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Clinician Connect

Working together to improve the rehabilitation journey for Aboriginal people

30 Aug 2021 Reading time approximately


The My rehab, my journey – Gadjigadji project brings together the Agency for Clinical Innovation’s clinical networks, Aboriginal community members, Aboriginal health workers, clinicians and health staff from rehabilitation services to improve the experience for Aboriginal people in the rehabilitation environment.

“Aboriginal people who have a long stay in hospital following trauma or a medical episode face some unique challenges," explains Jenni Johnson, Stream Manager for Trauma, Pain and Rehabilitation at the Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI).

“The numbers of Aboriginal people in rehabilitation are low. We understand this might be due to historical issues of trust, intergenerational trauma, and family and community responsibilities.

“People may be fearful of rehabilitation and either choose not to attend at all; choose not to attend follow-up appointments; or may discharge early against medical advice.

“It is important that each Aboriginal person has a positive experience of rehabilitation and has the opportunity to reach their goals.”

Empowering clinicians and health staff

“Gadjigadji is a Gamilaraay word meaning regrowth, which is important to the project," adds Jenni.

My rehab, my journey – Gadjigadji aims to support rehabilitation clinicians and health staff to create a culturally safe environment for Aboriginal people in their ward.

“We’ve done this by consulting with the Aboriginal workforce, clinicians and the community to understand the issues; and we’ve developed a practical web-based resource for clinicians and health staff.”

Currently being piloted in two rehabilitation in-patient services, the My rehab, my journey – Gadjigadji website provides tools, videos and resources to:

  • help clinicians understand the experiences of Aboriginal people
  • test their cultural awareness
  • learn about real experiences from Aboriginal people in rehabilitation
  • understand how to communicate positively to Aboriginal patients and their families
  • create a culturally safe space
  • build cultural competence through education and training
  • apply practical tools to plan for improvements in the rehabilitation ward.

Artwork by the late Aunty Cecily Wellington-Carpenter, showing the stages of the patient rehabilitation experience.

Connecting with the community

“Collaboration and consultation has been critical for this project,” says Jenni. “Some of the major achievements to date have been collaborating with the Aboriginal workforce on resource development and connecting stakeholders, such as rehabilitation clinicians with Aboriginal health services within local health districts (LHDs).

“Meetings and workshops have been a key part of communication, collaboration and engagement,” she adds.

“As an Aboriginal Health Worker, I have enjoyed being part of the project and sharing, not only my experiences, but that of my community and relaying important messages from the mob,” says Rick Shipp, Aboriginal Health Team Leader, Goulburn Hospital. Rick is also featured in one of the clinical yarning video series, featured on the Gadjigadgi website.

“Over time, I have listened to my people’s stories and I have been on the journey with them,” he adds.

“This project brings hope. There has been really positive energy to change rehabilitation services; to make it more inviting for Aboriginal people. The ACI team have delved into a deeper understanding and this has opened doors. There is a genuine desire to show meaningful outcomes.”

Collaborating across the ACI and the health system

The ACI established two working parties to drive the project. These groups focused on resource development and implementation, and involved Aboriginal health workers, clinicians and managers from rehabilitation services.

The NSW Health stakeholders that were involved in the project include representatives from each LHD and the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network to ensure the project considered the needs of paediatric patients and their families.

The following ACI clinical networks were also involved:

  • Rehabilitation Network
  • Spinal Cord Injury Network
  • Burn Injury Network
  • Brain Injury Rehabilitation Network
  • Pain Network
  • NSW Institute of Trauma and Injury Management.

"Communication is key to bringing together multiple stakeholders in a project like this," says Jenni. “It’s important to engage the Aboriginal workforce and community stakeholders at every phase in the project,” she advises. “Face-to-face meetings or phone calls are better than relying on email.

“Always take the time to develop relationships and build trust, and never promise what you can’t deliver.

“Provide clear guidance on the aims and deliverables of the project; seek feedback with clear timelines; follow through; and acknowledge the input of people who contribute.”

Next steps for the Gadjigadji project?

“The project is being piloted at two sites, Prince of Wales Spinal Injuries and General Rehabilitation Unit and Tamworth General Rehabilitation Service. This will allow the resources to be used, reviewed and evaluated in practice, so they can be refined in preparation for further rollout," says Jenni.

“We will establish a community of practice to connect services during implementation; provide guided training sessions; promote and disseminate the resources; and gradually roll out the program to interested nominated LHDs and statewide specialty services.”

For more information, view the My rehab, my journey – Gadjigadji website that is currently being piloted.

Contact ACI-PRISM@health.nsw.gov.au to keep up to date with the progress of the website and/or provide your feedback.

My rehab, my journey – Gadjigadji

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