15 August 2022

Hospital commits to being a 'welcoming place' for Indigenous people

| Lottie Twyford
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Di Collins

Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consumer Reference Group Diane Collins says having a welcoming piece of artwork in the foyer of the hospital is important. Photo: CHS.

Canberra Hospital has used the occasion of World Indigenous Peoples Day to commit to ensuring the hospital is culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A new piece of artwork by Walbanja-Yuin artist Natalie Bateman was unveiled in the hospital foyer to mark the occasion.

Ms Bateman picked a Monga Waratah that comes from around the Braidwood/Mongarlowe area as the centrepiece of her design.

She said the bright colours of the region’s vibrant native flowers lead the way to healing and rehabilitation.

“In the centre, are the four kidney shapes representing the staff and the diverse communities of Canberra and the surrounding region,” Ms Bateman said.

“The centre circle is Canberra Health Services and a sun which represents fire. Here we all gather, as if around a campfire, bringing respect, as we have been taught by our ancestors.”


Walbanja-Yuin woman Natalie Bateman’s artwork is now on display at Canberra Hospital. Image: CHS.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Canberra Hospital Janet Zagari said the artwork was a visual representation of the hospital’s commitment to closing the healthcare gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

“The commitment is about a journey together and listening to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about what it is they need to make healthcare services safe and secure,” she said.

“When people come into the hospital they can see we are working together.”

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In general, Indigenous people experience poorer health outcomes than other Australians, particularly in relation to chronic and communicable diseases, infant health, mental health and life expectancy.

Many of these relate to conditions or risks that are preventable.

Ms Zagari said it was important Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were able to get timely access to service.

An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consumer Reference Group was formed in 2020 to work alongside the hospital to create the statement of commitment.

The group includes representatives from the local and South Coast Aboriginal community, community leaders and elders as well as healthcare service users and carers.

Chair of the reference group Diane Collins said the release of the statement marked a “significant day”.

“It’s been over 12 months and there have been lots and lots of conversations with [our group] and with CHS and healthcare users,” she said.

“The biggest thing is having the commitment [on display] in the foyer as a welcoming place.”

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As set out in its 2019-2028 ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement, the Territory government aims to achieve equitable health and wellbeing outcomes for all.

That now three-year-old agreement set out the long-term direction for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs in the ACT.

The Health Directorate was given a number of actions to complete. These included providing information and early support to people so they could make informed decisions and providing opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate in activities on Country to promote health and wellbeing.

It also called for the establishment of culturally safe spaces and for cultural integrity to be embedded into policy and practice.

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The recent Budget committed funding to design a community-run Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residential rehabilitation facility in the Inner North.

ACT Health this week released its plan for future services, about which it is asking for community feedback.

Part of that plan includes finalising cross-border agreements with NSW, planning for increased demand due to an ageing and growing population and ways to reduce or alleviate pressure at the acute end of the system by boosting care in the community models.

Community consultation on the health services plan is open until Friday, 9 September via Your Say.

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