The recruitment of an Aboriginal Community Development Officer at Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) will help to improve the oral health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the state, the organisation has announced.
Ms Rebecca Crawford, a Barkindji woman from western NSW, began her role at DHSV last month. She joins the organisation after working as co-ordinator of the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Wadja Aboriginal Family Place for three and a half years. Her experience also includes work in NSW at the Aboriginal Land Council, Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Department of Education and Training, and Department of Community Services, as well as at the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency.
She says she hopes to use her new position to improve access to dental services and oral care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“The state of oral health for Aboriginal people needs a lot of attention. There are huge disparities between oral health statistics for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians which indicates serious concern for children and adults in the areas of dental caries and periodontal disease,” said Ms Crawford.
“In our communities there is a higher need for dental treatment – especially dentures, fillings and extractions. The percentage of untreated dental caries is also higher among Indigenous children.
“Figures are particularly high in areas that are socially disadvantaged or remote.
“I hope that, in the time I’m with DHSV, we can see a big improvement in the oral health of all Aboriginal people by increasing access to services and providing communities with information about the impact of oral health on our wellbeing and how we can work together to decrease dental caries in Aboriginal children and adults,” she said.
Ms Crawford joins DHSV at a time when the organisation is showing a significant increase in the number of Aboriginal clients accessing public oral health care in Victoria – at The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne and the other 57 Victorian oral health agencies supported by DHSV. In the 2012-13 financial year, around 7,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander received public oral healthcare in Victoria – a substantial rise since 2007-08 when just 1,660 received treatment.
“This increase is largely due to a concerted effort by the Royal Dental Hospital Melbourne and DHSV as a whole on making access to oral health care amenable to the Indigenous community,” said Ms Crawford.
Ms Crawford’s position is located within the Health Promotion Team of DHSV. She will be working collaboratively with the Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer and Co-ordinator of Diversity and Community Liaison at The Royal Dental Hospital of Melbourne.