Improving and Integrating Urban Indigenous Health Services


Partnership Reduces Pre-term Birth by 50%

A birthing program established by three South East Queensland health organisations has reduced preterm birth rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies by 50%.

Results published in the Lancet EClinical Medical Journal this week highlighted significantly improved outcomes for women having a baby through the Birthing in Our Community program.

Birthing in Our Community was established in 2013 by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health Ltd (IUIH), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane and Mater Health in Brisbane in response to a need for women who are pregnant with an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander baby to access culturally and clinically safe care throughout their pregnancy and at birth.

IUIH CEO Adrian Carson says that the improved outcomes demonstrate the success of Aboriginal community controlled health services leading system reform with mainstream maternity services.

“This is an example of a successful partnership making a real difference for our people. Given the impact of this service, we want this model of care and these outcomes replicated for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families across Australia.”

For Jody Currie, CEO of ATSICHS Brisbane, the results highlight the importance of women being able to access culturally safe care.

“Birth is a child’s first ceremony. It is a sacred time for families. So it is important we get it right. Supporting healthy mothers to have healthy births provides our children with their best chance to flourish, and that can truly change their life trajectory”.

Dr Peter Steer, Mater CEO, said that Mater is proud to be working side-by-side with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to strengthen services.
“This collaboration shows what can be achieved when committed partners share a vision and work together to achieve positive change. It is also a demonstration of what can happen when services like ours are prepared to learn from, and participate in, Aboriginal-led models of service delivery.”

According to lead researcher Professor Sue Kildea the results were unprecedented.

“This service was built on the best available evidence, knowing that nationally the preterm rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander babies have not reduced since Close the Gap was announced in 2008. To see a 50% reduction is extraordinary.”

Fellow researcher Associate Professor Yvette Roe said investing in developing an Indigenous workforce to support women has been key to keeping women engaged in the program.

“Every mum at Birthing in Our Community gets their own midwife 24/7 working side by side with a multidisciplinary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce to make sure all our women feel confident and safe to access the care they need for themselves and their bubs.”
The full article can be found at:
For further information and interview:
Lorraine Pacey
Institute for Urban Indigenous Health
0428 792 535


Nous Review of IUIH – Summary Report 2019

In mid-2018, IUIH engaged Nous Consulting to undertake an independant review of IUIH’s performance over its first ten years of operation.

The Nous report, received in early January 2019, concludes that IUIH has successfully struck a balance within its model of service delivery that emphasises both discipline in billing, revenue raising and reinvestment, and the provision of quality care underpinned by robust Continuous Quality Improvement and Workforce Development.

A Summary of this report is attached here outlining the key findings and recommendations.


Treatment Just Got Easier For Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a highly infectious virus carried in the blood that can make a person seriously ill. It can cause scarring of the liver and liver cancer. In some cases, it can result in death. For the majority of people, hepatitis C is a life-long condition if not treated – but treatment is available.

If you have done any of the following, you may be at risk of contracting hepatitis C:

  • Shared needles or other drug equipment (spoons, tourniquets, filters).
  • Spent time in prison.
  • Had a piercing or tattoo done in an unsterile environment.
  • Shared razors or toothbrushes with someone you know has hepatitis C.

Blood tests will show whether you have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus. If positive, follow-up tests will be required.

If you have hepatitis C, you may need to start treatment. The good news is there is a new treatment which is easy to take, side effects are rare, and 98% of people can be cured in 8-12 weeks with just one tablet a day. Most people begin to feel better within days of starting treatment.

Have a chat with your GP about getting free of hepatitis C.

Find your local Aboriginal Medical Service at


Celebrate Bub’s Arrival with a Limited Edition Deadly Choices Birth Certificate

IUIH has partnered with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages to launch two commemorative birth certificates reflecting the hugely popular Deadly Choices brand.

The two designs pay homage to Deadly Choices program partners the Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans NRL clubs and feature the work of local artists Charlie Chambers and Christine Slabb.

They are available IUIH’s member network of 18 community health services in South East Queensland. Children aged up to five years old who are patients at one of clinics and who are up-to-date with their health checks and vaccinations will be offered the commemorative package (including a standard/legal birth certificate plus a commemorative certificate – valued at $59) along with a limited edition onesie.

Launching the certificates, Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said she hoped birth registrations would increase as a result of the initiative.

“By tapping into the hugely successful Deadly Choices campaign and making it available to children up to five years old, we are hoping to pick up children who may not yet have had their birth registered, and make sure they have a birth certificate available to use in time for them to enrol in school,” she said.

“Even if a child’s birth has been registered, it can sometimes still be hard to get a birth certificate down the track.

“We know parents will be excited about these designs and hope they will take advantage of this opportunity to celebrate their child’s arrival with one of these limited edition certificates.”

IUIH chief executive officer Adrian Carson said that making the birth certificates available through its member clinics would add to the Institute’s comprehensive, evidence-based and integrated approach to meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in South East Queensland.

“South East Queensland is home to the fastest growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia,” Mr Carson said.

“Offering these birth certificates will increase our engagement with families of new bubs, making it easier for families to access services including health care and education – services that are essential to closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.”

New mums Amanda and Kiara attended the launch with babies Rebekah (11 weeks) and Harper (17 weeks).

“I love the Deadly Choices shirts, I make sure I get my health check every year so I can get the new designs,” Kiara said.

“I can’t wait for Rebekah to get her onesie, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the design on her certificate.”

Community Liaison Officer at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria Belle-Locke, will be available to help families complete the paperwork required to access the certificates. Victoria will make personal visits to IUIH member clinics and be available via email and telephone for families.

About the artists

Charlie Chambers
Charlie Chambers was born and raised in Cherbourg, Queensland and has been painting most of his life. His heritage is Kiullill and Kookimijii. His art is inspired by the country where he grew up and the stories passed on to him by the elders of the Cherbourg community.
He uses techniques of dot work and cross hatching in his painting. The dot style is from his mother’s tribe who came from Western Queensland and the cross hatch style is from his father’s people who were from north Queensland.
Charlies’ art tells the story of his culture and tribal dreaming. His work also takes on an additional dimension of reawakening his people and broader society to the depth and value of Aboriginal traditions. As well as painting, Charlie spends time in schools and prisons teaching stories of the Dreamtime and the importance of cultural maintenance. He has exhibited extensively both nationally and overseas and received numerous awards for his artwork.

Christine Slabb
Christine Slabb is an Indigenous artist and graphic designer. Christine‘s love for her culture and coastal lifestyle inspires and strengthens her with everyday moments in everyday life.
Christine’s paintings can be found throughout Australian as well as in Japan, the United States, South Africa and Denmark.
Her talent has been recognised with multiple Aboriginal art awards, she was named North Coast TAFE Indigenous Student of the Year 2014.
Christine says of her work, “Designing for myself, mainstream or for my Indigenous Community, I love the creative process from simple sketches to watching them develop to seeing the final outcome.”

About Deadly Choices
Deadly Choices in an initiative of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) in South East Queensland and is funded by Queensland Health.

Deadly Choices aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make healthy choices for themselves and their families – to stop smoking, to eat good food and exercise daily. Deadly Choices also encourages our people to access their local Community-Controlled Health Service and complete an annual health check.

Governments have committed to ‘Closing the Gap’ in Indigenous Health, but only our communities can make this happen.


Deadly Urban Eyes Campaign to Reduce Eye Disease

IUIH and The Fred Hollows Foundation have partnered to launch a new campaign at IUIH member clinics that will increase the number of eye health checks being performed and reduce rates of eye disease in community.

The Deadly Urban Eyes campaign encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members to have a yearly eye health check at their local Aboriginal Medical Service.

Regular eye health checks play an important role in reducing the rate of untreated eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, trachoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.

The campaign is being implemented by the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) with funding from The Fred Hollows Foundation, and builds on their existing partnership across the region.

It adds a new dimension to the hugely successful Deadly Choices social marketing campaign which has seen an average 50% year-on-year increase in the number of preventative health checks performed at IUIH’s 18 member clinics across South East Queensland.

IUIH Chief Executive Officer Adrian Carson says that the program will improve access to preventative eye health services and reduce rates of eye disease.

“Both IUIH and The Fred Hollows Foundation are committed to ensuring that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can access quality eye health services,” he said.

“We know that untreated eye disease is a key contributor to preventable blindness among our community and is often caused by other diseases that affect our people such as diabetes and hypertension.

“This campaign will see more people checking in with our optometrists on a regular basis, so we can pick up and treat these diseases early, and close the gap in health outcomes in our community.

“We have significantly expanded our frontline eye health services over the past year so that they are now fully integrated across our 18 IUIH member clinics across South East Queensland. Integration of these services into the IUIH Model of Care means we are connected to community and able to refer quickly to specialist services if and when they are needed,” Mr Carson said.

People who have their eyes checked will receive a Deadly Eyes gift pack, including sunglasses, lens cloth and spray, as an incentive.

Gabi Hollows said the partnership was a successful model for bringing eye health care to communities in South East Queensland. “The Deadly Urban Eyes campaign is a great program that will make a difference in the vital eye health care sector,” she said.

The Foundation’s Indigenous Australia Program Manager Jaki Adams-Barton, said the Deadly Choices Eye Check for South East Queensland was an important component of the work The Fred Hollows Foundation is doing Australia-wide.

“Our program focuses on reducing rates of cataract, diabetic retinopathy uncorrected refractive error and trachoma in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Getting your eyes checked regularly is key given 94% of vision loss for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is preventable or treatable if caught early,” she said.


Urban Eyes

In September, the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), Deception Bay Clinic, and Moreton ATSICHS partnered with the Indigenous Eye Health Unit (Minum Barreng) at The University of Melbourne and the Indigenous Hip Hop Project (IHHP) to create the music video, ‘Urban Eyes’.

‘Urban Eyes’, featuring guitarist and NAIDOC Youth of the Year, Chris Tamwoy, focuses on the link between diabetes and eye health in Indigenous communities, and encourages community members with diabetes to protect their eyesight by getting a yearly eye check.

The project was completed within a week, and on the last day of filming we caught up with some of the people who contributed to the video, most of whom were local elders from the Moreton region’s ‘Work it Out’ program.

The group worked closely with IHHP, gathering ideas for the lyrics and the look of the video, recording the song, and filming on location.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” said Uncle Merve. “But it’s been really good, and it’s for a good cause.”

For Auntie Paula, “The best part of shooting the video was being at the beach.”

“And being in the studio, recording our parts.” said Auntie Kaye. “I was a bit nervous at first but [Indigenous Hip Hop Projects] made me feel at ease. We formed really good relationships with them. It was really fun.”

For Uncle Merve, it was the chance to catch up with people from all over the Moreton region. “Having everybody get together to share stories, and share meals. I’ve seen people I haven’t seen for years. It’s been really great.”

The IHHP crew are also putting together a short behind-the-scenes documentary that captures the process shared by the community that made ‘Urban Eyes’ possible.

“We’re big on process,” said Carol Wynne, of Melbourne University’s Indigenous Eye Health Unit. “For us, it’s all about the relationships you build in the lead-up. When the relationships are strong, participant engagement is strong.”

“These videos will be used in education, they’ll be played in clinic waiting rooms, people will show their families, and yes,” she laughed, “we’re hoping they go viral!”

Indigenous Hip Hop Projects were a natural fit for this series, because they focus on working with young people, developing on their strengths and skills. This is particularly relevant to diabetes, according to Carol. “Diabetes is affecting people younger and younger each year.”

The elders agreed that the key to good health is education, and saw ‘Urban Eyes’ as a fun way to encourage people to take control of their health.

“I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” said Uncle Robert. “Why speculate if you don’t participate? It’s important for elders to be involved, because it’s our responsibility to teach the young people.” Robert is 73. Since retiring, he’s been active in ‘Work it Out’, and saw participating in the project as a great way to spread the messages of the program. He credits his good health to avoiding sugar, working hard, and looking after his family. “When I was younger, I never wanted to go near doctors. Most men don’t. But when I learned more about health, through ‘Work it Out’, I got healthier.”

Last year, IUIH’s ‘Work it Out’ program received the ‘National Lead Clinicians Group’ award for excellence in the innovative implementation of clinical practice. “‘Work it Out’ is great,” said Uncle Merve. “I’ve stayed with it for over a year, because of the incentives. I exercise, go to cooking classes, healthcare classes, and I’ve got a few of these ‘Deadly Choice’s jerseys.”

The project was a whirlwind—the community began brainstorming lyrics ideas on Monday, and finished filming for ‘Urban Eyes’ on Thursday afternoon. Would they do it again? You bet.

“Heart disease, and healthy eating,” said Uncle Merve. “We’ve got heaps of ideas for music videos ready to go.”

“Blood pressure, dialysis, strokes…” added Auntie Paula.

“Yes! Strokes. That’s important.”

The elders agreed that ‘Urban Eyes’ was a fantastic way to share their knowledge with other Indigenous people. Lisa Penrose, IUIH’s regional optometrist agrees.

“This message was created by the community, for the community. The loss of one’s sight is one of the biggest fears people have, so conveying the message that regular eye checks are available is essential. What better way to do it than with this deadly song and video?”

“To see the involvement from so many community members of all different ages during the week was just amazing. The atmosphere at the launch was electric, and to see the audience erupt in loud approval throughout the entire video truly reflected the entire process,” she said. “Teamwork, creativity, connectedness, commitment—the list of attributes displayed over the last week by all participants, young and elders, is endless, but at the end of the day, the final product, the video speaks for itself.” Want to see for yourself? Take a look!

Want to know more about ‘Work it Out’ and eye health?

Regular eye exams are important to maintain good vision, prevent eye disease and treat eye conditions. Good eye health is an essential part of health care for all adults and children, especially for adults with diabetes.

Eye Health services include:

  • comprehensive eye health screening and assessment by a qualified optometrist
  • access to a range of free glasses; low vision aids and vision therapy if required
  • information about maintaining good eye and vision health
  • referral to specialist ophthalmology services if laser or cataract surgery is required

These services are currently available from the following clinics (either in clinic or in the mobile eye health van).

  • Kalwun – Bilinga
  • Kambu – Goodna, Ipswich and Laidley
  • ATSICHS – Gabba, Logan, Acacia Ridge, Northgate, and Browns Plains
  • Moreton ATSICHS – Strathpine, Morayfield, Deception Bay and Caboolture
  • YBB – Capalaba, North Stradbroke

The eye health van also visits community days and other special events to provide information on eye health care and disease prevention.

Work It Out is a free education and exercise program that helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with chronic conditions to cope, take part in everyday activities and live a healthy lifestyle. Participants are referred to the program by their doctor.