What is the Tribunal doing to improve services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

The Tribunal is working to:

  • produce Indigenous resources to better inform patients about hearings
  • conduct hearings at Indigenous community venues
  • arrange appropriate cultural support for patients
  • include a cultural information page within the Clinical Report
  • appoint Indigenous members
  • develop the cultural competency of staff and Tribunal members.

Resources designed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

To encourage patients to attend their hearings a number of resources are available including:

  • A postcard and poster for Indigenous patients, carers and health workers. Indigenous artwork has been used to illustrate the patient connecting with the Tribunal, and the Tribunal members working together to make decisions that will help the person’s recovery and return to the community. The brochure was developed in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders.
  • A DVD, Deadly Choices: Solid Decisions – on the path to healing that can reduce patient anxiety about the hearing process and encourage Indigenous patients to attend and take part in their hearings.

Conducting hearings at community venues

Wherever possible, the Tribunal holds hearings for Indigenous patients in venues that are appropriate and acceptable to the local Indigenous community.

The Indigenous community venues are located at:

  • Aurukun
  • Bamaga
  • Cherbourg
  • The Healing Centre, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service, Woolloongabba, Brisbane
  • The Indigenous Health Clinic, The Prince Charles Hospital, Chermside, Brisbane
  • Mapoon
  • Napranum
  • Pormpuraaw
  • Thursday Island
  • Yarrabah
  • Wuchopperen Health Service, Cairns

Cultural support

The patient may choose to bring a cultural support person to the hearing. This person may help the patient talk about the cultural issues that impact on the way they view their illness and their attitude towards treatment. The cultural support person for the patient could be a family member, an Indigenous Mental Health Worker, a worker from a non-government organisation, or a member of the community.

If the patient, or someone on his/her behalf, tells the Tribunal before the hearing that an interpreter or cultural support person is needed, the Tribunal will try to make these arrangements.

Cultural Information Page

The Tribunal considers cultural information to be an essential part of any review for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patient.

The cultural information page allows information relating to the cultural background of the patient to be provided in writing to the Tribunal for consideration when conducting a review.

Cultural information relating to the patients clan group, kinship and family, language and spiritual beliefs are all things that the Tribunal will consider.

Indigenous members

Where possible, the Tribunal arranges for an Indigenous Tribunal member to sit on a hearing for an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander patient. The role of the member is to undertake a legal, medical or community role and talk with the patient and provide the other panel members with cultural information such as cultural interpretations of mental health and mental illness.

The Tribunal currently has six Indigenous members in Queensland, five who sit as community members and one who sits as a legal member. Patients and Indigenous Mental Health Workers say they are more comfortable when they see an Indigenous member on the panel and are more likely to take part in the hearing.

Developing the cultural competency of staff and members

Tribunal staff and members must be sensitive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, including having an understanding of the historical and contemporary issues that may impact on the hearing.

The Tribunal has developed a number of resources to assist staff and members to develop their cultural competency including:

  • guidelines for members regarding hearing practices with Indigenous patients
  • an Indigenous component for the induction program for members
  • a multimedia (CD-Rom) learning resource which provides information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture, social and emotional well-being and the conduct of hearings with Indigenous patients.

Indigenous Liaison Officer

The purpose of this role is to establish links within Indigenous communities to:

  • provide information about the Tribunal’s role and function
  • encourage Indigenous patients to take part in Tribunal hearings
  • ensure the Tribunal meets the needs of Indigenous stakeholders
  • provide advice about cultural protocols
  • contribute cultural knowledge to the policies and procedures of hearings for Indigenous patients.