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Creating a culturally appropriate health service

Increasing the number of indigenous nurses may be challenging, however, it is not impossible.

It has been recognised internationally that increasing the number of Indigenous people working as health professionals is linked to the improved health status of indigenous people.

When comparing Australian indigenous and non-indigenous populations, Indigenous people continue to have poorer health standards and are much less likely to be involved in employment in health professions than other Australians.

Indigenous nurses constitute just 0.8 per cent of all nurses in Australia, while indigenous Australians make up 2.4 per cent of the population, according to 2007 AIHW figures.

Increasing the numbers may be challenging, however not impossible. This has been proved by the medical profession with indigenous doctor numbers increasing from 15 to 150 between 1997 and 2010.

There are also many initiatives being introduced to increase nursing staff in health and aged care, including a scholarship launched by Blue Care.

Norelle Watson, Blue Care indigenous co-ordinator says Blue Care’s Indigenous Endorsed Enrolled Nursing Scholarship is a new initiative under the organisation’s Indigenous Employment Program.
“Our program aims to value and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees by offering them training, mentoring and development opportunities,” Watson says.

“We are building our indigenous workforce by creating long-term career pathways to improve access for effective and culturally appropriate health services to Indigenous people in our communities.”

The scholarship is available to indigenous Blue Care employees who hold a Certificate lll in Aged Care such as Blue Care Mundubbera Community Care Personal Carer Melanie Pope.

Pope, who was awarded the Queensland government’s Central Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year Award in July last year, is one of the Blue Care Indigenous Employment Program’s many success stories.

Beginning at Mundubbera Community Care as a trainee, Pope says Blue Care’s support has given her the confidence to advance her career to gain further skills and qualifications.

“Through this program I am able to take the next step towards achieving my long term goal of becoming a registered nurse,” she says.

Since the introduction of its Indigenous Employment Program in 2002, Blue Care has established cross-cultural training programs, mentoring, scholarships and career paths for more than 130 trainees and aims to recruit a further 130 indigenous trainees and 35 part-time indigenous employees, during the next two years.

Go to www.bluecare.org.au.

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