Oncologist Dr. Belinda Yeoh and a patient

Departments

Offering comfort and safety to Aboriginal patients

Offering comfort and safety to Aboriginal patients

Austin Health welcomes new Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer (AHLO) Jacob Nelson.

Mr Nelson joins Austin Health after five years living and working in Melbourne for a number of Aboriginal community controlled organisations. He will work across the three main hospital sites for 30 hours a week, and is looking forward to helping staff to improve their cultural awareness as well as "offering comfort and safety to Aboriginal patients."

He is a Bunjalung man, whose Country spans an area of north-east New South Wales and southern Queensland that covers the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Ballina, Lismore and Lennox Head - a part of the world "I'd gladly debate is the most beautiful part of the planet but, I'm probably somewhat biased. I try and return to country once a year, with my older brother and mother. It's always an incredible, spiritual and humbling experience," Mr Nelson says.

By coincidence, his family totem is the goanna, an animal he was pleased to find represented in the Aboriginal artwork at Austin Hospital - and which he is pictured beside above.

"I am extremely passionate about the health and wellbeing of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," Mr. Nelson says.

"I'm excited about my new role, working in a world class facility, alongside incredible staff. I cannot wait to bring my experiences and skill set to Austin Health, where I hope to also learn and grow, leading to the best care and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that can be provided, in what can be very trying and difficult circumstances," he says.

Mr. Nelson emphasises that he cannot represent or speak for all Aboriginal peoples, and that he himself is still learning about the diverse peoples and cultures that make up indigenous Australia. However, he says "I want to be someone people feel that they can approach, to ask about Aboriginal culture."

He hopes too to help to close the still-significant gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

"It's 2018. I have a super computer in my pocket, but I still have relatives dying in their 50s. I think we can do better. I think we owe the traditional owners of this land a little bit more than what we've given them so far," Mr. Nelson says.

"I'm also quite happy to challenge stereotypes about Aboriginal people, as there's still prejudices and assumptions about Aboriginal people," he says.

Jacob is based In the Ngarra Jarra office, level 3 Harold Stokes Building, Austin Hospital and can be contacted on 03 9496 5834.