Indigenous voices

A shining light in new health and advocacy program.

Art by: M Jenkins, S Andrews, N Allder & K Roberts

This article originally appeared in Voice, Volume 11 Number 7. View the original here.

Warwick Padgham on how the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences has allied with Indigenous academics to transform Indigenous healthcare.

Australia's leading Indigenous academics are heading an initiative within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences to transform the health landscape for Indigenous Australians and support Indigenous staff and students to be community leaders.

In response to the University of Melbourne's recent Reconciliation Action Plan 2015 (RAP), the Faculty has put together its own ambitious programs. Outlining the Faculty's vision in response to the RAP, the Indigenous Development team recently published a report titled A Uniquely Australian Faculty: Indigenous Health and Development as the Cornerstone.

Dean of Faculty, Professor Stephen Smith, says: "This publication outlines some of the many ways we are working towards reconciliation across the Faculty – from our employment practices to our teaching programs, from our research to our community engagement.

"In the critical area of research, our aim is to contribute through a range of programs, such as the use of new-generation technologies to preserve Indigenous culture or solving chronic or endemic health problems like otitis media in young children."

Leading the way through early intervention programs, the Chair of Indigenous Health, Professor Kerry Arabena, is undertaking innovative research which seeks to establish an evidence-based approach in supporting the health planning for Indigenous children from conception to age two: First 1000 Days.

A global movement in this area of health, this international research into a key area of focus for Indigenous Australians has been adapted by Professor Arabena.

Along with funding from various grants, programs within the Faculty supporting Indigenous development are made possible through generous philanthropic support. In particular, the Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, launched in October 2014, was established as a result of a $10 million gift from Greg Poche and Kay van Norton Poche.

The Poche Centre aims to develop the next generation of Indigenous leaders through research higher degrees and leadership programs. Key to the success of the Melbourne Poche Centre is its ability to contribute to the national goals reducing Indigenous health disparities, through its work around Indigenous health leadership.

Kristi Roberts, Indigenous Development Program Manager, says: "The Faculty's vision and activities align with the RAP to create opportunities across the breadth of the Faculty. Initiatives such as the Indigenous Curriculum Framework, employment pathways and the Indigenous PhD Familiarisation Program, all contribute to this diversity."

This, coupled with exceptional collegiality from the Faculty's non-Indigenous colleagues, is crucial for sustaining growth and ensuring a lasting impact and the Poche Centre is providing both the necessary health and Indigenous leadership.

Professor Shaun Ewen, Associate Dean (Indigenous Development), believes that although the Faculty is unique in its approach to Indigenous advancement, there is more work to be done.

By acknowledging, evaluating and always improving the work in Indigenous development, the Faculty will continue to improve its contribution to better health outcomes for Indigenous Australians, and clearly demonstrate the role that universities can play in support of this national goal.

About the image: In this picture, we have reinterpreted white blood cells, called cytotoxic lymphocytes which destroy cancerous cells, and the circles with dots around the tuber of the Myrnong (yam daisy) to create a work of art that brings together Indigenous culture, community and the health sciences.