NACCHO #closethegap Event Alert Canberra : How Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations #closethegap


“The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health services both here in Canberra and at  302 clinics nationally will not agree to turn our backs on the most disadvantaged and disempowered and we call on the Australian Government to honour the principles of health equity as outlined in the Statement of Intent to Close the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes”

Winnunga provides health services through a holistic approach, with all programs developed directly to meet the needs of Winnunga’s clients looking after the physical, psychological and social determinants contributing to wellbeing.”

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service. Pictured above with Dr Nadeem Siddiqui: Executive director of Clinical services 

March 17 Close the Gap Day 10th Anniversary event

10.30 am -11.30 AM Morning tea

Everybody welcome

Winnunga Nimmityjah is located at

63 Boolimba Crescent Narrabundah ACT 2604



Presentations from (Biographies attached)

Julie Tongs OAM CEO, Professor Ngiare Brown and Dr Nadeem Siddiqui

How Canberra’s local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation is contributing to Close the Gap 10th Anniversary year

Winnunga Nimmityjah is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) and is the only health service providing holistic primary health and social and emotional wellbeing care to the Canberra and region community.

Recently the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee released a Close the Gap, Progress and Priorities Report

The report is the most comprehensive analysis available on progress in achieving the close the gap targets. It provides a sobering insight into the magnitude of the task facing Australia and provides guidance on where the effort involved in closing the gap should be concentrated.

In this regard the report is unequivocal in its recognition of the fundamental importance of ACCHS.

“That the findings of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey (NATSIHMS) are used to better target chronic conditions that are undetected in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. In particular, access to appropriate primary health care services to detect, treat and manage these conditions should be increased. Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services should be the preferred services for this enhanced, targeted response.”

The report provides an evidence backed justification for the need to continue to fund and expand existing ACCHS. It refers to major inquiries into the efficiency and effectiveness of ACCHS. It finds that the “two key advantages of ACCHS are better access and a more culturally appropriate, community-based holistic approach, which in many ways offers, in the long term, a better return on investment of the health dollar.”

The report identifies the most common service gaps in ACCHS as mental health and social and emotional wellbeing. It also found that a concerted effort is needed to ensure ACCHS are properly resourced to address chronic disease and services for mothers and babies.

While there have been measurable improvements in respect of some of the close the gap targets in others there is little or no progress and it is likely the gap will not close in the specified time.

A Government’s commitment to closing the gap in relation to all health related indicators can reasonably be measured by its preparedness to implement the recommendations of the Closing the Gap Campaign Steering Committee.

In this regard Winnunga would welcome an explicit acknowledgement by the Government of the recommendation detailed above about the primary role of ACCHS such as Winnunga Nimmityjah in the delivery of primary health care for the Aboriginal community.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service.”

Our Year In Review

The Winnunga Nimmityjah board and management continues to be engaged in high level decision making processes which impact on Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, and ultimately the community we serve and to Close the Gap

The focus of this continued lobbying also included keeping barriers to accessing mainstream health services on the agenda.

Input into the development of a range of health frameworks and plans was particularly critical, as the ACT and issues within our jurisdiction are often forgotten nationally.

The Federal Government’s intended introduction of substantial changes to Medicare did not impact on our service. However, we will continue to closely monitor any further possible developments

According to CEO Julie Tongs robust data analysis has resulted in the strategic direction of Winnunga being strengthened and further opportunities being explored, particularly around mental health, prison health, social and emotional wellbeing and matters concerning at-risk families. Efforts have also been made towards improving chronic disease management, especially diabetes, improved routine health assessments, screening, and investigating smoking in pregnancy.

“One of the continual challenges is there are many areas of need within Aboriginal health the organisation has identified and would like to expand on.

However, given resourcing restraints these cannot be responded to in a strengthened way until capacity is increased. Partnering and relationship management with institutions such as The Canberra Hospital has provided some very positive outcomes for Winnunga clients (such as visiting medical specialist clinics), and we look forward to continuing to expand services in future years.” Ms Tongs said.


Winnunga is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) which in 2013, reached twenty-five years of continuous service in the Australian Capital Territory.

Winnunga is one of the few ACCHSs to hold multi accreditation from both the Australian General Practice Accreditation Ltd (AGPAL) and the Quality Improvement Council (QIC).

In 2013 Winnunga was selected as an AGPAL awards General Practice of the Year finalist.

Winnunga’s service reach and role in primary health care has always been holistic health care.

Over the twenty-five years Winnunga has operated, Winnunga has become the largest provider of clinical training placements for medical specialists, doctors and allied health staff, outside of the Canberra Hospital.

Winnunga provides a range of health services daily to between 80 and 120 people.

Approximately 4,000 clients are supported each year, with approximately 40,000 occasions of service. Winnunga’s client group is made up of 81% Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander clients along with 19% of clients reporting being from non-Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

Winnunga provides health services through a holistic approach, with all programs developed directly to meet the needs of Winnunga’s clients looking after the physical, psychological and social determinants contributing to wellbeing.

The services we therefore provide are:

1.General practitioner services

We operate an open access clinic 9-5. The GP team comprise of senior and recently fellowed doctors who have interests in public health, diabetes, academia, women’s health, drug and alcohol.

2.Nursing services

The nursing team comprises of a practice nurse lead, chronic disease nurse, drug and alcohol nurse, and mental health nurse.

The nurses play an integral part in developing chronic disease and mental health care plans along with health screens which are then referred to GPs to provide the medical management interventions.

Mental health Services

This team comprises of a psychiatrist, psychiatry registrar, and psychologist. GPs can refer into this team for medication management, mental health diagnosis or just for advice. Psychotherapy and cognitive therapies play an important part when developing mental health care plans and clients are able to access such services within Winnunga with our psychologist.

Antenatal and postnatal services

We have 3 midwifes and an Aboriginal access worker who work along with the GPs in the Antenatal and postnatal clinics as well as Home visits for our more vulnerable clients.

Child health surveillance services

A “Mums and Bubs” group is held which is a social gathering for new mums witheducational sessions and is combined with clinical assessments such as postnatal checks for mother and baby, baby checks including immunisations up to the age of 5 and an opportunity for clients to access GPs and Child and maternal nurses for any other issues.

Women’s health services

This is a GP led clinic that provides general health screening for women, including prenatal advice, pap smears and family planning.


We have two part time dentists along with a dental assistant who provide a 9-5 dental service focussing on preventative, acute dental care and dental hygiene.

Social health services

Winnunga prides itself in providing a culturally safe environment and tackled head on the social determinants that lead to mental and physical illnesses by having a social health team comprising of Aboriginal staff. Gps work closely with this team to delivering holistic care and are partnered with a social health team member for home visits.

Specialist & allied health outreach services.

Winnunga has dedicated services in the following:

Diabetes clinic

This is ran monthly teamed by a GP, chronic disease nurse, podiatrist, dietician and diabetes educator. On a quarterly basis an endocrinologist attends and gives an opportunity for client as well as GP to discuss and manage complex cases.

Obstetrics and gynaecology clinic

An OIbGyn consultant attends monthly to provide training for GPs in procedural interventions such as mirena coil insertions as well as providing an enhanced level of care for our clients.


Clients have the availability of dermatologist to treat and assess skin conditions.


A physiotherapist attends weekly to provide physiotherapy to clients referred by our GPs.


An audiologist is available every week to perform hearing screening for adults and children

Prison service

Access workers attend the local prison (Alexander Maconochie Centre) once a week to review imprisoned clients of Winnunga along with a prison doctor. This is to facilitate the continuity of care upon imprisonment and release back into the community.

Presentations at event from:

Julie Tongs OAM CEO

Julie Tongs OAM has been the Chief Executive Officer of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service since 1998.  Julie has more than 30 years’ experience working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs and in particular has extensive experience in advising, formulating, implementing and evaluating public health initiatives, programs and policy at a local, regional and national level.  Julie has been a national leader and strong advocate of quality improvement initiatives within the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector.

Julie is the recipient of a number of awards, including the ACT Governor General’s Centenary Medal and the ACT Indigenous Person of the Year. In 2011 Julie received the ACT Local Hero Award within the Australian of the Year Awards 2012, and in 2012 Julie was honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia.

Julie’s vision is that Winnunga continues to build on its reputation as a national leader in the provision of holistic primary health care services delivered in a culturally appropriate environment that achieves improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Julie is committed to ensuring that Winnunga offers services that are delivered consistent with best practice standards.

Professor Ngiare Brown

Professor Ngiare Brown was one of the first Aboriginal medical graduates in Australia. She completed her medical degree at the University of Newcastle in 1992 and graduated with a Masters’ in Public Health and Tropical Medicine from JCU in 2000. Ngiare is a Yuin nation woman from the south coast of NSW and is passionate about Indigenous health and social justice. She was foundation chief executive officer with the Aboriginal Indigenous Doctors Association.  During her career Ngiare has held a variety of positions in education, mentoring, clinical practice and advocacy. Ngiare has also held other positions as an Associate Professor and Director of the Poche Centre of Indigenous Health at the University of Sydney, and a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. She has been Indigenous Health Adviser to the Australian Medical Association and Manager of Preventative Indigenous Health Programs for World Vision Australia. She was the Assistant Director at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, where she developed a program around child health and human rights within the child health division In 2005 she was named the AMA’s Woman in Medicine for her contributions to the profession. She is committed to early childhood and adolescent wellbeing and has worked over the past two decades to develop an extensive international network in indigenous health. She has made extensive contributions in research process, bioethics, policy, translation and practice within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. She is proud of her heritage and is committed to making a difference in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through improved health. Ngiare was from 2012 to early 2015 Executive Manager Research and Senior Public Health Medical Officer at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation where she made a significant contribution to the research and reform agenda.

Dr Nadeem Siddiqui

Dr Nadeem Siddiqui is the Executive director of Clinical services and Principal supervisor as well as being an RACGP examiner. In addition to being a general practitioner he is responsible for the operational running of Winnunga’s medical services, teaching and co-ordinating training for registrars and RMOs. He completed his training in the United Kingdom: qualified as a doctor in 1996 at Cambridge University followed by his postgraduate training in general practice (MRCGP) in 2002

Winnunga CTG Press release 2016 EVENT Draft_Page_1

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper by March 21

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