The main purpose of establishing a community controlled health service at Coober Pedy was that primary health care needs of the Aboriginal people living at the Umoona Community and in the town of Coober Pedy would be addressed to its full potential.
Many of the Aboriginal people in the Umoona and surrounding areas of Coober Pedy did not utilise the previous services that was currently available in the town.
For approximately ten (10) years the Umoona and Coober Pedy Aboriginal communities had the establishing of a community controlled Health Service in their agenda with full support from all other Aboriginal Health services in South Australia.
At the early stages of planning and the development for health services there was much support from the local Aboriginal population, the chairperson of Umoona Community Council; Mabel Lochowiak The Umoona Community Development Officer Wanda Goldberg, the coordinator George Cooley Umoona, Community Development Employment Programme (CDEP) and the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia. The representatives from these organisations were the pillars of strength that came forth as the new Health Service began to emerge.
In the late 1996, the interim steering committee was formed to facilitate the development of this project. The dedicated members of the steering committee were namely Ian Crombie, Robin Walker, Maureen Williams, Jennifer Williams, Sr. Vicki McCormack, Michael Brown, David Brown, David Crombie and Sandra Taylor.
Information given by the Aboriginal Health Nurse
- Sister Vicki
Approximately 1975 the Aboriginal Health Unit in Adelaide under the Umbrella of the South Australia Health Commission set up a community Health Service in Coober Pedy specifically for Aboriginal people in the Hospital/Health centre building. One registered nurse was employed full time to set up programmes and support services to the local unit. After one year she resigned and the family moved away, and another Registered Nurse from Sydney came for 4 months and also resigned.
I was approached to take the position, and had been currently employed in the hospital for about (5) years, so I had nursed a number of the Aboriginal people and knew many of them and the area, so I accepted this offer.
The unit in Adelaide was supervised by Dr Packer and Sister Dinnell with others employed there also.
I had to set up programmes, service provision, and also seen to the mothers and babies screening (growth/development etc) and immunisation for the whole town as I was the only Community Health nurse. Another nurse was employed for the non-aboriginal in 1980.
Later in 1977 I was requested by Aboriginal Health Unit to seek out an interested aboriginal person to train as a health worker. Dorothy Lennon (deceased) eventually accepted the position (many were nervous due to nervousness of the scheme). She proved a most valuable person both for myself, the non-aboriginal services providers and the Aboriginal Health Unit with her knowledge of family, culture, and care etc, She resigned after (7) years due to ill health.
Later the unit changed to an Organisation, then a Council. In April 1997 the local council become the Umoona Tjutagku Health Service, with its own Board of Management and Director.
We have (1) trained health worker and (2) in training at present.
To date we have had(14) aboriginal people in the capacity of part/full time - male and female workers.
One worker went on to do his enrolled nurse course through the Coober Pedy hospital, and also worked as a police aide.
One worker moved away with her family and is still employed as a Health Worker in another area.
I believe all these workers have gained expertise and knowledge in some management in the Health field which can be utilised and passed on in their own and other communities.
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