Poche Indigenous health centre opens in Queensland

9 Mar 2015

Improving health outcomes for urban Indigenous people will be the focus of the UQ Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, a new centre at The University of Queensland that was officially opened tonight.

Sydney couple Greg Poche AO and Kay van Norton Poche donated $10 million to establish the centre, after funding sister centres at the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, the University of Western Australia and Flinders University in Adelaide and Alice Springs.

Mr Poche, the founder and former owner of logistics company Star Track Express, said the 11-year health and life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was unacceptable.

“Improving the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians is one of our nation’s biggest challenges,” he said.

“It is vital that we do more to address this by taking practical action that delivers outcomes for Indigenous Australians.”

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said the centre would build on UQ’s strengths.

“It will concentrate the Indigenous and health expertise that UQ has across the University and work collaboratively with Indigenous community organisations and health providers,” he said.

“It will train and grow a stronger workforce in Indigenous health, increase the number of Indigenous Australian health discipline graduates and translate research into improved health promotion and service delivery models.”

UQ Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Education) Professor Cindy Shannon said about 80 per cent of the life expectancy gap was attributed to chronic disease.

“The UQ centre will be well located, given that south-east Queensland has 38 per cent of Queensland’s Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and, the largest population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the country,” she said.

“An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report last year confirmed that 79 per cent of Australia’s Indigenous population now live in non-remote areas.

“The visibility of Indigenous peoples and understanding of their needs in urban settings is often very poor.

“As well as its focus on workforce development, the UQ Poche centre will meet the critical need for translational research into improving urban Indigenous health outcomes across the life course, in maternal and child health, through adolescence to the challenges of chronic disease and ageing, with a significant focus on prevention and education.”

Work by Professor Shannon on the health of Indigenous people in south-east Queensland contributed to the establishment of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health in 2009.

The Institute is a key collaborator in the work of the UQ Poche Centre. Others are Mater Health Services and the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council.

UQ Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Executive Dean Professor Nicholas Fisk said UQ had long-established national strengths in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce development.

“UQ provided Australia’s first professional degree program for Indigenous health workers in the 1990s and graduated Queensland’s first Indigenous doctor in 1991,” he said.

“The new centre will work with key collaborators such as primary health care and hospital providers, to grow placement and training opportunities for UQ students in Indigenous health care.”

UQ Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences Executive Dean Professor Bruce Abernethy said the Poche centre’s outreach and engagement programs would make a significant contribution in attracting and supporting more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into careers in health.

“The UQ Poche Centre programs will provide outreach and engagement with secondary school students, pathways into university health courses, professional mentoring and support opportunities, and pathways for Indigenous students into research and higher degrees.”

Media: Rachel Bastin, Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, +61 7 3365 7317, r.bastin@uq.edu.au

Video/audio of Professor Cindy Shannon talking about the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health is here.