Indigenous workers learn to administer vaccines


In a first for Western Australia, four Hedland-based indigenous health workers have been trained to administer vaccinations.

The Wirraka Maya Health Service Aboriginal Corporation health workers and practitioners completed two weeks of training facilitated by the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia earlier this month.

Launching the course last month, AHCWA chairwoman Michelle Nelson-Cox said the program was developed in partnership with the Department of Health's Communicable Disease Control Directorate as part of a push to increase immunisation rates in Aboriginal children.

She said the current rates were about 5 per cent lower than the general population.

"WA has the lowest immunisation rates in the country," she said.

"Aboriginal children are up to six times more likely to suffer from some vaccine-preventative diseases."

Ms Nelson-Cox said it marked a move away from reliance on doctors and nurses to administer immunisations, and used the resources and contacts of indigenous health workers in remote locations who were trusted by the communities in which they worked.

AHCWA workforce development and immunisation co-ordinator James Harris said Hedland participants excelled in the course.

"This is an exciting step forward for indigenous health.

"With the strong push to acknowledge Aboriginal health workers in the upcoming Poisons Act for WA, this course will help pave the way towards recognising Aboriginal Health Workers as an integral part of the health workforce," he said.

Wirraka Maya Aboriginal health practitioner and clinic co-ordinator Corinne Swan said the course was very informative.

"This training will enable us to be confident when talking about immunisations with clients - we know what are in them and what diseases they protect against," she said.

"We are hopeful this is going to boost our immunisation rates … especially with opportunistic children that come through the door."

The four Hedland participants were the first of 300 Aboriginal health workers in WA who are eligible for the training program to complete the course.

Plans are in place to extend the program to Newman and the Western Desert later in the year.

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