The service is aimed at providing psychosocial support to Indigenous communities in Katherine, Kybrook, Pine Creek, Werenbun, Jodetluk, Beswick, Binjari and Barunga. The new telehealth service is supported by funding from the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) through the Trialling Pathways to Real Jobs (TPRJ) initiative.
The telehealth services are offered through Jobfind’s allied health service, Healthfind, and are delivered by a team of psychologists, occupational therapists and counsellors based in Melbourne, Victoria. Twice a month, the Melbourne Healthfind team travel 3,500km to service clients face-to-face. The combination of telehealth and face-to-face servicing is building rapport and continuity of services for clients, says Healthfind Manager, Matthew Raker.
Paul Synnott is the CEO of National Indigenous Partnerships at the Angus Knight Group and was keen to see the new service offered in remote communities.
“This initiative is providing essential support to local people as they seek employment and health and wellbeing support.” – Paul Synnott
One key feature of the service is its flexibility and person-centred approach, which allows participants to receive support from their own homes through phone calls or video conferencing. This particularly overcomes residents’ barriers of physical distance and lack of transport to access services.
RISE Ventures has established a private counselling room in Katherine to provide participants with a comfortable and confidential space for telehealth calls or in-person consultations with visiting practitioners.
Local allied health services in Katherine and Central Arnhem are limited, with residents facing long wait times to access services, often outside their communities.
According to the Australian Government, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience a higher rate of mental health issues than non-Indigenous Australians with deaths from suicide almost twice as high; and a rate of high/very high psychological distress, 2.4 times higher than non-Indigenous Australians. Leading Indigenous mental health researchers and advocates maintain that mental health care for Indigenous Australians remains inadequate and inequitable (Dudgeon et al. 2020).
In July 2020, a review of the Closing the Gap initiative determined that Australia must do more to achieve equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have poorer health and wellbeing, education, employment, justice, safety, housing, and life expectancy than non-Indigenous Australians.
The trial service began in November 2022 after consultation and planning with representatives of community via RISE Ventures and Nyirrungulung-RISE. Both organisations service local Indigenous residents who are seeking training and employment opportunities and participate in government-funded pathways to employment.
Initially, Healthfind staff did plenty of community outreach to better understand the needs and servicing preferences of local people. Via yarns over morning tea, the team gradually met community members as well as other service providers in the local areas.
To ensure the service respects First Nations cultural protocols, Healthfind ensures that male and female practitioners are available for face-to-face and telehealth appointments.
Healthfind staff will also receive cultural safety and awareness training by end of April 2023 through the Gamarada Universal Indigenous Resources (GUIR).
Healthfind works closely with the staff of RISE Ventures and Nyirrungulung-RISE to establish a therapeutic alliance and help them identify suitable candidates for the allied health support service.
“We are learning from each other and sharing knowledge all the time,” says Matthew.
Positive outcomes so far
Since launching the trial service in November 2022 with one client, the service has grown significantly, with 50 residents accessing the service by April 2023. More than half have attended multiple appointments. These participants have received a range of supports, including for:
- General and social anxiety
- Stress management
- Grief and loss
- Pain management
- Housing instability
- Career Counselling
- Confidence building
The trial is ongoing and will be evaluated on measures such as engagement, attendance, career outcomes and positive impact for participants reconnecting with their land and culture.
Mathew says: “We are optimistic that this new service has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of people in remote areas.” Healthfind Manager
Healthfind is an allied health support service by Jobfind. Healthfind offers psychology and life skills services to participants of government-funded employment services. Healthfind provides one-on-one intervention to assist individuals to overcome physical, mental and socio-economic barriers that may be preventing them from achieving their employment goals.
Learn more about Healthfind: www.jobfind.com.au/wellbeing-support/