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Trio offer extra support for District’s Aboriginal community

Staff step-up during COVID-19

May 2020

Trio offer extra support for District’s Aboriginal community

Trio offer extra support for District’s Aboriginal community

Karinya Bellear has stepped up.

“I am incredibly humbled to be able to assist our mob through these unusual and challenging times,” she said.

With one of the biggest urban Aboriginal populations in NSW, Sydney Local Health District is working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Many Aboriginal people have co-morbidities which put them at a higher risk of being diagnosed with COVID-19 than the rest of the population.

Karinya is a former nurse who cared for liver and kidney transplant patients at RPA and a proud Bundjalung woman whose family originates from the NSW north coast.

Last year, she was the recipient of the Sol Bellear Memorial Aboriginal Graduate Health Management Traineeship – named in honour of her uncle.

Sol was the long-time Chair of the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern and the traineeship was established to recognise his contribution and to provide opportunities for growing future Aboriginal leaders in healthcare.

Karinya’s mother, LaVerne Bellear, is the chief executive at AMS Redfern.

“I grew-up with Aboriginal health being a big part of our family,” Karinya said.

As part of her two year traineeship, Karinya is currently completing a 12-month placement in the office of the District’s chief executive, Dr Teresa Anderson AM. Plus, a Masters of Health Service Management.

And now Karinya and her colleagues, Kalkadoon / Kuku Yalanji woman Dee McNamara and Gamilaroi man Walter Towney, are helping the District’s Public Health Unit contact tracing team when a COVID-19 case is confirmed in the Aboriginal community.

Their community connections and advice help to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are offered culturally appropriate support and care.
They’re on-call seven days a week to assist when needed.

“We’re able to act as a bridge to connect the Aboriginal community with the District and that’s so important during COVID-19,” Walter Towney, the Business Manager for the Population Health Unit, said.

They act as a single point of contact to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples navigate the different services and support that’s available to them during their 14-day self-isolation period.

"It makes the Mob feel more comfortable when we have a yarn to them about their welfare. Not only does it helps to build trust and respect and makes them feel safe.

"And, it gives us an insight into how being in isolation may affect them and the wellbeing of their family," Dee McNamara, an Aboriginal Immunisation Liaison Health Worker, said.

The trio’s guidance has proved invaluable.

“The longstanding relationships they’ve developed have proven to be very beneficial during the pandemic,” Andrew Ingleton, a Clinical Nurse Consultant and Operations Lead at the District’s Public Health Unit, said.

“Their connections have facilitated the timely follow-up of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and close contacts, within the District’s Aboriginal community.

“They’ve also been able to chat on the phone with Aboriginal families and provide additional information, support and reassurance, if needed. Their input has been invaluable,” he said.

The District, in collaboration with AMS Redfern, has also set up a COVID-19 clinic at Redfern Health Centre which has since been expanded to include the testing of Aboriginal children.

And, the District has contributed to the development of culturally-appropriate resources to communicate key health messages about COVID-19 to Aboriginal communities.

“Knowing there are resources and networks that’ll benefit and strengthen our community makes me proud that I work with Sydney LHD. It’s valuable knowing my role during these times is contributing towards the overall health and well-being of my people,” Karinya said.


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