Special Alfred Health Week panel discussion provides Aboriginal insights

“Harmful policies of the past still affect Indigenous people today when it comes to accessing healthcare and research. We need to rebuild their trust and acknowledge the harms of the past in healthcare. That is the first step.”

These are the words of Dr Jessica O’Brien, Alfred Health cardiologist and Monash University PhD student, who joined today’s Alfred Health Week’s first event, a panel discussion about how we can improve our relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Dr O’Brien, who is only one of two Indigenous cardiologists in the country, was joined by Professor Anthony Russell, Director Endocrinology and Diabetes, Alfred Health and Associate Professor Neale Cohen FRACP, Head Clinical Diabetes, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute

Jack Latimore, Indigenous Affairs Reporter from The Age and Birpai man, did a fantastic job at steering the conversation and was able to also provide his own similarities between journalism and healthcare.

“The term cultural safety doesn’t sit well with me, and it’s not a well-liked term in community. We need to focus more on the language, especially in healthcare, and other ways we can better explain it. The right language is so important,” Jack said.

Both Professor Russell and A/Prof Neale Cohen have both worked in regional and remote communities, and shared how they have gone about engaging these communities in the past.

All agreed that a national approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research, that includes Indigenous researchers, would be the best approach, but agreed that the recently-launched Victorian Aboriginal Research Accord will help in Victoria.

Dr O’Brien was able to provide practical advice for staff on how we can make our precinct more welcoming:

“Use an Aboriginal phone cover, wear Indigenous earrings, an Indigenous pin, buy from Indigenous artists – it’s these little things that will go a long way in making our community feel welcomed here.”