May 24, 2021

National Reconciliation Week: More than a word.

The 2021 National Reconciliation Week theme, More than a word. Reconciliation takes action, urges reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful actions, and asks people to take this awareness and knowledge as a springboard for action.

National Reconciliation Week is acknowledged between 27 May and 3 June.

Here at Northern Health, we are putting our words into action. Our first ever Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) set out to create opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, their communities and organisations, to partner with us and influence the design and implementation of accessible and patient-centred services.

Two years later and three months before the next RAP Plan is presented, we are pleased to present our progress so far.

Northern Health’s commitment to providing culturally safe service delivery starts with our leadership including our Board, executive team and directors, all who have attended cultural awareness face to face training.

Face to face cultural awareness training is also provided to staff across all our centres throughout the year. In addition, we have introduced four mandatory online modules for staff. The modules were developed by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Royal Children’s Hospital, in consultation with the Aboriginal community and Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers across Victoria.

Northern Health has employed two more Aboriginal Liaison Officers (ALOs), an Access and Support Worker, and an Aboriginal Midwife. New positions are planned for 2021.

As part of the Aboriginal Employment Strategy, Aboriginal applicants will be prioritised where they have the same qualification and experience as other applicants.

Northern Health has already reached its objective of increasing our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce from 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent to be representative of the Victorian population, and has now set a new target for 2 per cent​.

Aboriginal cadetships have been introduced in Nursing, and in Allied Health as of 2021.

The Reconciliation Working Group responsible for the implementation of these initiatives has grown to include seven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, five directors and three managers from across our centres.

They are supported by the Northern Health Aboriginal Advisory Committee which meets four times a year with executive sponsorship, and is attended by senior management and at least 15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members.

Northern Health celebrated Sorry Day, National Reconciliation Week, and NAIDOC Week with story boards, posters and displays across all campuses and internal and external promotion and publicity.

‘Wominjeka’ welcome signs at all our sites, and Acknowledgement Plaques at the entrance of each ward, ensure we provide a culturally safe space across our sites.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients can also expect enhanced identification via targeted training and full implementation of the ‘Asking the Question’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Identity Policy.

The Aboriginal Support Unit runs ‘Asking the Question’ training face to face and online across all campuses. ‘Asking the Question’ posters have been installed outside all clinical areas and ward clerks are provided with mouse mats as a reminder.

In an effort to identify specific health conditions where there is a health outcome gap and to develop culturally safe strategies to improve health outcomes, we have developed an Aboriginal Health Scorecard, which has ‘Measure Owners’, responsible for putting in place plans to close the gap in health outcomes.

We are pleased to report that one research paper specific to the Aboriginal Oncology Department has been delivered. Other research projects include ‘Investigating Trends in Perinatal Mortality for Indigenous Women’. A research grant also led to the recent opening of our Aboriginal Physiotherapy Clinic at Craigieburn Centre.

Northern Health has an Aboriginal Smoking Garden – Jornung-bik, ‘A Pleasant Place’ and a revamped Aboriginal Stow Family Garden with new murals by local Yorta Yorta Aboriginal artist, Kahli Luttrell.

Northern Health has commissioned a number of artworks from local Aboriginal artists. They include artwork for the Reconciliation Action Plan, brochures, website, Aboriginal gardens, the Oncology Unit, the Intensive Care Unit and Transcultural and Language Services department.

The most recent addition of Aboriginal art is a series of prints from Anny Bargo, aka Antoinette Braybrook, on the theme ‘Dragon Fly Dreaming’, in the foyer of the Main Ward Block at Northern Hospital Epping that you can read more about here.

We believe partnerships are key to us designing and implementing accessible and patient-centred services. We are pleased to report that we have successfully inducted 20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers in the Northern Aboriginal Advisory Committee and seven in the RAP subcommittee.

Northern Health has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS), and is in the process of developing an MOU with First Peoples Health & Wellbeing (Thomastown site).

We have also established a referral system between Bubup Wilam for Early Learning and developed an online directory of Aboriginal services in the Northern metropolitan catchment – Bilang, ‘Straight Talk’.

Karen Bryant, Senior Aboriginal Liaison Officer, is pleased with the progress made, but believes there is always room for improvement.

“Reconciliation is about all people understanding the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and reconciliation is everyone’s business. I look forward to the next RAP of Northern Health, so as to continue forward and build our current achievements,” says Karen.

Featured image shows from left to right:

Emiliano Zucchi, Director, Transcultural & Language Services (TALS) and Narrun Wilip-giin Aboriginal Support Unit (ASU), Toni Gabelish, Aboriginal Liaison Officer, Karen Bryant, Senior Aboriginal Liaison Officer and Stephanie Thompson, Aboriginal Liaison Officer.