Winnunga Nimmityjah Health Services means Strong Health
Where We Come From – The Winnunga Nimmityjah Story
Winnunga first came into being in 1988, established by local Aboriginal people who were inspired by the mass national mobilisation due to the opening of a new Parliament House by the Queen in May. At the time, Olive Brown saw the need for medical services at the Tent Embassy site, opposite what is now Old Parliament House. With the help and assistance of Dr Sally Creasey, Carolyn Patterson, a registered Nurse and Midwife, and Margaret McCleod, the foundations of Winnunga were laid.
These beginnings were soon made permanent, with the offer by ACT Health of a room three times a week: Tuesday and Thursday mornings along with Saturday, in the short cuts office, located behind the Griffin Centre. Just three years later, this small clinic was a permanent medical practice in the Griffin Centre. During this time, Dr Peter Sharp, now Medical Director, came on board.
With the heartfelt passing of Olive Brown in 1993, Winnunga established a Health Board, comprising Judy Harris, Bonnie Brown, Lorna McNiven, Julie Tongs, Chris Jard and Glenda Humes. The next year, ACT Health provided space in their Moore St offices for Winnunga’s administration.
The National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health reinforced Winnunga’s importance to the local Aboriginal population, with their 1993 survey investigating alcohol, drugs and the HIV/AIDS risk in the Aboriginal population. This study found that Aboriginal people were more likely to access services provided by Aboriginal people, or which employed Aboriginal people.
By 1997, the inadequacies of the Griffin Centre site had become apparent. From too little clinical space and the separation of clinical and administrative staff, to a secluded car park that had become a needle dump, Winnunga had outgrown the site. In late 1997, board member Julie Tongs took 6 months unpaid leave to work in the Winnunga administrative team, with the aim of finally securing a new site, and an untouched Budget (until this time, the salary of the Aboriginal Liaison Officer at Canberra Hospital had been deducted from Winnunga’s initial budget).
Following significant hard work and many negotiations with ACT Health, in 1998 Winnunga relocated to Wakefield gardens in Ainslie. The following year, Winnunga received direct Federal funding. At the same time, Winnunga experienced significant internal turmoil, resulting in an ultimately unsuccessful takeover bid.
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Winnunga commenced many new programs, including medical clinics and visits to Belconnen Remand Centre and Goulbourn Jail, the employment of mental health and health promotion staff, an outreach service to the Yass community and an Opiate Program in partnership with the ACT Division of General Practice.
In 2008, Winnunga celebrated 20 years since its inception as an autonomous community controlled health service