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It is hard to imagine a better close to NAIDOC Week than the triumph of Ash Barty at Wimbledon. Her dream has become reality. And the whole of Australia is celebrating her success.

This week it has been so inspiring to see the extensive coverage by mainstream media bringing the stories of First Nations people to the fore. Actors, artists, singers, academics, designers and many others all showcasing their skills and experiences founded in thousands of years of culture and learning. It is altogether awe-inspiring.

But despite all this Australia still has to grapple with the injustices that so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience. Health inequities, unemployment, denial of language, destruction of country and the list goes on. And this underbelly brings sorrow and loss that is profound in its impact.

I can think of no more devastating consequence of injustice than to take one’s own life. My area of work is in suicide prevention and my focus is the healthcare system. It is only a small part of the whole picture, but it is one that is within our control to change. I am inspired this week to think about how First Nations practices could heal our health system.

1. Make culture central to services

Culture is central to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Health systems can learn from this. A culture that is focused on healing, recovery learning and opportunity will deliver better outcomes for those who present to a service than one which is centred on compliance and consequence.

2. Draw on the expertise of those who have used services

For tens of thousands of years Indigenous Australians have survived on the knowledge and skills gained through experience and thrived through the strength of community. That knowledge has always been shared openly. Knowledge learned through experience can bring a very different perspective to the way a service is delivered.

3. Gain strength from community

The strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is drawn from their Elders and the respect they earn through their knowledge and experience. Health services need leaders who are prepared to strengthen their communities.

The theme for NAIDOC Week is Heal Country. If you are a healthcare leader, think about this – would a culture that is founded on healing, recovery, learning and opportunity deliver better outcomes for all those who are part of the service? I think so….

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