Meet our Aboriginal Health Working Group: Isabelle Howard

  1. What is your role at Monash Health, and what does it entail?

I am the Project Lead for Aboriginal Health. My role entails managing and delivering key projects that improve health and wellbeing outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities we serve. At any one time I can have between 5 and 10 projects on the go, some are small whilst others are state-wide projects. I love this role as I get to work with a range of different people, and I am always learning from those around me. I also enjoy seeing the outcomes of my project and the impact they have on our Aboriginal clients and patients. Recently, I saw a new Aboriginal mum leaving the hospital with her Bubup Bag that I helped create; it was a really nice feeling to see it.


  1. You’re in the Aboriginal Health Working Group, can you tell me why you’re passionate about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Employment at Monash Health?

It’s definitely more than a passion for me. When I was nursing, I found it frustrating that the healthcare system didn’t cater for Aboriginal people in regards to services and employment pathways. I was also sick of hearing all the negative statistics about Aboriginal people and never the resilience and strength we bring with us, so I decided that I needed to be an advocate in this space. Aboriginal employment and improving health outcomes go hand in hand. Our workforce needs to represent the community we serve to ensure that it is culturally safe and patient centered; that’s why we are aiming to increase our Aboriginal workforce to 2%. In this day and age, to have such a large health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is not okay and its responsibility of everyone to close that gap.


  1. What does the Aboriginal Health Working Group do?

The Aboriginal Health Working Group is made up of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Monash Health employees, who are champions in the Aboriginal Health space. Each member brings a range of skills, knowledge and expertise, and that’s what makes our group so amazing. The role of the AHWG is providing advice and recommendations on Aboriginal matters to Monash Health’s executives and board. We are also responsible for monitoring the implementation of Monash Health’s Reconciliation Action Plan and troubleshooting issues as they arise. I feel really fortunate to be able to Chair the AHWG as no two meetings are the same, and the passion this group has for improving health outcomes and ensuring cultural safety for our Aboriginal community is remarkable.


  1. “Grounded in truth, walk together with courage” is the theme this year for National Reconciliation Week, what does this mean to you?

To me, this means both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people acknowledging our shared history, and moving forward and working together for a better future.


  1. What does reconciliation mean to you, and why is it important?

Aboriginal people make up 3% of the population so we can’t do reconciliation alone, we need our non-Aboriginal friends, family and colleagues to meet us halfway. To me, reconciliation means coming together as equals, listening to each other, and building respectful relationships. It is key to healing the wounds of history and taking the steps towards a brighter future.



National Reconciliation Week runs annually from 27 May – 3 June and a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements.

At Monash Health, we are working towards closing the gap with the support and guidance of the Aboriginal Working Group. The membership is made of representations from each are/unit/department:

  • Aboriginal Health
  • Allied Health
  • Children’s Program
  • Early in Life Mental Health Services
  • Health Information Services
  • Monash Community
  • Nursing and Midwifery Education and Strategy
  • Patient Experience
  • People and Culture
  • Public Affairs and Communication
  • Social Work and Spiritual Care
  • Women’s and Newborn Program

For more information on the events organised by the working group, click here.

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