A landmark Victorian health partnership is heralding 10 years of work supporting the health of Indigenous populations.

April marked one decade since the union between Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, and the launch of the Healthy Ears Clinic for Indigenous Children.

Since 2012, the Ear and Eye Hospital has provided more than 220 ear, nose and throat surgeries, while the Healthy Ears Clinic has care for more than 1500 youths.

Eye and Ear hospital surgeon Stephen O’Leary said the partnership was born from a desire to improve health among Indigenous youth.

Since the programs’ launch self-reported hearing problems in Indigenous children have reduced from 11 per cent in 2001 to 6.9 per cent in 2018-19.

That rate is, however, still more than twice the rate for non-indigenous children.

Wormi man Kelvin Kong, Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, said an underlying barriers for Indigenous people to access healthcare remained an issue.

“The system is designed poorly – it is unfriendly,” he said.

“The system also doesn’t allow us to get the access we need.”

Mr Kong said generationally disproportionate health problems could not be solved through biomedical intervention alone, adding structural change was needed.

“We need to develop the pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a meaningful and real contribution,” he said.

  • Story by James Italia-Prasad