Who can close the [healthcare inequality] gap?

Right Now in conversation with Banok Rind
banok rind

As a Yamatji-Badimia woman and a nurse, Banok Rind has experienced the healthcare system in ways many cannot imagine. Right Now sat down with her to discuss how her views of the healthcare system have changed over the course of her career, and what she sees as the root cause of healthcare inequality for Australia’s Indigenous peoples.

Right Now: When did you decide you wanted to become a nurse? At the time, did you envisage any difficulties in getting the qualifications you needed and beginning a career in this field?

Banok Rind: I never knew I wanted to become a nurse. I didn’t think I would even make it to Year 11 or 12 let alone university. When I did get to Year 12, I began to take things more seriously roughly around the time when we had to apply for university. I started to think about our people’s health, what I’ve seen within my own family and the change I wanted to make within my community. I applied for nursing as a means to enter the health sector in order to shape the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

How long have you been working in the healthcare industry? How have your perceptions of the systematic issues present in the healthcare industry changed in that time?

I’ve been working within the healthcare industry for the last 9 months; however, my journey working within health care started before that. I worked alongside my Aunty Kerrie Doyle at RMIT University, where I assisted with the Indigenous Health Unit. I was one of the representatives of the Close the Gap (CTG) campaign during my university years and am still involved with it. The last 9 months working in health care I have realised how much really needs to be changed within the system especially when it comes to providing culturally safe care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. Not only that, but the prevalence of racism within the system amongst health professionals, it’s shocking.

Indigenous females are three times as likely to have a potentially preventable hospitalisation as non-Indigenous females. How is government policy, such as the Closing the Gap initiative, helping to improve this statistic?

The CTG initiative provides “programs” that cover the costs of certain procedures, medications, etc.; this is a way to improve outcomes and statistics for Indigenous men and women. There has also been growth in providing one-on-one nursing to Aboriginal women in maternal health. When it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; everything is interrelated. In some cases, services are available but whether they’re accessible to the community is a separate discussion. Resources is another issue, some community health services have limited resources, which impacts care delivery and access. Having more Indigenous health professionals will bring about great change, not only in the health sector, but the employment and education sector as well.

What are policies, such as Closing the Gap, overlooking when it comes to improving Indigenous health outcomes?

The ‘one-size fits all’ approach is not ideal for any Aboriginal community. Every community is different and the needs for every community are different. If we want to improve health, education and employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people then listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Sit down and yarn with us, not for us. We know what’s best for our people.

In your experiences as both a nurse and as a Yamatji-Badimia woman, how has the healthcare system neglected Indigenous women?

The healthcare system on numerous occasions not only neglects Aboriginal women but Aboriginal men as well. Many services lack the basic understanding of providing culturally safe and culturally competent care to their Aboriginal patients. When we talk about neglect within the healthcare system, it entails cultural safety; it entails not having assumptions about Aboriginal patients based on the stereotypes associated with Aboriginal people. When it comes to our people, everything is interrelated.

What do you believe to be the biggest obstacles for Indigenous women in accessing proper health care?

One of the biggest obstacles I have seen within my community is the shame factor. Many women in my community being ashamed and feeling shame to access the appropriate health care because of what they may be going through medically and mentally but also the responsibility they carry on their shoulders for their families.

How did you feel entering the healthcare industry as an Indigenous woman?

I was scared. I was scared because on my placements as a nursing student, I dealt with countless racist incidents. As I mentioned earlier, racism within the health system is one of the biggest issues. This needs to change. The last 9 months I have spent so much time educating, having discussions with people regarding providing culturally safe care.

What’s the impact of having more Indigenous men and women working in the healthcare industry?

Having more Aboriginal men and women working within the healthcare industry will change the face of Aboriginal health. There are so many young people rising up in health, education and justice for their families, for their communities and for our people. It’s empowering to see so many young leaders emerging into all areas of health, education and employment.