Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Patients

18/Dec/2020     Mater Group

Congratulations to Mater’s Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Team who won in the Mercy in Action Team category of the Mater People Awards.        

The award sought to recognise outstanding made by a team contribution in line with the Mater Mission, Values and Strategy.

Mater’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison team are a dedicated to bridging the gap between hospital staff and patients to improve not only health care outcomes but patient experience.

The liaison team was established in 1997 at the South Brisbane campus, and now covers Redland and Springfield. The team includes Gwen Ibarra, Melina Connors and Stephanie Conlon. Steph returns to her role in Ambulatory Outpatients with the return of Beck Thomson from extended leave in January 2021.

"Historically Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have faced many barriers to accessing healthcare whether that be financial, logistical or emotional; due to past trauma and experience they can be anxious about coming to hospital" Gwen said.

"Our support can range from an occasional social visit with a patient to high level involvement accompanying a patient through their entire experience with the hospital. We are here to advocate not only for the patient but their family members as well and we are held accountable within our communities.

“We also support clinicians and researchers by contributing to policy development, and engage with the community and staff to celebrate cultural events such as NAIDOC Week and Reconciliation Week.”

Melina explains it's a personal choice whether patients wish to be supported by the team.

"We accept referrals from clinicians, people from within the community, or patients and their family may self-refer," Melina said.

“It's a very different service we provide but as part of our multidisciplinary approach to care, we often refer patients to social work or other allied health professionals.”

"We empower our patients and their families to have a positive healthcare experience by supporting and advocating for them while supporting the hospital staff to provide the best care they can."

Stephanie says that it is the role of every Mater team member to ensure we are providing culturally safe care to all patients.

"It's important we don't pass judgement on people and understand coming to hospital for any person can be a stressful and emotional experience which can be exacerbated if the patient is fearful they may not be treated appropriately" Stephanie said.

"It's important we do everything we can to eliminate that fear and make patients feel comfortable and culturally supported.

"This is a very rewarding role and we always love seeing a patient who has had a positive outcome. We especially love seeing women birthing the next generation and seeing their strength in overcoming obstacles and raising their families; it's really beautiful."

The team provide almost 10 000 occasions of service each year. For further information or to obtain support from one of our Liaison Workers, please phone 07 3163 1853 or 0404 821 831 or visit the website

The team tied for first place with the Rockhampton Aged Care Team and the Pastoral Care and Women’s Services Team in Townsville.



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