Project title: Developing a best practice model of holistic health service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates of the Alexander Maconochie Correctional Centre in the ACT
Project leaders: Jodie Fisher, Muuji Regional Centre for Social and Emotional Wellbeing, and Graham Henderson, AIATSIS
The Australian Capital Territory built its first gaol in 2008, and AIATSIS and the local Aboriginal medical service worked with the ACT government to ensure the gaol provides good health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates.
Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service provided a service to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates in the Goulburn Gaol (NSW), Cooma Gaol (NSW), Belconnen Remand Centre (ACT), and Quamby Juvenile Detention Centre (ACT). This work clearly revealed to Winnunga Nimmityjah the importance of improving the current inadequate health service delivery model.
In January 2006, ACT Healthpact (a then ACT Government Statutory Authority) awarded Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service $100,000 of funding to develop a best practice model of holistic health service delivery for future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inmates of the Alexander Maconochie Correctional Centre (which is due to open in the ACT in the first quarter of 2008). The study began 5 June 2006 and was completed in 2007.
Research partners and stakeholders
The research partners for the study include Winnunga Nimmityjah (lead agency), Muuji Regional Centre for Social and Emotional Wellbeing, National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University, Healthpact Research Centre for Health Promotion and Wellbeing at the University of Canberra, AIATSIS and the CRCAH. Other important stakeholders include ACT Health, ACT Corrective Services, ACT Chief Minister’s Department, and NSW Justice Health. A 20-member steering committee comprising research partners and stakeholders was appointed.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody and their families are exposed to health risks additional to those endured by other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody has increased in all jurisdictions since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. This study explored the health and well being requirements of prisoners, their families and the service providers operating in the correctional service system.
A review of existing literature and models of health care delivery, both national and international, with a particular focus on Aboriginal people in custodial settings, began in June 2006 and will continue into the latter part of the study.
In preparation for conducting focus groups and interviews, nine co-researchers on the study attended one day training sessions in the first part of August 2006. The study has a capacity building and participatory action research approach, which means the research partners work interactively with previously untrained co-researchers and other people participating in the research. This includes workers from The Connection (an organization run for Aboriginal users by Aboriginal ex users) whose experience of the prison environment is first-hand and profound, with the result that knowledge and skills are transferred in both directions. Other people taking part are health workers from Winnunga Nimmityjah AHS and members of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community. The study has also been able to support The Nannies’ Group in providing advice about their acquiring a computer and a meeting place. The Group identifies and redresses gaps in Community support and supports ACT Aboriginal prisoners and Community members who are victims of domestic violence and are struggling with drug and alcohol habits. Their work also contributes towards diverting young Community members from drugs and alcohol and associated offences.
Interviews and focus groups comprising ex-prisoners, their families, doctors, Aboriginal Health Workers and other appropriate health service staff with current or recent first hand experience began in August 2006. A report was submitted to the ACT Government for implementation in February 2007. Associated with this study was the transfer of this new knowledge and understanding to health and justice systems in other jurisdictions throughout Australia.