AHCWA Newsletter August – September 2023

Message from the CEO

Kaya everyone,

I hope you’re doing well and staying healthy.

AHCWA acknowledges the outcome of the Voice to Parliament Referendum. While this outcome may bring mixed emotions within our communities, we want to emphasise that AHCWA remains committed to improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal People and their communities in WA.

Our commitment to addressing the pressing health disparities and the broader health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and communities remains unwavering. We believe that Aboriginal People deserve the best possible health outcomes, and we will continue to advocate for improved healthcare access. NACCHO and the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet have launched a portal that brings together a collection of useful resources: https://healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au/learn/special-topics/voice-referendum-social-emotional-wellbeing-resources/

Today, I also want to address a crucial matter that touches the core of our values and commitment as an Aboriginal organisation: advocating for better environmental health conditions for Aboriginal people.

As you know, AHCWA has been tirelessly advocating for increased funding to improve the pressing Environmental Health issues afflicting Aboriginal communities across Western Australia. The health challenges are immense, from inadequate and poorly maintained housing to a lack of suitable sewage facilities, poor-quality water supplies, and a lack of basic infrastructure such as power, drainage, communications, and roads. The profound implications these dire conditions have on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal People are entirely preventable.

Thanks to our dedicated Member Services, passionate AHCWA team and our commitment to this cause, AHCWA has negotiated funding from the State Government to Co-Design an Aboriginal Environmental Health Model of Service. An Aboriginal Environmental Health Steering Committee will lead this program made up of representatives from ACCHS and ACCOs across the regions.  The team will be utilising the services of the esteemed consultant, Professor Jeanette Ward. This project is a direct outcome of the Aboriginal Environmental Health Forum 2022.

The Aboriginal Environmental Health Forum 2022 (the Forum) was held on 24 and 25 October 2022 to promote and emphasise environmental health as a priority for the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector.  It was a follow-up to the inaugural Aboriginal Environmental Health Forum 2021 and a space to evaluate the Review of the WA Aboriginal Environmental Health Program Final Report (the Report) published in March 2022.

The Report acknowledges a need for increased funding, community capacity building and the evolution of the current Program. There has been potential for Aboriginal Environmental Health program change since the early 1990s; however, little progress has been made at the population level. The Program does not adequately address the community’s environmental health needs; thus, it is evident that change needs to occur.  This Forum was an opportunity for the Aboriginal Community Controlled Sector to review the recommendations presented in the Report and identify how the sector’s advocacy/governance in this space should proceed.

The Sector wants to see an expansion of the Environmental Health program (financial and coverage). As well as the facilitation of essential service procurement with community infrastructure providers, including increasing opportunities for ACCOs to deliver co-designed contracted services to their communities by investing in services that support:

  • ACCO capacity building in environmental health;
  • Increased collaboration and partnership between existing ACCOs, supporting opportunities for co-design and
  • Increased collaboration and culturally secure partnerships between ACCOs and mainstream community sector organisations, supporting opportunities for co-design.

Additionally, AHCWA, in partnership with CASWA, continues to advocate on behalf of the Sector, on the review of the Department of Communities Housing Maintenance Service Contracts.

We firmly believe that change cannot be undertaken in isolation. To succeed, we must collaborate with our allies in a bilateral approach involving all stakeholders, including government bodies, environmental health organisations, and Indigenous communities.

In closing, I want to emphasise the urgency of this matter. Let us continue to work together with unwavering dedication and determination. I appreciate your commitment to this cause, and let us move forward with purpose, passion, and persistence.



Des Martin

Celebrating Milestones

AHCWA would like to congratulate the Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation  for 30 years of service, the Derby Aboriginal Health Service for 25 years of service and the Derbarl Yerrigan Aboriginal Health Service for 50 years of service.

These are significant milestones in their journeys and a testament to the dedication, aims and aspirations of the local Aboriginal Community’s self-determination and empowerment.

AHCWA looks forward to the next decade and beyond in supporting its Board, Staff, and Aboriginal Community to continue building its footprint as a leading health provider in providing comprehensive Primary Health Care to Aboriginal People.

We would also like to congratulate and honour Janine Roe from Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service, who celebrated her 20 year journey in Aboriginal Health.

We are also very proud to celebrate with Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service as they were named the WA GP Practice of the Year by RACGP. It is also the second year an Aboriginal GPR from Derbarl (Dr Corey Dalton) has received the state’s RACGP GP in Training Award. Congratulations!

Celebrating 50 Years of Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service – 50 Years of Resilience, Growth, and Community Triumph

The University of Western Australia dedicated their Summer School of 1969 to the Referendum that gave Aboriginal people a voice and hope for the future. (Bibliography – see NEAF Newsletter 1973, pages 26-28 – Information brochure about the Summer School.) The theme for the Summer School was “Aboriginal Progress – A New Era.” This Summer School played an important role in the future of Aboriginal People within Western Australia. After the Summer School of 1969, an informal group of volunteers named themselves the New Era Aboriginal Fellowship.

The New Era Fellowship or NEAF, as it was called, was established to identify the needs of the Aboriginal community of Perth and, later, regional areas. The NEAF Committee was run by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who worked in solidarity to address confronting issues affecting the Aboriginal communities.

Soon after forming the committee, the Chairperson, Mrs Iole Burkett and Secretary, Mrs Nancy Grasby, employed Marie Bartlett as the Receptionist and Capacity Building Officer. Marie was asked to assist them in developing the Aboriginal Medical Service and the Aboriginal Legal Service within Perth.

Marie said she was 19 at the time but took up the challenge. A priority identified for Marie to undertake, was to assist the informal NEAF to gain support and secure membership of persons from within the Aboriginal community. Over time Aboriginal people became involved and this eventually led to the official incorporation of the group as the New Era Aboriginal Fellowship.  Once incorporated, the NEAF Committee developed several subcommittees to establish the Perth AMS, the Perth ALS and other organisations. These were some of the projects they identified as high need.

“I helped assist with the direction of the NEAF Subcommittee to establish these organisations,” she said.

“Some of the tasks were lobbying the government, media statements in response to articles written about Aboriginal people and encouraging the Aboriginal people to take part in the committees and subcommittees.

“I was their scout, and I recommended that Mrs Gloria Brennan (RIP) become a member of the AMS Working Party and subsequently the first Chairperson of the Perth AMS,” said Marie.

In 1973, this group of dedicated volunteers embarked on a journey that would change the face of healthcare for Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. Over the past five decades, they laid the foundation for the Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service, a beacon of hope, resilience, and determination.

Derbarl Yerrigan has evolved into the largest Aboriginal community-controlled health service in Western Australia from its humble beginnings in a rundown city building with disused equipment. In 2023, it was honoured with the title of the best GP service in the state by the RACGP.

Through trials and tribulations, Derbarl Yerrigan’s community-elected Board members have championed self-determination, cultural safety, and community control, shaping a model of care that includes clinical services, dental care, allied health services, health promotion, and more, all underpinned by research and quality improvement.

The road was not without challenges. Financial hardships and turbulent times threatened its existence, but courageous board members persevered, ultimately steering the organisation back into the hands of Aboriginal community control.

Founding member of Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Marie Bartlett said that the organisation has stood the test of time fearlessly supported by many community minded people. She said

“The changes to culture, lifestyle and the environment was forced upon our mob, which led to dire consequences for the future.

Tracey Brand, Derbarl Yerrigan CEO said they have seen health improvements with lives saved and illnesses prevented by enabling mob access to culturally secure primary care service.

“Over time, we have seen an expansion of health and wellbeing services.  We have also seen services come and go and new services embedded into the Derbarl model of care,” Tracey said.

Over the years, Derbarl Yerrigan has forged stronger relationships with government departments and health providers, securing sustainable funding and expanding to offer 14 specialist services. Infant mortality rates have dramatically improved, and life expectancy for men and women has risen significantly, though there is still work to be done to bridge health disparities.

From a mere $100,000 budget, Derbarl Yerrigan’s annual funding now stands at $22.7 million, serving over 22,000 patients with 166 dedicated staff. The organisation has become a training ground for Aboriginal Health Practitioners and medical students, fostering future healthcare leaders.

The Midland clinic’s journey, from openings and closures due to funding challenges to a new $4.7 million facility in 2023, is a testament to Derbarl Yerrigan’s unwavering determination.

Celebrating 50 years of Derbarl Yerrigan’s extraordinary journey, we pay tribute to their founders, life members, past Directors, and long-term members.

From its modest beginnings to becoming a state leading service in healthcare, Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service’s 50-year journey is a remarkable testament to the resilience, strength, and spirit of Aboriginal communities. Congratulations to Derbarl Yerrigan.

Thank you for your dedicated service!

Congratulations to AHCWA’s People and Culture Officer Kristy Monaghan for celebrating her ten year milestone of dedicated service to AHCWA and WAAHEC Data Entry Office Keisha Calyun for celebrating her five year milestone.

We are so grateful to have the expertise of both Keisha and Kristy and are proud to recognise their dedicated efforts to AHCWA.

AHCWA’s WAAHEC Data Entry Office Keisha Calyun marks 5 years at AHCWA

Keisha Calyun is a Ballardong Noongar woman from Western Australia’s (WA) South West corner. Keisha grew up on Ballardong Noongar country in the Wheatbelt regional town of Toodyay and Whadjuk Noongar country in Perth, where she currently lives.

Since 2018, Keisha has worked in various roles at the Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA), including the Mappa Project Officer and Aboriginal Youth Program Coordinator. Keisha also sits on the WA Aboriginal Health Ethics Committee as a youth representative. Her work at AHCWA contributed to Keisha being awarded a WA Youth Award under the Hope Community Services Positive Achievement category in 2019.

Keisha’s passion is contributing to creating a better future for First Nations people and communities. Her work at AHCWA is what inspired Keisha to pursue studying medicine.  Keisha dreams of becoming a doctor and working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities where she can help people and communities thrive, not just survive.  In 2022, Keisha commenced her medical degree under a Puggy Hunter Scholarship at Curtin University.

Keisha is an excellent role model, she inspires other young Aboriginal people in the way that she has been inspired, carrying on the legacy of the leaders who came before her.  She believes “the best outcomes for Aboriginal people will come from ‘our health in our hands’.”

Keisha volunteers as a member of an inaugural Youth Health and Wellbeing Committee, which is entirely First Nations youth led, as one of two WA representatives.  She is also a Director for YACWA, a state-wide youth organisation advocating for Aboriginal youth representation.

Keisha is also part of a Noongar women’s cultural dance group, performing traditional dances for community and corporate events, and attends yearly cultural camps to connect with Country and community.

Her ability to juggle her various roles and continue excelling in her academic achievements, work at AHCWA, and various volunteer roles is commendable.

AHCWA’s People and Culture Officer Kristy Monaghan celebrates 10 years of service at AHCWA

Congratulations to Kristy Monaghan, on 10 years of dedicated service to the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia as People and Culture Officer.

Kristy commenced working at AHCWA in August 2013 as an HR Assistant, quickly becoming a well-respected and integral part of the Corporate Services team. Her passion and commitment to fostering an inclusive, harmonious, and safe workplace make her an inspiration to others.

As a qualified human resources professional, Kristy specialises in workplace health and safety; industrial relations; and best practice human resource management, ensuring the organisation can safely and effectively achieve its objectives.

Kristy’s empathetic and compassionate approach to her work makes her approachable to all employees, and she consistently strives to offer friendly and professional HR support to all employees, managers, and Member Services.

As an organisational mentor, Kristy is always available to listen, support and help others. Despite significant periods of change, Kristy has shown resilience, adaptability, and a can-do attitude to ensure she excels in her role.

Kristy’s strong attention to detail and compliance mindset has ensured that AHCWA has maintained excellent compliance and record-keeping and is committed to embracing a culture of continuous quality improvement.

As a proud mum to two beautiful girls, Kristy’s ability to juggle her home and work lives  inspires others, and she strives to support new mums in the workplace where she can.

We thank Kristy for her service and commitment to the organisation and look forward to working with her for years to come

Social and Emotional Wellbeing State Forum 2023

On August 15th-17th AHCWA in Partnership with KAMS held the first statewide SEWB conference of its kind at The Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle (Walyup).

100 attendees from across the state gathered to engage in workshops, networking, and share their knowledge about SEWB. Many valued presenters discussed various topics such as Cultural Safety and Mental Health Services, Workforce Support Development Units Review, Patient-Centered Planning Guide, and The Yorgum Healing Camps.


Council of Aboriginal Services Western Australia appoints CEO

The Council of Aboriginal Services WA (CASWA) is thrilled to announce the appointment of James Christian PSM MPA as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). James brings over three decades of exceptional leadership experience in both the Aboriginal community-controlled sector and Government, making him an invaluable addition to the organisation.

View the media release here. 

Rowan’s Walk raising awareness

Port Hedland and Newman communities gathered at dawn to raise awareness for those lost to suicide for the annual ‘Rowan’s walk.” AHCWA’s Culture Care Connect Jurisdictional Coordinator Harry Mc Anulty and Sector Engagement Officer Dan Mason attended the walk and said it was an incredible turn out.

Harry said he felt deeply honoured to join Rowan’s walk from Port Hedland to South Hedland alongside my colleague Dan and members of our community from the Pilbara region.

“This experience allowed me to genuinely listen to the voices of lived experience and the stories shared by community members and families, revealing the profound impact and heartbreaking loss caused by suicide.

“It also made me acutely aware of their incredible strength and resilience in the face of such challenging circumstances and the need to continue to support the regions in their efforts around suicide prevention, aftercare and postvention,” said Harry.

Rowan’s walk was started by Rowan Dann while still in high school to commemorate the loss of his aunty to suicide, and to raise awareness about suicide. Since then, Dann has lost two other family members to suicide, including his grandfather Mr Maher. The walk starts from South Hedland and goes for 20km into the town of Port Hedland. The walk, which was expected to expand to the Roebourne and Newman was reduced down to Newman and Port Hedland this year after sorry business stopped the Roebourne walk.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around 65 000 people attempts suicide in 2018.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare ‘Australia’s health 2020 report’, in 2018 3046 deaths by suicide were registered in Australia, which means around 8-deaths per day.

According to this report suicide rates are twice as high for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with younger people more at risk.

AHCWA’s Culture Care Connect Program supported by NACCHO has been funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health to coordinate the Culture Care Connect Program (CCC) nationally.

The program supports establishing up to 31 community-controlled suicide prevention networks and community-controlled aftercare services in each network region. It also supports jurisdictional suicide prevention planning and coordination within Affiliates and community-controlled suicide prevention training, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid.

If this article has raised any issues for you, please call or visit the resources below:

Lifeline 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636.

Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day.

Youth Committee Annual Gathering

During September, the AHCWA Youth Committee went on their annual Committee Gathering. Each year the committee get together for team building and strategic planning sessions to plan for the following year.

This year, the committee went to Wadjemup (Rottnest Island) for the day. During their time at Wadjemup the committee participated in a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony on the beach and an Aboriginal Cultural Tour with GoCultural. During the committee’s time with GOCultural they learnt about Wadjemup history and visited some of the sacred sites, such as the prison and burial grounds of over 400 men. This is only two of the many sites Wadjemup has. The committee also went on an Adventure Boat tour around the island, watching whales and other marine life. In the evening, the committee went on the Torchlight tour at Fremantle Prison, which was a very different experience for most committee members. The committee stayed the night at the Tradewinds Hotel and Suites, where they had their strategic planning session the next morning to plan for next year, plan the Annual Youth Conference, discuss new members, what’s going on in their communities and what they are going to do within the community.

If you want to join the youth committee, please contact @[email protected] for more information!

Dental Inquiry Hearing

AHCWA provided a submission to the Select Committee Inquiry into the Provision of and Access to Dental Services in Australia in June 2023. We were then invited to appear as witnesses in the public hearing on Monday, 14 August 2023 at the Crowne Plaza in Perth.

We appeared on a panel with Dr Daniel Hunt, Deputy Medical Officer at Derbarl Yerrigan. We provided opening remarks on the immediate need for improved and accessible dental services for communities and families accessing Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

Three Senators were involved in our panel discussion, demonstrating eagerness to truly understand our sector’s needs and priorities with embedding ongoing and sustainable dental and oral health services. We provided very real case studies alongside Derbarl Yerrigan’s snapshot of dental patients they can support. This emphasised the reason for our sector’s continued advocacy and passion for bettering dental service delivery, which the Senators well received. We also further discussed our recommendations that were co-created with member services to demonstrate practical solutions to attracting a consistent workforce, enabling fee-for-service billing, and improving focus on early intervention with dedicated resourcing to do so.

The Select Committee has been and will continue to consult with organisations and consumers who provided submissions into the inquiry across Australia and report back to the Government. AHCWA welcomed the opportunity to provide expertise and will continue to advocate for fair, equitable and improved dental services.

AHCWA recognises the need for structural change and believes that a Voice to Parliament and constitutional recognition will provide a transparent and accountable avenue to influence policy that improves health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Save the dates!

Corporate Services Forum

We are proud to announce the return of our face-to-face Corporate Service Forum. Expect to hear about topics such as AI technology in the NFP sector, community impact planner tools, updates to psychosocial hazards, and understanding digital marketing channels.

Also, if you have a topic in addition to the above that you would like us to discuss or a story you would like to share at the forum, please let us know via email to [email protected]

Please save 15 – 16 November 2023 in your diary

2024 WA Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector Conference

Our Annual Conference will be taking place at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle. Please save the following dates in your diary: Tuesday 30 April – Thursday 2 May 2024.

Rural Health West Forum

16-17 March 2024

The WA Rural Health Conference 2024 is an opportunity to connect with health professionals from various disciplines who all play a part in delivering vital healthcare services across rural WA. By bringing together all rural health professionals under one roof we seek to promote connection between these different perspectives, sharing insights and innovations to strengthen and enhance healthcare in rural WA.