The Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Partnership Forum recently convened at Bunjil Place, Narre Warren, for its second gathering of the year and its fifth since its inaugural event in 2021
The Forum once again brought together key stakeholders from the Aboriginal health, social and emotional wellbeing sectors, mainstream health services, and Victorian Government.
Over two days, participants engaged in a wide range of activities and discussions, fostering collaboration and partnerships that aim to enhance health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Victoria.
Day one saw proud Dja Dja Wurrung and Wiradjuri man, VACCHO Chair and CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS), Michael Graham, deliver a warm and powerful opening keynote address that set the tone for the Forum’s discussions. Mr. Graham also took a moment to celebrate the achievements and successes of VAHS who celebrate 50 years of service to the Aboriginal community in Victoria this year.
The Hon Gabrielle Williams, Minister for Mental Health; Treaty and First Peoples also addressed the Forum underscoring the Victorian Government’s commitment to improving Aboriginal health outcomes and the importance of self-determination.
Throughout the two-day event, Forum attendees engaged in discussions surrounding the Partnership’s Action Plan which was finalised and signed off at the May gathering earlier this year. Healthy and robust discussions focussed on its implementation, prioritisation and budgets.
Guest speakers included Katherine Whetton, Deputy Secretary, Mental Health and Wellbeing at the Victorian Department of Health, and Sheree Lowe, Executive Director of VACCHO’s Balit Durn Durn Centre. Both provided crucial updates on the Mental Health and Wellbeing Reform in Victoria. Attendees also heard from Dan Carter, proud Ngarrindjeri and Wergaia man and Chief Aboriginal Health Advisor at Monash Health, who detailed Monash Health’s Aboriginal Health and Engagement journey, with a particular emphasis on their Cultural Safety Plan.
A powerful presentation by proud Waywurru woman and CEO of Weentunga Health Network, Sam Paxton and Chief Operating Offier Erin McKinnon inspired Forum attendees as they spoke on the incredible work Weentunga do in the health sovereignty and justice space.
A key highlight of the Forum was a site visit to the Dandenong and District Aboriginal Co-Operative Limited on day two where Forum attendees gained first-hand insights into the infrastructure challenges the facility faces. CEO and proud Wurundjeri woman, Jenny Ockwell, expressed gratitude for the board of directors’ role in sustaining the ACCO for the community.
Minister for Health, Mary-Anne Thomas, attended the site visit and commended the staff for their ongoing dedication and passion for the health and wellbeing outcomes of their service users. She also addressed the need for improvements to key infrastructure relied upon by the Community, cementing her commitment to the Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Action Plan priorities that were endorsed by Cabinet in May 2023.
Amongst other presentations, day two also saw Olivia Payne from VACCHO and Megan Astle from the Department of Health providing a preview of the upcoming launch of marra ngarrgoo, marra goori – The Victorian Aboriginal Health, Medical and Wellbeing Research Accord which is due to be officially launched in October 2023.
The Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Partnership Forum continues to serve as a pivotal platform for collaboration and progress in the Aboriginal health and wellbeing sector. It highlights the unwavering commitment of all stakeholders involved to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Victoria.
The next Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Partnership Forum will take place in the first half of 2023. For more information check the webpage.