$1.5 million grant secures Indigenous health centre’s future

May 17 2016

The Hon Barnaby Joyce with staff from Gomeroi gaaynggal

The Federal Government has provided a crucial $1.5 million grant to the University of Newcastle’s Gomeroi gaaynggal health centre at Tamworth and Walgett, enabling it to continue operating beyond the end of 2016.

Deputy Prime Minister and Member for New England Barnaby Joyce made the announcement this morning on behalf of Senator Nigel Scullion, Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs, after helping to secure the funds through the Commonwealth’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

Mr Joyce said Gomeroi gaaynggal was a critical long-term research and engagement program for Indigenous women in Tamworth and surrounding communities.

“This funding will ensure the program can continue to work with local Aboriginal mothers to better understand chronic diseases in the community and put in place measures to improve their family’s health,” Mr Joyce said.

“I have advocated strongly for its support, given it is doing a great job employing local Indigenous staff and engaging with Indigenous women and their families in the region.”

Since opening in 2009 the Tamworth centre has supported more than 250 expectant mothers, using Aboriginal art as the medium to providing ante-natal medical and educational services for a healthier start to life.

“It’s a highly innovative program that helps develop the skill sets of Aboriginal mums,” Laureate Professor Roger Smith AM*, co-leader of the HMRI Pregnancy and Reproduction Research Program, said. “It is transformational for families, providing a culturally safe place for the transfer of knowledge from Aboriginal Elders and health professionals to young mothers.

“This grant will provide stability for the program and potentially allow it to expand to other regional centres.”

Gomeroi program Director Dr Kym Rae, from The University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health, said the funding would support a number of activities that engage and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children.

“Physical health and wellbeing is a critical first step to improve outcomes for Indigenous children through supporting their active participation in early childhood care and education,” she said.

Running in unison with the arts program is an HMRI health research study investigating the origins of kidney disease in the Aboriginal community and the pathways leading to premature birth.

The program has previously gained funding of over $3.5 million from the National Health and Medical Research Council, which was due to lapse in December.

“An Indigenous baby born today is 40 times more likely to suffer severe kidney problems than a non-Indigenous child, and their mothers are twice as likely to give birth prematurely,” Dr Rae added.

“We have found that 19 per cent of our young Indigenous mothers have high levels of protein in their urine and are therefore at risk of kidney disease. This would not have been detected if it was not for Gomeroi gaaynggal.”

Background: Initial funding for Gomeroi gaaynggal was provided by the Thyne Reid Foundation and later by the Cages Foundation through HMRI. It operates in the Taminda area of Tamworth and in Walgett in partnership with the University of Newcastle Faculty of Health and Medicine, Hunter New England Local Health District, HMRI, Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service, Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service, Community Health, Maternity Services, Oral Health and Population Health, Medicare Local staff and Women’s Refuge, along with the Elders groups of Tamworth (Gubba Binaal, and KADS) and Walhallow.

There are six Aboriginal staff employed to promote the program and help mothers and babies to maintain healthy diet and lifestyle. They engage primary and high schools in programs to promote positive education and lifestyle choices among both female and male students.

More details HERE.

* Laureate Professor Roger Smith AM is co-director of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre (PRC) for Reproductive Science, Director of the Mothers and Babies Research Centre and Director of the Department of Endocrinology at John Hunter Hospital.