Print this page

Introducing restorative health practices to give voice, accountability and healing value for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families/communities in hospitals

This project intends to infuse the characteristics of strength and resilience of Aboriginal people into a Restorative Health Care framework for enabling Aboriginal voice in hospital practice, governance and consumer engagement processes.

At the core of this project is the intent that Aboriginal peoples’ voices are heard in the hospital setting. The project aims to join traditional Yarning Circle methodology to modern corporate governance in hospitals through the Restorative Health Care way. Therefore, enabling Aboriginal voices to resonate in the hospital setting and transform it into a restorative facility.

We believe that this project presents an important opportunity to bridge the Indigenous and non-Indigenous ‘Gap’ in life expectancy and wellbeing. The historical harms perpetrated within hospitals and other institutions associated with colonisation, as well as the distrust engendered by brutal separations of children from their families continue to tragically frame the healthcare relationships of many Indigenous Australians. This problem is compounded by negative cultures within the health system that may limit Indigenous voice in healthcare environments. These relational issues of identity, trust and equity contribute to existing and potential communication barriers. Communication failings are the primary cause of over 70% of sentinel events resulting in death or serious injury to patients; and given the prevalence of harmful cultures of bullying in Australian healthcare organisations - it becomes imperative to find new ways to work.

Whanganui, a restorative community in New Zealand, have significantly accelerated narrowing Maori health inequity by using Restorative Practices, which they define as “a philosophy, in action, that places respectful relationships at the heart of every interaction. This relational approach is grounded in beliefs about the equality, dignity and potential of all people and about the just structures and systems that enable people to thrive and succeed together” (Whanganui Board, 2014).

Nurses and Midwives at the University of Canberra are supporting the ACT in becoming a ‘restorative’ community, joining an international restorative learning community. In collaboration with Indigenous leaders, we are exploring ways to translate visions of equity in healthcare for our community- by exploring new ways of teaching, learning, practicing and researching. Our vision is to apply ‘Restorative Healthcare Practice’, a strengths based relational approach, centred on giving voice, respect , acknowledgement, accountability and healing value to the most vulnerable to healthcare delivery to benefit Indigenous people. The idea of restorative practice as a narrative of hope in healthcare delivery is generating great interest. 

In this project we seek to reach out and address the needs of those who are most vulnerable to social and healthcare inequality and injustice - we believe that by meeting the needs of the most vulnerable we help everyone in our community. This proposal aligns with the University of Canberra vision that, “our behaviours, internally and as an institution, will continue to reflect the principle that as a community we should be an exemplar of the way that societies around us must act if the world is to be a just place and the planet is to be sustainable”.