Poche SA+NT: reimagined Centre unlocks new powers to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ health

Dr Maree Meredith speaking at the launch of Poche SA+NT in Darwin

Opportunities to drive substantial improvements in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the Territory and South Australia have been realised through Flinders University’s Poche Centre, which was re-launched in Darwin today.

The Centre has new staff, a new name and brand, a fresh strategy and capacity to drive change. It plans to partner with remote communities, health funders, government and researchers to drive community-led change.

Poche SA+NT will build on the legacy of the Poche Flinders centre, with ambitious goals to:

  • Develop a network of 500 health leaders by 2025;
  • Translate university research into practical community programs;
  • Research ways to deliver holistic, best-practice care so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people see and experience improved care outcomes;
  • Take priorities and learnings from communities to researchers, so that action can be community-led, practical and continuously improved as results are assessed.

Professor Jonathan Craig, Flinders University Vice-President and Executive Dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health, said the reimagining of the Centre’s approach was essential to improve the pace of progress in Indigenous health improvements.

“Governments, researchers and communities across Australia have said throughout 2020 that more tweaking of the same approaches is no longer good enough, given the lack of progress Australia has made in closing the health gap,” Professor Craig said.

“As an Aboriginal-led centre, the Poche SA+NT team realised the importance of listening to community, funders, partners and our own staff to take a new direction, focusing on building a much stronger network of health leaders who are well versed in Indigenous health across the country and in translating innovative research into programs that have a significant impact.

“Sitting still is not an option.

“We at Flinders University are demonstrating our commitment to making positive change which contributes to tangible improvements in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Director of Poche SA+NT, Dr Maree Meredith said collaboration and effective listening and communicating will be key to the Centre’s success.

“We have amazing innovations in health care and medical technology, but they frequently don’t translate into significant outcomes for people out in community, because we need a much more holistic approach to health.

“A simple example from a few years ago was that people from remote communities were not eating well in hospital, and when we looked at why, it turned out that hospital menus were only in English and they couldn’t be read by many people from remote communities who spoke other languages.

“The best medical breakthroughs in the world don’t mean much in the streets of Tennant Creek or Nhulunbuy, The APY Lands, Port Augusta or Adelaide, Alice Springs or Darwin if they can’t be accessed or understood.

“Poche SA+NT is in a unique place, at the intersection between researchers, communities, government and funders, where we can try to grow common understanding and initiate improved health solutions.

“We will only achieve significant results if we work in collaboration with the many other groups seeking to make a difference in Indigenous health – and we are determined to see change occur.

“The Poche SA+NT team has taken brave steps to change the status quo, so that our Centre has a real capacity to enable significant change. We are very excited about working closely with a range of new partners to deliver programs and spark new ideas for policy and practice in South Australia and the Northern Territory in 2021.”

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