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Yulu-Burri-Ba marks 40 years of advancing Aboriginal health services

Joseph Guenzler -

North Stradbroke Island's Indigenous community convened to commemorate four decades of community-run health services on Friday.

From its inception at Dunwich Hall on January 19, 1984 the provision of healthcare has evolved significantly.

A broad spectrum of services caters to the needs of the island and the southern bayside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

They include dental care, family well-being initiatives, Birthing in Our Community programs, Deadly Choices advocacy, women's and men's groups and youth engagement schemes, as well as foster and kinship care support.

Aunty Maureen Myers, a pioneer in advocating for culturally safe community-controlled health services on the island, and the current Director of the Yulu-Burri-Ba board, expressed pride in the shared vision, commitment, and tireless efforts of all contributors, acknowledging the profound positive impact on the community.

"It was built to give better health outcomes for our people who couldn't afford to go to the doctor," Ms Myers said.

"Now we have easy access to healthcare services like we never had before.

"When you feel comfortable with going to a doctor you get the healthcare you need. Because it is community-controlled it meets the needs of the community."

Yulu-Burri-Ba CEO, David Collins, said the milestone is an opportunity to reflect on and acknowledge the leadership of Elders and what can be achieved through working together.

"Today shows how successful our community-controlled health services have been," Mr Collins said.

"Thanks to the hard work from all the people in the beginning, like Lynette Shipway, Maureen Myers, Oodgeroo Noonuccal and Denis Walker who fought for better health services for this community.

"Our founding Elders saw that there was a need for these services, and they have been proven correct with the growth of health and welfare services we're now providing to more than 5,000 community members in our region."

L-R Karen O'Brien: Yulu-Burri-Ba Human Relations Manager, Dr Dick Copeman: one of the first GPs to work on the island, Maureen Myers: Yulu-Burri-Ba Board Director, David Collins: Yulu-Burri-Ba CEO, Adrian Carson: Institute for Urban Indigenous Health CEO. (Image: supplied)

Over four decades, North Stradbroke Island has seen remarkable advancements in healthcare provision.

From the humble beginnings of the first clinic at Dunwich Hall in 1984, operated as an outreach service by Brisbane AICHS, to the transition to self-management and incorporation of Yulu-Burri-Ba between 1993 and 1994, the journey towards community-led healthcare has been transformative.

The expansion of services in 2015 to include dental care at Dunwich and Capalaba clinics marked a significant milestone in promoting oral health accessibility.

Subsequent initiatives such as the establishment of Family Services in 2017, encompassing various aspects of wellbeing, and the collaborative launch of Jajum Bajara, Birthing in Our Community, in 2020, underscore the commitment to holistic and child healthcare.

Further enhancements in 2022 with expanded Family Services in Capalaba and the introduction of a Youth Program on the island demonstrated responsiveness to evolving community needs.

The recent establishment of the Foster and Kinship Care Program in 2023, alongside increased local integration of Deadly Choices initiatives, reinforces the comprehensive support network that has evolved over 40 years.

"When it first started, it was with volunteers and support from Brisbane AICHS (now ATSICHS)," Mr collins said.

"And then along the way, from our community – from our fellow Aboriginal Medical Services, the Australian and Queensland Governments, and the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health."

Yulu-Burri-Ba now runs clinics and various services to meet community needs in Dunwich, Capalaba, and Wynnum.

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