Where accreditation is due

Kununurra, East Kimberley: For two very good reasons, last year was a stand-out year for the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service (OVAHS). Firstly, the corporation (on 1 September 2014) celebrated 30 years of service to the Aboriginal people of Kununurra and surrounding communities.

And, secondly, OVAHS became the first ever Aboriginal medical service in regional and remote Western Australia to achieve the international accreditation standard ISO 9001: 2008 for quality management.

On completion of her final site visit, ISO accreditation auditor, Rhonda Williams, reported to the OVAHS senior managers’ team, ‘This is the first time I have done a final accreditation audit without having to report any minor or major non-conformities.’

The journey to ISO 9001: 2008 accreditation

OVAHS took on a lot to achieve the ISO accreditation—some tasks were strategic and some, when viewed retrospectively, assisted its success. For example, before the corporation’s board of directors decided to give the ‘go ahead’ to apply for accreditation, it had already approved a review of all its occupational health and safety (OH&S) systems.

All areas of the organisation were rigorously examined by an external assessor employed by OVAHS through a government grant. Following this, OVAHS set about repairing and/or purchasing equipment and materials, improving and further developing its OH&S policies and procedures for each of its operation areas, and implementing the ‘quality and OH&S’ team.

The OH&S improvements brought about tangible benefits and proved a real motivator for OVAHS to take on more. 

‘Looking back, the official start of our accreditation journey was the day when the OVAHS’ board of directors included it as part of our Strategic and business plan 2013─2018,’ said Graeme Cooper, the corporation’s CEO.

The success in achieving ISO 9001: 2008 has been in large part due to OVAHS looking to its employees to lead the way. A long-term staff member and manager, Jane Cooper, took on the role of quality project manager (QPM) and made sure that the staff, systems, training and procedures were in place.

‘The process of attaining the ISO accreditation was rewarding for both OVAHS’ directors and employees alike but, ultimately, earning this accreditation has been about ensuring that our Aboriginal community receives the services it needs. Quality management systems and organisational accreditation are not for health services just to talk about—they can bring about real benefits in terms of running any business or corporation,’ said Jane Cooper.

While it’s fair to say OVAHS has been through its fair share of ups and downs over the years, it’s now on a firm footing. Since its modest beginnings as the East Kimberley Aboriginal Health Service and its incorporation in 1984, it has grown in reputation and maturity.  

‘The quality journey for OVAHS goes on,’ said Myrtle Ward, the chairperson of OVAHS. ‘This is thanks to the involvement of the directors and employees, particularly the managers and the CEO continuing to be invested in maintaining our quality systems and giving the best service to our people.’


The Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service Aboriginal Corporation, known as OVAHS, provides a comprehensive primary health care service to Aboriginal people in the East Kimberley region from a modern health facility in Kununurra. Preventative and public health programs include maternal and child health and a social support unit. OVAHS’ staff include doctors, Aboriginal health workers, an audiologist, psychologists and social support staff. OVAHS also manages specialist appointment notifications and transport to access specialist services. For more information visit www.ovahs.org.au

All photos courtesy of Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service Aboriginal Corporation

Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service building

Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service—from a donger 30 years ago to a modern facility and ISO 9001 accreditation today

Staff from the Ord Valley Aboriginal Health Service

Some of the people who helped on the accreditation journey (from left to right): deputy CEO Sharon Benning, quality project manager Jane Cooper, and reception manager and assistant to the quality project manager, Trish Hill

Ev Wilson stacking shelves

Pharmacy assistant stocks the shelves

two pictures of women holding a baby

Maternal and child health is a priority at OVAHS

ORD valley Aboriginal Health Service logo

Group photo of clinical staff

Clinical staff

Sign of services and opening hours for OVAHS

Services and opening hours