Published On: October 19th, 2021

Deakin Rural Health wins Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Community Partnerships

Deakin Rural Health has won Deakin University’s 2021 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Community Partnerships for their work on the Budja Budja Aboriginal Cooperative (BBAC) and Deakin Rural Health Research and Clinical Training Partnership.

Since 2018, Deakin Rural Health has been working with BBAC to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Grampians region of Victoria.

BBAC is one of Victoria’s most geographically remote Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations based in Halls Gap, Victoria on country shared by the Djab Wurrung and Jardwadjali Communities, (respectively part of the Eastern  Maar and Baranji Gadgin Traditional Owner Groups) and covering some 10,000 square kilometres.

Following community consultation, BBAC identified the need for a primary health mobile clinic to increase the reach of clinical services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the region.

By drawing on the strengths of both organisations, the Tulku wan Wininn mobile clinic (meaning ‘Health To You’ in local Djab Wurrung language) was launched in 2019. The mobile clinic enables more people to receive primary health care services across the region.

Since the launch of the mobile clinic, the joint partnership has continued to grow and flourish and now includes health student placements, cultural awareness training on Country, as well as research and evaluation projects.

ARHEN Board Member and Director of Deakin Rural Health, Associate Professor Vin Versace said the partnership has always prioritised Community-led initiatives and focused on achieving outcomes that are meaningful and will have positive impacts for the Community and BBAC.

“For several years Deakin Rural Health has had regular meetings on-country with BBAC and Community members which has allowed us to develop a trusting and mutually respectful relationship. At Deakin Rural Health we look to BBAC and Community to identify priority initiatives, to facilitate engagement of clinicians and the broader Community, and to ensure activities are culturally appropriate and acceptable.

The BBAC/DRH partnership continues to evolve in response to the needs of Community in the region. The latest initiative is the development of a Social and Emotional Wellbeing Centre on Country established in early 2021. This is supported by Deakin Rural Health through the delivery of mental health services coupled with clinical training opportunities, and mental health training of BBAC staff”.

Associate Professor Versace said one of Deakin Rural Health aims is to build local research capacity and to facilitate academic resources and expertise for collaborative activities.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to the mobile clinic service model were introduced including the use of more telehealth services.

Because of the strength of our partnership, BBAC and DRH have been able to attract a COVID-19 research grant from the Western Alliance Academic Health Science Centre to evaluate the implementation and acceptability of telehealth services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

This grant has funded the appointment of an Aboriginal Associate Research Fellow to assist the evaluation and provide cultural ethical guidance for the research. This appointment will support the development of research skills for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers.

Early evaluation findings demonstrate an increased reach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the region through the mobile clinic service, acceptability among health professionals of the mobile clinic and telehealth for delivering healthcare, and integration of telehealth into delivery of primary health care services.

Deakin Rural Health looks forward to continuing our successful partnership with BBAC and delivering on the objectives of the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training” Associate Professor Versace said.

ARHEN congratulates Deakin Rural Health for their collaboration with BBAC to promote the health and wellbeing of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people in western Victoria and build the evidence base on effective rural health interventions.

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