Aboriginal Liaison Officers at GV Health
Published at: 05 Jul 2019
ABORIGINAL LIAISON OFFICERS (ALOs) AT GOULBURN VALLEY HEALTH PROVIDE EMOTIONAL, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL SUPPORT TO ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PATIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Being in hospital can be a worrying time, with feelings of fear, sadness, homesickness and isolation.
ALOs are there to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients talk to health professionals, help them understand medical procedures and routines and assist with decisions about care.
They also provide information and support to GV Health staff to help them provide culturally sensitive health services.
ALOs can help patients make arrangements for their admission to and release from hospital and can also help link up appropriate community support programs, agencies and services.
GV Health’s ALOs are based in the Minya Barmah room, which means 'spiritual meeting place' in Yorta Yorta.
It is a friendly place where all Aboriginal and Torres Strait people are welcome to have a yarn, a cup of tea or just relax.
The Minya Barmah room is open from 8 am to 8 pm every day, including weekends and public holidays.
INTRODUCTION OF ABORIGINAL LIAISON OFFICERS
It was the 1970s when Bangerang sisters June and Mary Atkinson began their roles as Aboriginal Liaison Officers at GV Health hospital.
It was the first time anyone had been appointed to the role.
According to June, at the time there had been recent media attention on poor health conditions of Aboriginal people in the Goulburn Valley with a particular focus on infant mortality rates.
“My sister and I were trusted and well respected in the community and we had an excellent knowledge of our community,” June said.
“We were able to speak up and represent the needs of our community to the medical staff.”
Initially based in an office at Rumbalara, June said they then moved to the hospital.
In those days, June said the role involved spending a lot of time visiting clients.
“(This was) to ensure that they attended their hospital appointments and follow up appointments — including providing transport, emotional support and holistic supports around other needs like rent assistance,” she said.
June said she finished in the role in 1993 after suffering a stroke, with her sister Mary leaving slightly earlier to pursue her passion of education.