‘Building an environment of cultural safety’: Western Sydney Local Health District holds Aboriginal Staff Conference

Over 120 staff members and managers from Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) gathered at the ParkRoyal in Parramatta for the first Aboriginal Staff Conference in the district.

The event, organised by Belinda Cashman, Acting District Director of Aboriginal Health, involved workshops, presentations and addresses by key stakeholders in the business.

Attendees were encouraged to be open to learning and sharing in the space, while unpacking issues like cultural safety and how WSLHD staff can better support and engage with Aboriginal patients and workers.

Proceedings commenced with a special performance by Garabara Dance Group and a Welcome to Country, with Aunty Cynthia Morrison inviting participants to get involved in an impromptu dancing workshop.

A special address was also delivered by keynote speaker Honorary Associate Professor Carmen Parter, who spoke about her Ph.D. area of racism and how it impacts the healthcare system.

“Racism is the most significant public health issue facing Australia,” Associate Professor Carmen said.

“Our ways of being, knowing or doing are either diminished, devalued or not recognised due to racism and exclusion.

“This not only relates to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but any marginalised group that accesses healthcare services and provisions.

“Racism remains invisible and is not often spoken about or fully understood in terms of the violent realities and subtleties that manifest themselves in clinical and non-clinical environments of health, and in the workplace for Aboriginal staff.”

Following this address, attendees broke away into smaller workshop groups covering the following topics:

  • Creating culturally safe framework
  • Stolen Generations providing Culturally appropriate Health care services
  • Nursing Career pathways – Supporting Aboriginal nurses
  • Creating a sustainable future – Aboriginal Health Strategic Plan
  • Recruiting and retaining Aboriginal staff
  • Managers supporting Aboriginal staff

Belinda was thrilled with how the day unfolded and was confident that initiatives such as the Aboriginal Staff Conference would be a powerful force driving change.

“The discussions were robust and we have some great ideas, key points and strategies that we would like to follow-up for the future,” Belinda said.

“I think today has provided WSLHD the opportunity to be in a good space going forward and shaping our future.”

These were sentiments echoed by WSLHD Chief Executive Graeme Loy in his opening address at the conference.

“This a really important day for us,” Graeme said.

“Belinda and I have spoken a lot about how to build an environment of cultural safety across the district. We are looking at ways we can make sure that everyone knows the most important thing we focus on in our district is our culture, both from a workforce perspective and who we are as a community.

“We are recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and building a safe space for people to come and work by recognising what it is that we can do together to facilitate, grow, nurture, and create an environment where the term ‘was, is and always will be’ is part of our everyday language.

“We want to create this in our DNA and identity as an organisation; one that builds and helps to nurture this. We have a huge population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – we want them to know that we care, and they are a part of our community.”