Federal MP for Page Kevin Hogan, North Coast Primary Health Network CEO Dr Vahid Saberi, Dr Andrew Binns and Rekindling the Spirit CEO Greg Telford.

In a major boost for Aboriginal health and wellbeing in the Lismore area, a partnership has been formed between Rekindling the Spirit, which provides counselling and other support services, and Jullums Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS).

Jullums, previously managed by the federally-funded North Coast Primary Health Network, will become part of a broader, community-controlled health service. Both bodies will retain their current names and staff.

In one of the moving speeches that marked the celebratory event today (5 June 2017), Rekindling’s CEO Greg Telford said that life experiences and speaking with the Elders every day in his prayers had convinced him that if you “do the right thing, the right things happen.”

All present clearly agreed that this merger of the two well-regarded organisations was a good example of the ‘right thing’.

The event was held at Jullums in Uralba Street, near Lismore Base Hospital, and included traditional dances from former mates at Goonellabah Public School, a Welcome to Country by Uncle Mick Roberts, a familiar figure who sits on the new organisation’s committee, and a range of speakers.

Bundjalung Elder Mick Roberts delivers the Welcome to Country
Bundjalung Elder Mick Roberts delivers the Welcome to Country
Traditional dancers who formed a close bond and honed their skills while class mates at Goonellabah Public School.
Traditional dancers who formed a close bond and honed their skills while class mates at Goonellabah Public School.

NCPHN Chief Executive Dr Vahid Saberi said, “We were pleased to be assured that Rekindling the Spirit had all the required capabilities for the ongoing delivery of quality and safe health care to the Aboriginal community of Lismore.”

Greg Telford and Services Manager Jeff Richardson thanked the many past staff of Jullums and its present team who had done such a great job in taking the AMS this far:

“In particular, thanks go to Dr Andrew Binns who has worked at and been a great supporter of Jullums AMS for many years. And we really want to thank North Coast Primary Health Network for managing Jullums, supporting it and handing it over to us on a sound financial basis. We look forward to expanding and growing the health service.”

Mr Telford spoke warmly about the work done by Jullums (formerly Gurgun Bulahnggelah) over the years, saying he was honoured that the community had faith in his organisation to move forward and expand into a fully-fledged AMS.

“We are all about the community having a say in their health care and look forward to being able to provide real job opportunities for Aboriginal people so that they can become qualified and gain work anywhere,” he said.

Rekindling is taking ownership with the support of Aspen Medical, a global health care provider and philanthropic organisation, which, in accordance with the arrangement, will be available to support the AMS with clinical governance advice, funding in its early stages if necessary, and will provide health care staff to fill gaps if needed.

$100,000 drug & alcohol - mental health funding

The event was combined with an announcement by the Federal MP for Page Kevin Hogan that funding of almost $100,000 is being allocated to a pilot program tackling drug and alcohol use and mental health issues within the local Indigenous community.

The funds are from the Indigenous Team, an allocation that supports the coordination of care and other services for AMS clients. It goals include improving access to D&A treatment services, better integration of mental health and D&A services, and early intervention services for young Aboriginal people.

“It is important that we address drug use and mental health issues in all our communities,” he said.

The program is designed to be culturally appropriate for the local indigenous community and tailored to meet the needs of each individual.

“I would also like to congratulate Rekindling the Spirit which will run this program and is also taking over the management of Lismore’s Aboriginal Medical Service, Jullums.”