On 7 August 2017, Weenthunga Health Network led the Aboriginal Health Education Summit, with support from the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO). Held at Victoria University on Flinders St, the Summit attracted the attendance of over 80 academics and health professionals from across Australia, alongside Weenthunga and VACCHO members.

The aim of the Summit was to contribute to improving Aboriginal health outcomes in Victoria by strengthening the quality of Aboriginal health education and curricula. The wealth of knowledge and experience in the room on the day contributed to fascinating conversation about the problems faced in achieving this goal, and the potential for moves in the right direction. The passion and enthusiasm felt by the Summit participants and presenters was clear, and created a positive energy in the space for constructive conversation and debate.

The Hon. Jill Hennessy MP, Minister for Health, opened the Summit with words about the barriers faced in changing health curricula, and how to overcome these barriers.  “We must ensure that health services… are culturally safe places to be, and that our curricula better reflects the needs and aspirations of all Victorians.” Jill Gallagher AO, CEO of VACCHO, followed the Minister to speak of the importance of change in health education, in order to have culturally safe graduates and culturally safe workplaces. “Culture is ancient, modern, vulnerable, but valuable.”

 During the morning session, the Summit sat two panels of key speakers from organisations and universities across Australia. With the direction of star facilitator Greg Phillips, panellists discussed the need for changing attitudes, more resources for teaching and learning, and Aboriginal leadership and involvement in education reformation and delivery. Professor Joanna Zubrzycki, Shawana Andrews and Professor Liz Cameron also presented on three case studies of good practice in Victoria at Australian Catholic University, University of Melbourne, and Deakin University respectively.

The afternoon session had Summit participants break out into groups, to brainstorm strategies to achieve positive goals for their group’s theme, outline how it should be done, and who is responsible. The six themes discussed were clinical placement; strategy; Aboriginal pedagogy; student support and pathways; Aboriginal staff and academic support and continuing professional development; and allies. The breakout groups engineered a number of compelling and achievable strategies, and raised many important points and questions for consideration. 

Lin Oke and Steff Armstrong of Weenthunga Health Network closed the Summit by proposing the creation of an online network to facilitate discussion and maintain connection between the participants. The idea was received positively by the participants. Weenthunga will be developing a report on the Summit, and will utilise the report and the online platform to further advance towards strengthening the quality of Aboriginal health education and curricula in Victoria.

From all at Weenthunga Health Network and VACCHO, we thank our speakers and panellists on the day; N’arweet Carolyn Briggs, Hon. Jill Hennessy MP, Jill Gallagher AO, Kevan Horder, Dawn Bessarab, Sue Jones, Donna Murray, Ali Drummond, Candice McKenzie, Joanna Zubrzycki, Shawana Andrews, Liz Cameron, Aunty Kerrie Doyle, Petah Atkinson, Professor Mark Rose, Professor Andrew Gunstone, and Professor Christine Bennett. Special thanks to Associate Professor Greg Phillips for his fantastic facilitation of the Summit, for succinctly and effectively summarising key themes and ideas, and for prompting engaging conversation throughout the day.  

“…there is a ground swell of people wanting to take action, but need support to do so.” – Sue Jones, Curtin University“…the day was a great success and really encouraging to see so many people interested in how to implement Aboriginal knowledge into the health curriculum.” – Dawn Bessarab, University of Western Australia“I’m not here for us to make nice statements – I’m here to start a revolution.” – Greg Phillips, Facilitator.