Jacob Nelson

Offering comfort and safety to Aboriginal patients

This week, Austin Health welcomes new Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer (AHLO) Jacob Nelson.

Mr Nelson joins Austin Health after five years living and working in Melbourne for a number of Aboriginal community controlled organisations. He will work across the three main hospital sites for 30 hours a week, and is looking forward to helping staff to improve their cultural awareness as well as "offering comfort and safety to Aboriginal patients."

He is a Bunjalung man, whose Country spans an area of north-east New South Wales and southern Queensland that covers the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Ballina, Lismore and Lennox Head - a part of the world "I'd gladly debate is the most beautiful part of the planet but, I'm probably somewhat biased. I try and return to country once a year, with my older brother and mother. It's always an incredible, spiritual and humbling experience," Mr Nelson says.

By coincidence, his family totem is the goanna, an animal he was pleased to find represented in the Aboriginal artwork outside Quattro café at Austin Hospital - and which he is pictured beside above.

"I am extremely passionate about the health and wellbeing of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," Mr. Nelson says.

"I'm excited about my new role, working in a world class facility, alongside incredible staff. I cannot wait to bring my experiences and skill set to Austin Health, where I hope to also learn and grow, leading to the best care and experience of Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander people that can be provided, in what can be very trying and difficult circumstances," he says.

Mr. Nelson emphasises that he cannot represent or speak for all Aboriginal peoples, and that he himself is still learning about the diverse peoples and cultures that make up indigenous Australia. However, he encourages staff to get in contact with him with questions.

"I am always keen for a coffee and a yarn so please don't hesitate to say hello," Mr Nelson says. "I want to be someone people feel that they can approach, to ask about Aboriginal culture. Even if I don't have all the answers, we can work on it together."

He's happy to give us a bit of push too, if it helps to close the still-significant gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

"It's 2018. I have a super computer in my pocket, but I still have relatives dying in their 50s. I think we can do better. I think we owe the traditional owners of this land a little bit more than what we've given them so far," Mr. Nelson says.

"I'm also quite happy to challenge stereotypes about Aboriginal people, as there's still prejudices and assumptions about Aboriginal people," he says.

Mr Nelson enjoys a range of sports - pointing out that "I'm missing out on the Superbowl to be here - that's how dedicated I am" - and also practices mindfulness, enjoys reading and is learning Polish. He has bravely offered to be open to your suggestions of an AFL team to follow!

If you're interested in improving your awareness of Aboriginal culture and contributing towards Closing the Gap, a good place to start is by completing Austin Health's Aboriginal Cultural Awareness e-learning module, accessible via the Atlas icon on your desktop.

Jacob is based In the Ngarra Jarra office, level 3 Harold Stokes building, Austin Campus and can be contacted on telephone 9496 5834 or page 1975