Editor’s note: PHAA was pleased to award Indigenous Workforce Scholarships for the Communicable Diseases and Immunisation Conference, held in Perth from 19 to 21 June 2023. In the pieces below, two recipients reflect on their experiences.
Georgina Kelly I Environmental Health Promotion Officer, Kimberley Region WA Country Health Service
This report is based on my scholarship to attend the Communicable Diseases & Immunisation Conference 2023.
I applied for a PHAA Scholarship on behalf of the Kimberley Population Health Unit and would like to say a special thank you to PHAA for enabling me to attend the CDIC in Perth for 2023 through this scholarship.
This was my very first Communicable Diseases & Immunisation health conference. I did not know what to expect in attending a health conference this big, with keynote speakers from all over Australia and overseas. Attendees could choose to attend any session that appealed to them. I attended the plenary sessions that interested me, including those related to my work.
The Opening Plenary: Whole of Society: future approach to infectious diseases prevention and control
This session was interesting as it related to and tied in with the work I do in infectious disease prevention. In recent years my role has included working with the Kimberly public health nurses during COVID, and more recently promoting the flu vaccine this season and Japanese Encephalitis immunisation to protect against the mosquito-borne virus.
The session provided insight into what happened when Australia was thrust into action through COVID, including provision of regional assistance.
The session opened my mind to have trust in our health system so that our health professionals can expand their work in infectious and non-communicable diseases. We need to set a strong foundation in developing our health system to have a greater impact, not only on the people of Australia, but also to strengthen meaningful relationships with other countries relying on us.
During the Opening Plenary, Kristy Crooks Aboriginal Program Manager and PhD Scholar from Hunter New England Local Health District also gave a presentation titled ‘Embedding First Nations voices, perspectives and governance into infectious disease prevention and control: Time for Australia to listen and act’. This session touched me as an Indigenous person and hats off to Kristy for being so brave to stand up and say how it was for her and her fellow countrymen people from NSW. It takes guts for someone as young as Kristy to stand up in front of health professionals and say it how it is. Over 200 years and still no consultation with First Nations people should be telling someone something. Especially when it comes to First Nations people’s health.
When COVID hit NSW, most Aboriginal communities had to fend for themselves, and this highlighted all the inequities for First Nations people.
This tells us it is time for change. Just as the landscape for infections and immunisation is changing, so should the situation for Australia’s First Nations people. We need to be able to sit at the table and have a voice in shaping the landscape for First Nations people in a new era. We need to flip what has been happening to our society in the last 200 years for us to go forward. People just need to learn to be comfortable with this. First Nations people need to make decisions about their people to help co-design programs in Australia and work as one to start changing our ways as one nation to go forward.
The third plenary: Immunisation and vaccine development
This session included several speakers discussing vaccine-related topics.
I found hearing about the role of the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) on vaccine policy interesting, having so many different committees involved in decision making.
I don’t work in a clinical role, but it was interesting learning more about the science world of vaccine development for diseases.
One presentation highlighted how, during COVID-19, vaccines could be developed for clinical trials in a matter of months, and valuable lessons were learnt around the development of future vaccine programs to ensure Australia is self-sufficient and prepared.
I have an open mind to where Australia is in developing vaccines. It is reassuring to know that studies have been happening in laboratories for many years. Listening to the experts in the field, I take my hat off to the scientists who work to keep us safe against these diseases and pandemics, and who are shaping the landscape for diseases and immunisation.
Maryann Mosby, Health Services Coordination Project Officer, NPA Family & Community Services Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation
Attending the conference was an eye opener for me, as I come from a very remote Cape York community in Far North Queensland.
The conference attracted delegates from across Australia.
It was a busy three-day conference with so much information on communicable diseases in our Nation, our communities and our people.
Important information with statistics were presented in each session by various speakers, including doctors, professors, and scientists. It was very interesting to hear from health professionals from all walks of life.
The theme for the conference was “Adapting to a new landscape for infectious disease prevention and control”.
I was privileged to attend this conference, as I got to hear how health professionals address control measures and what works for their communities.
Attending this conference has broadened my horizon as a health worker in understanding the importance of addressing communicable diseases and how we can improve when it comes to educating our people and getting the right message out, using the right methods across our communities, for our people.
I want to thank CDIC for offering the scholarship to me to attend this conference in Perth.
Regardless of the freezing weather, the trip was well worth it.
I have already shared the experience and information I gained with my colleagues.
I’m looking forward to the next conference in 2024.