The chair of NACCHO Justin Mohamed and CEO Lisa Briggs on behalf all staff,ACCH’s members and NACCHO affiliates Australia wide today congratulates the ACT ‘s Winnunga Nimmityjah achieving 25 Years of quality community health service
Mr Mohamed said that from grassroots beginnings within the Aboriginal community, Winnunga Nimmityjah (strong Health in the Wiradjuri language) is now one of the most successful Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in the nation.
WINNUNGA Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Narrabundah is holding a big celebration toda July 10 to celebrate 25 years providing healthcare to people of indigenous heritage from Canberra and surrounding regions.
The huge 25th birthday party will include loads of food and heaps of fun activities for kids like rides, a petting zoo and a rock climbing wall, along with live music from the likes of Angry Anderson and hip hop trio Last Kinection, whose members Joel and Naomi Wenitong belong to the Kabbi Kabbi people of south-east Queensland.
Proudly displayed around the walls of its boardroom are the countless awards it has won alongside beautiful traditional art and other mementos such as a framed copy of the National Apology to the stolen generations.
Its long-serving chief executive Julie Tongs (Pictured below with a familiar faces) has been at the helm for more than 15 years and also picked up her fair share of accolades. Just last year she received an Order of Australia Medal and an ACT recipient of the Governor General’s Centenary Medal and she is also a past ACT Indigenous Person of the Year.
But the story of Winnunga Nimmityjah is one of Aboriginal people working together to create something of their own.
By having an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, it gives the Aboriginal people ownership, and it’s that ownership that is important, Julie says.
People come because they feel safe, supported and they are in a culturally safe environment. But in saying that, 18 per cent of our clients are non Aboriginal people.
Anyone can come to the health centre on Boolimba Crescent next to the Narrabundah shops to access the GP service, but for Indigenous people there are a huge range of other services such as psychiatry, dentistry, physiotherapy, podiatry, dietetics and audiology to name a few.
Anybody with Aboriginal heritage is eligible, Julie says, explaining that lots of clients feel more comfortable talking about their health in a non-judgemental environment, run by people who understand the unique experiences that are shared by Australia’s Indigenous people. This is borne out by statistics showing that clients attend appointments far less often when referred to parts of the mainstream health system.
People’s experiences when they were younger were very different to what they are now, she says.
People carry those experiences with them… so it does not matter whether you are the richest Aboriginal person in Australia or you are the poorest, anybody can access Winnunga – and its about choice, it’s absolutely about choice not to come here, but that is their choice.
The Winninga Nimmityjah story also includes heroic individuals such as Olive Brown who founded the health service in Grevillea Park, on the north-east side of Kings Avenue bridge and gave it a name.
She was a trailblazer, she was a really good woman and we always acknowledge her contribution, says Julie. I am sure she’d be proud of where we are today and how Winnunga’s grown over the years.
Winnunga Nimmityjah’s birthday was actually on May 22; it was founded in 1988 in the midst of protests that centered around the opening of Parliament House which also has its 25 birthday this year. What was a jubilant occasion for white Australians to show the Queen their very different perspective of her Commonwealth. Julie explains that the 25 year of celebration will be a joyous positive occasion and is being held from July 7 to 14 to coincide with NAIDOC Week, another example of something created by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people.
NAIDOC Week is about celebrating our achievements; its about recognising and acknowledging those that have gone before us, and making sure that the wider community understands that importance, she says.