Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable

How HealthShare NSW embraced the difficult conversations this NAIDOC Week.

Date published: 08 Sep 2021

Author: Alyssa Faith

Focus on people Healthshare NSW News Aboriginal workforce

“Blue culture, racism and cultural safety are not easy topics to discuss. But it’s important to have these conversations, which is why we did,” said Carmen Rechbauer, Chief Executive of HealthShare NSW.

In a first of its kind for HealthShare NSW, senior leaders in the organisation have spoken openly about their experiences with racism.

Shared with staff during a special virtual event to celebrate NAIDOC Week, the ‘Cultural Safety Yarning Session’ reflected on what reconciliation truly means.

“We’ve realised, while we are working hard to create an inclusive and supportive culture here at HSNSW, there is still more we could be doing to educate staff about the experiences of our Aboriginal colleagues and make our work sites more culturally safe,” said Carmen.

In the hour long event, featuring Garth Worboys Director of Patient Support Services, Lana Kelly Manager of Aboriginal Workforce, Desi Vaai Lead of Talent and Diversity and Carmen Rechbauer, personal experiences were shared and tangible ways staff could create a more inclusive workplace by educating themselves.

Lana Kelly grew up in a country town where shame and racism were a part of her daily life when she walked down the street, along with the long lasting impacts of the stolen generation on her family.

“We aren’t asking anybody to apologise (for what has happened over decades past), it’s acknowledging the trauma,” said Lana.

“We all bring our identities and it’s imperative we can come to work and feel safe.” Garth Worboys said, “What we’re looking at is a long history, over many decades, of trauma, which creates intergenerational disadvantage.”

“I would implore everyone to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and reflect on that comment and learn more about our history.”

“It is our job as leaders of this wonderfully diverse organisation to understand the concept of unconscious bias and privilege and to create positive environments and culturally safe spaces for all of our employees.

Because a job is a gift. It is what gives us purpose, it’s what puts food on the table and it is ultimately what ends intergenerational disadvantage.”

Desi Vaai is playing a pivotal role in the drafting of HealthShare NSW’s new Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Strategy to build and attract a workforce that reflects the community we serve.

“Currently 3.5 per cent of our staff identify as Aboriginal and almost 30 per cent did not speak English as a first language as a child, but it’s not just about this. It’s about creating a safe environment and accepting all identities, life experiences and differing perspectives,” said Desi.

Quick wins are important when it comes to all employees being respectful of diversity said Desi.

“Don’t make assumptions; ask. Continue selflearning about all diversity by doing our Respecting the Difference training days. If ever in doubt, the organisation’s CORE values will always put us back on track on how we should act and communicate.”

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