Bridging the gap with the ANMF RAP

1 July 2021

On the eve of NAIDOC Week, Indigenous Academic Adviser David ‘Tarnda’ Copley has high hopes for the ANMF (SA Branch)’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). He believes it will be a “gold standard” plan that could have a national influence.

“We’re looking at how we engage with our Indigenous communities in South Australia and how we increase the Indigenous workforce,’’ said Mr Copley, the chair of the ANMF (SA Branch) RAP Working Group.

The RAP proposes that ANMFSA partners with SA Health and education providers to develop dedicated pathways to provide employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to enter the workforce and to increase our Indigenous Nursing and Midwifery and Assistant in Nursing Workforce within South Australia.

“It’s a long-term plan,’’ Mr Copley said. “For the ANMF it’s looking at how does the organisation engage with Aboriginal communities, how does it engage with nurses and other allied health workers that come under the ANMF umbrella and how do we make our organisation, our staff and our education culturally appropriate, not only for staff in the ANMFSA but also for our members.

“In the long term we hope it flows across to our patients and our clients as well and the Local Health Networks.

“The way forward is to not only have culturally safe places and environments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples but to have safe environments for our Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health workers.

“We have some amazing non-Indigenous health workers doing great work with Indigenous patients and clients in communities but it’s really hard and unfair to ask those non-Indigenous staff to do this stuff unless we give them the right training and grounding. So the RAP is a combination of that.

“We’re planning to make our RAP a living document (in line with Reconciliation SA), a fluid document that can be updated and changed and amended as we advance, as hopefully more Aboriginal people take up training and as we learn more culturally appropriate avenues,’’ Mr Copley said.

“I think ANMFSA is essentially being watched by the other ANMF organisations across Australia because I think we’re going to produce a gold standard Reconciliation Action Plan at the end of the day that other organisations will look to.’’

Mr Copley has had a long association with the ANMF (SA Branch) as a Registered Nurse, and as an Indigenous consultant. He has formal qualifications as a Developmental Educator, a Registered Nurse and a Mental Health Nurse - the only Aboriginal person in South Australia to hold all three qualifications.

A former ANMF (SA Branch) Council Member and Flinders University Tutor, he is now at La Trobe University – Rural Health School Bendigo, as the Indigenous Academic Adviser/Lecturer.
NAIDOC Week celebrations will be held across Australia next week (July 4-11), celebrating the rich history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC Week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself.

The NAIDOC theme for 2021 – Heal Country! – calls for all of us to continue to seek greater protections for our lands, our waters, our sacred sites and our cultural heritage from exploitation, desecration, and destruction.

“NAIDOC Week is for me about two things; first it’s about celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and communities and we have the NAIDOC Awards where communities and states and territories celebrate the amazing job that Aboriginal people do within health and other sectors,’’ Mr Copley said.

“More than that it is a time when Aboriginal communities not only celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Nations people of Australia, and we’re the oldest living culture in the world, but it’s also where we invite non-Indigenous Australians to be part of those celebrations and come and see what we do. So there’s lots of events held around the place people can go to.’’

Events include a raft of NAIDOC Week-related programming on television, radio and online platforms, particularly on the ABC, SBS and NITV. The ABC’s highlights include My Name is Gulpilil, the acclaimed documentary showcasing the extraordinary life of actor David Gulpilil. For more programming details please surf the broadcasters’ websites.

Our Reconciliation Action Plan is a natural extension of the ANMF (SA Branch)’s long-time commitment to improving the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across South Australia including through providing career opportunities specifically targeting Indigenous people in the field of nursing and midwifery.

We believe it is essential that we attract and retain Indigenous people to our workforce to provide culturally appropriate health services and work towards closing the gap in health-related outcomes.

This year the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Education Centre (ANMEC), an ANMF service, partnered with SALHN, Flinders Foundation, Baptist Care SA and the Department of Innovation and Skills to offer a Certificate III Individual

Support as a pathway for Indigenous students in the southern suburbs.  This will allow them to kickstart their career in health or further their studies through a Diploma of Nursing.

In the lead-up to NAIDOC Week, it was encouraging to learn this week that school principals in South Australia have backed a campaign for cultural educators to be deployed to primary schools to help teach students about First Nations people.

The campaign, Know Your Country, is being led by a coalition of First Nations groups and facilitated by charity World Vision, and comes as a survey reveals a dismal lack of knowledge of Indigenous history, The Advertiser reports.

The survey found only 30 per cent of respondents knew that David Unaipon – who appears on the $50 note – was an inventor and writer, with most people presuming he was a federal MP and 4 per cent thinking he was an AFL footballer.

Fewer than half of 1000 adults surveyed nationally in May knew how long Australia was inhabited prior to the arrival of British explorer James Cook. Sixty per cent did not know the name of the traditional owners of the land where they lived.

Some 93 per cent of the principals said they would welcome funding to hire a cultural educator, The Advertiser reported. The Government and Opposition have expressed interest in the proposal but have not yet made a commitment on funding.

“Universities such as La Trobe and Flinders are working hard to ensure that First Nations curriculum is part of all of our subjects, our degrees,’’ Mr Copley said.

“Primary schools have been doing a really good job and from what the papers say they’re looking at doing more.

“I think where we fall down nationally is we’re doing it in primary school and then there’s nothing in secondary school. So all of a sudden we have a gap that universities have to pick up at the other end.

“It would be a lot more consistent and a lot more accurate and far more beneficial to everybody if this was a topic that started in primary schools and flowed through secondary schools and then into TAFEs and Universities. We need a consistent framework across all forms of education.’’

Learn more about NAIDOC Week and upcoming events