Celebrating this NAIDOC Week

It's been a busy start to NAIDOC Week 2019 at Austin Health.

On Tuesday, consumers, staff and children from the Child Care Centre gathered at the Wellness Garden in the ONJ Centre to take part in a special Acknowledgement of Country ceremony.

The children welcomed everyone in the Bangerang language of the Yorta Yorta people. They then entertained the crowd with a Yorta Yorta rendition of the song 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.'

Chief Executive Officer, Sue Shilbury said: "Here at Austin Health we're striving to provide an environment that's culturally responsive, safe, welcoming, professional and inclusive. We want to ensure that all our people, all our consumers and all our patients feel safe and respected."

Today's Grand Round was centred around NAIDOC Week. Occupational Therapist, Tya Fry, and Mercy Hospitals' Manager, Aboriginal Programs, Marika Jackomos, talked about what the themes of this year's Week, "Voice, Treaty, Truth', mean to them while other members of the Aboriginal community shared their thoughts on how to make the environment at Austin Health more welcoming for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

We also presented our inaugural NAIDOC Week Awards. These awards recognise staff members, volunteers and teams who embody and promote culturally safe care by initiating change to 'Close the Gap' in Aboriginal Health inequality.

You can read more about our inaugural NAIDOC Week Award winners below.

And there is still time to be involved in the other events taking place this NAIDOC Week. Click to see what else is happening around Austin Health

Team award winners

The winners of the team award are Austin Health's Child Care Centre for their significant commitment to educating the children about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

"The Child Care Centre staff are very respectful in their acknowledgement of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and community. There are numerous visual reminders of this respect around the childcare centre including their unique and heartfelt acknowledgement of country, staff wearing Aboriginal flag pins and the art works on display," said Brit Gordon, Director of Allied Health.

The highly commended team award went to the Emergency Department (ED) Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.

The Emergency Department Diversity and Inclusion Working Group has a sincerity, passion and commitment to improving cultural safety and closing the health gap, which according to Jacob Nelson, our Aboriginal Liaison Officer, who nominated them 'is second to none at Austin Health'.

The ED Diversity and Inclusion Group has been involved in a number of initiatives this NAIDOC Week and impact of their work over a longer period has resulted in an increase in the number of Aboriginal patients feeling safe enough to identify as Aboriginal while coming into ED.

Individual award winners

The winner of individual award is Kim Robinson, who was recognised for her work at Northern Centre Against Sexual Assault (NCASA). Kim has been running NCASA's weekly outreach trauma counselling service to the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) in Preston for the past 8 years, assisting victims of recent and past sexual assault.

"Kim's commitment to providing this service has helped to build trust and collaboration between VAHS and NCASA at an organisational level. Her respectful and culturally sensitive working style has enabled her to gain credibility with VAHS medical and allied health practitioners, and indigenous clients. Her regular presence at VAHS has also encouraged more Aboriginal community members to feel safe to access counselling at Northern CASA's main site on the Repat Campus," said Brit.

The highly commended individual award went to Jessica Maratos, a Social Worker who volunteers with the Ngarra Jarra Programme.

Jessica migrated to Australia from Canada in 2011. Since then she's studied Social Work and completed additional training and self-education to understand the situation of First Nations Peoples in Australia. She's also a committed advocate for First Nations Peoples in Canada.

Jessica's own words in the following reflection demonstrate her commitment to helping close the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. 

"I introduce myself as from Canada but with a mixed background. I have had patients ask me if I'm Aboriginal or ask me which mob I'm from and I have told them that I'm not Aboriginal but have been passionate about the Aboriginal community having a voice and more self-determination here in Australia, since we have some similar stories in Canada of what is going on with our First Nation communities trying to achieve treaties."