This week we recognise National Reconciliation Week, a time for all Australians to learn about the shared histories, cultures, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

National Reconciliation Week is a timely reminder to acknowledge that there is still so much work to do to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia, particularly when we consider health measures such as life expectancy, chronic disease, child and maternal health.

Everyone has a role to play in achieving reconciliation, including Telstra Health, as we continue working to improve lives through digitally-enabled care for our community.

We are proud to be able to work with around 73% of Aboriginal Medical Services to support them in delivering health and care through our Communicare platform, as well as through our Virtual Health Monitoring solution which is helping to improve accessibility of care in regional and remote communities.

In our ongoing commitment to support to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples through the health, aged care and social services we work with, this year Telstra Health enabled a number of employees to participate in Indigenous immersion experiences across the Cape York and Central Australia regions.

The first Indigenous immersion experience took place in May 2022, and saw six employees from various departments across the organisation travel to Cape York to spend a week on-Country with Traditional Owners and locals in Binthi-Warra, Hope Vale, Cooktown, Wujal Wujal and China Camp.

Here’s what one of the participants, Heather Doherty, Senior Corporate Communications Adviser at Telstra Health, had to say about her time on the Cape York Indigenous immersion experience:

“The Indigenous immersion experience was an incredibly eye-opening and humbling trip, and I feel very grateful not just for the opportunity to be a part of the experience, but to all of the Indigenous communities that I was able to meet with, listen to and learn from.

For one whole week myself and five colleagues lived side by side with local Indigenous communities, listened to their way of life, their histories, their cultures and the many complex challenges they encounter on a daily basis.

We visited various remote local health services, hospitals, aged care support facilities, as well as a police station, knowledge centre and art centre - where we learnt from some of the local artists while at work.

We were welcomed to Country by Traditional Owners in smoking ceremonies in some of the most scenic, hidden areas I have ever travelled to. And we were able to build genuine relationships and trust with those we met with, enabling us to discuss topics that would traditionally be difficult to talk about.

In fact, on our last evening of the experience, Traditional Owner of Wujal Wujal, Kathleen Walker, stated to myself and colleagues, “You came here as strangers, you leave as family” – a phrase that will also stick with me.   

We learnt about the importance of face-to-face communication with the communities we met, their connection to and commitment to Country, and the challenges that disproportionately impact people in remote Indigenous communities.

I would whole-heartedly recommend participating in an Indigenous immersion experience for anyone who is curious about the history of Australia, or who is passionate about truly understanding the histories, cultures and challenges of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

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