Peter Mac, the Women’s, the Royal Melbourne and the Royal Children’s Hospital have come together for a NAIDOC Week event to discuss how health services can better recognise the culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to promote healing and inclusiveness.

Jill Gallagher AO, Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), spoke and called on health services to be bold, lead change from within and also support employment and training opportunities for Aboriginal people.

"I’d like to highlight an important aspect of the work that will ‘close the gap’, but isn’t as obvious to everyone - This is employment and training,” Ms Gallagher said.

"Aboriginal employment is a critical link in improving health outcomes for Aboriginal people."

Ms Gallagher said employing more Aboriginal people would improve the health sector's "cultural competency" and "when we have a culturally safe place for Aboriginal people, we will improve access to services and improve health for individuals”.

The event included a Q&A session - led by Dr Steve Ellen, Peter Mac’s Director of Psychosocial Oncology – and a panel including Elder and Yorta Yorta woman Aunty Pam Pedersen, Aboriginal Health Liaison Officer Moira Rayner and Peter Mac’s Director of Wellbeing Geri McDonald.

The panel discussed practical measures to reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in a healthcare setting, including the possum skin cloak recently unveiled at Peter Mac. This was made recently by Aboriginal breast cancer survivors and is now available for use by other Aboriginal cancer patients at Peter Mac.

Ms Gallagher described initiatives like this, which brought Aboriginal culture into the healthcare environment, was “medicine for the spirit” for Aboriginal people.

The event provided an opportunity for the precinct partners to renew their joint commitment to providing a culturally safe environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island patients, families and carers.

“NAIDOC week is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society,” Peter Mac Chief Executive Dale Fisher said on opening the event.

“It brings together our Parkville Precinct partners - the Royal Women’s Hospital, the Royal Children’s Hospital and the Royal Melbourne Hospital - to talk about the importance of a culturally responsive environment in our health services.”

The Parkville Precinct is committed to healing and closing the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-indigenous people, and providing health services and information in culturally safe, accessible and welcoming environments.