Learning from working life: Professional development for Aboriginal health staff
This in-kind project, commissioned from Flinders University by the South Australian Department of Health, implemented a learning set specifically for Aboriginal staff in SA Health who are in positions of substantial policy or management responsibility. In future, this learning set will assist staff to develop and apply analytical and problem-solving skills to workplace problems, in an environment of mutual learning and safety. The project used an action research/action learning approach to:
- develop a better understanding of workforce capacity issues for Aboriginal staff
- to share and build knowledge and skills
- identify ways in which SA Health could more effectively support and develop its Aboriginal workforce (based on a better understanding of the problems and barriers).
The direct benefit of this project to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community (and therefore to Australia generally) is enhanced skills and confidence in a cohort of Indigenous health policy and management staff. The project also contributes to the capacity of SA Health to enhance the number, careers and competence of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce.
The project is now complete and a report has been published (see link below). The main message from this report is the need to get beyond polite silence and deal with problems in a business-like way. Systemic racism (the many subtle ways in which a system can reinforce underlying discrimination) is a central issue – for example, mainstream managers of Aboriginal staff may not appreciate the skills and knowledge that Aboriginal staff bring, or the workload they carry, and at the same time, may avoid dealing with their concerns from fear of being seen as racist.
- J. Dwyer & K. O’Donnell 2013, Learning from Working Life: Report of a learning set for Aboriginal managers in SA Health, Flinders University, Adelaide [PDF]