Eastern Health’s newly appointed Aboriginal Cultural Advisor, Michelle Winters

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Eastern Health’s newly appointed Aboriginal Cultural Advisor, Michelle Winters, is keen to use her decades of experience in social justice, health education and research, to support and advise Eastern Health staff and their managers, as they continue to build cultural safety through service delivery.

“Working in mainstream health is challenging from an Aboriginal Person point of view,” says Michelle. “If you grew up in an Aboriginal community, it’s basically a cultural shock working in mainstream; the two worlds are very different. Having Aboriginal hospital liaison staff supporting Aboriginal patients is very important, to provide help to navigate accessing services, and understand the processes. Key staff such as a AHLO are like a cultural broker and interpreter.”

Michelle has worked across health, aged, community and correctional services and is well known as a respected person in both her community and through Court’s Victoria in Koori Courts. 

Michelle has created two learning models, covering both mainstream and the Aboriginal community controlled sector. The aim is to help improve access and care pathways for Aboriginal people, their families and communities, through good relations, research and publications.

“Eastern Health is open to learning,” said Michelle. “They’re clear about what they’re trying to achieve and are already doing a good job in lots of areas. The two-way learning approach and commitment to Reconciliation through a Reconciliation Action Plan process is the key."

Michelle spent many years travelling around the world and observing how other indigenous health services operated. She says she soon became aware of what works and what doesn’t and that education must be ongoing.

“Without the voice of the client, you’ve got nothing,” says Michelle. “It comes back to education and quality improvement and the understanding of the definition of cultural safety differs from place to place. Meeting different cultural needs, communicating in the relevant language, is important. Cultural safety is linked to lots of different areas and gives clients the opportunity to be responsible for their own health and make well informed decisions about their own care."