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’.

NACCHO News: Former Chief Minister takes job in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health

 

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Former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope at his new workplace, the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service, with chief executive Julie Tongs, left. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Story as published Canberra Times  

Mr Stanhope described Aboriginal disadvantage and discrimination as Australia’s greatest social issue. In Canberra, the problem was hidden by the city’s prosperity and by a degree of complacency, he said. “It’s what’s drawn me here, the extent to which there is just enormous need within this community. Most Canberrans just could not imagine the circumstances in which this community lives … There is just still so much to do.”

Aboriginal people represented less than 2 per cent of the city’s population, but made up a quarter of the prison population, half the people at the Bimberi youth detention centre, and 26 per cent of children in care.

Former ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope has joined the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal health service, a job that reflects his longstanding interest in Aboriginal issues and represents his first foray into the community sector.

Mr Stanhope has also taken a one-day-a-week job as professorial fellow at the University of Canberra, where he is organising a monthly public seminar series on issues of his choosing – the first to be held on May 13 on asylum seekers, and the second later in May on affordable housing. The seminars are to focus on local and national topics and could prove a thorn in the side of ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, as Mr Stanhope highlights sometimes uncomfortable topics for the Labor Party.

He is working two days a week as an adviser at Winnunga, a Narrabundah-based health service used by three-quarters of the region’s indigenous population.

Chief executive Julie Tongs hopes he will help the organisation attract funding and develop strategies to deal with its biggest challenges, including “out of control” rates of imprisonment, large numbers of children in care, and more recently the drug ice.

Ms Tongs said the increasing use of ice of the past 18 months presented challenges never faced before, with Winnunga having to call in the police at least once a fortnight to help with a client.

“Some days it’s very chaotic here when we have got people in the waiting room that are affected by ice and are psychotic,” she said. “Multiply what’s happening out there [in the wider community] by about five and that’s what we cop most days.”

Over a period of just two months, four young men had died as a result of ice use.

Mr Stanhope described Aboriginal disadvantage and discrimination as Australia’s greatest social issue. In Canberra, the problem was hidden by the city’s prosperity and by a degree of complacency, he said. “It’s what’s drawn me here, the extent to which there is just enormous need within this community. Most Canberrans just could not imagine the circumstances in which this community lives … There is just still so much to do.”

Aboriginal people represented less than 2 per cent of the city’s population, but made up a quarter of the prison population, half the people at the Bimberi youth detention centre, and 26 per cent of children in care.

Winnunga had grown from a couple of rooms at the Griffin centre to a small house at Ainslie, to the large and complex organisation at Narrabundah, and was now looking at whether it should expand to other parts of the city.

Ms Tongs, still awaiting federal funding decisions for the coming financial year, and with a need to triple the number of counsellors, said she hoped Mr Stanhope could “open doors that we haven’t been able to in the past”.

Mr Stanhope said he felt “energised” and “incredibly comfortable” working at Winnunga where he could focus on a longstanding passion.

His job at Canberra University’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis gives him a free hand on seminar topics, and here, too, he will focus on longstanding interests.

He said he was deeply worried about people being priced out of free-standing homes, which had become “the great Australian pipe dream” as affordable housing was redefined as apartment living.

Former deputy Under Treasurer Dr Khalid Ahmed will speak at the lunchtime seminar in the city.

For the seminar on asylum seekers, two young Canberrans, a Muslim and a Tamil, will speak, along with Associate Professor John Minns, from Canberra’s Refugee Action Committee.

The seminars are free and open to the public and Mr Stanhope is looking to follow up with roundtable event

 

NACCHO political news: Canberra Aboriginal health service needs to work from tents

Tent Photo  Low Res

Aboriginal health service face accommodation crisis:

40,000 episodes of care a year with 3 nurses to a room                                                         

Doctors, nurses and midwives at the ACT Region‘s premier Aboriginal health service will protest their accommodation crisis by working from tents outside of the Narrabundah-based Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service on Thursday and Friday – August 29 and 30.

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Picture Above: GP Registrar Dr Andrew Palfreman examines patient Kale Moore inside one of the tents outside Winnunga.

“We are desperate for funding to extend our building,” said Winnunga’s long-serving CEO Julie Tongs.(pictured below with Warren Snowdon and Tom Calma)

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“Our accommodation crisis is acute.  We are desperate for extra space.

“We have three midwives sharing one office with the same number of nurses also having to share the one room.

“Repeated efforts to secure the $1.3 million required to extend the existing building, from both ACT and Commonwealth – have fallen on deaf ears.

“This despite the fact that the need for our services is increasing, not decreasing.

Ms Tongs said from humble beginnings 25 years ago Winnunga was now one of the major health service providers in the region.

Julie

“We employ some 68 staff and control a budget that now exceeds eight million dollars a year.

“We now have more than 4000 clients and deliver more than 40,000 episodes of care a year.

“We are an Aboriginal community controlled health service and deliver a coordinated holistic approach to health care.

Ms Tongs said Winnunga not only wanted to continue delivering a high quality service but was keen to offer an even more comprehensive service.

‘Our capacity to increase service delivery is limited when key staff are having to share accommodation and are unable to work with clients in confidence.

“Given how sick so many of our clients are – Winnunga provides services to 873 clients who have a diagnosed mental illness. 343 of those clients have a dual diagnosis and are also self-medicating and have a substance use problem. It is crucial that they can be assisted with respect and confidentially.

“While I believe Winnunga is held in high regard by Government both locally and nationally I urge both Federal and ACT Government health funding departments to get serious about our plight.

“Staff wouldn’t be staging this protest unless it was serious,” Ms Tongs said.

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Further information:  

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service

Julie Tongs OAM   0418 206156

or Peter Windsor 0400 554603

Please Note:

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service is a member of NACCHO