‘There’s a whole web of us working to help our community’: Inaugural First Nations Clinic Liaison Nurse celebrates Mob


Image: St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne's inaugural First Nations Clinic Liaison Nurse

As part of St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s commitment to closing the gap, earlier this year we welcomed a new team member to our Wilam Ngarrang Aboriginal Health Unit.

Ahead of National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June), we spoke with Lily Mercer to hear about how First Nations roles contribute to reconciliation and healing at our health service.

Lily emphasised her position as part of the broader, collective work of First Nations healthcare workers.

“There’s a whole web of us working to help out community,” Lily said.

Breaking down cultural barriers

A registered psychiatric nurse, Lily Mercer joined Wilam Ngarrang as the inaugural First Nations Clinic Liaison Nurse.

“I’m a very proud Gadigal woman, born and raised in Sydney. I also have lots of cultural ties to Bundjalung nation [in Northern New South Wales] where I also lived growing up,” Lily said.

“My mother was an ex-nurse and she always taught me about the importance of equitable healthcare and that we should be at the table when it comes to healthcare.”

“As an Aboriginal Clinic Liaison Nurse, my role is supporting Mob coming through specialist clinics or the outpatient department and helping them navigate the health system.”

Lily advocates for First Nations patients prior to, during and following their appointments with the health service.

“I’m in a unique position where I can break down the medical jargon, answer questions, advocate and intervene in areas where Mob traditionally don’t always feel comfortable,” Lily said.

She also emphasised that, as a First Nations person, she had an opportunity to break down cultural barriers and build trust in a sensitive manner.

It’s not about individual roles – it’s about community

Lily said her role and work should not be seen in isolation, but as part of a much bigger collective workload undertaken by different First Nations individuals and services.

She said working with other First Nations staff at St Vincent’s “enables the health service as a whole to wrap its arms around patients and let them know they can trust us”.

“We all work together. Through interagency, we lean on each other and transfer care [of patients]. We lean on community so much for support as well. If the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) is sending someone up, then we’re the second person to give care and lean on them as they lean on us.”

“It’s a web of us working together to get this person housing, for example, or make sure their diabetes is under control or make sure they’re okay to go into surgery.”

Learn more about Wilam Ngarrang and our Reconciliation Action Plan on our website:

A committment to Indigenous patients and staff (stvfoundation.org.au)

Reconciliation - St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne (svhm.org.au)