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Stirling Eggmolesse, Wayne Mulvany and Ara Harathunian stand outside IWC Building 2

Key points:

  • IWC Medical Centre has remained open throughout the COVID crisis, with additional procedures and precautions.
  • The construction of the IWC North Burnett Health & Wellbeing Centre in Gayndah continues and is due for completion in 2021.
  • Telehealth and phone consults offered by GPs, Specialists, Allied Health Professionals, Psychologists, Alcohol & Other Drug Services and the NDIS Local Area Coordination team.
  • New services added:
  • Speech Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Winner of the Premier’s Award, Queensland Reconciliation Awards 2020
  • Delivery of Cultural Healing online resources, and rollout of Cultural Responsiveness Training e-learning

WITH the COVID pandemic brutally hitting every sector of society, Aboriginal community-controlled IWC has refused to budge in its commitment to provide quality Primary Health Care and associated services within one of the most disadvantaged regions in Australia.

It is a battle that the registered charity is steadily winning, even adding to its services in the months since the March 2020 lockdown, rather than pulling away it has been progressing.

“It hasn’t been business as usual by a long way, and we had to put in a wide range of health procedures and various restrictions to protect our staff and our community. The financial imposts have also been huge. But you can’t turn Primary Health Care off like a tap. People rely on us,” said IWC General Manager Wayne Mulvany.

“We also had new, much-needed Allied Health services lined up for IWC in 2020 including Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy and, if anything, COVID meant there was more need for these than ever. So we had to keep going and bring in the new services despite what did sometimes seem like insurmountable odds. The IWC team has shown it can quite literally climb mountains to deliver community care.”

IWC offers a holistic model of whole-of-person care set within an Aboriginal Terms of Reference framework and based on Reconciliatory principles.

“That means we are here for all people, without discrimination, and we recognise that it is vital to take a whole-of-person approach to health and wellbeing – not just physical but emotional wellbeing as well,” he said.

Amid the COVID crisis, the organisation picked up a prestigious prize – the Premier’s Award in the Queensland Reconciliation Awards 2020.

For IWC CEO Ara Harathunian that was an important milestone.

“We are committed to Reconciliation in Action every day, and to have that recognition at a State level at this time of community emergency in particular meant a lot,” he said.

“We listen, and respond, to our communities and during these past few months have continued to build the Voice of our First Nation peoples through regular consultations within COVID-safe environments. Isolation is a major risk for people in our communities at this time, and we are helping to address this by being here for our Traditional Owners and Elders and, with them, mapping out a positive future based on Reconciliatory principles.”

He said that while being unable to hold the usual major community gatherings for Reconciliation Week 2020 had been a blow, the organisation had responded by creating an online library of resources around healing, language, music and Elders’ stories.

“These were launched for National Reconciliation Week 2020, which ran from 27 May to 3 June, but they remain on our IWC website and will continue to grow as a valuable community resource to build knowledge and respect around First Nation culture,” he said.

IWC and its partner organisation Kultchafi Services had already been moving to put their Cultural Responsiveness Training online, and Mr Harathunian said this arm of the business was showing its potential very strongly.

“The Cultural Responsiveness Training we deliver comes from the Voices of First Nation peoples, sharing real-life experiences and personal perspectives to create bridges of communication between the two World Views of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people today,” he said.

“That is a journey that cannot be stopped by COVID – the pathway to Reconciliation is firmly on the agenda now and that promises a brighter future for all Australians after, and even during, COVID.”