While today’s Closing the Gap report shows some positive signs, particularly in terms of reduced rates of smoking and infant mortality, the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) continues to be concerned about the significant disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face in regard to health outcomes.
“Since its inception, the Closing the Gap campaign has helped improve a number of key indicators for Indigenous health, but more needs to be done,” Australian College of Nursing CEO, Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward said. “The lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are still sicker and shorter than they should be.
“If we are serious about Closing the Gap, we need concerted effort across governments and respectful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to understand what they need and what will work in terms of health service delivery.”
Nurses have a key role to play in working with communities to improve health outcomes. Research, including work by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, highlights the importance of quality primary health care services to population health. In rural and remote Australia, nurses are providing a large proportion of primary health care.
When she spoke at the annual ACN Oration in 2014, Professor Roianne West, Professor of First Peoples Health at Griffith University, said there is much that nurses can do together with Indigenous Australians to advance health outcomes, particularly by learning new and more sophisticated ways of working together.
“Professor West called on nurse leadership to strategically build the cultural capability, cultural safety education and competence of the nursing profession,” said Adj Prof. Ward. “As the preeminent and national leader of the nursing profession, ACN is taking up this challenge.”
ACN proudly administers the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarships Scheme on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health. More than 1540 scholarships have been awarded since 2002 in areas such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, Allied Health, Dentistry, Medicine and Nursing and Midwifery.
The College also delivers a range of rural and remote health scholarships.
“Each of our relevant training courses include sessions on cultural needs and sensitivity,” Adj Prof. Ward explained.