Closing the Gap
The Poche Indigenous Health Network aims to help close the gap in Indigenous health by addressing systemic health equity issues.
Sitting between higher education, health and community, it recognises that fostering change through Indigenous health leadership and Indigenous-led education and research, in collaboration with community is critical to achieving this goal.
At the Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, we bring this to life by creating academic pathways and through executive leadership programs.
Based at the University of Melbourne in the Faculty of Medicine, Density and Health Services, our Graduate Research programs provide academic and system navigation support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander PhD candidates, both pre and post-enrolment.
In recent years, we have seen six of our 28 candidates submit their theses and go on to do amazing work, benefiting Indigenous communities and their health and well-being. In the case of Todd Fernando, this has been taking up the position of Victorian Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities.
Todd, a descendant of the Kalarie peoples of the Wiradjuri nation, who identifies as queer and uses he/him pronouns, focused his PhD research on the social and cultural experiences of queer Indigenous Australians. His thesis presented findings of a qualitative study into the social, cultural, and historical factors that shape the determinants of health of queer Indigenous people in Australia.
The research highlighted how queer Indigenous people are highly literate and proactive in managing their health and wellbeing. And that queer Indigenous people showcase diverse codeswitching techniques within the public and private interfaces of queer and Indigenous social settings. The study also found that queer Indigenous Australians possess a deep desire to understand and connect their gender and sexuality experiences within both ancient and contemporary Indigenous cultures as a form of healing, expression, and way of life.
This research will no doubt shape the influence and change Todd brings in his role as Commissioner.
Doctor Jordan Cory, a proud Kamilaroi woman, junior surgical doctor, and non-for-profit Board Director participated in our Leadership Program in 2018. The Poche Indigenous Leadership Program supports the development of emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in health.
Building a cohort each year, and connecting them into a supportive, empowered network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders is creating system change across the Australian health sector. Dr Cory is now studying at Harvard University as both a Fulbright and Roberta Sykes scholar. She is a Master of Public Health candidate, focused on leadership, health systems, and health disparity research. Her academic interest is in defining and improving surgical outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Cory worked with the Victorian State government to co-develop and lead a unique team that ensured cultural responsiveness and genuine community engagement were prioritised when testing, tracing, and containing complex outbreaks in CALD communities.
Mobilising an agenda for equity and change in health is how the Melbourne Poche Centre contributes to closing the gap.