One of the great things about working in parliament—and I have the privilege of having been in the other place as a member of the lower house and now being here in the Senate—is that you get to work with people in our community who are in the worst of places, who need help or who have fallen through the cracks. But you also have the privilege of attending many celebrations and opportunities to look at the best of our society and the things that are working well.
Australians often underrate what we achieve in the world, but tonight I would like to talk about one group which often flies under the radar but makes a significant difference internationally and in our own country—particularly with our Indigenous population—in the area of health. I am talking about the Joanna Briggs Institute. The Joanna Briggs Institute, or the JBI, is a not-for-profit group in Adelaide that aims to use the best evidence based training to help health professionals from around the world to deliver health outcomes to those who are in most need in disadvantaged communities. It is housed within the University of Adelaide in South Australia and is a team of dedicated professionals, including doctors, nurses, scientists, other professional officers and allied health professionals.
When thinking about worldwide health groups, people tend to think of organisations like Medecins Sans Frontieres. JBI, however, began at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in December 1996 as a small, devoted team of registered nurses committed to a world where health care was based on the most appropriate and up-to-date evidence that was available to all. It is a great example of a small group of people, passionate about what they believe in, making a difference in the world. After nearly two decades, JBI is now a key global player. The success of JBI can be measured by looking at their training of clinicians, their impact on the delivery of health care and the number of lives saved. Currently they have more than 80 collaborating centres and over 7,000 subscribing health services internationally, all led from Adelaide in South Australia. The international collaborative effort involves some of the world’s best universities and hospitals—and sometimes entire countries—which is a fantastic effort.
Recently I had the privilege of attending a function organised by the Joanna Briggs Foundation, which is the fundraising arm of the JBI. The foundation’s aim is to help support the JBI to continue its work, not only in research but in reaching out to people and bringing them to Australia—or, if they are within Australia, to Adelaide—to receive that evidence based learning so that they can take that best practice back to their home country.
In the Indigenous side of their work, they are trying to address the disparities in the health care that exists across Australia. The mortality rate for infants amongst Indigenous people—as you would well know, Madam Acting Deputy President Peris—is high, sometimes three times higher than the national average, with 15 deaths per 1,000 compared to five per 1,000 for other Australian children, and they face high rates of infection for contagious and potentially life-threatening diseases, particularly STDs, tuberculosis, eye and gastro diseases. What the JBI has managed to do, though, with support from corporate and individual donors, is connect health experts from disadvantaged communities and countries to study at the JBI in Adelaide. They are equipped there so that they can take the learning back to their communities and make a real difference. Recently the JBF, the Joanna Briggs Foundation, funded a group of 10 African medical specialists to participate in a fellowship program before they went back to their communities to contribute there.
For people listening to this debate, the foundation are looking for both corporate and private individuals to partner with them. Their website is joannabriggsfoundation.org and they are working to develop the strong medical research knowledge bank for the developing world and to facilitate people coming here to access that knowledge. It is a good-news story out of Australia of a group of dedicated people who have decided that they can make a difference and have invested themselves into that. With the support of corporates and private philanthropists and a range of individuals who have committed time and effort to this, it is making a difference in the world and it is a good example of where Australians are continuing to be good national and global citizens.