National Close the Gap Day at Congress

Three ladies smailing at the camera standing at a stall

The Department of Human Services recently participated in an event for National Close the Gap Day hosted by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress in Alice Springs.

Community Engagement Officers Christine and Su-San held a stall at the event to provide information to the local community about the department’s services and raise awareness of their role.

Community Engagement Officers help vulnerable customers with complex needs to access information, payments and services.

Both Su-San and Christine have been with the department for more than 10 years. Christine joined the Community Engagement Officer Network when the program started in 2010, while Su-San has been a Community Engagement Officer since 2013.

The unique service provides this assistance in locations where customers feel comfortable and can be supported by others, such as rehabilitation centres, mental health facilities, community centres and specialist accommodation centres.

Community Engagement Officers work collaboratively with departmental staff – including social workers, and Indigenous Service Officers, to enhance customer interactions. They also provide opportunities for customers to establish a link with other community networks such as health, education and financial services.

Christine said the most rewarding aspect of her work was seeing the progress in customers.

“It’s about the journey. Things can move slowly when working with vulnerable people but small movements can make a huge difference in their lives.”

Su-San said events like this allow the Department to highlight equality of access to services providing support for employment and education, community participation and family assistance regardless of personal circumstances.

“We see National Closing the Gap day as a great avenue to raise awareness of Centrelink and Medicare services within the Department of Human Services as well as local community sector agencies.”

She also values the ability to assist customers to recognise their past achievements. She says drawing on examples of when customers have pulled through tough times in the past can help them recognise their strengths and overcome challenges.

The information stall promoting the department’s services created opportunities for members of the community to also connect with other service providers such as the Central Australia Health Service, Congress Chronic Disease Program, MyTrack-Mental Awareness Fellowship and Lutheran Community Care.

Engaging directly with local services may assist in the prevention of many leading causes of poor health and wellbeing faced by Aboriginal people.

The event was attended by approximately 160 visitors who engaged with the health messages via interactive family activities and promotional material.

More information

Read more about the role of Community Engagement Officers in the department.