In partnership with Victorian public health services, the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (‘the department’) are building capacity to sustain future Aboriginal generations and are increasing the impact of the Aboriginal workforce, through the department’s Aboriginal Nursing and Midwifery and Allied Health Cadetship Program and Aboriginal Nursing and Midwifery Enhanced Graduate Program.
While more Aboriginal students are entering higher education than ever before, Aboriginal nursing, midwifery and allied health students leave their studies prior to completion at higher rates than other students . Aboriginal nursing and midwifery students are not supported by current nursing educational approaches, as reflected by difficulties in their recruitment and retention. As a response to these challenges, the department developed a cadetship program and enhanced graduate program for Aboriginal students and registered practitioners. These programs operate in both rural and metropolitan Victoria.
The cadetship program provides 12 weeks of paid work experience in a health service for Aboriginal students enrolled in a health-related course. Cadetships increase support for Aboriginal students to complete their studies, build relationships with health sector employees, increase the numbers of Aboriginal students transitioning into the health workforce and maximise professional development and employment pathways for Aboriginal people. Since 2013–14, 34 Aboriginal students have undertaken cadetships with 28 more to participate in 2015–16. A cadetship implementation guide for health services was developed and is available online.
The enhanced graduate program provides a pathway for Aboriginal nurses and midwives to secure employment and consolidate their skills within a health service over 12 months. Seventeen Aboriginal registered practitioners have completed an enhanced graduate program since 2013-14, with the majority continuing employment post-program. Ten graduates will participate in the 2015-16 program. The enhanced graduate program is the first of its kind in Australia and was awarded by the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives in 2015.
The department also funds a communication network of participating organisations, which includes continuing development and peer support for cadets and graduates.
Evaluation of the programs is underway and relevant findings will be reported in the presentation.