The Narrandera Yarn Up for the Indigenous community will be held this Thursday in the form of a barbecue at the Narrandera TAFE from 12pm until 2pm.
The Yarn Up is an opportunity for Narrandera residents to share their experiences of the health system.
The Yarn Up was an initiative that began between Charles Sturt University and the Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD). Students undertaking a Masters program use the event to learn stories and present a report to MLHD.
Now in its fourth year of partnership with MLHD, the meetings are as important as ever to identify problems with the health system.
“This is the fourth year of the partnership, but this is the third year of looking at the Indigenous community,” said CSU lecturer in Health Services Management, David Ritchie.
“We’ve ended up looking at some of the gaps in health services,” said Jacqui Kay, one of the three Masters students for this year.
“We’re collecting stories and reporting back to MLHD. It’s amazing how committed MLHD are to this initiative; they really take everything on board and try to change things. It’s been amazing.”
Dr Ritchie agreed.
“Asking the community what matters to them is so vital to redesigning services.”
Ms Kay will be the only one of the three students at the barbecue.
“We do our studies online, CSU really does offer an amazing online learning experience. Narrandera’s Hank Lyons will be there, he’s our project co-ordinator. We’ve been so lucky to have him,” Ms Kay said.
Mr Lyons’ work as project manager has made a huge difference to this year’s outcomes.
“Initially he [Mr Lyons] was appointed just for 12 months. Hank is collecting stories and interviewing individuals in the community for us, and the community expressed concern that he would run out of time,” Dr Ritchie said.
“Jill Ludford, who is the chief executive of MLHD, recently confirmed that Hank’s appointment will continue for as long as it needs to.”
According to Dr Ritchie, Mr Lyons’ role as a project manager has also helped build trust with the community.
“The community is coming to understand what CSU is trying to do. What we’re starting to see is that the once the community starts to see that there is a serious commitment from us, they start to come on board.
“I’m not doing this to write up academic papers. The community has told us about times when academics have come out promising change, and have gone away to write up academic papers and they’ve never been heard from again. We’re trying to understand what a good experience looks like, and trying to overcome the barriers of service,” Dr Ritchie said.
There have already been changes made within MLHD.
“One example of a change is MLHD has purchased Aboriginal and Torres Strait flags for every facility clinic. They’re also increasing the amount of Aboriginal artwork in their clinics to make them more friendly for Indigenous people. It’s a small step, and possibly a symbolic one.
“They’re looking at landscaping, at what plants are identified as healing, so that we are reiterating that these are places of healing and not places to die.”
However, there are bigger things to come. Spurred on by the recent success of Queensland’s Indigenous operated health clinics, there is talk of creating a similar operation in Narrandera.
“Already there are signs that large change might be possible. The Aboriginal community are much more comfortable with Aboriginal people providing care or assistance. I’m sure we will see that grow,” Dr Ritchie said.
“Albury has an Aboriginal medical centre and they have a smaller indigenous population. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do that here.”
“I’m very excited by it. I’m scared of it, because of the level of commitment, but doing nothing is not an option.”