Response to VAHS letter of concern

In September 2018, the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) published and widely circulated a statement about First Peoples' Health and Wellbeing (FPHW). This statement contained untruthful and defamatory comments and was the catalyst for lateral violence directed towards our staff and patients. This statement and other remarks by VAHS are now the subject of legal action.

In order to remain focused on the needs of the community, FPHW has until now deliberately refrained from responding to this statement and other false and defamatory comments made by members of the VAHS leadership in a range of forums. However, it has become clear that this statement continues to distort the opinion of many people about FPHW.

We offer the following series of facts to set the record straight.

How did we form?

First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing (FPHW) is the first new Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in Melbourne to open in 16 years. FPHW was formerly known as Access Services for Koories (ASK), a not-for-profit Aboriginal run organisation delivering services to the community since 2010. FPHW formed following the sudden resignation of its only two former Board Members (the Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of VAHS) and simultaneously the eviction of ASK from their former premises at the VAHS Preston site. FPHW established a 100% Aboriginal skills-based board and a membership and our team successfully opened our first GP clinic months later.

Why did we form?

Publicly available census data showed Melbourne’s northern corridor was home to 7,000 Aboriginal people, who had lived without a culturally safe and accessible health service for years. As part of ASK’s ongoing program evaluation, the board recognised the desperate need for more primary health care services, and as such, within 3 months of the new board being formed and premises in Thomastown secured; First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing opened for the Community as the first new Aboriginal health service in Melbourne in 16 years.

Who are we? We are a not-for-profit, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation with Aboriginal Community based membership and board. First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing proudly acknowledges that we have one of the highest proportions of Aboriginal workforce in Victoria, with more than 85% of our staff since opening identifying as Aboriginal. The board and operational staff have brought together years of health and medical knowledge and experiences, having worked in mainstream and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations including the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS), the Dandenong and District Aborigines Co-operative Ltd, Mallee District Aboriginal Services (MDAS) and the Western Suburbs Indigenous Gathering Place.

Taking patient health information and privacy seriously We place patient’s data, health information, privacy and confidentiality as our highest priority, with a zero-tolerance policy for breaches. No data or intellectual property from any other organisation was used in the establishment of, or in the ongoing operations of FPHW. Statements to the contrary are now the subject of legal action.

Going forward As any new and establishing organisation, we are continuously reviewing and strengthening our ways of doing business to meet the Community’s needs and are thrilled with the feedback we have from our patients to date. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is one of the fastest growing populations in Australia, with Victoria behind only the ACT in rate of growth. First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing continues to expand to address the primary health care needs of its current and future patients.

We invite you to come in for a tour or check us out online.

Ms Karinda Taylor Chairperson – First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing 317-319 High Street Thomastown VIC 3074 03 9070 8181

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