cohealth shows support for First Nations’ community through public holiday ‘opt-out’ option for staff

Released on 21st September 2022

One of Australia’s largest community health services, cohealth, has given it’s 1,000 staff the option to substitute Thursday’s ‘day of mourning’ public holiday for another day, in recognition of the ongoing impact of colonialism on First Nations Australians. 

“A large part of our work as a community health service is supporting the First Nations’ community to overcome health inequity, discrimination and disruption of culture that is a direct result of colonisation,” said Kim Webber, Executive Lead  Strategy Impact & Development. 

cohealth says it understands there are a range of views surrounding this public holiday and supports staff whatever their view.

“By offering staff the option to substitute Thursday’s public holiday for another day, we are empowering staff to make the choice that is right for them and staying true to our commitment to reconciliation and health equity,” she said. 

cohealth says its decision regarding the national day of mourning is in keeping with the ‘change it ourself’ initiative which allows staff to substitute the 26 January public holiday – which for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a day of mourning.  

cohealth staff who choose to work on 22 September will be invited to use the time for self-led learning via a range of relevant materials about the impacts of colonisation on First Nations peoples.  

“We don’t shy away from difficult conversations. It is vital that we stand by our values as an organisation that is committed to ending health inequity, and advocating for the communities with which we work,” said Ms Webber. 

cohealth will also offer the substitution option to staff for the annual King’s Birthday public in recognition of the British Monarchy’s impact on Australia’s colonial history.  

“We’ll continue to advocate for an inclusive celebration of our national identity, and until the date is officially changed, we will continue offering staff the power to change it themselves,” said Ms Webber. 

“Our vision for reconciliation is where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have social, health and wellbeing equity, achieved through an understanding of our shared history, deep listening, ongoing learning and reflection,” she said. 

Read cohealth’s position statement, Committing to truth telling on the National Day of Mourning public holiday


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More on cohealth: 

cohealth is one of Australia’s largest not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all.  cohealth provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical, oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services. 

More information: or 0499 101 638


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