Story courtesy the Koori Mail
IT was because of the ill health in her family that Yamatji-Badimia woman Banok Rind decided to become a nurse.
“My dad has diabetes and every one of his siblings had diabetes – and then there’s the chronic diseases that go with it,” Ms Rind said.
“When you live in remote places, some towns don’t have the best access to health services, and some of my aunties and uncles have shame about going to health services because they don’t feel comfortable.
“If you’re not comfortable to seek help, then that will affect your health – physically and mentally.”
On average, an Indigenous person will die a decade younger than other Australians. Rather than shrinking, the gap in life expectancy has been widening, while the Indigenous child mortality rate is more than double that of other children.
Ms Rind, 23, from Mount Magnet in Western Australia, has been working as a registered nurse for nine months.
She said working as a health professional outside the community environment has “opened her eyes to the institutionalised racism that goes on”.
“When I was on nursing student placement, I saw other Aboriginal nursing students drop out of the placement because of health professionals commenting on what they looked like or asking ‘What is she doing here?’,” she said.
“The racism can be direct or subtle, but it shows that some health professionals don’t know how to treat Aboriginal patients.
“There’s a lack of knowledge about cultural safety, and it’s a problem because if Aboriginal people go to see someone and their first time is a bad experience, then they won’t go back.
“My story is the story of every Aboriginal person out there. It’s our story. There is such a huge disparity between the health of Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.
“I feel a responsibility to share the reality of the situation and get the information out there. It’s a step towards change.”
Ms Rind was asked to tell her story at a national Closing the Gap Day event and give a keynote speech to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
She was also asked to speak at a Federal parliamentary breakfast earlier this year, on behalf of Oxfam’s Close the Gap campaign, where she called on all governments to do more than just undergo a ‘refresh’ of closing the gap targets.
“That was big – it was the first life-changing moment in my career, where I was given the platform to make my voice heard,” Ms Rind said.
“After I spoke, I had a woman come up to me crying and said she didn’t know about the gap. She was unaware that 95% of Indigenous people are affected by suicide.
“We are in a time of change. We have leaders with knowledge in parliament and community advisors. We need to trust that change will happen.”