Fresh direction offers new hope for Indigenous health

New approaches and partnerships will place an Aboriginal-led research centre in a position to lead significant progress in improving Indigenous health in communities across the Northern Territory and South Australia.

In celebrating its 10th Anniversary, Flinders University’s Poche SA+NT centre is unveiling a new high-profile 10-member Advisory Board and plans to form alliances with community organisations across the nation’s central corridor to amplify the impact of health initiatives.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling and Vice-President and Executive Dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health Professor Jonathan Craig are this week visiting the Top End to mark the occasion.

Professor Stirling says it’s a bold new direction for the Aboriginal-led centre.

“Poche SA+NT is designed to drive local action and to promote national collaborations across a number of university partners, enabling us to work together on issues of priority that are identified by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders,” Professor Stirling says.

“If there is a silver lining in relation to COVID-19, it is in demonstrating the magic of collaboration that can occur when we start to lay aside our artificial silos and start to work together. The unprecedented speed at which the virus was understood, tracked and new vaccines developed through scientists collaborating and openly sharing their knowledge across the world has provided a benchmark for science.

“We are taking the lessons learned and committing to collaboration to drive more extensive change more quickly.”

The new Poche SA+NT Advisory Board draws together leaders from diverse sectors across the country to guide the Aboriginal-led centre on its journey forward:

  • Dr Leisa McCarthy (Co-Chair)
  • Professor Jonathan Craig (Co-Chair)
  • Professor Tom Calma AO
  • John Rawnsley
  • Erin Lew Fatt
  • Britt Walker
  • Shona Reid
  • Dr Ram Vemuri
  • John Reid
  • Dr Maree Meredith

The Advisory Board’s Co-Chairs Dr Leisa McCarthy and Professor Jonathan Craig say Poche SA+NT offers an opportunity to build new networks of knowledge and collaboration that can have a significant impact.

“The new Board is keen to draw in collaborations from the research sector, communities, health practitioners and other areas for Poche SA+NT to facilitate working relationships that positively impact health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

“As an Aboriginal-led centre, Poche SA+NT have close links to communities, so we can get grass-roots insights into all the factors that are impacting on health and also we can hear what communities want the centre to work on as a top priority.”

Acting Director of Poche SA+NT, Dr Maree Meredith, released a new prospectus encapsulating what the centre has to offer and has organised events throughout the week to identify partnership opportunities and potential collaborators.

“We are setting out to work differently. Our success won’t be measured by getting more staff, or more money, or a bigger building – but by how many people we can help and how much we can help them,” says Dr Meredith.

“Tablets and bandages are brilliant at directly treating some illnesses or wounds, but unless we get the full picture of how to build healthier lives for people, then those same old health issues and same treatments are just going to keep cropping up.

“Poche SA+NT are going to work with partners across Australia’s central corridor to build an understanding of the cultural factors that determine health, and the opportunity to recognise the role of traditional knowledge and culture alongside modern medical breakthroughs.”

In addition to the 10th anniversary of Poche SA+NT, the Vice-Chancellor’s visit has provided an opportunity to mark the first anniversary of Flinders University’s Reconciliation Action Plan, engage with staff and students from the Northern Territory Medical Program and celebrate the Territory’s many high achieving alumni.

Another significant announcement has been the recent appointment of Professor Robyn Aitken as Dean Rural and Remote Health. She has been Deputy Dean Rural and Remote Health for almost a year, and Professor Jonathan Craig notes during that time she has displayed outstanding leadership, tenacity and an unwavering determination to promote our rural and remote endeavours as core business of the University.

“With Professor Aitken’s leadership, our activities will continue to develop the College and the University as the national leaders in rural and remote health,” says Professor Craig.

While Professor Aitken will be based at Bedford Park, she will continue to visit all Flinders sites for extended periods to facilitate greater rural and remote impact across CMPH and the University more broadly, in-line with the University’s commitment to an institution-wide Rural and Remote Health Strategy.

You can read more about Flinders University’s Rural and Remote Health Strategy here.


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