Sharing knowledge to close the gap

Kirra understands better than most the difficulties Indigenous communities can face. As a Wunumara and Koko-Bera woman and a Department of Human Services Medicare Liaison Officer, she is using her personal and professional experiences to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

“History’s had a big impact on our people today,” Kirra said.

“Growing up in Yarrabah, an Aboriginal community 60 kilometres south of Cairns, I’ve seen how profound the disadvantages can be.

“The average life expectancy for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is years behind the overall Australian average, and the community I live in has a distinct lack of Elders, which really saddens me.”

Kirra’s own experiences in Yarrabah have played an important role in shaping her career choices and motivating her to support others.

“I’ve seen and overcome hardships myself and in my own family too, which is why I’ve developed a great passion to close the gap and give back,” Kirra explained.

“After studying social work at James Cook University in Cairns, I joined the department as an Indigenous cadet. That was seven years ago, and since then I’ve been a social worker, a rehabilitation consultant and a Medicare Liaison Officer (MLO), which is my current role. ”

As an MLO, Kirra works closely with Indigenous medical services.

“A large part of my role includes going out to Indigenous communities and helping doctors, allied health professionals, Indigenous health workers and practice management staff understand the department’s Medicare payments, services and strategies,” she said.

Kirra has travelled to communities in the Torres Strait, Northern Peninsula Area Region and Mt Isa as part of her role, and has found it very rewarding to connect with a range of communities and individuals along the way.

“There’s a certain depth of knowledge around the issues our people face that can only be acquired by living the life of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person,” she explained.

“This includes cultural sensitivities, protocols and customs we possess that allow us to identify issues specific to our people.

“It’s so satisfying having health workers say ‘thank you’. Knowing I’m providing them with resources and information they’ll use in their job to help people in their communities is a good feeling.”

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