First Peoples Health Unit closing the gap
Closing the gap in health outcomes between Australia’s First Peoples and other Australians is the aim of the Griffith Health First Peoples Health Plan 2016-2022.
Launched by Griffith University in March, the plan aims to increase First Peoples health graduate numbers while ensuring all graduates have the necessary education and training to effectively contribute to improving First Peoples health outcomes.
“The vision is for Griffith Health to be an influential leader valuing collective knowledge towards better health outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples,” says Professor Roianne West, Director of the First Peoples Health Unit.
“Major strategies include positioning Griffith Health as a faculty of choice for undergraduate and postgraduate future First Peoples students, and as an employer of choice for First Peoples health staff.
“Aligning with Griffith University’s broader strategic plan, its focus is to set an agenda for practical change and places First Peoples cultures at its centre.
"I also believe we are the first university in the country to have a plan such as this at the health faculty level.”
Professor West highlights the increase in First Peoples health students at Griffith and says it relates to the wider target from Universities Australia to lift enrolment and completion rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
“Currently, Griffith University has 8,500 students within its Health Group, with nearly 334 of these now identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students.
This figure is a significant increase on the number we had at the opening of the First Peoples Health Unit back in 2015 and is believed to be one of the highest figures for a health faculty of any Australian university."
In 2016, Griffith graduated 45 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students from health programs.
“These results clearly demonstrate how well we are working towards increased First Peoples participation rates,” says Professor West.
The Dean of Learning and Teaching at Griffith Health, Professor Nick Buys, says the plan demonstrates how fully committed Griffith Health is to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Dedication to make you smile
Griffith University dentistry graduate Dr Michael Baker, pictured, is using his education to support better health in First Peoples communities.
A Birri-Gubba-Yuggera man on his mother's side, during his time at Griffith Dr Baker was the volunteer program coordinator for Hope4Health's dental clinic in Cherbourg.
Michael and his brother David — also an award-winning alumnus — were instrumental in establishing the free clinic in the community around 250 kilometres north-west of Brisbane.
The brothers now run their own dental practice in Toowoomba and remain committed to improving First Peoples health.
"I feel as an Indigenous dentist that I need to give back to the community as well," says Michael, who graduated in 2015 and that same year was also a Queensland finalist in the Young Australian of the Year awards.
Through Hope4Health, dental students in their final years of training conduct four supervised dental clinics and treat more than 400 people each year in the Cherbourg community.
With the closest dental clinic more than an hour away and a waiting list of more than two years, Dr Baker and his team fill the gap — so to speak — by providing dental treatment as well as education.
"I feel it's important to give back to the community, but also to educate the younger people of Indigenous communities and basically be a role model,” he says.
"I think that's a really important thing to be a role model and a mentor for the future generations."