Better Health and Education for Melbourne’s West

Senior public and private sector health and education leaders met recently at Sunshine’s Western Centre for Health Research and Education to celebrate progress towards a health and education precinct centred around Sunshine Hospital. The event launched the first Annual Report and Action Plan for the Sunshine Health, Wellbeing and Education Precinct (SHWEP) Management Board.

The SHWEP Board, chaired by the CEO of Brimbank Council, Mr Paul Younis, has been planning and advocating for infrastructure, health services and investment to improve the health and wellbeing of the citizens of western Melbourne since 2013. The morning’s discussion celebrated the significant recent achievements with over half a billion dollars of new private and public funding and investment for the Precinct; as well as the abundant opportunities for Sunshine to evolve as the education, health, research and employment focus for western Melbourne.

Mr Younis said health and wellbeing problems in Brimbank were offset by a community remarkably open to change, with ‘many highly collaborative agencies and individuals operating and living in the area’. Major infrastructure investments such as the Melbourne Metropolitan Rail and the Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital being built at Sunshine Hospital, are set to create significant opportunities for the region.

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Panel members included (L-R) Associate Professor Stephen Lew, Ms Rosemary Calder AM, Professor Glenn Bowes AO and Mr Brian Haratsis.

Associate Professor Alex Cockram, CEO of Western Health, chaired a panel discussion with national experts on the future of health and education. Panel members included Rosemary Calder AM, Director of the Australian Health Policy Collaboration at Victoria University, Professor Glenn Bowes AO, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Associate Professor Stephen Lew, University of Melbourne Director of Medical Education at Western Health, and Mr Brian Haratsis, Chairman of MacroPlan Dimasi.

Ms Calder said a focus on early childhood in the municipality would create significant improvements over the next 20 years, not only in health but also in education and employment. This would require collaboration and innovation between health services and education providers at all levels to ensure systems provided seamless transitions for children moving between the services. Professor Bowes noted the new Joan Kirner Hospital was an ideal opportunity to integrate women’s and children’s health for continuous care from conception to school.

Associate Professor Lew acknowledged that high levels of debt and competition for vocational training places added to the stress of graduating health professionals when deciding where to practice, but that ‘scholarships, prizes and awards can take away a lot of that stress’. Both Professor Bowes and Associate Professor Lew agreed that students benefit greatly from the practical experience of working in the community and that mentors and building relationships with community members helps to close the gap between professionals and the community.

The panel members agreed that strong, multilevel partnerships would be central to the success of the precinct. ‘Networking public and private systems magnifies the benefits to community’, said Mr Haratsis, describing the public return from such networks as a ‘1+1=3’ equation.

The Precinct, only 12 km from the CBD and with direct access to western Victoria, will be an opportunity to attract investment to local industry in support of health and education sectors while improving the health, wellbeing and education of local communities. If it can achieve this, Mr Haratsis said, it will lead the creation of similar precincts across Victoria and Australia.

Professor Peter Dawkins, Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University, finished the morning by launching the SHWEP Management Board’s Annual Report and Action Plan 2015-2016. He affirmed his commitment to the SHWEP and to the local community. ‘This is why Victoria University places special emphasis on health and exercise’ he said, ‘we want to provide a workforce for western Melbourne’.

The SHWEP Management Board includes representatives from the following organisations and government departments: Brimbank City Council, Cohealth, Western Health, Sunshine Private Hospital, The University of Melbourne, Victoria University, Metropolitan Planning Authority, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, working in partnership to improve health, wellbeing and education for the citizens of Melbourne’s west.

For further information about SHWEP and copies of the SHWEP Annual Report and Action Plan 2015-2016 please contact: Stephen Sully, Executive Officer Positioning Brimbank stephens@brimbank.vic.gov.au