How many health and medical organisations make it a priority to employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to support their development in the workplace?
It’s a question worth pondering in the wake of National Reconciliation Week, during which the Heart Foundation launched its second Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which includes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment and Retention Strategy.
Vicki Wade, Leader of the Heart Foundation’s National Aboriginal Health Unit, writes in the article below that this is a critically important element of the RAP.
“I have been working in mainstream health as an Aboriginal leader for many years now and know the power of having ‘black faces’ in the workplace as a powerful strategy for change,” she says.
The Foundation now has 11 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, out of a national workforce of about 300 people, according to the RAP (which you can read here, and also see the bottom of the post for more details).
Vicki Wade writes:
In the wake of National Reconciliation Week (NRW), it is an ideal time to reflect on how far we have come and how far we need to go to be a truly reconciled nation.
I have been part of the reconciliation movement for many years now and I am always excited and delighted to be part of the NRW activities at work and in the community.
It is a week that not only provides an opportunity to celebrate the uniqueness and cultural richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but is a great opportunity for all Australians to gain a better understanding of the impact of colonisation on health and the ongoing struggle of survival for Indigenous Australians.
I often refer to the unacceptable levels of poor health (and in particular chronic diseases) in which heart health is a major contributor as the result of, or the pointy end of colonisation.
Heart disease is rampant in our communities, in particular Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease. It takes our babies, our young people and our elders – far too many, far too young. We are sick of going to funerals, we are sick of being sick. The rate of heart disease deaths for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in 2014 was 70% higher than that for non-Indigenous Australians.
During NRW the Heart Foundation held a number of events across Australia. I was the guest speaker at the NSW event, where 10 steps towards reconciliation and a reconciliation tree was endorsed by the CEO.
In Melbourne, we launched our second RAP. This is a time for all staff at the Heart Foundation to reflect on how far we have come (our history), what we are hoping to achieve (our story) and what we need to do to get there (our future).
A big part of our second RAP is the launch of our cultural awareness training package, which I believe will help staff gain a better understanding of why it is important that we work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, to address the health disparities and help close the heart health gap.
After almost 50 years of working in health services, I can tell you that cultural awareness alone is not the answer. I often say cultural awareness is an event, it is a starting point, a catalyst.
If we want real change and real outcomes, a much bigger movement towards cultural competence is required and this takes patience, time, dedication, commitment and resources.
Another key deliverable of our second RAP and one that is dear to my heart is the development of an Aboriginal Employment Strategy.
I have been working in mainstream health as an Aboriginal leader for many years now and know the power of having ‘black faces’ in the workplace as a powerful strategy for change.
The Heart Foundation will work towards enhancing the skills and the strength of the current Aboriginal workforce and growing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.
Reconciliation for us at the Heart Foundation is a critical step in closing the heart health gap as our mission states;
We are very committed to this journey walking alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in respectful partnerships.”
Follow on Twitter: @vickiwade9
Detail from the RAP