Creating a safer community: Improving sexual health in Yarrabah

NACCHO on behalf of Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Aboriginal Corporation

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) is the national peak body representing 145 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) across the country on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing issues. Evidence shows that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have culturally safe, appropriate primary health care, better health outcomes are achieved. For more than 50 years, ACCHOs have worked on the front line to improve access to primary healthcare and address health inequities faced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia.

Improving the health of the Yarrabah community has been a top priority for Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services. One area of focus has been to improve the sexual health of community members, through education, screening, and providing access to much-needed resources within the community.

Overcoming social stigmas that discourage community members from testing and practicing safe sex has been a challenge for the Sexual Health and Public Health team in Yarrabah. To tackle this issue, the team has been working closely with the community and providing culturally safe messaging and care.

Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services Chief Executive has been pleased with the increased focus on safe sex messaging, as well as the screening projects conducted by her teams. She stated, “Across our community, we have tried to destigmatise testing as well as care of those with an infection. Battling cultural sensitivities has always been a challenge, but we have found in recent years that our approach has led to greater testing, identification and also reduced the hesitancy to practice safe sex.”

In 2022, the organisation made it a priority to increase access to condoms and lube. In partnership with Community Elders and Council, condom dispensers were installed throughout the community, with a focus on areas where community members gather after hours and on weekends.

While the program was initially met with curiosity and novelty, it has since settled into a steady and regular uptake of the condoms. The team at Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services feels positive that the condom dispensers are having a positive impact on the community. While there is not yet enough data to determine the long-term impact, early figures indicate that access to condoms has started to have a positive impact on many of the younger members of the community.

During World Aids Day, many of the community-based staff from Gurriny ‘Rocked the Ribbon,’ showing their support for People Living with or affected by HIV and campaigning for acceptance and access for all to a high level of community and medical support.

Overall, Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services’ work has had a significant impact on the sexual health of the Yarrabah community. By providing culturally appropriate education, screening, and access to resources, the organization has helped to create a safer and healthier community for everyone. With the support of NACCHO and ACCHOs, organizations like Gurriny Yealamucka Health Services are working to address health inequities and improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia.

Published: April 2023