A program by Blacktown-based service, Western Sydney Integrated Team Care (ITC), is ensuring chronically ill Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have improved access to quality holistic care in the greater Western Sydney region.

The federally funded program is facilitated by Western Sydney Primary Health Network and is operated by WentWest. It has proven itself to be a success and over time tailored itself to the community’s needs.

With the largest urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia, the importance of the service is not lost on the Western Sydney ITC team.

“We have a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community that are transient. People come and go,” said ITC Program Manager and proud Wiradjuri woman, Terrieanne Whitting.

“We’re all from different regions and knowing the history of the area, knowing family links and who’s connected, having that understanding before going in and supporting clients is imperative to build trust and rapport.

“That general knowledge of our community’s preferences when it comes to services, you can’t teach that in work practice, it’s community taught.”

Western Sydney ITC’s care coordinators and outreach workers are all local to the region. They pride themselves on their understanding of the complexity of the community’s cultural and health care needs.

“Having been born and raised in Western Sydney, I’ve seen first-hand the barriers there are to receiving effective and culturally appropriate health care.”

“I’m proud and honoured to be delivering this program to our region, not only to see greater access to appropriate health care but also to ensure my people feel comfortable being treated by mainstream practitioners and feel supported to follow through on the recommendations from their health team,” Whitting said.

The service is centred around culturally appropriate and adaptable assistance. Whitting said the way the ITC program is developed for each patient keeps things flexible.

“We treat each patient differently depending on what their needs are and what they want to get out of their health or how they want to improve it. We tailor the support around the needs of the client, and the skillset of the worker,” she said.

“We look at cultural protocol and family connections and how the team can support the client moving forward. Another big thing is having good understanding of the beliefs and values of our clients. Making sure when we meet with them, we’re connecting first, before the paperwork and talking about their health. We make that connection.

Whitting said the Western Sydney region has one of the highest diabetes rates compared to the national figure, as well as heart and respiratory diseases, hepatitis and asthma becoming increasingly common within community.

“Through the successful implementation of this program, we not only hope to reduce pressure on our hospital system by managing and preventing these conditions within the community, we want to ensure our people receive the comprehensive and holistic care they need, when they need it.”

By Darby Ingram