Mental health nurses reach into communities

St John of God Warrnambool Hospital is helping to close the gap in health outcomes through an innovative partnership with two local Aboriginal cooperatives.

St John of God Warrnambool Hospital aboriginal partnerships 

The partnerships enable the hospital’s specialist mental health nurses to provide mental health assessments and interventions in the community to those identified by the cooperative.

St John of God Warrnambool Hospital Mental Health and Community Relations Manager John Parkinson said feedback from clients of the service and the cooperatives had been positive.

“Clients value that they have someone outside their community they can talk to about their mental health,” John said.

“There is still a stigma attached to mental health issues and with communities as small as these, there is not the density of population to allow anonymity.

“However by seeing our caregivers, they are able to get the specialist support they need while also allowing them to keep their experiences private until they are ready to tell others about it.”

Specialist mental health nurse Mark Powell said seeing the difference he made was extremely rewarding with the unexpected benefit of learning more about our local Aboriginal culture and history.

“It’s a wonderfully rich history with such great respect for the land, environment and their culture,” he said.

“Respect and trust is a very important part of Aboriginal culture and the fact that we are still invited in to the community five years later says a lot about the strength of our relationship and the mutual respect and trust for each other.”

Following on from the success of the Winda-Mara partnership, St John of God Warrnambool Hospital signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Worn Gundigj to provide similar services to their clients.

“I think the success of the Winda-Mara partnership has proved that we are here, we are genuine and we truly want to help,” John said.

“I look forward to seeing how these programs evolve going forward.”