Bunbury Aboriginal health hub to be a “place to call home” for Noongar people

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Shannon VerhagenSouth Western Times
The front of the proposed SWAMS Health Hub.
Camera IconThe front of the proposed SWAMS Health Hub. Credit: Supplied

More than 200 jobs are anticipated to be created if a $30 million Aboriginal health and community hub proposed for Bunbury gets the green light.

The hub — which will include mental health, dental and medical services, education programs, a cafe, playground and youth facilities — has been designed to be a “one stop shop” and a “place to call home” for Noongar people.

South West Aboriginal Medical Services chief executive Lesley Nelson, pictured, said the hub — planned for Jaycee Park — was “long overdue” and would play an important role in the Aboriginal community.

It’s a place to call home … an area or bit of land and a facility where the Noongar people can come together and have ownership.

Lesley Nelson

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“The health hub will allow us to expand our services and provide for the needs of the local community and that’s really important as many of our people don’t access mainstream services and that’s where we see widening of the gap. “This is about closing the gap, bringing in people and allowing them to access the services that are needed.”

The courtyard design of the SWAMS Health Hub.
Camera IconThe courtyard design of the SWAMS Health Hub. Credit: Supplied

The proposal recently went out for public submissions and SWAMS is awaiting funding approval for $10 million to begin the first stage of construction, which Ms Nelson hoped would be late 2020 or early 2021.

From Telehealth, to using technology to capture the stories of elders, the hub will have a focus on technology, which Ms Nelson said would ensure SWAMS was adaptable and innovative in the delivery of its programs, particularly following the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the things we’ve learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic is that we need to protect the vulnerable Aboriginal communities.

Lesley Nelson
SWAMS chief executive Lesley Nelson.
Camera IconSWAMS chief executive Lesley Nelson. Credit: Supplied

As well as health programs, the hub will also be home to after school homework programs, a cafe where Noongar people can undertake hospitality training and a courtyard where cultural ceremonies can be held.

Ms Nelson said not only would the project help health outcomes for the Noongar community, but it would create more than 200 jobs and help Bunbury’s economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s really exciting and it’s an opportunity to generate employment,” she said.

“In five years we’ve grown from 50 to almost 90 staff … this could easily bring over 200 people … and be part of Australia’s economic recovery.”

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