The Australian Pharmacy Council's (APC) Interprofessional Colloquium 2024 brought together a vibrant and diverse group of professionals aiming to amplify Indigenous voices to transform health profession education and practice.

This year's theme Winhangarra: Listen, Hear, Think focussed on listening to First Nations voices and integrating their knowledges into health profession education and practice. Over 140 people attended the day from across the health professions. Lloyd Dolan, Wiradjuri man, Charles Sturt University and Anna Tiatia Fa'atoese Latu from Waikato University, New Zealand, led a day of conversation, where panellists shared their stories.

Build authentic partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and health services

Creating authentic relationships with local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and health services is critical. Panellists spoke about co-design of Indigenous content and stated that their insights and advice, their stories and experiences can be an integral part of building educational content that truly reflects Indigenous perspectives and experiences.

Anna Tiatia Fa'atoese Latu says, "if you don't know, ask'.

Panellist Dr Chiao Xin Lim said partnerships must be authentic, built on respect, and given time.

"Have that relationship with your local Aboriginal and Tores Strait Islander health services. One thing I've learnt is to give them plenty of time, because they do receive a lot of requests to get input and provide materials to help achieve the content you want to deliver.

"My experience is that healthcare workers are very interested in teaching students. It's a win-win. They come and speak to the students and share their experiences, and the students get to listen to authentic experiences as well," Dr Xin Lim said.

"The end product is better - nothing has more impact than real stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," said panellist Alex Burke.

"Be bold, and don't be afraid to ruffle feathers, because that means you're getting things done," he concluded.

Re-engineer health profession education content - A student perspective

There was an emphasis on new ways of learning First Nations content and reengineering assessment, such as the use of yarning circles.

As a student Abbey reflected on her placements in rural areas.

"We learn cultural awareness training and we go on these placements, but afterwards there's never really a chance for students to listen to each other and talk about what we've learnt or talk to the lecturers and educators about how we apply what we have learnt. It's compulsory, we do it, we get it done, but as a student, it would be good if there was more opportunity to get together with other students and lectures to listen and talk," Abbey said.

"University so far has been very narrow in what it has taught culturally. They've given us the tools to be reflective, but it is very limited, and it's still got a long way to go. So being able to be network and to be able to communicate with these different people and listening to their perspective has been eye opening and I'll be able to bring that into my own practice," said Talia, a pharmacy student who attended the event.

Be open to share - benefits of Indigenous Networks in education

Panellists called for First Nations educational content and case studies to be shared across universities, across professions, and for everyone to work together towards progress.

"How can you connect and how can you support one another? Because individually we can't do that one thing, but collectively, we might be able to do that together," said Corrine Butler, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Occupational Therapy Network.

Curtley Nelson, Indigenous Physiotherapy Educator Network, talked about bringing the profession together to support each other.

"What I was seeing, in a role looking at accreditation in universities, is that there was a lot of champions in this space that really wanted to make change in their universities, but they were all working these silos. All doing work and some doing overlapping work, reinventing the same wheel over and over again.

"So, through establishing a Network, we wanted to bring these people together to share their stories, share their challenges and some of their successes. We're going to make mistakes and making mistakes is okay. If we don't try, we don't know if it works," he stated.

Look outside your profession

When hiring for roles that lead Indigenous work, look outside of your profession.

"Hire people who light fires beneath people and engage people. When people repeat the same statistics, then we maintain the same statistics," said facilitator Anna Tiatia Fa'atoese Latu.

Support Indigenous students

Discussions highlighted the importance of supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Creating an inclusive environment where students feel they belong is crucial.

Reflections from participants

"Sometimes, our power is that we exist. And that is enough," Aleena Williams, Yugambeh woman, APC Board Director and LIPPE member, stated when asked what her superpower is.

Facilitator Lloyd Dolan said, "Having conversations with people over time, we've heard those words, 'we will do this' then it started to shift to, 'we can do this', now what we're hearing is, 'we are doing this'. So, it's a change in language, and a change in action. That's the space we are in now - that we are doing."

"We've been able to share our ideas with colleagues from different parts of the industry. We've got practitioners, we've got people who have been working academia across different levels, those in administration, those who are at the coalface as well, " said Colloquium attendee.

"A lot of people are willing to learn, a lot of people have lots of things to offer, lots of ideas to share, and I think lots of people willing to listen and actually take on those ideas as well," said panellist, Alex Burke.

APC CEO Bronwyn Clark says she was energised by the day.

"I think that there's such a willingness of good heart in the room. Anna and Lloyd were amazing at creating such a safe space for people to be quite vulnerable and honest. I think we've got people at different stages in the room. So for some people this would have hit the mark and for others it might not have. But collectively, I feel as though we've made it a shift and I couldn't be prouder anything than that," she concluded.

See our gallery of photos from 2024!

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