Western Sydney on the right track as Aboriginal workforce grows: NAIDOC Week 2021

Cleaners Codie Fuller, porter Darrin Smith and cleaner Jade Hookey were among 15 new Aboriginal staff to join the general services team at Westmead Hospital in March this year.

The proportion of Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) staff who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander has nearly doubled in the past two years as the district takes steps to remove historical barriers and create new opportunities.

As Australia recognises NAIDOC Week, July 4-11, a time to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – the steady progress being made in WSLHD is also being recognised.

Aboriginal health strategy director Braiden Abala said he has seen growth in nearly every professional sector across WSLHD during his two years in the role, including nursing, allied health, corporate services, and scientific/technical roles.

In that time the proportion of staff who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander has grown from 0.9 per cent to 1.79 per cent, out of more than 17,700 WSLHD staff in total.

“This showcases our commitment to getting to parity, and having a workforce that is more reflective of our community and therefore providing services that are more culturally capable,” Braiden said.

We know that Aboriginal consumers not only have a better experience when an Aboriginal health clinician is involved in their care, they also have significantly better outcomes.

Braiden said there is still significant work to do in WSLHD, including growing Aboriginal representation in the medical and maintenance sectors.

WSLHD is currently working on a partnership with Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA)  in providing Year 11 and Year 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students the opportunity to complete a nationally recognised Certificate III in Allied Health Assistance qualification through TAFE NSW.

“This is about empowering our young people to take control of their futures and to achieve their aspirations,” IAHA chief executive officer Donna Murray said.

Braiden also wants to see Aboriginal health practitioners properly integrated into existing services to get the most out of their cultural knowledge and clinical competency.

“We are currently recruiting for a research and education talent coordinator who will help Aboriginal staff move through the levels and really see their career trajectory here in Western Sydney LHD. That’s pivotal in shifting the dynamic,” Braiden said.

“We want to say to people, if you’re happy in your job then that’s great, but if you want a new challenge or opportunity then we can grow your career right here.”

To learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander career opportunities in WSLHD, visit our website or email Aboriginal training coordinator Kristy Kendrigan at Kristy.Kendrigan@health.nsw.gov.au.

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