Our People to Live Stronger & Longer

Highlights from the Aboriginal Mental Health and Wellbeing Forum

On the 27th and 28th of November, AH&MRC co-hosted the NSW Aboriginal Mental and Wellbeing Workforce Forum in partnership with the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network. The Forum brought together Aboriginal Mental Health and Wellbeing Workers working in various sectors to build knowledge, create partnerships and improve mental health service delivery for Aboriginal people.  The Forum was open to Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people whose work significantly involves Aboriginal consumers, or who work in other roles significantly contributes to Aboriginal mental health and wellbeing; such as in management, research and policy-related fields.

AH&MRC had an exhibit at the event to promote the amazing work the team has been and continues to do and shared resources such as Your Health Your Future merchandise, My Health Record information books, Self Care Toolkits, Strength Cards and Health Journals. AH&MRC also supported 20 staff from our Member Services to attend and provided compensation for travel and accommodation. The Forum was an amazing opportunity for staff to learn what work and support is being offered in the sector and network with other services and staff from Government and Non-Government Organisations.

The two days were jam-packed with presentations from industry leaders and truly inspirational individuals who are not only changing the industry but also setting the example for the next generation to have a voice and ensure the health system is supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to live a healthy and happy life.

Presentations ranged from traditional healing, to how we can better protect and record Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health data and research. Stand out presentations included;

Our very own Public Health Manager Lee Bradfield who was the first Keynote Address on the first day discussed the role AH&MRC plays is supporting “Journey’s in Aboriginal Mental Health and Wellbeing”. Lee reflected on the amazing work that the AH&MRC has accomplished in the past 12 months and what projects, events and advocacy are proposed for the future.

Other amazing presentations from the first day included; Stephen Cochrane, Manager of Aboriginal Stakeholder Engagement, SafeWork NSW and Aboriginal Programs and Andrew Rowe, Principal Inspector, Psychosocial Services, SafeWork NSW “Aboriginal Mental Health Initiative – SafeWork NSW”, discussing the issue of workplace bullying and what services and support are available for Aboriginal staff.

Donna Murray, Chief Executive Officer from Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) discussed, “Pathways: Creating a sustainable future for Aboriginal mental health and wellbeing workforce” and the role IAHA plays in support Aboriginal people working within the health sector. For more information about IAHA check out their website https://iaha.com.au/

Despite the heavy topics covered, the first day ended on a light-hearted note with the help of Dane Simpson’s comedy performance and Koorioke with Uncle TJ Simpson.

The second day started with an amazing Keynote Address from Dr Francesca Panzironi, CEO of Aṉangu Ngangkaṟi Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (ANTAC). ANTAC is the first organisation of Aboriginal traditional healers in Australia. Dr Panzironi spent four years (2008-2012) travelling across South Australia in search for answers to the lack of recognition of Aboriginal traditional medicine in international and national health policy frameworks and strategies. For more information check out the ANTAC website https://www.antac.org.au/about-antac/about-us

Jude Page PhD Candidate from the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, UNSW Sydney held a thought-provoking presentation on “Visual Communication tools (My Story Cards): a client-centred approach to communication, reflection and shared understanding.” Story Cards are a new image-based therapeutic tool. The use of visual images has been proven to provide a more powerful link to emotions than words alone. The Story Cards are a quick, efficient means of identifying issues, exploring issues and facilitating goal setting. For more information check out the My Story Cards website.

The next session was a panel of deadly women including our very own Trainer and Educator Gina O’Neill, alongside Tiffany McComsey, CEO of Kinchela Boys Aboriginal Corporation, and Donna Stanley, District Coordinator in Aboriginal Mental Health and Drug & Alcohol at the Western NSW Local Health District. All women provided a unique perspective, discussing the different experiences of Aboriginal people’s journeys in mental health and wellbeing, the challenges that Aboriginal people face and how these can be mitigated. All women are strong, passionate advocates for the sector, and it was such a privilege to be able to hear their stories and benefit from their experiences and knowledge.

To finish off what was an incredible, inspirational and informative 2 days, our very own Data and Systems Manager Dean Wright presented on, “Using Data to Tell Stories and Track Pathways to Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing in NSW”. Dean had the difficult task of encouraging a worn-out crowd to get excited about data at 3pm on a Thursday. However, for the most part he succeeded and using the Mental Health Storyboard and inclusion of infographics and visual representation, inspired even some of the least data inclined. The Health Tracker is a project that AH&MRC has been working on for some time and will be using to share health information in an engaging and easy to understand way while also protecting the data governance of Aboriginal people.

Overall the 2 days were extremely informative and left AH&MRC staff who attended inspired full of ideas, having developed relationships with key stakeholders, organisations and researchers. We look forward to working together collaboratively to improve the journeys in Aboriginal Mental Health & Wellbeing.

Author – Sophie Scobie, AH&MRC Practice Support Team