Dr Kiran’s visit to Melbourne University – a Report by Bill Burdett

Dr Kiran’s visit to Melbourne University – a Report by Bill Burdett

8th September, 2014 | Kiran and I spent a most interesting day with Professor Ian Anderson, Pro Vice Chancellor (Engagement) and Professor Kerry Arabena, Chair for Indigenous Health and Director, Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit. Ian was one of our first medical graduates from the aboriginal community; he worked in Aboriginal Health for more than 25 years prior to joining Melbourne University’s senior leadership team in 2012.

Kerry, a former social worker with a doctorate in human ecology, has an extensive background in public health, administration, community development and research, working in senior roles in indigenous policy and sexual health.

Our first visit was to the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS), established in 1973 to address the specific medical needs of Victorian indigenous communities. VAHS is committed to supporting the well-being of the Aboriginal community through contributions to community events and activities, and to assisting research into their ongoing needs.

In our meeting with Graham (“Wilkie”) Austin and Dr Mary Belfrage, Medical Director, we discussed the similarities between the breadth of VAHS’s services– social as well as medical–and the range of services provided by Asha, which have expanded so successfully from primary health to property rights to access to banking services and education.

The second meeting was to SNAICC, the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care where we met Frank Hytten, CEO, and a number of the management team members.

Dr Kiran with SNAICC representatives
Dr Kiran with SNAICC representatives

SNAICC was established in 1981; its Mission is “to provide a strong voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families through a national body which represents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s services and promotes the rights, needs and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.”

Kiran gave the group a brief description of the development of Asha Community Health and Development Society. The achievements of Asha, with a record of great accomplishments despite limited resources, were a great morale booster to a group concerned about their future following significant reductions in Government funding.

In the evening, Professor Anderson hosted “A Conversation with Kiran Martin”, an informal event which gave an opportunity for Kiran to network with members of the University community and the Melbourne NGO sector, and for them to learn about the work of Asha in the slum communities of Delhi.

Altogether, the day enabled a worthwhile exchange of views and an opportunity for Ian and Kerry to get a deeper understanding of Asha.

Mr Bill Burdett is the Member of Board of Directors, Australian Friends of Asha and was one of the key organisers of Dr Kiran’s visit to Australia earlier this month.