Indigenous elders and health service workers from the Northern Territory have visited RMIT in Melbourne to explore new research and training opportunities.
The delegation from Sunrise Health Service Aboriginal Corporation in the NT’s East Katherine region discussed RMIT’s training of their staff in vocational health qualifications during their recent visit.
Sunrise also met with RMIT Business Development Manager Kit Andrews to explore joint venture research opportunities with the University and philanthropic partners, in fields including governance, dental health, information technology, anaemia, cardiac rehab and plumbing.
For instance, the School of Vocational Engineering has helped develop a high-pressure jet wash device that can be used as first step in health management systems to clean pipes, sewerage systems and interiors.
The school will provide basic training in general usage and maintenance to Sunrise, who will in turn assist local shires in carrying out urgent minor repairs, helping increase the overall health of those communities.
Sunrise provides leading, holistic and culturally sensitive healthcare to about 4000 members across 14 remote communities through eight community health centres.
RMIT first began working with Sunrise four years ago and is now the service’s preferred provider to deliver Certificate and Advanced Diploma courses in a range of disciplines staff through the auspices of the “Sunrise Way” policy document.
Sunrise CEO Dale Campbell said: “Sunrise likes establishing links with agencies that have a sense of social obligation.”
The partnership emerged from a conversation between Xenia Girdler, RMIT Program Coordinator of Alcohol and Other Drugs and Mental Health studies, and Geoff Lohmeyer, Team Manager with Sunrise.
“Sunrise wanted to ensure that their staff had the skills necessary in dealing with the complexity of a client cohort that is one of the most disadvantaged in the world,” Girdler said.
The program has since seen five groups of Sunrise workers undertake the Certificate IV Alcohol and Other Drugs and Diploma of AOD and Mental Health program, with completion rates “previously unheard of amongst this cohort of learners.”
Under the program, RMIT teachers travelled to Katherine to deliver 10 two-day intensive sessions to Sunrise staff members over a year.
Girdler estimates her team of teaching staff have covered more than 100,000km over the last four years but she was adamant that RMIT teachers would upskill Sunrise staff in person.
“Building a supportive and collaborative program is a big part of the delivery, which is why our programs consist of customised, face-to-face training with a small, consistent group of teachers,” she said.
Girdler is also a big believer in two-way learning, where Indigenous culture and language co-exists with Western disciplines.
“We really wanted to capture the existing workforce’s experience - they bring a wealth of knowledge, both as community workers and as residents of the Territory; in the end, the teachers learn as much as their students.”
Story: Ash Hibbert