Mater learns from Indigenous health service

08/Aug/2019     Health

In July, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer Callan Battley was invited to visit a Western Cape York community off Aurukun located between Weipa and Cairns with Catholic Health Australia (CHA) to look at the work of a unique Indigenous health service called Apunipima. 

The service is a membership based and community controlled Aboriginal Health Organisation responsible for delivering high quality, culturally appropriate, comprehensive primary health care to 11 Cape York communities since 1994.

Apunipima comprises a series of clinics that run between Cairns and Weipa and has been supported by CHA with a number of representatives from hospitals around Australia including Canberra, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne who were in attendance. 

Callan was impressed by the service offering in the community and said there were many learnings from his visit.

“They are a primary health care service which provides a holistic approach to health care and health issues with the aim of supporting communities to come up with their own solutions,” he said.

“A key component of this is that the health service is led by the local community with many of the senior medical, nursing and midwifery staff coming from Indigenous backgrounds and having many of the health care workers come from the Cape York region.

“Part of the visit was also to look at opportunities where CHA and its members, including Mater, could provide support, assistance and learn from some of the many things that Apunipima has been putting into practice for many years.” 

Callan explained the care provided through the clinic is very diverse from mental health services to general health clinics right down to preparing families and mothers for birth. It works closely with the local area health services and fly in and fly out medical staff from the Royal Flying Doctors Services.

“The region of the Western Gulf is extremely isolated and despite being surrounded by some of the world’s richest mining land, predominately bauxite, the communities themselves are very poor,” he said.

“Socio-economic factors such as living in a remote and poorer area mean the population is at a higher risk of health issues. This is something the Apunipima group is trying to work with the community to resolve.”

Callan said the trip was an excellent opportunity for Mater to learn how they can best support Apunipima and Cape York regions health services.   

“On an individual and a professional level, the experience was fabulous. It was great to work with CHA who have been dedicated to help support the service in the region for many years,” he said.

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