Issue 10
Monday, 02 December 2019
Charles Darwin University
E-news
Communication issues experienced by Aboriginal people in the health system were highlighted at the first Indigenous Languages and Health Communication Symposium
Communication issues experienced by Aboriginal people in the health system were highlighted at the first Indigenous Languages and Health Communication Symposium

Health spotlight on patient communication

Health practitioners and researchers have reflected on their work to improve communication with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients at the first Indigenous Languages and Health Communication Symposium in Darwin.

Hosted by the Menzies School of Health Research, one of the common communication issues was highlighted in a reverse role play demonstration by the Aboriginal Interpreter Service (AIS) featuring Menzies Director Professor Alan Cass as an English-speaking patient with a sore leg.

His medical team were all Yolngu Matha speakers who could not understand him until the AIS stepped in.

The Territory’s Aboriginal people, who make up more than 30% of the population, speak more than 100 Aboriginal languages and dialects, compared to Europe where there are only 24 languages, or India, where there are just 22. Yet in 2018, just 18% of patients at Royal Darwin Hospital who needed an interpreter received support.

The sold-out event at the Menzies School of Health Research included a welcome to country from Larrakia Elder, Aunty Bilawara Lee, who is renowned for improving communication between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and health professionals.

Attendees included Member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon, the Northern Territory Ombudsman Peter Shoyer, lawyers from North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, health professionals from across the Top End, researchers and students from CDU and Menzies.

AIS has recently implemented a health coordinator and are developing a plain English dictionary for interpreters and health professionals to create better understanding of terms used by health professionals. The dictionary will include definitions, explanations and diagrams.