The beautiful and historic Murray River provides the backdrop to Robinvale, a small river town between Mildura and Swan Hill, Vic, and it’s here that you’ll find the Murray Valley Aboriginal Co-operative (MVAC) and the local Aboriginal health service.
MVAC is an Aboriginal community-controlled health service. It provides primary healthcare and related health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Robinvale district.
Robinvale is 90km from the city of Mildura in northwest Victoria. The total population is about 2500, of which 600 are Aboriginal people. Robinvale is also the home of renowned Aboriginal artist Aunty Barb Egan, who has had an art centre called Miss Emily’s Shed in the town for many years.
It is a picturesque holiday spot, situated on a peninsula of land surrounded on three sides by the Murray River. There are irrigated fruit and vegetable farms and vineyards south of the town. The area is known for growing grapes, olives, carrots and almonds.
MVAC’s Health Manager, Sam Cooke, says it’s a distinct river community with its own identity, but the area’s main health issues mirror the national pattern in terms of chronic disease.
“For Aboriginal people, the area has a high level of chronic disease, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” Sam says.
To help combat and educate about these diseases, the service has visiting specialists, such as a Diabetes Educator and nutritionist.
She says the Murray Valley Aboriginal Corporation is regularly visited by specialists, such as a Cardiologist, Physiotherapist, Podiatrist, Optometrist and a Dental Service. It also hosts a range of other services.
Aboriginal Health Workers and Chronic Disease Nurses also work out of the centre, along with a Bringing Them Home Counsellor for the Stolen Generations and a Family Service.
“There is a ‘Time Out Centre’ for Men’s Business, where the men meet for lunch once a week. Then there is also a Mums and Bubs Group that meets weekly to discuss women’s and children’s health issues,” Sam says.
An Elders group also meets regularly at the centre and it runs a Home and Community Care Program (HACC) that assists the elderly.
“There is a permanent midwife service here, and regular antenatal checks, vaccinations and children’s health checks are carried out,” she says.
Sam says the AMS is located in beautiful surrounds: “The land near the centre goes right down to the river. It is beautiful.”
For more information, visit the health service at 87 Latje Rd, Robinvale, or call (03) 5026 3353 or (03) 5026 4501.