Onemda sets Indigenous health agenda
A simple ‘before and after’ comparison charts the impact of Onemda over its first decade. This milestone was achieved in 2010 as its inaugural Director, Professor Ian Anderson, moved on to fresh challenges.
Before Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit started in 1999, the six-year program for University of Melbourne medical students included just one two-hour lecture on Aboriginal health.
Ten years later, Indigenous health is embedded in teaching and academic health agendas, within the University and nationally, thanks largely to Onemda’s efforts. Its achievements have been recognised in 2010 with the Norman Curry Award for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning.
Professor Anderson, who headed both Onemda and the Centre for Health and Society within the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, stepped down as Director of the Centre to become Director of the University’s Murrup Barak Melbourne Institute for Indigenous Development in November 2009.
In leaving Onemda, he reflected on its early priorities and pioneering leadership of Indigenous health education and research. “When Onemda was established there was no prior focus within the Faculty around Aboriginal health. It was really important to build the relationships to make this happen within the Aboriginal community and the community agencies,” he said. “The second thing was to develop a focus around teaching and learning.”
He likened the integration of Aboriginal health into teaching and learning across the curriculum to “a narrative thread” that students could follow through the various programs, and cited the appointment of Shaun Ewen as the University’s first senior lecturer in Aboriginal health as a significant milestone.
At a national level he pointed to Onemda’s influential role in brokering agreements covering Indigenous health content in medical training. By working with the peak body, Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand, Onemda drove the development of a national curriculum framework for Aboriginal health and medical education.
This led to the evolution of the LIME (Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education) network, a project he cites as being “particularly challenging” but the most rewarding. LIME now operates within all the medical schools, providing a forum to meet and exchange best practice.
Onemda has also built a research profile with a particular focus on work in the child health, chronic diseases and workforce space, he said. This has involved national collaborations through the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health.
At a personal level, he found it deeply rewarding to have Onemda provide a mentoring role for the growing number of Aboriginal students. “And we’ve had a small number of Aboriginal students who were PhD students within Onemda and that has been great to see them move on and become successful.”
His role at Murrup Barak “broadens the canvas”, he said. “One major achievement in 2010 was to have the University agree to a draft reconciliation action plan – that’s a fantastic place to start.”
“We now have the University making a broad commitment to indigenous development that aligns with the core business of the University and all faculties have a role to play.”
Professor Anderson paid tribute to Onemda staff in building collaborative relationships with diverse communities, from Aboriginal to academic and research interests. “The capabilities that exist within Onemda have been profoundly important.”
“I wish all my colleagues at Onemda the very best and it has been an enormous privilege to have worked with them.”
Caption: Professor Ian Anderson