NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Prison System: New Ground breaking partnership for ACT Government and Winnunga having an ACCHO deliver health and wellbeing services to prison inmates

“ACT Corrective Services recognises that increasing Aboriginal led services within the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) a minimum to maximum security prison is essential to maintaining cultural connection for Aboriginal detainees and improving overall wellbeing and safety.”

Speaking at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) board meeting ACT Minister for Justice Shane Rattenbury announced that Winnunga Aboriginal Health and Community Services (AHCS) will move soon into full service delivery at the AMC

Photo above Minister with some of the new NACCHO Board December 2017 : Pic Oliver Tye

Julie Tongs pictured above with Shane Rattenbury and NACCHO CEO John Singer  

‘Importantly, Winnunga will continue to be a separate independent entity, but will work in partnership with the ACT Government to complement the services already provided by ACT Corrective Services and ACT Health to deliver better outcomes for Indigenous detainees.

It is ground breaking to have an Aboriginal community controlled and managed organisation delivering health and wellbeing services within its own model of care to inmates in prison in this capacity’ Ms Tongs said.

‘Winnunga delivering health and wellbeing services in the AMC and changing the way the system operates is the legacy of Steven Freeman, a young Aboriginal man who tragically died whilst in custody in the AMC in 2016

It is also ground breaking for our sector, so it needs to be given the recognition it deserves’

Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services (Winnunga AHCS) welcomed the announcement by Minister Shane Rattenbury

Winnunga has commenced enhanced support at the AMC focused on female detainees, and will move to full delivery of standalone health, social and emotional wellbeing services in the AMC in 2018.

The Independent Inquiry into the Treatment in Custody of Steven Freeman highlighted the need for improvements in a range of areas including cultural proficiency to more effectively manage the welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees.

The ACT Government is working to develop a safer environment for all detainees, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees.

Minister Rattenbury welcomed the involvement of Winnunga AHCS in the delivery of health services within its culturally appropriate model of care in the AMC.

To achieve this ACT Corrective Services and Justice Health have been working closely with Winnunga AHCS to enhance their presence in the AMC. Winnunga AHCS has begun delivering social and emotional wellbeing services to female detainees who choose to access Winnunga AHCS in the AMC.

Over time, all detainees will have the option to access Winnunga AHCS services.

Winnunga AHCS will over time deliver services to all inmates in the AMC who choose to access this option, however the services will be implemented through a staged process initially focussed on female detainees. This will help inform system changes as we operationalise the model of care within the AMC.

‘In 2018, we will expand our role to deliver GP and social and emotional wellbeing services to all detainees who choose to access Winnunga AHCS in the AMC, Monday to Friday, between the hours of 9am to 5pm’, Ms Tongs noted.

‘Winnunga does not want to be divisive in the AMC, we will be inclusive.

Obviously, there will be some issues particularly around – strong identity and connection to land, language and culture, and how the impact of colonisation and stolen Generations affects unresolved trauma, grief and loss that will be specific to Aboriginal people, however we will work with all inmates’, said Ms Tongs.

Ms Tongs stated, ‘The priority for us is to ensure in time all Aboriginal people are provided with an Aboriginal health check and care plan…the goal is for Winnunga to provide all services we do outside in the community, to prisoners also on the inside and this is a very good starting point’.

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