Merinda’s dedication seals prized accolade

Cher Jimenez

A young Aboriginal health practitioner has made it on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List with the Order of Australia Medal in recognition of her passionate service to Indigenous health in Gippsland.

Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation’s Morwell practice co-ordinator Merinda Harrison-Drake said she felt honoured to receive the medal as it recognised her more than a decade of service supporting and promoting Aboriginal health.

“As a proud Yorta Yorta, Gunaikurnai woman I am honoured to receive this medal as recognition of years of hard work for my ancestors, elders and myself,” she said.

Ms Harrison-Drake, 32, is a fully trained Aboriginal health practitioner who has 13 years of experience under her name.

She joined Ramahyuck in 2005 and in 2018 became the clinic coordinator for the Central Gippsland Aboriginal Health Service (Ninde Dana).

“After some time in the role, I was given the opportunity to take up a leadership role and was offered the position of practice coordinator,” she said.

As a young Aboriginal health practitioner, Ms Harrison-Drake is well known and respected among the local Koori community and has good rapport with elders and other members of the Indigenous community.

“I have, throughout my years working at the co-op, worked closely with the elders and local community in the Latrobe area,” she said.

Born and raised in Gippsland, Ms Harrison-Drake’s passion has always been focused on supporting Aboriginal health.

“I was raised by the community and I feel that part of my identity is to work for the Aboriginal community that I was raised in,” she said.

In 2018 she received a culturally appropriate support for Indigenous and diverse communities honourable mention citation from the Gippsland Primary Health Network

Ms Harrison-Drake considered one of the most rewarding parts of her work being surrounded by a supportive team “and knowing that I’m working towards the next level in my career that the community will benefit from”.

“It’s not a job, it’s a passion,” she said.

“Now I lead a great team who are all passionate about Aboriginal health and making a difference and working together as a team with one vision.

“Ramahyuck’s vision for a healthy, strong and vibrant Indigenous community speaks of our role to tackle the barriers that affect many social determinants of good health and wellbeing for Aboriginal people.”