Improving Care for Aboriginal Patients – Forum recap

May 31, 2022

The Improving Care for Aboriginal Patients (ICAP) workforce came together on Wadawurrung Country in May 2022 for the first ICAP Forum since 2019.

Together with the wonderful team at Barwon Health, VACCHO organised two days of activities and discussion centred on the work of Aboriginal Health Liaison Officers (AHLOs) and Koori Mental Health Liaison Officers (KMHLOs).

More than 50 delegates attended the ICAP Forum, including AHLOs and KMHLOs from across Victoria, representatives from the Victorian Department of Health, VACCHO staff and special guest speaker Dr Glenn Harrison, a Wotjobaluk man from Western Victoria who works as a doctor and emergency specialist at Royal Melbourne Hospital and Epworth Private Hospital in Geelong.

AHLOs and KMHLOs are integral to the health and wellbeing of Community, working in hospitals and primary health settings to provide culturally sensitive support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the state.

These people are nothing short of health heroes, they strive to make the health system a better place for Community; to ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are cared for in a respectful, supportive, welcoming and culturally safe way.

On day one, the vivacious MC, Troy Jennings, welcomed everyone to the Forum and introduced speakers from the Victorian Department of Health. After lunch, we heard about an exciting AHLO history project, learned from the Barwon Health team about their data collection method, health justice partnerships and online Aboriginal family violence training, before a site visit to University Hospital Geelong.

On Tuesday evening, we enjoyed dinner together with entertainment from Troy Benjamin, who helped line up lots of great tracks for those keen on Koorioke after dinner.

We opened day two with guest speaker Dr Glenn, who presented insights and observations from his experience as a doctor, including the growing of the Aboriginal workforce within hospitals, the need for better data collection, and increasing pathways to study medicine, also noting the special contribution of Aunty Joan Vickery AO, the very first AHLO who worked at St Vincent’s Hospital.

The screening of DJÄKAMIRR – CARETAKER OF PREGNANCY AND BIRTH was a heartwarming highlight from the second day. The film offered a privileged insight into the aspirations of remote First Nations communities to reclaim their birthing culture from the stronghold of Western medicine; and be part of the solutions to improve health.

We closed the Forum with a smoking ceremony at Narana Cultural Centre by Wadawurrung Traditional Owners, Corrina Eccles and Anthony Hume.

There are still many gaps to close in the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients receive care in hospitals and primary health settings, from data collection and reporting to peer support for AHLOs and strong partnerships between Aboriginal Community controlled organisations and hospitals.

We will continue working closely with our Members, the ICAP workforce, government and primary health networks to ensure health and wellbeing services are accessible and equitable for everyone in our communities.

The ICAP Fourm was a restorative and fulfilling couple of days on beautiful Wadawurrung Country.

We thank all who attended and shared their stories, we’d also like to thank our local hosts, Barwon Health and Novotel Geelong. Special thanks to VACCHO’s ICAP Coordinator, Leanne Adams for all her efforts in organising the Forum and bringing everyone together. After a couple of years apart, it was great to be together and to debrief, unwind and belt out a couple of tunes at Koorioke!

Find out more about the ICAP program.

Watch Djakamirr or organise a screening.

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VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.