Taking Preventative Action

6.7 Recommended Key Action Area 7
Work in partnership with Indigenous groups to boost efforts to reduce smoking and exposure to passive smoking among Indigenous Australians

Smoking is a major cause of chronic disease and avoidable mortality among Indigenous Australians. Smoking is estimated to be responsible for over 12 per cent of the total burden of disease for Indigenous Australians, and for one-fifth of the deaths of Indigenous Australians.

Almost half of Indigenous Australians smoke daily, compared with 16.6 per cent of all Australians aged 14 years and over.

The Government is making record investments, in partnership with Indigenous communities themselves, to reduce the devastating impact of smoking on Indigenous Australians.

In March 2008, the Government announced the $14.5 million Indigenous Tobacco Control Initiative to pilot innovative approaches to reducing smoking in Indigenous communities. This Initiative is now funding 18 projects around Australia and all funding has been committed. Importantly, these projects are being driven by Indigenous communities themselves. Early successes under this initiative include:

  • the Miwatj Tackling Smoking Project in East Arnhem Land, which has involved local communities and schools in developing anti-smoking videos, the use of smokerlyzers and Smoky Suzie dolls in the Strong Mothers’ Strong Bubs program, growing community support for smokefree areas and counselling for smokers; and
  • the Maari Ma smoking cessation project in the far west of New South Wales, which is supporting the Maari Ma Health service to become a smokefree workplace, providing specialist cessation advice for GPs, primary healthcare workers and child and family health practitioners, and expanding the existing 12-week smoking cessation program in the region.
Lessons learned from the Indigenous Tobacco Control Initiative will be applied to the implementation of the $100 million Tackling Smoking measure under the $1.6 billion COAG Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health National Par tnership announced in December 2008.

The $100 million Tackling Smoking measure is seeing the roll-out of a national network of Regional Tobacco Coordinators and Tobacco Action Workers across 57 regions around Australia. The first 20 regions will start employing workers from July 2010. The workers will be engaged through Aboriginal community controlled health organisations where practicable and will reach out to Indigenous communities across each region to increase awareness of the harms from smoking and facilitate smoking prevention and cessation programs. Full training is being provided to build workforce capacity.

Tobacco workers in each region will have access to funding and materials to conduct local community-based social marketing campaigns and community events.

Funding is also being provided to enhance Quitlines for Indigenous people and to train health workers seeing Indigenous patients in the use of brief interventions to support smoking cessation.

Former Indigenous Social Justice Commissioner Mr Tom Calma has been engaged as National Coordinator to lead this work. Implementation is being guided by a technical reference group of tobacco experts and Indigenous stakeholders and state-based Par tnership Forums comprising the Depar tment of Health Ageing, the relevant state-based Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation peak body, the relevant state health depar tment and state-based affiliates of the Australian General Practice Network.

The measure will be underpinned by an evaluation strategy to help ensure that the Government is staying on track in meeting the 2008 COAG National Healthcare Agreement target of halving the Indigenous smoking rate by 2018 and – more broadly – the COAG Closing the Gap target to close the gap in life expectancy within a generation.

7.1 Establish multi-component community-based tobacco control projects that are locally developed and delivered.

The Government accepts this recommendation and is pursuing this approach.

The $14.5 million Indigenous Tobacco Control Initiative is trialling innovative community-based approaches to reducing smoking prevalence in Indigenous communities.

The $100 million COAG Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Tackling Smoking measure will implement multi-component community-based tobacco control measures developed and delivered locally in 57 regions around Australia.

7.2 Enhance social marketing campaigns for Indigenous smokers ensuring a ‘twin track’ approach of using existing effective mainstream campaigns complemented by Indigenous-specific campaign elements.
    7.2.1 Identify and run existing mainstream tobacco control campaigns that have demonstrated an effect in terms of awareness, impact and relevance to Indigenous people.
    7.2.2 Identify existing campaign material that could be adapted to include greater representation of Indigenous people and include relevant themes and calls to action.
    7.2.3 Develop new Indigenous-specific campaign material using radio and complemented by local print and/or outdoor campaigns.
    7.2.4 Link social marketing campaigns to community projects and activities of health workers.
    7.2.5 Enhance qualitative research effor ts to examine the impact of campaigns and future campaign directions.

The Government is considering this recommendation as par t of the development of the $61 million national anti-smoking social marketing campaign under the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health and the $100 million Tackling Smoking measure under the COAG Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health National Partnership.

These campaigns will certainly deliver a ‘twin track’ approach of national mainstream and local Indigenous campaigns. The COAG National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health will deliver the national campaign. Under the COAG Closing the Gap Tackling Smoking measure, the regional tobacco workforce will have access to materials and funding to support the development of local campaigns – both to build on existing materials and to develop or adapt new materials. A third track of national Indigenous specific messaging is also being considered following initial developmental research and the advice of the technical reference group for the Tackling Smoking measure.

All of this work will be closely evaluated so that lessons learned can inform future campaign directions.

7.3 Provide training to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers to improve skills in the provision of smoking cessation advice and in developing community-based tobacco control programs.

The Government is providing funding for the engagement and training of a national network of regional tobacco coordinators and tobacco action workers under the $100 million COAG Closing the Gap Tackling Smoking measure. This will include training on smoking cessation advice and developing community-based tobacco control programs.

7.4 Improve training in the provision of smoking cessation advice of other health professionals working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.

The Government strongly supports the value of brief interventions for lifestyle-related risk factors, including smoking. The Government is providing funding for training in brief interventions for existing health workers to assist Indigenous Australians to quit smoking under the $100 million COAG Closing the Gap Tackling Smoking measure.

7.5 Place specialist Tobacco Control Workers in Indigenous community health organisations to build capacity at the local health service level to develop and deliver tobacco control activities.

The Government is providing funding for the engagement and training of a national network of regional tobacco coordinators and tobacco action workers under the $100 million COAG Closing the Gap Tackling Smoking measure. These workers will specialise in tobacco control and will be employed by Aboriginal community controlled health organisations where practicable.

7.6 Provide incentives to encourage NGOs to employ Indigenous workers.

The Government notes this recommendation. The Commonwealth Government provides a range of incentives and supports specifically for employers of Indigenous workers including through the Australian Apprenticeships program and the Indigenous Employment Program.

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Page last updated 19 May, 2010