Amy-Jay Binks travels by bus and train from Werribee to the Austin Hospital four days a week. As Victoria's first Aboriginal social work trainee, it is a three hour round trip that is helping Austin Health provide more culturally responsive healthcare while also gaining important training for her own future career.
Based in a large office in the Boronia Centre at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, Ms Binks is working towards her Certificate 3 in Health Support Services and Aged Care. In the long term, Ms Binks wants to be a nurse but for now she is working alongside social workers and learning how to manage patients' social needs and support - everything from car park passes to accommodation support to referrals to councils.
Ms Binks' traineeship is part of a focused effort to increase Austin Health's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff numbers to 1 per cent - a target set right across the Victorian public health service.
The idea is that, over time, more Aboriginal staff members can help hospitals provide more culturally responsive healthcare to Aboriginal people.
Alison Smith, Aboriginal Employment Project Officer, says many Aboriginal people are reluctant to attend hospitals and when they do, they present
with more complex issues.
"Overall, Aboriginal people experience poorer health and lower life expectancy than the wider community. By having more people in our workforce with an Aboriginal background, we can create an environment that is sensitive to the needs of Aboriginal people so that they feel safer and are more likely to seek care from us in a timely way."
Austin Health is improving the ways it attracts Aboriginal staff and creates an environment of cultural safety.
"It can be anything from how we advertise and interview people to how we support people once they start working here. We have to build that sense of trust and safety so that Aboriginal people want to work at Austin Health. In time, by creating a more culturally safe workplace for Aboriginal staff, we will also provide more culturally responsive care for Aboriginal patients," says Ms Smith.
Ms Binks agrees. "I do a little bit of work with Austin Health's Aboriginal liaison team. You can definitely see how that team's support impacts Aboriginal patients. It makes them feel more comfortable. I worked very closely with a couple who came down from Mildura. They came from a small community and I think they appreciated having me around for support. I definitely think Austin Health's efforts will make a difference and have a huge impact over time not just on patients but on their families as well."
Creating culturally responsive care is the August feature story from Austin Health's 2015 Quality of Care Report.