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Tiny team to receive big award

6 October 2022

A tiny team of Metro South mental health workers will receive an enormous honour for their dedication to racial equity at an international summit next month. 

Michelle Combo, Deborah Mitchell-Macaulay and Leigh-Anne Pokino said they were proud and humbled to win the prestigious 2022 International Racial Equity Leadership Award which will be presented to them in Washington DC in early October.  

The trio have been working in partnership across Addiction and Mental Health Services’ Way Forward team, Inala Indigenous Health Centre of Excellence and Qld Transcultural Mental Health Centre to introduce Courageous Conversations about Race (CCAR) workshops to the Australian healthcare sector since 2018. 

Miss Combo, CCAR Facilitator, said while international recognition of their work was not something the trio had set out to achieve, winning the award validated the past four years of hard work towards addressing racial disparities in healthcare. 

“We didn’t expect to win as we were up against strong competition from other organisations around the world, so it was a pleasant and exciting surprise with lots of celebratory emails and messages exchanged since we heard the news,” Michelle said. 

Acting AMHS Executive Director Linda Hipper said the award was wonderful recognition of the important work undertaken through the partnership and extended her congratulations to all involved with the program since its conception.

“Recipients of this award are recognised as transformational leaders, persistent in their pursuit of racial justice,” Ms Hipper said. 

“We are proud to have such a dedicated collaborative representing AMHS and the outcomes and impacts that I am aware of through this program have been second to none.”

The Metro South Health practitioners, who make up one of only two teams of accredited facilitators in the country, were leaders in introducing the CCAR: Beyond Diversity workshops to Australia, and the Australian healthcare sector, since 2018.

Dr Mitchell-Macaulay said the introduction of CCAR to Australia was challenging, with the workshop requiring ‘Australianising’. 

“We had to create frameworks, platforms and even language,” she said.

“We used a unique, all-hands-in model whereby an Indigenous staff member, a transcultural staff member and a white staff member all presented their views and impacts on race issues, and this is what is proving to be the thing that really engages and sustains the conversation.”

The team have trained more than 400 Metro South Health workers in practical approaches to dealing with issues relating to race and racism in the workplace and have received widespread attention from other health districts, partner organisations and non-government organisations. 

About the International Racial Equity Leadership Award.

The distinguished award is presented for skilful and courageous leadership to establish and institutionalise an equity/anti-racist culture and climate in organisations around the world.

Recipients of the award are recognised as transformational leaders at the personal, professional and organisational level; acclaimed for implementing practices that are strategic, equity focussed, mission-driven and results oriented; and persistent of their pursuit of racial justice. 

Last updated 6 October 2022
Last reviewed 6 October 2022

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