CLOSING THE GAP: The WBHHS Aboriginal Torres Straight Islander Health Advisory Council. Picture: Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service.
CLOSING THE GAP: The WBHHS Aboriginal Torres Straight Islander Health Advisory Council. Picture: Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service.

Elders to work with health service to Close the Gap

ELDERS and traditional custodians have collaborated with the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service to create an advisory group to close the health gap of indigenous Australians.

The WBHHS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Advisory Council will give elders and community members direct input into health service planning, as Closing the Gap in indigenous health outcomes continues to be a priority locally and across the country.

WBHHS acting chief executive Debbie Carroll said the advisory council was a crucial part of the health service’s efforts to provide culturally appropriate services and to ensure Wide Bay health facilities were welcoming and safe environments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is everyone’s business,” Ms Carrol said.

“Our ‘Closing the Gap’ health plan is an important step as we continue to address the systemic barriers to health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

The advisory council is made up of members who represent clan nations and communities from across the Bundaberg, Fraser Coast and North Burnett regions.

“The personal and professional knowledge and experience that our advisory council members bring with them will help us to enhance our service provision to our indigenous community, and we look forward to a long and fruitful partnership with them.”

The group came together in Hervey Bay in February to discuss a range of issues, including how to enhance cultural aspects of service delivery, creating more welcoming cultural environments, and the concept of developing a WBHHS Aboriginal artwork that would eventually become part of its corporate and cultural identity.

Fellow council member Aunty Liz Boyle-Law, a Wulli Wulli elder from Mundubbera, brings her many years of experience as a teacher aide, despite not being able to attend school past the age of 11.

“There was a fair bit of health promotion involved in being a teacher aide, because there were children with dental problems or who had other health challenges or substance abuse issues outside of school,” Aunty Liz said.

“Now that I’m growing older – which, just like having a baby, doesn’t come with a manual – I understand the importance of listening to our health professionals about how we can help to close the gap at all stages of life.

“For me, part of being a member of this council is about helping others to speak confidently to care providers and having proper, open conversations.

“We all need to take control of our own health.”


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