How a donation helped us make an Indigenous health service even healthier
Yohanand Kumaran is an accountant with a head for numbers and a heart for people.
When he saw the numbers on life expectancy for Australia’s Indigenous population, he was shocked. And when he saw an opportunity to work for the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, he jumped.
Yohanand – who also goes by John – came across the life expectancy figures when working as a senior consultant at chartered accountants Saward Dawson, who have many not-for-profit clients, including VAHS.
"They were one of my clients before, and that got me reading the Federal Government’s Closing the Gap report. That's when I became aware of the differences in health outcomes between Aboriginal people and the rest of Australia," he says.
"The biggest fact that stood out to me was life expectancy, where the average gap with the rest of Australia is more than 10 years. In this day and age?"
Yohanand is now VAHS’s Chief Financial Officer, a position he gained in early 2017, just before starting his MBA at Melbourne Business School thanks to a scholarship funded by our Senior Executive MBA Class of 2003.
"If it wasn't for the scholarship, I wouldn't have even thought about applying for the program. It really encourages me that there are other people out there who think about the challenges we face and how hard it is to attract people with the skills that are needed to run a business."
With an annual turnover of around $20 million and some 200 staff, the VAHS is Victoria’s largest Aboriginal-controlled health service, and John says community control allows it to make a difference.
"It’s well documented that many Aboriginal people would rather not go to a mainstream clinic, which is why a lot health issues have gone unaddressed for years. A health service run by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people makes it easier for them to talk about the issues they’re facing."
Yohanand sees his role as helping to run VAHS as well as possible so it can improve Indigenous health in Victoria.
"It’s won’t be me that makes a change in health outcomes for Indigenous Victorians, but I can help hire the right people and have as many clinics operate across Victoria as possible to achieve that outcome.
"I've always been very passionate about the not-for-profit sector, and I want to make sure that, wherever I work at, I'm always making a difference that will last beyond me. It's not just about me being there."