The key to improving health in Indigenous communities may be to train more Indigenous doctors and health professionals.
CEO of the Riverina Medical and Dental Aboriginal Corporation Darren Carr said Indigenous communities have a mistrust of medical professionals stemming from the Stolen Generations.
“When you look at the Stolen Generations, a lot of removals of kids happened in a health care setting – so if a child had gone to hospital for some reason, that’s where the child would be taken from their parents,” Mr Carr said.
“There is an understandable historical suspicion and mistrust of health services, and that's why you need Aboriginal health professionals and services – people know they will feel safe going to them, so they’re more likely access those health services.”
Tina Pollard is one of the only Indigenous nurses in Wagga; she said increasing the number of Indigenous health care professionals is vital if we want to close the gap in life expectancy.
“It’s because we come from the same backgrounds and we have more of an understanding of what the issues are for our people, so we can relate to them a lot better and make our clients feel safe,” Ms Pollard said.
“I see it pretty well every day, especially during hospital visits – they feel very uncomfortable when they go to the hospital, so I will go with them to make sure they’re okay, because they’re more likely to come back for followups if they have a good experience.”
Tina hopes she can be a role model for other Indigenous students.
“If we have more people out there showing that this is what aboriginal people can do, then they’ll know they can do it too.”