Get to know your AHLO: Meet Donna Punch

During NAIDOC Week, we come together and pay respect to culture, language, and Country, and to recognise and celebrate the achievements of all First Nations peoples.

At Monash Health, Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers (AHLO) provide vital cultural support and assistance to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families during their inpatient stay in Monash Health. They can also help connect patients to community services during discharge planning. You can contact the Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Service here.

Donna Punch has been an AHLO at Dandenong Hospital since 2020. She is a Noongar from Southwest Western Australia and has lived in Victoria for 43 years.

How do you describe the role of an AHLO?

I help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inpatients be culturally safe. I negotiate with outpatient clinics for timely appointments and make sure Aboriginal patients get to their outpatient appointments within a timely manner. I help our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients understand what the doctors are saying to them and reinforce the advice and treatments.

What was your path to becoming an AHLO?

I wanted to help Aboriginal People after my brother’s suicide in 2010. I trialled the Aboriginal Access and Support role for 3 months and then interviewed for the role. I was successful in my interview and did that role for 10 years full-time. With that experience, I started the AHLO role in 2020.

What does a day at work look like for an AHLO?

I check Aboriginal inpatients and Aboriginal Health Service email referrals and make sure they got the service that was needed. I do welfare checks with inpatients and ATSI patients that were discharged or self-discharged from the hospital. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that are having day surgeries, I make sure they are safe and getting to and from the surgery okay.

What is the best part of the job?

Helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with their health issues and accessing health services in a timely manner. I think we have a great team.

How can our clinicians improve the experience of Aboriginal patients and make a more culturally safe environment?

Having grassroots Aboriginal workers, who know the everyday obstacles that Aboriginal people face. Also having workers that will sit and listen to make sure our mob are getting the best health services that’s needed.

What do you wish they knew about the AHLO team?

We work within Monash hospitals, and we are not there to do the job of nurses.  We are there to make sure our people are getting great service in a timely manner. We also ensure that treating staff are doing their work correctly.

This profile is part of a series shining a spotlight on the Monash Health Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officers. AHLOs provide vital cultural support and assistance to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families during their inpatient stay in Monash Health. They can also help connect patients to community services during discharge planning. You can find out more about the AHLO service here.



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