Today is the day to mark/help/support Close the Gap. That is to show a commitment to help the huge difference in life span between Indigenous people and white Australia.
This years report:
It should be so much more than a photo opportunity or a morning tea. There are ways that everyone can help to close the gap. I am going to share some simple ones that I have been trying to get happening for years.
- More Indigenous hospital liaison officers, whatever title you use, we need more people in the hospital working for us. Big hospitals often only employ two, that is not even close to being enough, when they have to help someone in hospital. They should be employed around the clock.
- Hospitals need Indigenous volunteers. They need to have a separate army of volunteers, who deal exclusively with Indigenous patients, to spend time with the person from a remote area in a city hospital. To sit with someone having a long treatment. Just a friendly face in an alien environment.
- Cultural Awareness Training (CAT) should be compulsory with all hospital staff, from the cleaner to the director. This training should address the issues and problems in health but also it needs to be localised to have the Traditional Owners from the area to share their knowledge. Truly let people understand, I am not talking a one of two-hour session a year, but a long fully formed training. Refresher courses each year.
- General Practice need to have CAT, even if they are not signed on to CTG, because they are going to be seeing Indigenous patients.
- General Practice must lose their incentive payments if they sign on for the incentive and during that time they don’t see an Indigenous payment, they should not be entitled to the one-off payment. Again they should lose the bonus if they are signed up and do not annotate the prescriptions for patients.
- All medical and Allied Health professionals should do and be assessed on Cultural Awareness on a regular basis and this needs to be registered. It is not good enough when a health professional does one course on Indigenous People and 20 years later still think that was enough.
- Indigenous people have the right of choice. We should be able to see a private GP or the local Indigenous Medical Service, we should be able to see both if we want, but some funding seems to steer us towards the Indigenous Medical Service, this can be hard if it’s a long way from your home and you have to depend on public transport.
- Employ more Indigenous people in the health sector, not just doctors. It can be as simple as a receptionist, who makes a difference.
- Indigenous patients must be heard. Not just in the surgery but on national committees. Our experiences must be more than just fodder for researchers or funding applications.
- The PHN’s, Division of General Practices and other organisations, must stop handing over Indigenous units to others. You have patients that see so many doctors you have to be responsible for that. Handing it over to Indigenous Medical Services etc, is passing the buck. It takes away our free choice. It is a way of saying you are not interested in our well-being.
- Invite Elders to your hospital, clinic whatever on a regular basis, consider having an Elder in residence at your local hospital.
- Recognise and celebrate our Important dates. It smacks of racism if a hospital is decked out in green and shamrocks everywhere for St Patrick’s day and come NAIDOC, there is a morning tea, hidden away with only a few people involved. Share it. Don’t even get me started on Australia day. Okay just a little bit. Understand that we don’t think it’s great to wave the flag or want to be in your premises when you have complete overkill of decorations and start talking about how wonderful it is.
I guess I should stop now. These are the main things I have been pushing, things that don’t cost a lot of money, but will make a difference.