A new Aboriginal Health Unit at the Royal Melbourne Hospital will help to improve the way we provide care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Aboriginal Health Unit members Steven Portelli, Moira Raynor and Lani Wilson
Members of the RMH Aboriginal Health Unit: Steven Portelli, Moira Raynor and Lani Wilson

The Aboriginal Health Unit seeks to ensure that all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander patients experience a positive journey through our healthcare service – receiving care and support which is appropriate to their own personal and cultural needs.

By working together with colleagues across the RMH and with groups in the wider community, the team is focused on building wider awareness of cultural sensitivities when engaging with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander patients.

As Aboriginal Health Unit Team Manager, Steven Portelli explains "it’s all about ensuring that we have the right people, delivering the right type of care, and at the right time".

“One of the biggest challenges a lot of Aboriginal people in the community face is knowing they can come into an environment that's safe and culturally sensitive to them,” Steven said.

“People will have different views on what cultural safety is to them and how they engage, and it’s important for us to understand everyone’s unique needs, so we can tailor our services to provide effective person-centred care.”

Engagement and understanding is key

Encouraging patients to feel comfortable disclosing their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander identity is one of the key aims of the Aboriginal Health Unit, which has recently welcomed more liaison officers to its ranks.

And while we all have a role to play in fostering an inclusive and supportive environment, Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers will be on hand to offer specific support, helping to provide a culturally sensitive link between our medical teams and patients.

“As a team, our focus is really on breaking down barriers and building bridges,” Steven said.

“Every positive experience which we can help facilitate will really have a ripple effect out in the wider community.

“I like to think of it as the ‘Koorie grapevine’ with people spreading the word about how well they were looked after and how people took the time to truly understand their cultural needs.

“At the end of the day, we want to ensure that everyone receives the care they need, and by working together we can all play our part in ‘closing the gap’.”

Mobile Stroke Unit with Ambulance Victoria paramedic and the RMH Stroke team
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