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Partnership a win for students and Aboriginal families

11 December 2015
Cultural awareness comes to life with new placement program

Health students from the University of Sydney are spending their December break working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and getting hands-on with cross-cultural understanding.

Health Sciences student Rachel Jaros pictured playing with children at Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre

Health Sciences student Rachel Jaros working with kids at Cullunghutti

Under a new partnership program, Aboriginal controlled health and community services will host Faculty of Health Sciences students for four weeks to help them better understand the needs of Aboriginal clients.

Unlike traditional university placements, students are not marked on their clinical skills. Instead they have the time to focus on building cross-cultural communication and intercultural relationship skills.

Bachelor of Health Sciences student Rachel Jaros is working with families at the Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre in Nowra. The unique centre provides a range of services including maternal health, child care, early learning and children’s health clinics for Aboriginal families with children up to eight years-of-age.

“The things we are learning and the way we are leaning is unlike anything I have ever experienced at university; it’s refreshing and exciting,” said Rachel.

"Advocacy for children is an area I’m passionate about, so learning cultural competency in a childcare setting is providing me with skills I hope to apply when I’m a qualified professional.”

Dr John Gilroy from the Faculty of Health Sciences said students need the opportunity to work with Aboriginal families before becoming health professionals.

“We need to improve the cultural competency of our health workforce, and what better way than giving students the chance to work with Aboriginal staff and families during their formative years,” said Dr Gilroy, a Koori man from the Yuin Nation.

“Our partnerships with Aboriginal-led organisations are a win-win. Students learn more than they ever could in a classroom, and the health and community services get an extra pair of hands.

“I’m particularly happy to see students working with my mob in Nowra to help address the unmet need of Koori families.”

Five students volunteered for the first round of the program, which forms part of a unit of study on Indigenous communities. The unit includes cultural competency preparation workshops and covers the history of Indigenous health and Aboriginal health and community services in Australia.