Aboriginal Dental Assist wows at awards ceremony

Award-winner Melissa Stewart
Award-winner Melissa Stevens

Dental Assistant (DA) Melissa Stevens has won Victoria’s top honour for Indigenous Australian health professionals in training: the Koolin Balit Aboriginal Learner Award – part of the People in Health Awards.

Accepting the award at a gala dinner last week, Melissa said she was surprised and humbled by the honour.

“It’s a massive privilege to be able to stand here proudly, and be recognised for the hard work I’ve done over the last two years,” Melissa said.

Melissa’s impressive resume stood out among the nominations, due to her unwavering commitment to improving oral health in Victorian Indigenous communities. Having joined Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV) as a DA trainee in 2012, Melissa graduated last year, and has gone on to become a tireless advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health ever since.

“I have to say the traineeship has opened a lot of doors and really put me where I am today,” said Melissa. “I’m really grateful to the coordinators and the hospital more broadly, for providing me the support to do my job.”

The importance of the win has not been lost on Melissa who said that her work in juvenile justice centres servicing troubled teens and those most in need is a story that needs to be told throughout the community.

“Over the last couple of years the numbers of Indigenous patients have jumped significantly in Victoria, and doing the rounds in the clinics and community centres really makes that hit home.”

“People in our community need positive mentors and role-models to face the future. I really want this win to show our community that it is really possible to go back to study, work hard, and succeed.”

DHSV was also shortlisted in the Koolin Balit Aboriginal Health Workforce Initiative category, proving itself to be a leader in creating opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“We are an organisation willing to go beyond the norm”, said Melissa. “Not only do we reach out to the community, but we also enable the community to take control of their own health outcomes.”

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