Leaders in Aboriginal Health Honoured for Lifelong Commitment

Two Aboriginal women, leaders in Aboriginal health care in Western Australia, have been recognised for their lifelong dedication and commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people.

The women were posthumously honoured with the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia’s prestigious lifetime achievement awards at the State Sector Conference Dinner last night.

Donnybrook Elder Gloria Khan and Derby Elder Maxine Armstrong have dedicated their lives to advancing the agenda for Aboriginal health in WA.

AHCWA Chairperson Vicki O’Donnell said both women had made positive differences to their communities.

Maxine, who passed away in March 2018, was the last of five founding members of the Derby Aboriginal Health Service, and had served as the Derby Aboriginal Health Service Chairperson for over 15 years. Maxine was also Chairperson of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service Board for over 10 years and a Director on the AHCWA Board for more than a decade.

“Maxine was a passionate advocate for Indigenous and Aboriginal health, with her driving force to ‘help her people’,” Ms O’Donnell said.

“In particular, she was steadfast in her commitment to address the alarming rate of chronic disease in indigenous communities, the unacceptable rate of suicide and the impact of drugs on individuals, their families and their communities.

“Maxine was particularly proud of her efforts to secure funding for key medical facilities such as the Derby Aboriginal Health Service Dialysis Hub and Renal Health Centres in Derby, Kununurra and Fitzroy Crossing. She was also integral to the establishment of a refuge for Indigenous women.”

Maxine’s dedication and commitment to Aboriginal primary health was passionate and instrumental in developing strong partnerships with many community stakeholders across WA and Australia.

Gloria, who passed away in February 2018, was a passionate leader who worked tirelessly to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people both in WA and across Australia.

She served as the AHCWA chairperson from 2005 to 2008, during which time she was also the Chair and the Deputy Chair of the South West Aboriginal Medical Service and Executive Director of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Gloria also sat on several committees including the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention and the Telethon Kids Institute’s WA Aboriginal Child Health Survey Steering Committee, the largest and most comprehensive study into the health, wellbeing and development of Indigenous children.

“Gloria was a strong, proud Nyoongar woman who dedicated many years of service to Aboriginal health in WA and across Australia,” Ms O’Donnell said.

“Along with her kindness and compassion, she brought a wealth of knowledge to the sector as a nurse and a trained counsellor, with experience in the areas of domestic violence, sexual assault, grief and drug and alcohol abuse.

“Gloria’s depth of knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal health at the local, state and national level gave her the opportunity to advocate these issues in many forums.

“She showed true leadership, advocacy and commitment to help close the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people of Australia.”

Maxine and Gloria’s legacies will continue through the efforts of others to ensure the advances and progress they made will continue.

More than 260 delegates from around the state are attending AHCWA’s annual state sector conference at the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle over April 11 and 12.

Yesterday, AHCWA unveiled its revolutionary new health atlas, Mappa, which provides cutting edge mapping technology to help align patients with local healthcare providers.

Tomorrow will see Federal Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt launch AHCWA’s Western Australia Aboriginal Youth Health Strategy 2018-2023: Today’s young people, tomorrow’s leaders.

Developed with and on behalf of young Aboriginal people in WA, the strategy is the culmination of almost a decade of AHCWA’s commitment and strategic advocacy in Aboriginal youth health.

Over the two days, 15 workshops and keynote speeches will be held. AHCWA will present recommendations from the conference in a report to the state and federal governments to highlight the key issues about Aboriginal health in WA and determine future strategic actions.

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