Griffith University’s First Peoples Health Unit (FPHU) turns five on Tuesday 25 August, but its Director, Professor Roianne West, says while the unit has come a long way, there’s much more to do.

Professor Roianne West

“Griffith was one of the first universities nationally to create a First Peoples Health Unit in what was a strategic, interdisciplinary move designed to truly have an impact on and for first peoples’ health,” Professor West said.

“The FPHU is committed to closing the gap in health outcomes by improving the cultural capability of Australia’s health workforce through quality education and training.

“Recently we received a $1.2 million grant to develop cultural safety training for all state and territory Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) staff, with the potential to influence the health professionals registered with AHPRA.

“This is great recognition of our credibility in the field in such a short amount of time.

“It’s bringing a research agenda to how we train first peoples, and that’s a big point of difference for Griffith.

West says the first few years of FPHU were focused on establishing the unit, building internal credibility and firmly embedding change within Griffith’s existing systems, procedures and the culture of the Health Group, to ensure its long-term success.

“In the beginning we wanted to increase numbers in the university, but we knew that couldn’t happen in isolation, unless we had research and evidence, community engagement and international benchmarks for first peoples — all of that is intertwined.

“It’s simple but complex, because we don’t neatly fit into one box, however I think the work we do not only informs best practice in first people health; I think it informs best practice in higher education.

“Now that we’ve established ourselves, we can turn our gaze outwards. We’re about to launch a national project with 26 university and industry partners who want to use a tool that we have developed towards measuring cultural safety training.

“We have a strong platform now for which to look outwards, both locally, nationally and internationally.”

Griffith’s first Pro Vice Chancellor (Indigenous) Professor Cindy Shannon

Pro Vice Chancellor Indigenous Professor Cindy Shannon congratulated FPHU and all those involved in the journey to this point.

“Under the leadership of Professor West, the Unit has now set the foundations for the next five years and I look forward to supporting its continued growth and success,” Professor Shannon said.

“It is particularly timely to consider the role of FPHU in supporting the objectives of the Creating a Future for all plan, along with the recently released Close the Gap refresh measures as FPHU is well placed to contribute to these outcomes.”

Former Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) Allan Cripps and Dean of Learning and Teaching (Health) Nick Buys were the first to champion a focus on first people’s health.

Professor Sheena Reilly

Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) Professor Sheena Reilly said when they established the FPHU five years ago even they couldn’t have imagined what the unit might go onto achieve.

“They had a clear vision that has been realised,” Professor Reilly said.

“Nick saw the need to develop health practitioners that were culturally competent and also to attract and graduate First Peoples Health practitioners. “

“Allan’s vision for the Health Group was about increasing the number of first peoples’ health professionals across our suite of programs, in staff and in students,” Professor West added.

“Change in the accreditation space made greater representation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health necessary in our programs, but in addition to that, the goal was really to increase engagement with indigenous health and indigenous groups in South East Queensland.

“I think it’s important to note that FPHU wasn’t founded out of a pool of first people’s funds, but from Health Group funds.

“FPHU gave the Health Group one central point for everyone in the group to visit with any queries or concerns about first peoples’ health.

“The establishment of the Unit has also given our students an identity, one they didn’t see elsewhere, that is aspirational.

“It keeps them going, it keeps them engaged when things get tough; when their assignments are piling up, or when they feel like it’s all too much.

“We can be that identity for them that says, ‘keep going’.”

For more information about Griffith’s First Peoples Health Unit, head online.