This NAIDOC Week: St Vincent’s Commitment to First Nations Healthcare

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make up for 3.3% of Australians, yet they continue to experience significant health disparities compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Indigenous Australians have elevated rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and kidney disease, in addition to mental health challenges and substance abuse disorders. These health inequities are exacerbated by socio-economic factors, limited access to healthcare, and historical injustices. Addressing these disparities necessitates culturally appropriate health interventions and policies to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal Australians.
St Vincent’s Clinic and St Vincent’s Clinic Research Foundation along with St Vincent’s Health Network, Sydney is committed to improving the medical conditions and health outcomes of Indigenous Australians in closing the gap. Our dedicated Specialists and clinical staff are involved in several significant outreach programs.
Prof Steven Faux
Prof Steven Faux AM, Pain and Rehabilitation

Prof Steven Faux, Head of Pain Medicine and Director of St Vincent’s Pain Clinic leads a multidisciplinary team of specialists who offer pain management and rehabilitation services to Aboriginal people living with chronic pain. Since 2015 the team has been offering clinic sessions and case conferencing for patients at the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern, providing patient assessment, education and management plans. General Practitioners at the centre are then able to link people with local providers, such as exercise physiologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, and dieticians.

For more information,

Prof Jerry Greenfield

Prof Greenfield (second right) with the DREAM team.

Prof Jerry Greenfield, Endocrinologist

Professor Jerry Greenfield, Head of Endocrinology and Director of Diabetes Services founded the Diabetes Regional Education, Access, and Management (DREAM) initiative in collaboration with the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN) which encompasses 508 communities in rural NSW. This program helps to improve access to specialist diabetes care in the region. Prof Greenfield said the medical centre staff involved in the project had been excellent to collaborate with.

“Their dedication to improving diabetes care in Gundagai is truly commendable,” Professor Greenfield said.

“It has been very rewarding to work with local healthcare professionals to ensure the rural and regional diabetes population have access to the best possible and equitable care and experience.”

For more information, email:

AProf Nigel Biggs
A/Prof Nigel Biggs, Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon

The Otolaryngology department along with A/Prof Richard Gallagher and A/Prof Nigel Biggs established pro-bono mission work with the Pius X Aboriginal Medical Service in Moree in 2003. Since then, the outreach clinic’s focus has been on improving Aboriginal ear disease which has impacted children’s education with respect to hearing.

“The most rewarding part of this program has been meeting and dealing with the local population of Moree and surrounding areas” A/Prof Biggs said.

“Living in the country provides distinct challenges in accessing healthcare and I feel the medical community should endeavour to ensure that those living in regional areas should enjoy all the benefits of modern healthcare that those in the city enjoy.”

For more information, visit

AProf Brett Courtenay
A/Prof Brett Courtenay OAM, Orthopaedic Surgeon

A/Prof Brett Courtenay OAM, Head of Orthopaedics has spent the last decade dedicating time to consult on Aboriginal orthopaedic conditions at the Aboriginal Medical Centre Redfern, a centre that provides a culturally safe space for Aboriginal people to receive medical treatment.

The Clinic provides an environment where Aboriginal patients feel comfortable in – that is fundamental in providing the best diagnosis and treatment options” A/Prof Courtenay says.

In Sydney we are in a very privileged area, but we are forever mindful of the fact that there are very diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities around Australia that are in need of our help.”

For more information, visit

Prof Macdonald
Prof Michael Feneley AM and Prof Peter Macdonald, Cardiologists

Since 2006, Prof Peter Macdonald has conducted a monthly Cardiology clinic at the Condobolin Aboriginal Medical Service in central NSW.

“Providing a comprehensive non-invasive Cardiology service to an otherwise isolated community has been the most rewarding.” Prof Macdonald says

“For patients that require hospitalisation, I can facilitate their admission and inpatient care.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal people and often occurs up to 20 years earlier leading to long-term health complications.

In the past 24 years, Prof Macdonald has seen improvements in those who have optimised life-style factors to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, kidney and cardiovascular disease.

For more information, visit Condobolin Aboriginal Healthcare Service - AH&MRC (


Yarn'n Circle member holding her late mother's hand, demonstrating the importance of connection, family and kinship in First Nations culture.

Monica Qiao, Allied Health, 2023 St Vincent’s Clinic Research Foundation grant recipient

Monica Qiao, Health Equity Project Manager at St Vincent’s Public Hospital received a 2023 St Vincent’s Clinic Research Foundation grant for her research project ‘Dalarinji Yarn’n Circle’. The project aims to prioritise community engagement, ensuring that medical interventions meet the specific needs of the Aboriginal population. Monica’s research has been pivotal in fostering trust and providing culturally appropriate care through integrating Aboriginal perspectives into discharge planning and communication.

While significant work has been done to improve healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders, the ‘gap’ is not closing fast enough. Enhancing access to quality healthcare services through the expansion of culturally competent care, training healthcare professionals in cultural sensitivity, and increasing the representation of Indigenous people in the medical workforce is needed.
St Vincent’s continues to carry out the commitment to serving vulnerable people in the tradition of the Sisters of Charity through collaboration with Government and Aboriginal communities to work towards achieving equitable healthcare.