Girra Maa 2018 report
We have written this document to share with you all the work by creative and determined people we are among through UTS, in Indigenous health. We are amazed and encouraged!
Throughout 2018 we established ‘Girra Maa’, the Indigenous Health Discipline in the Graduate School of Health. We are a small team with a big vision for a healthy future for Indigenous Australian families and communities, the key to which is access to quality health care.
That’s why we are at GSH – to convey how Indigenous people create accessible health care. GSH provides us the opportunity to share knowledge across six Disciplines who offer post-graduate health training, as well as research and community and university service in health care – Pharmacy, Orthoptics, Psychology, Physiotherapy, Genetic Counselling and Speech Pathology. In the near future we expect to see around 800 students per year – arguably the future of the Australian health care system.
We cannot work as Indigenous people in the mainstream health system without the support of many colleagues mentioned in the following pages. We face challenges regularly, including being told by post-graduate students that “we are sick of feeling sorry for you that you lost your land”, and “we don’t need to know about social determinants of health because we will be providing health care”. We are asked “Why do we need to know about Indigenous issues? They should just go to the hospital like everyone else.”
We do dream of a future of being able to go to the hospital like everyone else – a hospital that has many more Indigenous staff than now, who shape the system in culturally-informed ways, and who work among staff from a range of cultures who understand the effects of intergenerational trauma, poverty and racism on health and health care access. But we are a long way from that.
To help GSH make its unique contribution, we launched the GSH Indigenous Health Strategy in 2018, which asks us to:
- check ‘Why do people see Indigenous Australians the way they do?’
- highlight the strengths of Indigenous peoples worldwide and how mainstream health can benefit from these strengths, such as holistic care
- explain historical and system-level factors that influence health
- create opportunities to meet Indigenous people and overcome shyness in relating with “them”
- form relationships with urban and regional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services for up-to-date perspectives and to share university resources
- influence all of GSH actions to be inclusive of Indigenous peoples’ perspectives, often through shared values and processes rather than differences.
As you can see, our work includes not only providing information about cultural dimensions of health, but also foundational concepts in public health, and connections to health organisations. You will see this in each of the projects we showcase on the following pages. You will also see how through this we enliven the UTS Social Impact Framework, and how our actions are reflected in the UTS 2027 Strategy.
We often say to GSH colleagues and students, “be confident – together we are on the right track” and “we need each of you to contribute”. Our Elders remind us we can’t achieve better health alone. We each have a role. That’s why “Indigenous health is everyone’s business”. In order to create accessible health care – whether based on research you might be involved in, or training, service delivery or policy making – are you confident in your role, and if not, why not?
Megan, Danielle, Jack, Ellen and Josie Girra Maa Indigenous Health Discipline, Graduate School of Health, UTS.