Palawa partnering: developing effective partnerships between mainstream and Aboriginal health services

Carol Jackson1, Belinda Fenney-Walch1, Emma Shanahan2

1Public Health Services, Department of Health, 2Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre

The National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards (edition 2) require accredited health service organisations to work in partnership with Aboriginal communities to meet their healthcare needs. What does this mean for Tasmanian health organisations?

Where health services cannot effectively be provided by Aboriginal community controlled health services, effective collaboration between those organisations and mainstream health services is vital to support accessible and culturally safe services and improve health for Aboriginal people.

Tasmanian health organisations are embracing the need to improve Aboriginal cultural respect. This presentation will provide examples of what has been achieved through effective partnerships, and guidance for working effectively with Tasmanian Aboriginal organisations.

Examples of achievements through collaboration between Aboriginal and mainstream health organisations in Tasmania over recent years include:

  • the Aboriginal Midwifery Outreach Program
  • development of the draft Action Plan for Improving Aboriginal Cultural Respect Across Tasmania’s Health System
  • easier access to Aboriginal cultural awareness training
  • better parking arrangements at the Launceston General Hospital for Aboriginal Health Workers.

Working in partnership with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services provides inspiration for a future characterised by culturally safe health services, equity in health outcomes and recognition of those services as best practice health service providers.


Belinda has worked across the Tasmanian health sector for over thirty years in nursing, policy, communications and project roles, with a focus on population health and health equity. Belinda is coordinating efforts to improve cultural respect for Aboriginal people across Tasmania’s health system and wrote the well-received Aboriginal Cultural Respect in Tasmania’s Health Services Community Consultation Report (Department of Health Tasmania, 2018).

Emma is an Enrolled nurse and palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) person, mother and wife. In 2012, she was a State Finalist for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the year, and became the first Enrolled Nurse employed by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, where she continues to enjoy the privilege of working with her community. She has continued training since then, including gaining a graduate certificate in chronic disease self-management and a Certificate 4 in Alcohol and Other Drugs. She has enrolled to complete a Bachelor degree in nursing.

Carol has had the privilege of working with Tasmanian Aboriginal people for over twenty years mainly in the area of public sector employment and career development and more recently within the health sector including the development and implementation of the Aboriginal Midwifery Outreach Project.  Carol is currently working with Public Health Services assisting in efforts to improve cultural respect for Aboriginal people across Tasmania’s health system.