The SHFPACT team has not had a moment to catch its breath this year!
SHFPACT works across the nexus of the health, education and community services industries. As a community we were all grateful to be moving beyond the public health demands of the pandemic and beginning to return more confidently to a new normal for services and activities. However, we observed that this last year has been especially challenging for schools and the teaching workforce, hospitals and healthcare services and the medical, nursing and allied health professionals that staff them, and for both support workers/carers and people with disability they support. While much of the rest of the community began to move on, the health risks and workforce shortages continued. And we acknowledge this continuing impact for our key partners in these areas.
The staff team at SHFPACT has grown significantly in the last year, bringing fresh eyes and perspectives to our longstanding work, standing up new programs, services and activities. This provided us the opportunity to reflect on both the challenges and successes of our work promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights in the Canberra community, and to plan for how we continue to respond to unmet and emerging needs.
We welcomed Sarah-Jane Olsen as a new Senior Director, with oversight on quality improvement, and leading new accreditation projects for SHFPACT with the management team.
SHFPACT is pursuing clinical accreditation under the newly released Primary and Community Healthcare Standards by the Australian Commission for Quality & Safety in Health Care, and for non-clinical services under the Australian Service Excellence Standards (ASES). SHFPACT also continues as a registered NDIS services provider.
We were excited to recruit our first group of youth peer educators in the Interface Project. Funded by ACT Health ‘Healthy Canberra Grants’ program for two years, this project is delivered in collaboration with Hepatitis ACT, and engages youth advocates as peer educators to develop small health promotion projects for sexual health and blood borne viruses (BBV) needs.
The youth peer educators are engaged as casual educators at SHFPACT, participate in a training and development program, participate in health education and community health promotion activities run by SHFPACT, Hepatitis ACT and other partners, and identify key sexual health and BBV issues for Canberra young people. This project also worked with members of the Youth Advisory Council and artist BOHIE on developing health relationships and sexual consent campaign resources and materials.
We also see the project as an opportunity to build the future sexual health promotion workforce, by providing genuine employment opportunities for young people in the industry. Nine youth peer educators joined us in early 2023 for the first year of the project.
We farewelled Dr Jenny Leung from the clinical services team in 2022. Jenny Leung worked for SHFPACT for over 30 years, and in the last 15 years as a senior medical officer with primary responsibility for coordinating SHFPACT’s medical education program. Jenny’s embrace of grandparenting is as complete and strong as her commitment and dedication to reproductive and sexual health clinical care and primary healthcare workforce development during her time working at SHFPACT.
The clinical leadership team was joined by Drs Martina Mende and Tara Frommer. Martina and Tara bring fresh energy and perspective to this work, and have played a critical part in establishing a new clinical services model for pelvic pain/endometriosis services at SHFPACT, as well as reinvigorating our program of extended skills placement for GP registrars, building a new pipeline of candidates for this position. They join Dr Clare Holberton, Dr Rosa O’Kane, and Manager Clinical Services Anne Carroll in the clinical leadership team.
We welcomed new staff to the Safer Girls Safer Women project, building on the consultancy team who helped initiate the project activity under Senior Director Sheridan Kerr’s direction in 2022.
The project has successfully identified project partners across the country to collaborate on SoSAFE! implementation projects, to consult on the development of guidelines that build workplace cultures for safety and relationships, not just harm prevention compliance, and put the voice and experience of people with disability at the heart of the project.
The first symposium in late 2022 was well attended both in person and online. All speakers and presenters at the Symposium were women and girls with disability, and participants provided positive feedback on the event’s inclusive practices.
The project Advisory Group has welcomed diverse, intersectional membership to offer advice and reflection on ensuring the voice of women, girls and other people with disability remains central. Across Australia, the project is working on projects that build on SHFPACT’s SoSAFE! Framework and address the practices and confidence of the workforce to engage relationally to build a culture of safety. Our project partners reflect a diverse range of professionals, organisations and contexts.
In late 2022, SHFPACT was identified as an obvious candidate as the ACT hub for new Australian Government funding for pelvic pain and endometriosis GP clinics. We were gratified by this acknowledgement by our colleagues in primary healthcare, and worked with Capital Health Network to prepare an ACT submission for the funding.
SHFPACT hosted the national announcement and launch of the new clinics by Assistant Minister for Health Ged Kearney, as one of 21 programs ultimately resourced across Australia. While the models of delivery will vary across Australia, SHFPACT’s proposal centres significantly on addressing the systemic gaps and workforce development alongside standing up a new primary care based access point.
We have valued the engagement and support of our colleagues in Canberra Health Services in establishing the project and our new service model, which represents an important evolution of SHFPACT’s scope of clinical practice.
Endometriosis and pelvic pain are notoriously poorly responded to, with limited service availability for what is a complex, dynamic and evolving experience that requires multidisciplinary care. We also recognise the opportunity that early health education on period pain and pelvic pain can potentially have on improving health outcomes over the life course for people with pelvic pain.
On the advocacy and public policy front, SHFPACT made submissions and attended hearings for the Australian Senate inquiry into universal access to reproductive healthcare in December 2022, supporting and participating in a nationally coordinated submission by Family Planning Alliance Australia.
This inquiry has triggered important new policy and advocacy engagement across the reproductive and sexual health spectrum. Locally, SHFPACT contributed a submission and provided evidence at hearings of the ACT Legislative Assembly inquiry into abortion and reproductive choice in the ACT. And we participated in the consultation facilitated by Women’s Health Matters to enact the funding commitments announced by ACT Government in ACT Budget 2022 to fund abortion access and long-acting reversible contraception for Canberrans.
The complexity of our own organisation’s service and business models positions the organisation well to contribute to health system design thinking. SHFPACT continued to contribute to the design and strategise phases of health service commissioning.
The extended process as ACT Health builds its internal capacities to undertake a major reform in the way health needs and services are identified, designed, commissioned and delivered has been taxing.
Due to the narrow policy focus on STI/BBV in the ACT’s health policy settings, we have had to maintain a close involvement in these processes to ensure that perverse outcomes do not occur because the organisation’s work in a wider sexual and reproductive health and rights framework is misunderstood.
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