The IHU works in collaboration with local Indigenous communities including:
History and vision
The Indigenous Health Unit (IHU) is a separate unit within MUDRIH, based at Moe in Gippsland, with much broader influences. The IHU team is involved in teaching, research, and projects that investigate and deliver information about Indigenous health to students in all disciplines within the faculty.
Although the IHU was formally established as its own entity in 2002, its origin is much older. It has grown out of the faculty’s recognition of the need to embed in its curricula a better understanding of Indigenous health and its social determinants, and to better prepare students to become culturally competent professionals. In teaching future health professionals, the IHU embraces the recommendations of several key documents for graduating students who will be reflective and holistic in their approach to Indigenous people and their health. The ultimate aim is to contribute to an improvement in the health of Indigenous Australians.
Our guiding principles recognise the diversity and uniqueness of Indigenous experience, communities and culture, and the need for Indigenous Australians to have equity of access to good health care and freedom from racism and discrimination. The experience of Indigenous people is different to other minority groups in Australia and this guides our teaching objectives within mainstream curricula as well as strategies for encouraging Indigenous students into medicine, nursing and the health sciences. Our aim is to encourage all health students to consider working in Indigenous health in rural, remote and metropolitan locations.
The IHU aspires to be a Centre of Excellence with increased staff capacity and the development of significant on-going funding and research. This capacity will draw inspiration from and contribute to important collaborations with national and international stakeholders and key organisations with the long term aim to underpin and strengthen Indigenous empowerment in their health care services. At the local level, the IHU has built and will expand upon alliances and collaborations with rural Indigenous communities to benefit those communities and enable health students’ experience within Indigenous community health services. The IHU will pursue its aim to have Indigenous health as an integral component of all health curricula. It will also strive to encourage Indigenous students into and be successful in health careers.
Course work unit
Indigenous health and a better understanding of its social determinants are now compulsory components of the undergraduate curricula in medicine, nursing and some health sciences. Guest lecturers who are Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous health professionals who have worked in Indigenous health are included in the teaching program. Thus students experience aspects of the ‘real world’ of Indigenous people and their health. We are mindful that 60 per cent of Indigenous Australians live in large towns and cites and are no less Indigenous than people who live in remote communities in the Northern Territory.
See MUDRIH coursework units for details.
Cultural competence and safety
A most important focus of teaching and research carried out by the Indigenous Health Unit team is about creating culturally competent health professionals. Cultural competence means that you value the diversity of the cultures in a multicultural society such as Australia’s, and that you learn about different cultures and develop ways in which to adjust your responses to the people that you will treat and work with so that they will feel culturally safe. The IHU team uses the Indigenous context as the setting in which to teach about this reflective skill in a positive and constructive way which recognises the emotional reactions that students and colleagues will feel.
Too many mainstream Australians and new immigrants know next to nothing about Australian history let alone the Indigenous perspective on that history. Many students say that they have never met an Indigenous person, yet how would they necessarily know? We aim to fill these gaps and show in a positive light how students can look forward to working in the broad field of Indigenous health with the skills of a culturally safe professional.
See MUDRIH short courses for details.