At the end of October Health Justice Australia joined our colleagues from Community Legal WA, Legal Aid WA, WA Association for Mental Health and WA Department of Justice to host a sold-out, all-day symposium on Whadjuk Noongar land (Perth) about health justice partnership and working in collaboration to improve health and justice outcomes for people made vulnerable by siloed systems.
The event provided an opportunity for WA practitioners, policy-makers, consumer advocates and other people interested in this way of working to connect; learn about how health justice partnership has developed nationally; and to hear from each other about the work they’re doing. There was also an opportunity to attend a Health Justice Australia facilitated workshop on how to build and maintain effective partnerships.
When I think about this day, three things stand out.
The importance of listening
We were acutely aware we were on Noongar country at a time when Elders, and all Noongar peoples and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across all lands, were experiencing heart-breaking mourning . Uncle Charlie and Aunty Helen Kickett shared their feelings of grief and generously gave a piece of advice that holds true for all areas of life and for partnership: “We have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.”
Collaboration is alive and well in WA
WA practitioners in the health, community and legal assistance services are already working in a range of collaborative partnerships, including health justice partnerships. More than 60 practitioners took the time to attend our workshop in person, showing their passion and motivation to drive positive change for people who are held in disadvantage by siloed systems.
People need to be at the centre of service design
Uncle Charlie, the people with lived experience of mental illness and disability, and all the advocates in the room, ensured that presenters, hosts and attendees all heard a clear message. This was that clients, patients, consumers – people – need to be part of designing health justice partnerships; need to be part of designing collaborations; and need to be at the centre of partnership services that are created to serve their needs.