Program to increase South West Aboriginal immunisation rates

SWAMS Aboriginal health workers Tammy McGrath and Talicia Jetta with course coordinator Stacee Burrows in the centre.
SWAMS Aboriginal health workers Tammy McGrath and Talicia Jetta with course coordinator Stacee Burrows in the centre.

Two local Aboriginal health workers are the latest graduates of a program which teaches them how to administer vaccinations to children, with the aim of increasing immunisation rates.

The health workers graduated after taking part in the two week course at the South West Aboriginal Medical Service (SWAMS) in Bunbury.

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA) launched the training program in partnership with the Communicable Disease Control Directorate at the Department of Health in March 2015.

The program aims to help improve immunisation rates among Aboriginal children in WA, which are the lowest in the country.

The program has been rolled out in a number of locations around the state, and almost 30 Aboriginal Health Workers have been trained to administer and promote immunisation.

AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said until the program was launched, only nurses and doctors were authorised to carry out immunisations. 

“The benefit of also training Aboriginal Health Workers is that they can relate to Aboriginal children and gain the trust of parents in order to educate them about the importance of immunisation,” she said. 

Talicia Jetta from SWAMS said the course gave her not only practical skills, but also confidence.

“I now have the confidence to administer vaccines to our community and the knowledge to provide education to community members about the importance of vaccinating our children,” she said.

Tammy McGrath said she believed it was very important for Aboriginal health workers to have the skills to administer vaccinations.

“Because we are the first point of contact for our clients, we can promote and follow through with immunisations,” she said.

“Aboriginal people are getting the best care from Aboriginal people. Hopefully we can inspire other Aboriginal people to become health professionals too."

A report released recently by the auditor general suggested the program had already contributed to increasing the low immunisation rates among Aboriginal children.

The report shows in the 12 months from June 2015 to June 2016, immunisation rates for Aboriginal infants in a number of regions improved by an average of 8.5 per cent. 

“We are thrilled that it appears this training program has already contributed to immunisation rates among Aboriginal children increasing significantly in some areas,” said Ms Nelson-Cox.

“We hope that as more Aboriginal health workers are trained, the rates will go up further.”

Ms Nelson-Cox said the training program would be expanded this year and she hoped it could be rolled out to several remote locations later in the year.