9 April 2019

Introducing the ARRPN Interest Group

ACA’s re-established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rural and Remote Practitioner Network (ARRPN), formerly Indigenous Rural and Remote Practice Network, is working to unite the profession regardless of geographical location or culture.

The primary purpose of the ARRPN interest group is to advocate on behalf of the ACA, and the profession, with regards to its role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and rural and remote health. As a substantial proportion of chiropractors live and work in rural Australia, providing chiropractic care as well as promoting the general health and wellbeing of their communities in private practice, community groups and multidisciplinary teams, support is provided by the ARRPN to foster these unique needs and issues and to generate a connection between remote practicing chiropractors and the wider chiropractic community.

“In a nutshell the goal of the ARRPN is to represent practitioners and to represent the ACA within the wider health sphere. We give practitioners in these areas and from these backgrounds a voice within the ACA and within the profession,” said Chair of the ARRPN Dr Joan van Rotterdam.

Growing up in Armidale NSW, Dr van Rotterdam feels a special connection to the group, having an awareness of the difficulties practitioners face practicing in regional areas. Dr van Rotterdam’s passion also comes from being the Chair of the charity Hands-on-Health Australia.

“It was through Hands-on-Health that I actually became involved in the ARRPN. I was very interested in Aboriginal health, so was asked to join the committee, and eventually became Chair. In many ways the two groups have a common goal and Hands-on-Health has always been a big advocate of chiropractic care. One of our programs, Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands (AHAH) gives a pathway to ensure that younger members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can see that there is an educational pathway to studying chiropractic.”

Through this pathway, eight young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have commenced chiropractic studies at RMIT. The importance of the partnership between the groups is further represented by Franca Smarrelli who is both the CEO of Hands-on-Health and a member of the ARRPN Committee.

The interest group held their first meeting in September 2018 and was attended by three ACA staff members, Board Member Dr Alison Bennett and six committee members. These members equally represent the dual aspects of the group, that is, those practitioners with an interest in Aboriginal health and those with an interest in rural and remote health.

Currently, one of the largest projects of the group is the development of the Reconciliation Action plan (RAP) which will provide a framework for the ACA to support the national reconciliation movement.

From within the ARRPN group a RAP sub-committee was established, who worked on the production of the draft plan. This draft was reviewed by the ARRPN group and committee, as well as the ACA Board and is currently being reviewed by Reconciliation Australia as part of the RAP endorsement process.

The content of the plan will help guide the Association’s activity in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Engagement space and demonstrates a commitment to the national effort to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal and non-Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

“For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health the most important thing is closing the gap and there is a lot that still hasn’t been achieved within this space. Although, one thing that has been achieved from the RAP is learning to respect the culture and differences. Once you’ve got the respect, then you can start to build on from there and that’s why the RAP is so important.”

The ARRPN hold monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of every month, with any and all ACA members invited to attend an occasional meeting, to raise issues and discuss ideas around how to improve chiropractors practicing in rural and remote communities.

Find out more about the ARRPN group here.