June 30, 2021

Siva Sivarajah: NAIDOC Week


NAIDOC Week recognises the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This year, NAIDOC Week will be celebrated from 4 to 11 July. The theme this year is ‘Heal Country’. It calls for all of us to continue to seek greater protection for our lands, waters, sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration and destruction.

The highlight of our NAIDOC Week celebrations at Northern Health is a virtual session by Nova Peris OAM.

Nova was a trailblazer in her sporting pursuits, competing at Olympic level in two sports while juggling the demanding role of being a young mother. Then, post her sporting career, she smashed through another glass ceiling by becoming the first Aboriginal woman elected to Federal Parliament.

Since the mid-1990s, she has spoken regularly on the challenges facing Aboriginal people and has visited hundreds of communities throughout Australia to gain as much of an insight as possible into the issues facing people from all walks of life.

We look forward to hearing from Nova via video link from Darwin on Wednesday, 7 July at 12 pm. To watch Nova’s presentation, please click here.

Also as part of NAIDOC Week, we had two eminent physicians – Dr Angela Dos Santos and Dr Graham Gee, speak at a virtual Grand Round.

Continuing on the theme ‘Heal Country’, Narrun Wilip-Giin, Aboriginal Support Unit, has put together a quiz that will test your knowledge and reward you with great prizes.

More details about this on the Narrun Wilip-Giin, Aboriginal Support Unit pages on the intranet.

Here at Northern Health, 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.

Northern Health’s commitment to providing a culturally safe service starts with our leadership including my Board, Executive Team and Directors. All of us 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.

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

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

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.

I am 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.

The Reconciliation Action Plan Subcommittee 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.

Let me conclude by congratulating Karen Bryant, our Senior Aboriginal Liaison Officer, and the dedicated support of the NAIDOC Working Group team members for their countless work and research.

There remains a lot more work to be done. We look forward to the next RAP and building on what we have achieved so far.