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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Personal story:


Jessie* is an Aboriginal Heath Liaison Officer (AHLO), helping Aboriginal patients and families navigate services and offering cultural support across multiple hospitals. Jessie provides cultural advice to colleagues through education sessions, meetings and at times one on one. Jessie said their motivation for working in the role is that they have always wanted to bring about better outcomes for their mob and others.

Jessie said they feel well supported culturally by their employer, and can access other external supports.

I have supervision with a social worker monthly, and my manager. There is a local Aboriginal group which I use to debrief, and [the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation] has an Improving Care of Aboriginal Patients (ICAP) Zoom group monthly for peer support.

However, the AHLO role has limited pathways for career progression. Jessie said that while this role suits them, the lack of pathways makes it hard to attract young people.

Jessie’s employer is very supportive and has offered a number of training opportunities and the flexibility to undertake additional work outside their normal working hours.

Prior to this role, Jessie worked as a counsellor and would like to use these skills more in their current role.

[The health service] tend[s] to use the people employed in specific roles—for example, counsellors to counsel … regardless of cultural safety and comfortability.

Jessie would also like to see the AHLO role cover other parts of the hospitals too.

I would like to see people at different points in their care. With ED, a lot of people come in over the weekend when no one is around. An ED support worker could support people coming through with mental health issues and may improve situation and response if done by an Aboriginal worker with the mob. Currently the AHLO doesn’t get to see this mob as they are in and out—I only see them if they come back and haven’t self‑discharged, which makes it hard to follow up.

Source: RCVMHS, Interview with ’Jessie’, (pseudonym), August 2020.

Note: *Name has been changed to protect privacy.