ABORIGINAL elder Uncle Greg Clarke says there are still a lot of barriers for Indigenous people accessing health care in Ballarat. The key barrier is fear.
“Especially for older people, there are still a lot of transgenerational concerns from the stolen generation,” Mr Clarke said. “They can be extremely fearful coming in for health care. Instead they can get neglectful for their own health.
Bit-by-bit, Ballarat Health Services’ Aboriginal Health Task Force is breaking down barriers and working to empower the region’s Aboriginal community to take responsibility for its health. Task Force members act as advocates in medical team discussions and liaisons for patients.
Mr Clarke is the Koori mental health liaison officer. He said most mental health concerns in the community tended to relate to transgenerational concerns, once worked through, were no longer a barrier.
The Task Force was established more than a decade ago by then-BHS chief executive officer Andrew Rowe and Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative chief executive Karen Heap in a bid to improve health outcomes and ensure interactions were culturally appropriate.
Aboriginal care coordinator Emma Leehane said this could be as simple as making staff aware about the cultural importance and meaning of kinship, when patients had large groups of family visitors.
“We know the community background and we know the hospital – that little bit of extra knowledge can be really important,” Ms Leehane said. “We’re working to empower the community...and the hospital is really supporting us.”
Programs include a specialist midwife for Indigenous patients, or women having an Indigenous baby, and employment strategies in the health sector. BADAC also has a strong proactive approach to health with important screening initiatives.
BHS staff marked awareness for Indigenous Mental Health in a lunch on Friday as part of National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee Week. Ballarat elder Uncle Ted Lovett led a smoking ceremony.
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