A message from the Interim Chief Executive – Monday 16 October 2023

A message on the Voice to Parliament Referendum Outcome

I am writing to you today, following the weekend results from the Referendum on the Voice to Parliament. On Saturday night, the majority of Australians did not support the proposed approach to change the Constitution. The outcome of the Referendum will bring deep sadness and disappointment to many, as there was hope it would herald an essential step towards enshrining the voice of First Nations people in decision making to build a better future. While the journey toward that better future will continue, it will do so along alternative pathways.

This is not what many had hoped for and will see this as an opportunity lost, one that will take time to process, and I encourage you to take time to reflect if you need to. I would also encourage us all to show sensitivity to those around us; as members of our community, we do not have to agree with each other, but we must remain agreeable and respectful.

I want to stress that while Australia voted “No” to the Voice, neither side of the debate have argued against the fundamental importance of listening to our First Nations people and the need to close the gap. Instead, the proposed constitutional change was viewed as unsuitable to achieve this goal. This result should not and will not deter us. Closing the gap remains an integral part of our Monash Health strategic priorities. For that reason, I personally requested the Aboriginal Health and Engagement team report to me to ensure a direct line of sight of this critical portfolio of work.

And we will continue this vital work because Monash Health will not accept the circumstances that lead to First Nations peoples having a life expectancy of eight years less than non-First Nations peoples. We will not accept the status quo because our First Nations colleagues, patients and community deserve that we advocate for positive change through action.

Monash Health remains committed to our journey toward reconciliation and understanding. The legacy and trauma of colonisation and the Stolen Generations remain a harsh reality for our teams and patients, and many First Nation People historically have had traumatic experiences in health services that carry lasting generational impacts. I want to take this moment to recognise their ongoing strength and resilience and that we will not turn away from them. Later this year, we will publish our new Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) that will emphasise truth-telling as a cornerstone of every action we take.

The roadmap outlined in the RAP will strengthen our relationships with the community, engage our people in the journey of reconciliation, and develop and pilot innovative strategies to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The RAP embeds the spirit of reconciliation in our work and signals our intentions to do what is necessary to create a brighter future. I welcome the benefits it will bring our community.

My hope is that with time, any hurt from the Referendum result will heal, but in this time, this moment, we will remain true to working together with the community to overcome the inequality experienced by First Nations peoples so that they achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians.

Thank you for your continued dedication and care for our patients and one another.

Where can employees get support?
The Referendum may be an emotional and challenging event for some employees and their families.

Employees experiencing personal distress are encouraged to speak with their managers, People and Culture Representative, the Be Well team, or the Employee Assistance Program.

First Nations employees can also access specialised support, including:

  • Yarning SafeNStrong –Yarning SafeNStrong is a free and confidential counselling service provided by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples. You can contact Yarning SafeNStrong by visiting their websiteor calling 1800 959 563.
  • 13YARN – 13YARN (13 92 76) is a national crisis support line for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Island Peoples who are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping. You can contact 13YARN by visiting their websiteor calling 13 92 76.

Our First Nations employees are encouraged to contact the Employee Assistance Program if they are having difficulties at this or any other time.

To make a booking, visit the Converge International website. Please call Converge International on 1300 687 327 or email Converge International for further enquiries.

Martin Keogh
Interim Chief Executive

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