An overhauled Greater Western Aboriginal Health Service could become Australia’s best Indigenous health provider – and it needs to be.
The service, which has been taken over by Wellington Aboriginal Corporation Health Service, has the country’s largest Indigenous population in its catchment area.
Its new chief executive, Darren Ah See said the first challenge was to engage those who have been “pushed away” from the service in the past.
“I think generally across Australia, we’ve seen in the Closing the Gap report that there hasn’t been a lot of gains,” he said.
“It’s a battle but I can say that without the Aboriginal medical services...it would be a lot worse. We’ve just got to work together.”
The service has secured funding to start three new programs at its Mount Druitt headquarters.
That includes programs for maternal and child health, chronic disease care and additional mental health support.
Mr Ah See relaunched the service’s headquarters on Thursday.
He said it was an “honour” to take on the challenge of turning around Aboriginal health statistics in western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.
“Western Sydney AMS [Aboriginal medical service] has had its challenges,” Mr Ah See said.
“The statistics show there’s more than 13,000 Indigenous people in our catchment area. So it’s important that they have a culturally appropriate health service to meet their needs.”
Mr Ah See that plans were in place to open a second hub in Penrith next year, and set up a GP clinic in the Blue Mountains.
“We’ve had six months now and we’re starting to get some traction and people through the doors,” he said. “But there’s still a lot of people not accessing the service.”
Western Sydney Local Health District chief executive Danny O’Connor said the service had a “long and proud tradition” of serving the local Aboriginal community.
“Anything that occurs from this point on is building on a really solid foundation,” he said.