their treatment in prison often makes their mental illness worse and rarely treats their illness appropriately.

“When we look at these issues … we see that there is a cycle of vulnerability that crosses generations, and current mental health systems and supports are not generally designed with the needs of people and families at its core.

Indigenous people are twice a likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous

“Only 25% of young people and 15% of boys and young men with mental health problems receive treatment of any kind. Meanwhile, 44 Australians, on average take their own lives each week and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are two times more likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous people. “There is a growing divide between those of us who are empowered to live a contributing life – and those of us who are disempowered by issues like unemployment, homelessness, social exclusion as well as a lack of the right support ”, Prof. Fels said.

A Contributing Life: The 2013 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention shines a light on the lives of people who are the most disadvantaged in society - economically, socially and because of the impacts of their mental illness. It contains personal accounts from people and families who have experienced mental illness through the prism of prison, homelessness, unemployment, discrimination and grief following a suicide.

Repeated calls for Early Intervention Funding

The Report Card highlights the need to increase investment in early intervention across a range of areas and across people’s lives.

Prof. Fels said: “Many of the recommendations we made last year relate to systemic reform that will take time. We need to make a start. This is about us – our family, friends and colleagues – and we are impatient for action on behalf of the millions of people and families we know are tired of struggling on.”

“We still have no public reporting on the number of people who are discharged from hospitals, custodial care, mental health or drug and alcohol related services into homelessness even though this issue has been named as a national commitment since 2008. “We observe a concerning trend of services retreating from their roles and governments retreating from funding commitments to support people in the community. Last year, we called on governments to ensure that mental health funding they publically announce is spent on mental health as promised, but we’ve seen no independent and transparent reporting on this.    “Courage will also be needed to avoid tinkering with a disjointed collection of linear services and systems that have long been shown not to produce the outcomes people need.  Success will rely on all levels of government, community agencies, and public and private services working together to make people’s lives better”, he said.

However, the Commission stressed that the news is not all bad. Professor Fels cited the public release of the first ever national data on seclusion by states and territories as a highlight of the year and a key step in achieving real reductions in this practice, which is not in line with human rights. The Commission is also pleased that psychosocial disability has been included in the NDIS, and applauded the work that non-government sector, the business sector and first responders such as Police have taken to address issues the Report Card and its broader work has raised.

Source: National Mental Health Commission Website - 27 November  2013 Media Release

Download A Contributing Life: 2013 Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Report Card


Need Help NOW?

If you have read this blog and you’re having suicidal thoughts:

1. Tell someone how you feel. A partner, friend, family member, school counsellor either face to face or on the phone.

2. If you have someone with you, ask them to stay with you until you get help. Being with someone, even over the phone increases your safety.

3. Call or talk to a medical professional and tell them it’s an emergency:

  • Call your local hospital and ask to speak to the Mental Health Team
  • Go to your GP or local emergency department and wait there until you are seen by a medical professional
  • Call 000. The police or ambulance may be able to take you to hospital.
  • Call your doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, counsellor or case worker
  • Call a Crisis Helpline

24 Hour Telephone Services:

  • Lifeline   13 11 14
  • Suicide Callback service   1300 659 467
  • Kids/Teens Helpline   1800 55 1800


Useful Websites

Read the SANE Factsheet - Finding help if you’re feeling suicidal

Go to the Lifeline Website

Go to the SANE Website

Go to the R U OK? Website

Kids can get helpful information on the Kids Helpline Website is an online support website aimed at Australian young people



Remote Area Health

Remote Area Health

The Digital Productivity Conference, held in June 2013, highlighted the amazing inroads Australia has made in digital technology and health. To complement this exciting growth in the digital productivity sector, we thought it time to revisit mHealth technology and how Australia is tracking with the NBN.


Can Medicare Locals Help Close the Gap?

Can Medicare Locals Help Close the Gap?

Before we kick off, we’d like to acknowledge the apparent confusion between the terms Closing the Gap and Close the Gap. Far be it from me to elucidate here as, to be honest, I have been none too clear on the difference myself. That was until I came across respected Aboriginal Health GP, Tim Senior’s excellent explanation. We’ve provided his blog link below so you can refer to it later…. but first, let’s see where we’re at with Closing the Gap.