Closing the gap

It is no secret that there is a significant gap between the outcomes across many different domains for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when compared with the non-Indigenous Australian population.

Accordingly, CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning is proud to be associated with Biripi Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre’s Closing the Gap initiative to help drive the required change in our communities.

Since 2006, Australia's peak Indigenous and non-Indigenous health bodies, NGOs and human rights organisations have worked together to achieve health and life expectation equality for Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is known as the Close the Gap Campaign.

The campaign's goal is to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation. The campaign is built on evidence that shows that significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be achieved within short time frames.

As part of our daily operations CatholicCare provides a range of services to support Aboriginal people to bridge the gap across many areas. These include individual counselling, family support via our Brighter Futures program, Disability Services, Parenting Hub and our Integrated Domestic Family Violence program.

It has been well documented that many Aboriginal families feel uncomfortable accessing mainstream health services and in particular, those operating from large hospitals. It has also been well documented that prenatal care amongst Aboriginal families is inadequate and the associated outcomes for Aboriginal babies are poorer than for non- Aboriginal babies. We also know that if we want to encourage Aboriginal people to access services then we need to employ Aboriginal staff.

Recognising this, CatholicCare has formed a partnership with the Hunter New England Aboriginal Maternal Infant Health Service whereby it provides a weekly outreach clinic in our Taree office.  The clinic offers prenatal and postnatal care as well as child and family health checks, vaccinations and health screenings for Aboriginal babies and children. Our CatholicCare Case Managers, including Aboriginal Case Managers, make a point of introducing themselves to people accessing the health services in the outreach clinic, answering any questions that arise and sharing any knowledge that may be of assistance. This approach has seen positive results, with some Aboriginal families then choosing to gain additional assistance through our various programs, which aim to focus on families’ strengths, exploring and building on what is working well. This improves relationships and connections within families and communities and helps to ‘Close the Gap.’

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Maryanne Kerrins

Maryanne Kerrins is CatholicCare's Operations Manager, Early Intervention.

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