National Reconciliation Week (27 May-3 June) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.
The theme for National Reconciliation Week 2023, Be a Voice for Generations, encourages all Australians to be a voice for reconciliation in tangible ways in our everyday lives – where we live, work and socialise.
For GPRA, that means working towards a health care system that is inclusive, culturally safe and respectful of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.
To find out more, visit the National Reconciliation Week website.
What National Reconciliation Week means to me
Dr Animesh Shukla
Dr Shukla is a GP registrar currently working at Tharawal Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) in Airds, New South Wales.
National Reconciliation Week is about reflecting on the past and taking meaningful action to build a better future.
As GPs, we work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to improve their health and wellbeing through the delivery of culturally appropriate, high quality essential biopsychosocial healthcare such as specialist services, psychology, allied health services, pathology, involvement in social/community events and providing emergency accommodation.
Working in an AMS has been an eye-opening experience for me. Many of the patient presentations have been complex health care needs.
By working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, families, communities, and organisations, we better understand their social and cultural needs in order to provide appropriate support, and a respectful service that instils trust and enables timely treatment which contributes to reducing mortality and the need for hospital admission.
Dr Siobhan Hensey
Dr Hensey is a GPRA Board Director. She is also a GP who recently Fellowed through Northern Territory General Practice Education (NTGPE), and an academic/clinical educator for the Flinders University Medical Program (Darwin), based on Larrakia Country in the Northern Territory.
My key areas of interest within General Practice are rural health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, as well as improving workplace conditions for GP registrars and colleagues. I have lived in many locations across Australia and overseas, including spending a rewarding period of my GP training in the remote community of Wurrumiyanga on the Tiwi Islands.
Community and culture are very important to me and, I believe, are integral to good primary care.
For National Reconciliation Week, I think the goal of reconciliation is to build relationships and understanding. For me, reconciliation involves two parties meeting and seeking to understand each other to work together moving forward, and I think that has to go beyond the clinic and beyond people’s formal professional roles.
For our registrars, I believe it has to include an understanding of who we are as people living in an Indigenous community or working with First Nations patients – what each of our goals are, and how we can help each other to achieve them. When you’re in a remote community, it’s particularly pertinent to be helping one another because you have less resources, and there are less people there. That’s one of the things I love about working in a remote community – the importance of mutual understanding and respect. Once you start working as a team, looking for two-way learning and understanding, and supporting each other by building those relationships, that’s when you really start to make forward progress. And that’s when the clinic and the healthcare team becomes entrenched in community and just part of that working structure.
I think communication and education are really important from a cross-cultural perspective and as part of reconciliation. That perspective is so relevant for our work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rural and remote health, but it also resonates with patients and clinicians in any cross cultural environment, because it still relates to important concepts such as language barriers and cultural differences. It’s about reflective listening, and coming in with an open mind and being respectful, rather than coming in with the answers already before the questions have even been posed. The theme of reconciliation is so important, and I think the more we focus on listening and incorporating a cross cultural lens for everyone, the more we’ll end up improving everyone’s communication and ultimately patients’ health outcomes.
Indigenous General Practice Registrars Network
GPRA administers the Indigenous General Practice Registrars network (IGPRN), funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health, to provide a forum for cultural support and professional development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GP registrars undertaking the Australian General Practice Training Program (AGPT).
This National Reconciliation Week, GPRA would like to reaffirm is passion in supporting the improvement in the healthcare of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
For more information about how to join and connect with IGPRN, visit here.