In early 1995 Winun Ngari Aboriginal Corporation received funding from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) to carry out a comprehensive health planning exercise for Aboriginal people and communities in the Jayida Buru Ward of the Malarabah ATSIC Regional Council of the West Kimberley. This region includes Aboriginal Communities in and around Derby town, south of Derby along the Fitzroy Valley, north east of Derby and along the Gibb River Road and Outstations north along the coast and up into the Mitchell Plateau. The Jayida Buru Health Strategy was the result of this process, and was the first health strategy for Aboriginal people in the Derby region which was developed from the Aboriginal perspective.
Amongst its findings was recognition that:
“...there appears to be little acknowledgement of the diverse needs of these population groups in the structure and operation of most mainstream services in the Derby region. These services often operate under constraints imposed by a Perth based policy and practise...and an organisational culture that excludes Aboriginal people from information and decision making”.
The Strategy outlined five key objectives;
- Aboriginal community and self-management of health related issues
- Service and program planning based on identical local health need
- A comprehensive, integrated and coordinated range of programs and services
- Equitable access to services
- Appropriate levels of resource allocation
and determined that;
“There are compelling reasons for the establishment of an Aboriginal Health Service in the Jayida Buru region; the health needs of the Aboriginal people in the region greatly exceed the capacity of the mainstream provider; the scope and models of mainstream service provision are not currently culturally appropriate or readily accessible; and there is no choice of health provider available to us.”
In April 1997 the Winun Ngari Aboriginal Corporation Committee established a Derby Aboriginal Medical Service (DAMS) Committee. This committee, with the support of the Winun Ngari Committee and Administration, began its struggle to establish a culturally appropriate health service to address the concerns raised through the Jayida Buru Health Strategy.
Funding from the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) was received in early 1997. On September 17, the first committee of the Derby Aboriginal Health Service Council was elected. This committee consisted of the following people:
Maitland ‘Chips’ Councillor
David Walley (deceased)
Maxine Armstrong (deceased)
Raymond Shadforth (deceased)
Lorna Howie (who was also the first Coordinator / Administrator of DAHS)
Harry Lennard (deceased), Graham Ejai (deceased), Eric Benning, Doug D’Antoine Snr (deceased), Jenny Delvin (deceased), Geraldine Shadforth, Jock Nowanji (deceased) and Victor Hunter.
The Health Strategy was officially handed over from the Winun Ngari Aboriginal Corporation to the Derby Aboriginal Health Service, and the goal of establishing a Community Controlled Aboriginal Health Service in Derby was realised when DAHS opened its doors to the public with an official opening ceremony on the 10th December 1998.