Graphic: Mental Health Clinician
The RFDS was a household name for Joseph Oui as a child growing up in Kuranda and visiting extended family living in Cape York communities. Now, as a RFDS Recognised Mental Health Counsellor based in Cairns, he is working with many of those communities to improve mental health and overcome the disadvantages of life in remote and very remote parts of Queensland.
RFDS research conducted Australia-wide in 2017 identified improving social and emotional wellbeing as a priority in remote Indigenous communities. Indigenous Australians, especially young men, are significantly more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to be hospitalised or die early from mental health related illnesses.
Poor service access, distance, cost, and reluctance to seek help have all contributed to this, but thanks to funding from Governments, PHN’s and donors, RFDS is able to provide a range of mental health services including fly-in fly-out clinics, 24-hour telehealth services, and aeromedical transfers for those requiring acute care.
“Many Indigenous men and women will shy away from mainstream organisations, so observing cultural protocols is an important part of implementing any program, even as a First Nations man," said Joseph.
“If I go onto someone else’s Country, I have to seek permission from Elders and adhere to their cultural protocols. I’ve now built a strong, respectful relationship with the communities where I have lived and worked in the Cape and am trusted and accepted.
"It is a real privilege to be acknowledged this way.
"That makes it much easier for me, as a clinician, to create a culturally safe space which is open and welcoming."
Through group discussions with men in Cape York communities as well as liaising with support agencies such as Queensland Health and providing individual counselling, ongoing support and community education, Joseph is having a positive impact on the lives in the communities he visits.
“The experience of working in these remote communities is very rewarding,” he said.
“It’s a beautiful place to work, you get to meet wonderful and amazing people, and they’re very accepting of who you are, once you’ve built a relationship.
"Who wouldn’t like working in these communities? You might even get to go fishing!”