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Torres Strait Islands

Torres Strait Islands

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Torres Strait Islands – Australian Territories Project

Buaigiz Ira Opapit-Mura Buai

(Bringing Families Together)

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Thursday Island Township.

The Port Kennedy Association approaches other organisations of interest and organisations with the relevant capacity to establish an alliance or consortium that will oversee the development of a community controlled health service in the Torres Strait.

Mrs Romina Fujii,

Mrs. Romina Fuji is an active member of the Port Kennedy Association Inc. (Chair), Torres Strait Health of the Aged Association Inc. (Chair), James Cook University Advisory Board, Queensland Women’s Health Network Committee, and Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child protection Peak Ltd (QATSICPP).

Community Controlled Primary Health Care Services for the Torres Strait.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS, 2012) estimated that as at June 2011, 669,881 people identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, 3% of the total Australian population. Life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is estimated to be ten years less than the national Australian average, with high levels of disadvantage in areas such as education, employment and housing all contributing to disproportionately low health outcomes.

Torres Strait Islands.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services (ATSICCHS) have up to 45 years’ experience in delivery of culturally appropriate Comprehensive Primary Health Care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They are the largest employer industry of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within Australia, estimated at 5829 workers, 3,215 who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

The ATSICCHS workforce provide 2.5 million episodes of care to an estimated 342,000 Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians annually. ATSICCHS have successfully contributed to the Close the Gap targets that have reduced child mortality rates by 66% and overall mortality rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by 33% over the last two decades.

Thursday Island Township.

There are no ATSICCHS in the Torres Strait. The main provider of primary health care services is the Queensland Government through Q Health. The ATSICCHS is located in Brisbane based in Brisbane.

Given the high prevalence of chronic diseases and mortality in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsular area (NPA) region, suggests of the total number of regular clients (9318 people), very few regular clients are recorded as receiving preventive health care such as a health assessment or receiving routine chronic disease management care such as a GP Management Plan.

In terms of what are barriers for participants in seeking health and wellbeing services, participants described the following factors:

  • Waiting time / staffing availability,
  • Lack of services from current health / family welfare organisation
  • Services not cultural appropriate – gender balance,
  • Services not language friendly,
  • Transportation issue,
  • Community perception,
  • Lack of knowledge / awareness of services / structure,
  • Location,
  • Lack of training & education (health sector)
  • Accessibility (times) / finance,
  • Sustainable program / ongoing,
  • Community driven / grassroots,
  • Local people / champion – running program,
  • Embedded into lifestyle / cultural activity,
  • Fear,
  • Language barriers / staff conduct / attitude,
  • Privacy and confidentiality, and
  • Respect – individual boundary.

Support for a community controlled primary health care service.

Establishing and/or transitioning services to community controlled primary health care services is consistent with broader government objectives regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service and funding reforms, including improvements in access to services, coordinating services and partnerships between communities and government. Overall the establishment and/or transition of services to a community control model is a resource intensive process that may take several years.

However, community controlled primary health care services such as the Northern Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Alliance (NATSIHA) and individual services such as Apunipima Health Council, have anecdotally offered support to commence this process.

Port Kennedy. 

Recommendations:

The Port Kennedy Association approaches other organisations of interest and organisations with the relevant capacity to establish an alliance or consortium that will oversee the development of a community controlled health service in the Torres Strait.

It is imperative individual services such as the Port Kennedy Association, Mura Kosker Sorority, Lena Passi Women’s Shelter and other NGOs work together to achieve this mutual vision.

The Outer Islands need to be visiting the communities together to talk to women about social services and to strengthen relationships.

Families in crisis lack of urgent services. Lack of services for life threatening circumstances. For example a patient has to wait for hours before being transported. Need more education and training.

Estimated cost for the Project Officer for $73,000.00 for 12 months.  Development of the Regional Board from 14 Islands including the 3 on the inner islands would be around $120.000.00. Project duration 24 – 36 months for full transition.

Source: Report compiled by Port Kennedy Association 12/08/2014.
Images: Torres Strait Islands, Kelisi, CC BY-SA 3.0, Thursday Island, Frances76, CC BY-SA 3.0. Mrs. Romina Fujii photos by permission.

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