AUNDECK-OMNI-KANING -- It has been a long journey for health care providers on Manitoulin Island, but a forensic centre to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence is about to become a reality.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care recently notified the Noojmowin Teg Health Centre that it will provide funding for the new forensic clinic. It's going to be community and culturally based, the first of its kind in the province.

Until now, some victims from the Island have had to commute to Sudbury for treatment, which can be a two-hour drive.

"Having the clinic here and being able to be supported by our partners, things are going to be able to happen much quicker," said Pam Williamson, Noojmowin Teg's executive director.

It has been a long journey for Williamson and her team. Victims' Services on Manitoulin have been advocating for a forensic clinic for almost a decade, and it took a year and a half to get the funding. 

"Yes it feels good," she said. "It's a positive message that everyone is taking and celebrating right now."

Williamson said making the forensic centre a reality was a team effort that included her team, the board and their first responder partners within the various police services and Manitoulin Health Centre.

Tammy Maguire, a nurse practitioner and the clinical liaison, said the news is "bittersweet."

"I'm very pleased the ministry has acknowledged there's a need for this service," Maguire said. "On the other hand, it's disheartening to know there is a need for this service. It's not just for Manitoulin, it's a societal-wide need."

"On Manitoulin, if you look at the statistics overall, you see that prevalence rate is higher for vulnerable populations," she said. Indigenous women and girls, transgendered people and the disabled all have higher rates, Maguire added, and "these are all populations which we serve."

Anishinaabe culture is the basis for the centre's design. There are teachings prominently displayed on the wall, and a painting called 'The Healer' that overlooks the exam area, giving victims something else to focus on.

There's also a sacred fire in the healing lodge with medicine and smudging.

It's hoped the space will never be needed, but it will be for all to use on the Island. The goal is to reduce the trauma victims have already endured.

Aundeck-Omni-Kaning Chief Patsy Corbiere says it's a fantastic step in the right direction.

"There's lots of women and people that have been assaulted that could have used this clinic had it been here in the past," Corbiere said. "Some of them have given up on these procedures because they've had to go to Sudbury for some of these services."

Now, with funding in place, officials hope to have the clinic open and ready by September.