Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Service CEO Julie Tongs has collaborated with the ACT Minister of Corrections Mr Shane Rattenbury MLA to reach an operational agreement allowing Winnunga Nimmityjah AHCS to service indigenous inmates in the Alexander Maconochie Centre in 2018. Winnunga will be able to operate in the Maconochie Centre between the hours of 9:00am to 5:00pm, providing comprehensive, culturally relevant primary healthcare to the indigenous population of the facility.
This development comes after the death in custody of Aboriginal man Steven Freeman in 2016 in the Maconochie Centre, the coronial inquest of which was conducted in August this year. He was found with a toxic amount of methadone in his system after his cellmate called for help.
The need for specialised care for Aboriginal people in custody becomes even clearer, confirming the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Indigenous Deaths in Custody; that individual care plans need to be devised for Indigenous detainees. The move by Winnunga and Minister Rattenbury is a first of its kind, setting the standard nationally in addressing the need for adequate indigenous healthcare in incarceration.
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Chairman Mr John Singer addressed Wednesday’s board meeting, which Minister Rattenbury attended, with powerful words. His speaking notes can be found HERE
This step is a milestone in the empowerment of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services. Community Controlled Health in detention is essential for maintaining continuity of care and catering to the spiritual health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees.