We are proud to announce that Uncle Des Smith, Aboriginal Health Facilitator with EACH’s Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup Team has been inducted into the 2020 Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll.
Uncle Desmond (Des) Ron Smith is a respected Elder and a descendant of the Yorta Yorta and Jaara – Dja Dja Wurrung People through his mother and Wiradjuri descent from his father’s ancestry.
He is being recognised For championing equity and cultural safety across education, housing, justice and health and dedication to self-determination.
With a career as a frontline health worker spanning over 40 years, he has worked directly with Victorian Aboriginal communities in championing equity across education, housing, justice and health. His ability to engage Aboriginal people in their ownership of health is evident in his long history of successful and innovative program delivery that has achieved recognition from peers, Community and at an organisational and state government level.
Leadership is grounded in his innate ability to mentor strategies for social change from grassroots community care through to systems of healthcare delivery. His work in Aboriginal directed services established in the 1970s led to trailblazing roles:
- as the first Aboriginal health worker with the newly established Victorian Health Service and
- the first Aboriginal person to work in Victorian prisons An annexe of this role included supporting the Aboriginal Funeral Service, “providing communities with dignity and respectful services to farewell their loved ones”.
Between 1977 and 1980, Des worked as a Liaison and Field Officer with the Victorian Aboriginal Dental Service. He has fond memories towing the dental caravan, travelling throughout Victoria, and to regional centres in South Australia and New South Wales to provide free and accessible dental health care. Des embraced such opportunities to hear community stories unique in their setting yet connected by past policies and barriers to basic rights.
From 1979 – 1983, Des was employed with the Department of Community Welfare, supporting youth in detention, where he encountering the over-representation of young Aboriginal people in custody. In 1983, Des started working with Correction Services Victoria, making him the first Aboriginal person employed to work in Victorian prisons.
From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s his work involved Co-ordinator positions with a focus on supporting young people in education: Koori Kollij, Department of Education – Koori Education Unit and sport: Fitzroy All Stars Youth Club. His role was at the forefront “to have Aboriginal people develop curriculum that is relevant to their local community and be involved in how education is delivered at all levels of education.”
In 1996, Des commenced work with the newly formed Yarra Valley Aboriginal Health Service, part of Eastern Health. His wealth of knowledge contributed to the growth of Eastern Health’s service to the Aboriginal community.
He has achieved NAIDOC and Eastern Health awards recognising his outstanding and valuable contribution to Victorian Aboriginal health. At a state level, he has been acknowledged for his outstanding achievement and an exemplar of successful program delivery and has showcased his work with presentations on a number of occasions to the Department of Health and Human Services and at the Inaugural Victorian Health Conferences.
At a grassroots level, his lifetime work in community services has provided guidance to empower Aboriginal people to access services and strengthen families to keep the heart of Community strong.
EACH’s Ngarrang Gulinj-al Boordup Team is proud to be working alongside Uncle Des Smith and sharing in this wonderful news we are very excited that he is being recognised for his outstanding commitment to the Aboriginal Community in championing health, justice and education spanning his whole career.
Congratulations Uncle Des!