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About Us

Ngatanwarr!  (welcome)

Dhauwurd Wurrung Elderly & Community Health Service Inc (DWECHS) provides comprehensive general and allied health care while also offering a wide range of  support programs to the Portland community.

Our Vision:

Dhauwurd-Wurrung Elderly and Community Health Service Inc. leads health and wellbeing for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community within the Portland area. Our organisation will support community members with access to culturally appropriate and effective health, spiritual, social and emotional wellbeing services.

Our Purpose:


Our purpose is to provide the highest standard of care incorporating a holistic approach toward health and wellbeing.

We aim to achieve this by providing services that:

  • are culturally safe and culturally appropriate;

  • ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live longer and have a better quality of life;

  • enable employment and training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;

  • promote self-determination and community control; and

  • enable capacity building (community, organisation and individual) through enhanced knowledge, access, participation and engagement.

Aboriginal Health Definition:

As an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation we accept and respect the concept, perception and definition of health from the National Aboriginal Health Strategy as being a key concept in Aboriginal health. Health to Aboriginal peoples is a matter of determining all aspects of their life, including control over their physical environment, of their dignity, of community self-esteem, and of justice. It is not merely of the provision of doctors, hospitals, medicine or the absence of disease and incapacity. Health is not just the physical wellbeing of an individual but the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community. This is a whole of life view and includes the cyclical concept of life-death-life.

The Birth of Dhauwurd Wurrung - Story told by Aunty Christine Pearce:

Way back in the early 90’s, the Elders of Gunditjmara of Portland, decided it was time that they had a culturally appropriate Health Service and Aged Care Facility in Portland. This way the Elders wouldn’t have to travel to Melbourne for treatment when ill. Many of the Elders were ill at the time.


Mum, Ruth Smith and my step father Alan Smith got together with Aunty Iris Lovett whom had a big part in the building of A.C.E.S in Melbourne, as well as Aunty Rita Wilson, Uncle Jim Wilson, Aunty Euphemia Day, Uncle Tommy Day and others. They all wanted something like A.C.E.S in the Portland area.


Finally after talking with a lot of official funding bodies, Dhauwurd Wurrung Elderly Citizens was born. The first office was in mum’s spare room. I remember we used to use dad’s lawn mower and trailer, pulled by his car. I think the first lot of funding was to the tune of $280k then followed by more, thank goodness.


As the place grew we were able to get our own second office based in Malseed st Dutton Way which was thirteen kms from Portland Post Office.


By this time, dad had applied for the first Home & Community Care (HACC) Coordinator position and we had employed a manager. The only drawback was that the community couldn’t always access the place when needed, as most of them didn’t own their own cars. Nor did we have funding to buy a bus at that time.


Once again, they approached the applicable people and were able to move camp to a little house in the middle of the shopping centre of Portland, which was since been pulled down and Target built in its place. Dhauwurd Wurrung Elderly & Community Health Service wasn’t there all that long, as our office was broken into several times. Our next office was in the Pioneer Plaza.


During this time, talks with Portland Council had begun. They gave us back the old Portland High School grounds where we built our beautiful building on Julia Street. By this time mum and dad had passed away along with other Elders of the time.


The new building has seen many worker and community faces pass through the doors to make it what it is today. The future is looking healthy for Indigenous communities of the Portland surrounding areas with Dhauwurd Wurrung Elderly & Community Health Service going forward in leaps and bounds. Currently there are skilled and qualified health staff able to serve the community.  The buildings are growing which has enabled our health service to grow and to hire and train culturally appropriate staff.


On a last note, I would like to thanks the Elders of the past and the present for their want of a better way of life and care for the Indigenous peoples in the South Western area of Victoria.


Christine Pearce

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