Rockingham General Hospital staff champion Aboriginal health care

A man stands beside two women. All are smiling at the camera
Mark Burrows, Manager Adult Community and Allied Health and Rockingham Peel Group Executive Director Kath Smith sporting their new Aboriginal Health Champion badges with SMHS Director Aboriginal Health Strategy Nola Naylor.
July 24, 2018

South Metropolitan Health Service (SMHS) has launched an innovative new program to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal patients.

The focus of the Aboriginal Health Champions (AHC) program, which is a first in Western Australia, is to increase the cultural competency of people working across SMHS.

Aboriginal Health Champions will wear a special badge with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags and two hands to represent the shared responsibility and strong partnerships needed to improve the experience Aboriginal patients.

Rockingham General Hospital had 22 staff members inducted as Aboriginal Health Champions, including Mark Burrows, Manager Adult Community and Allied Health.

Mark is pleased to see this program launch after Aboriginal Health Liaison Officers were introduced to the hospital several years ago to provide ongoing support to Aboriginal patients and improve clinical communication.

“I am proud to be part of this network of non-Aboriginal people who have been educated to understand the Aboriginal experience and what we can do individually to support the needs of our Aboriginal patients and families,” Mark said.

“This will also provide a real opportunity to broaden our relationships with local communities and better understand the impact of the social determinants of health for Aboriginal people.”

The program was developed by the SMHS Aboriginal Health Strategy team and an AHC working party made up of staff from across the health service, and most importantly, members of the Aboriginal community.

SMHS Director Aboriginal Health Strategy Nola Naylor said the aim was to provide an easily identifiable symbol for Aboriginal patients and their families to recognise staff who will be able to help them feel safe and supported.

“It’s hoped the badge will be a visual cue for Aboriginal patients and their families that the person providing their care understands their needs, in the health sense and the cultural sense,” Nola said.

“These health champions will be seen as a safe person for our Aboriginal patients to turn to and discuss anything that might be affecting them.

“More widely, the program will assist in building the capacity of staff through increased knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal culture, health care needs and champion better health outcomes for Aboriginal patients within their everyday work area.”

SMHS Chief Executive Paul Forden was proud to see the health service take intiative and strengthen relationships with the community.

“South Metropolitan Health Service is the first health service in WA to have a program such as this, which embraces and harnesses the passion of those staff who want to improve the experience for our Aboriginal patients,” he said.

The Aboriginal Health Champions program  was launched this week at Fiona Stanley Hospital with a smoking ceremony, spirit dancers and morning to tea to acknowledge the first AHC inductees.