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Hamilton and Heywood – Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation – TT 3-4

This practice will accept applications from Training Term (TT) 3-4 registrars.

Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation, with an 80 km service region and offices in Heywood and Hamilton, is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and a leader in delivering innovative services to support and build community. It provides opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their families to access and participate in culturally appropriate services and community activities.

The corporation has a long history of developing innovative projects to upskill their workforce and empower the community and is recognised as a progressive leader for positive change with a focus on embedding strong culture and identity to strengthen community.

Community engagement is at the organisation’s core. They offer a comprehensive range of services, including providing transport to community members. Programs utilise strength-based, self-determined approaches, recognising the importance of identity, language, spirituality and connection to country, to family and to community, aligning with the Aboriginal understanding of health and wellbeing and programs.

Aboriginal community control ensures that all Winda-Mara’s services are tailored to the community’s particular priorities and goals and needs, delivering culturally appropriate solutions driven by the local community. Employing over 75 staff, 70 per cent of whom are Aboriginal,  the corporation services the local communities of Portland, Heywood and Hamilton but also work across the region servicing communities within the shires of Moyne, Glenelg, Southern Grampians and Warrnambool City council.

The clinic offers an holistic approach to healthcare and has become the frontline of advice, care and support for the community. During COVID-19, the clinic adjusted to new strategies to maintain the community’s health and wellness. The Health Unit implemented a virtual calendar of events and developed a gym library, aiming to increase the connection within the community and to address the common social isolation issues. COVID impacts have also seen innovation in service delivery with home check-ins,  provision of meals, resources to enable regular online communication, safe alarms and shopping support, All clients are offered pre-consults and the clinic is fully bulk-billed.

The clinic encourages all GP trainees to become a part of the community and participate in cultural training by going out On Country. Events are generally held throughout the year to help GP trainees feel comfortable in their new community. Events include community dinners and meetings, reconciliation and NAIDOC events and health and wellbeing activities such as Tai chi and Pilates.

GP trainees are well supported in the practice with experienced staff ready to lend an ear, or offer experienced advice, a psychology service and an employee assistance program. Aboriginal Health Workers and registered nurses also provide expert support to GP trainees, who have the opportunity for ongoing work at the clinic after fellowship.

The corporation also has programs and services in primary health, mental health, family services, chronic health, eye and ear health, drug and alcohol, men’s and women’s health, preventative health, together with home and community care, housing, family and kinship support, dental, dietician, psychologist, podiatry and kinesiology, as well as land management and cultural tours.

The co-operative has recently focused on improving data management systems, incorporating an ICT upgrade and a compliance training program to deliver consistent and timely training.

The scenic rolling hills of the Hamilton and Heywood area form a picturesque setting. From volcanic plains to flowing falls, wineries and artwork, the region is steeped in history and waiting for you to explore it’s unique heritage. Heywood is only 20 minutes from the coast and Hamilton just half an hour from the world-renowned Grampians National Park.

Heywood and Hamilton are in the heart of the Western District – explore the volcanic plains, enjoy the world-renowned Great Ocean Road and experience the beautiful but rugged Grampians National Park.

With its rich history, scenic rolling hills, waterfalls and the calm waters of Lake Hamilton – the Western District should be your training destination.

A bit of everything in Victoria’s south west.

GP trainees will be supervised by experienced, highly-qualified GPs Dr Marg Garde and Dr Ed Poliness.

Dr Ed Poliness has had a long history in Aboriginal health and has practiced both rurally and remotely across Australia. He was recently awarded the prestigious Victorian Rural Health Award for Closing the Gap, in recognition of his significant contribution to providing care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

“I’ve been working in Aboriginal health generally for about 20 years and I love working in an Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisation (ACCO),” said Dr Poliness.

“Members drive and decide the important things in their health so it’s a great area to work in.

“The health service puts together a team that are experts in different areas, and you get to work with Aboriginal health workers who actually understand their patients’ needs,” he said.

“They can often translate things to a doctor which they might not know because they really understand what’s going on for that person and what their needs are.”

Dr Marg Garde is passionate about preventative care, health promotion and early intervention. Her special interests include adolescent health, women’s health, mental health and aged care. In addition to this Dr Garde worked in Aboriginal Health for seven years in Portland. She continues to maintain her contact with the two local Aboriginal medical clinics.

Dr Garde said general practice is about many things, but for her it’s mostly the relationships. This is especially the case when working in Aboriginal Health.

“The Aboriginal community is inclusive and generous in its sharing of culture, food, experiences and most of all their stories. Each story is very special,” she said.

When working in an Aboriginal medical service doctors immediately feel welcomed into a very different working environment.

“Every single patient gives you something that makes you feel that is it worthwhile sitting in the chair,” Dr Garde said.

“It might not be every consultation every day, but every patient – somewhere along the line – just makes you feel glad that you do what you do. You can’t beat that.”

See more about the practice here.