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Women’s Health Service celebrates a job well done

Emma Macdonald

For 30 years, the ACT Women’s Health Service has been providing crucial care for some of the city’s most vulnerable women.

Over that time, the service has grown enormously – starting out with just one doctor, a nurse and a counsellor and growing now to provide a range of doctors, nurses, nurse practioners, counsellors, a counselling team leader, dietician and a devoted administration staff keeping the central Civic office and ten outreach clinics running smoothly.

Over the last 12 months the dedicated service has been accessed on more than 2000 occasions by vulnerable women of all ages.

These include women experiencing violence, abuse or neglect, identifying as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, having language or cultural barrier, being homelessness or risk of homelessness, having substance abuse issues, mental health issues, sexual identity issues or a disability.

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Left to right: Elizabeth Chatham, Christine Long and Nikki Goddard

Celebrating the three-decade birthday, as well as Women’s Health Week this week, Manager of the Women’s Health Service Nikki Goddard said she was proud of the accessibility of the service.

It welcomed women of all social and cultural backgrounds, and could greatly improve their quality of healthcare.

“Women are welcome to ring us and make a direct referral themselves. If they want to access counselling, then we will get an intake worker to contact them,” Ms Goddard said.

The service recently won an ACT Public Service Excellence Award in the category of Respect.

Christine Long, Director for Community Health Programs in the Division of Women, Youth and Children, said that one of the biggest challenges over the years had been catering for the increase in the demand for counselling services. She suggested this might be the result of increased community awareness over the impact of domestic and family violence. The service offered both short and long-term counselling services.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Chatham, the Executive Director of Women, Youth and Children, used Women’s Health Week to urge any women finding it difficult to access mainstream services to take the opportunity to contact them.

“Women experience healthcare differently to men… Gender impacts directly on the expression of the illness they might have and also access to healthcare and flows on to the impact on their family,” Ms Chatham said.

“It’s really important women stay healthy and invest in preventative health measures and screening.”

She said one of the most important steps a woman could take to ensuring better future health was to access a family GP who they could see regularly and who could be informed of their specific family situation and personal background.

the essentials

What: The Women’s Health Service can be accessed on 6205 1078 or online here
Where: It is centrally located in Civic at  Level 1, ACT Health Building, 1 Moore St Canberra City ACT 2601 and offers a drop-in service between 1pm and 3pm Monday to Friday.
It runs counselling and health clinics at Gungahlin, West Belconnen, Belconnen, Phillip and Tuggeranong.

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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