In the wake of the Federal Budget, there has been a lot of gloom and uncertainty around Indigenous health funding futures.
But it’s important to remember there are many people and organisations working for healthier futures, as was highlighted at a recent Indigenous women’s health conference.
More broadly, a similar point was also made yesterday by Daniel James while in the chair as guest tweeter at @IndigenousX.
Thanks to two of the conference organisers – Dr Jacqui Boyle and Dr Jacki Mein for reporting on the discussions.
On spiritual and cultural healing
Jacqui Boyle and Jacki Mein write:
The importance of spiritual and cultural healing in the provision of quality healthcare for Indigenous women was highlighted at a recent conference.
The third Indigenous Women’s Health Meeting also heard some moving discussion about the challenges facing Indigenous researchers and health professionals who live in “two worlds”, juggling family and cultural responsibilities as well.
Around 200 delegates from diverse backgrounds attended the meeting, hosted by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists in Adelaide recently.
The importance of program evaluation and research partnerships between clinical services and universities was showcased by many speakers presenting research on various aspects of women’s health.
These included presentations on the successful evaluation of ongoing programs in Cape York with the Apunipima Baby Basket and in South Australia the Aboriginal Families study evaluating models of maternal care and highlighting the value to women of the Aboriginal Family Birthing Program (AFBP) with the Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Care Workers.
Associate Professor Gail Garvey presented on the new Centre of Research Excellence in Discovering Indigenous Strategies to improve Cancer Outcomes via Engagement, Research Translation and Training (DISCOVER-TT), endorsing a holistic Indigenous led and organised approach to tackling the high rates and/or increased mortality in cancer in Indigenous women including cervical, breast and gynaecologic cancers.
Several speakers from across Australia spoke about the importance and difficulties of walking between two worlds – living as a researcher/health professional versus as an Indigenous family woman.
Dr Tamara Mackean, Senior Research Fellow from the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Wellbeing at Flinders University, spoke very movingly of the divide between working in the medical science model and responsibilities to family and country, as did eminent academic Aboriginal researcher Professor Sandra Eades, from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and University of Sydney.
There was consensus on the importance of spiritual and cultural healing before physical healing being critical to quality health care for Indigenous women.
A real highlight was using media to connect to young people, which included an Indigenous Hip Hop presentation by a keen and polished dancer, 22-year-old Tahlia Burchill, who spoke of the enormous excitement and capacity building possible in remote communities by engaging young people in dance and music.
Another highlight was a presentation by filmmaker and nurse Jan Cattoni on the power of Indigenous women being involved in directing and creating their own films about their issues as well as film’s ability to reach and touch people, changing attitudes to minority groups.
Summer May Finlay (who has worked in a number of community organisations but was presenting in an individual capacity), spoke of harnessing the power of Twitter for advancing Indigenous causes.
She cited the recent Twitter storm which led to the withdrawal of an Australia Day T Shirt (sporting a controversial message implying Australia was created in 1788).
Donna Pickett’s moving and simple Rewrite Your Story showcased Aboriginal people telling their smoking stories, and the impact smoking has on families.
There were many more confident Indigenous women speakers at this conference than in prior years, and they emphasised the importance of staying networked to connect with other like-minded people keen to better Indigenous women’s health to instil hope and work together.
At the end of the discussions, one of us (JB) remarked that this was one meeting she wanted to come to rather than had to – and this was echoed by many of the women who attended.
• Dr Jacqui Boyle is Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and researcher at Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation. Chair RANZCOG Indigenous Womens Health Committee and organising committee of the IWHM 2014.
Dr Jacki Mein is Senior Medical Officer with Apunipima Cape York Health Council.
For more information
• See the program details http://www.ranzcog2014iwhm.com.au/
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Presentations from this meeting will be uploaded on to the RANZCOG website. Currently there are seven presentations available from the meeting in Cairns in 2011.