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Broome Aboriginal health worker wins major award

Kimika Lee spends her work days making sure the final days of her Aboriginal patients’ lives are as peaceful as possible.

The Broome woman who was working as a cleaner at Broome Regional Hospital seven years ago, is now Australia’s only Aboriginal health worker who specialises in palliative care.

She was recognised for her contribution to remote and regional WA at the 2018 Western Australia Regional Achievement and Community Awards (WARACA), being awarded the prestigious Horizon Power Leadership and Innovation Award by Manager Communications Melanie Speed.

Almost 500 guests gathered from across the State including official guest Hon. Alannah MacTiernan MLC Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Minister Assisting the Minister for State Development, Jobs and Trade to celebrate regional Western Australia’s high achievers.

Mrs MacTiernan told the event attendees that while there were challenges of living in regional Western Australia, such as cost and distance, the sense of community in regional towns and the generosity of spirit were huge benefits that should be treasured, and acknowledged through awards such as these.

Kimika was overwhelmed with the honour of receiving the award, and was still in tears half an hour later, saying, “I was quite gob-smacked, the tears just kept flowing.”

It was not just her own exceptional work that resulted in Kimika being selected by the awards’ panel of judges but also her commitment to training others in the palliative care of Aboriginal people.

With the support of Cancer Council of WA, she has mentored workers within the health sector from all around the State, mostly  mostly from regional Western Australia.

With no hospice in Broome, a big part of her role is making sure medicine is available to patients returning home to their towns or remote communities after hospital and linking them to service providers for any home equipment they require and their Home Care Packages provide funding for.

“When we know someone is coming from Perth (hospital) and returning home, which might be a remote community, we need to source funding to set up equipment and get medicines ready, so one of the most important things we do is the planning to ensure people can stay in their community and be comfortable. With the wet season, and the closure of roads to communities, ensuring patients had what they needed in time was often challenging.

Kimika's leadership has inspired others and her work has made a significant impact on the access, experiences and outcomes of Aboriginal patients, carers and families. Kimika has mentored senior nursing and allied health staff and Aboriginal health colleagues, and has contributed to regional and state initiatives. Kimika contributed to palliative care data collection to build the capacity of health workers across the Kimberley.

Congratulations to all the 2018 WARACA Winners:

• Waringarri Aboriginal Arts of Kununurra - Rinehart Development of Northern Regional WA Award
• Narrogin Cottage Homes Inc - Prime Super Employer Excellence in Aged Care Award
• Bee Firm NRG of Applecross - Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development Economic Development Award
• Michael Walmsley of Waroona - RAC Volunteering Award
• Littlewell Working Group - Woolworths Community Group of the Year Award
• Sarah Penn of Bulgarra - Curtin University Teaching Excellence Award
• Leigh Ballard of Narrogin - Harmony Agriculture and Food Co Agricultural Innovation Award
• Kimika Lee of Broome - Horizon Power Leadership and Innovation Award
• Eugene Eades of Boxwood Hills - Community TAB Community Service Award
• Narembeen Community Resource Centre - Insurance Commission of Western Australia Regional Safety Award
• Bindoon Mowers and Machinery - Prime Super Business Achievement Award
• Gravity ETC of Dalyellup - Ricoh Australia Customer Service Award