Canberra’s iconic Winnunga Nimmityjah today celebrates 25 years of providing provide culturally safe and holistic health services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of the ACT and surrounding areas.
The Aboriginal Health Service (AHS) set up a makeshift clinic when the Queen visited Canberra to open Parliament House in 1988 and Aboriginal protesters made their way to Canberra to protest against Aboriginal deaths in custody, Land rights and other significant issues. From that event twenty-five years ago a handful of staff and volunteers worked out of a one room city office to run a clinic twice a week.
Winnunga now operates a clinic – Monday to Friday – from premises in Narrabundah focusing on the delivery of acute and chronic care to some 4000+clients a year.
As well as general treatments, services now offered include immunisations, preventative programs, vaccinations, social and emotional health services, substance misuse counselling, child and adolescent mental health support, carer support, a needle syringe program, transport service, a home maintenance program, youth diversion program, tobacco cessation services, healthy lifestyle advice and support, and exercise programs.
The award winning AHS also runs a dental health program, psychiatric and psychology services, a benchmark program for the delivery of culturally appropriate midwifery services to parents and new-borns and an outreach program for Aboriginal people in custody (Bimberi Youth Justice Centre and the Alexander Maconochie Centre).
The 60 strong team includes general practitioners, podiatrists, dieticians, practice nurses, Aboriginal health workers, reception and administration staff and the transport services.
Picture above Julie Tongs CEO with Warren Snowdon and Tom Calma celebrating World No Tobacco Day
In marking the milestone, Winnunga’s CEO Julie Tongs OAM, said that today’s silver anniversary was a cause for celebration – not only for Winnunga – but for the entire ACT community.
“Twenty five years of operation demonstrates not only the trust and faith that the local community continues to place in us but importantly it also highlights that we have remained as committed as ever to provide a high level of service to our clients and the community.”
“Winnunga has come a long way since those days at the Griffin Centre to providing in excess of 40,000 services across a range of programs to community members.”
Ms Tongs noted that priorities for the service included increasing the available space for client service provision in clinical and social health service and expanding prevention activities such as the smoking cessation program, healthy lifestyle and health promotion program and screening.
“We also keen to expand our early childhood program and expand and improve our substance abuse program in order that more people can access this valuable service.”
Winnunga’s Chairperson, Judy Harris OAM, noted that Winnunga also plays an important national role in providing input into policy development and lobbying for improvements in the way programs are designed, funded and implemented.
“We will continue to ensuring that every level of government and society understand that Aboriginal people are best positioned to determine how our health outcomes can be improved” she said.
“On behalf of the Board and staff of Winnunga – I would like to thank everyone involved and all those who have supported us over the last 25 years.”
“In particular, I would like to acknowledge the support of many Indigenous organisations both locally and nationally and also the wonderful support of the ACT Government and the Federal Department of Health and Ageing.”
“Importantly – I also must thank the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of the ACT and surrounding areas who have for the last 25 years invested in us a trust to deliver culturally appropriate health care.”
“I know every day our dedicated and passionate team strive to fulfil this trust,” Ms Harris concluded.
Winnunga Nimmityjah AHS will be celebrating our 25th Birthday on 10 July 2013 NAIDOC week.