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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Human Services Workforce

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Health and Human Services Workforce play a critical role in First Peoples’ health. They walk the path alongside you.
The Aboriginal community control is informed by the Aboriginal community, so it’s absolutely owned by our community. When the communities say they need something, we respond. So as a Health Services Director, I work very closely with our senior medical officer. We also have very close relationships and partnerships with Allied Health Directors, so people that are in charge of Allied Health workforce that deliver services within our clinics. Social health– so mental health and well-being professionals who deliver psychology, counselling, family well-being type programmes that walk alongside our families. So we also deal with a lot of child protection bodies because that also feeds into our health as well, as well as domestic violence health professionals, people that specialise in that area.
And we also have aged-care health professionals because we have a residential aged-care facility that we’re in charge of. Nationally, Aboriginal Health Workers in the Northern Territory were the first to be professionally registered and the first to develop a professional association in the year 2000. On the 1st of July 2012, like other health professionals, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers were provided the opportunity to become nationally recognised under the national registration and accreditation scheme for health professions. The difference between an Aboriginal Health Worker and an Aboriginal Health Practitioner is the practitioner is registered under the AHPRA, the national act. An Aboriginal Health Worker isn’t. An Aboriginal Health Worker is responsible to a nurse for anything they do.
An Aboriginal Health Practitioner can do things themselves. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner may be found working in a variety of primary health care environments such as Aboriginal community controlled health organisations or in the public health system. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners are the experts in First Peoples knowledges and comprehensive primary health care, therefore critical to ensuring culturally safe health care. So we bring cultural knowledge, we bring community knowledge. And they’re the two key factors that contribute to improving our people’s health. We don’t just look at the clinical component of a situation. We look at what are the contributing cultural and community factors that could add to this person’s illness.
And we maintain the philosophy of our services, and that’s community control. And that’s my vision. And, you know, it’s not easy. It’s not easy, but that’s what, you know, evidence shows, research shows that if we maintain culture as central to improving our health that it will work, and that’s the vision that I see for our people and our services. My advice to non-Indigenous health professionals is know what Aboriginal health professionals are out there. So you will know that we’ve got health workers, we’ve got health practitioners, we’ve now got registered nurses, we’ve got care coordinators. We’ve got all of these professionals out there.
Any non-Indigenous health professionals out there who were wondering why we need this type of a service, I can say from personal experience that I used to travel past 20, 30 medical services, GP services to get to my Aboriginal medical service because that’s where I felt like I belonged. So that’s why these places exist. And if you’re so inclined that you want to come and contribute to the better health of First Nations people of Australia, I think this is the place to work. Of course, Aboriginal people access lots of other things, but they access an Aboriginal medical service in a very, very different way.
You get a very, very different experience and a very, very different way to use your skill as a health professional if you work in a place like an Aboriginal medical service.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Human Services Workforce play a critical role in First Peoples’ health.

This workforce is involved in many areas of health and you now have an idea of the range of services offered. Developing partnerships and relationships with Aboriginal Health Workers and Aboriginal Health Practitioners can help develop your knowledge and understanding of First Peoples, which helps us achieve better health outcomes.

Advocating for change in the face of resistance

Watch the video and reflect on the importance of Indigenous and non-Indigenous health workers making the commitment to work together.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

In the next step, we talk more about the importance of advocating for and leading change in our communities and workplaces.

The future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Human Services Workforce

If you are interested in hearing from some of the young Indigenous people studying at Griffith University, who are committed to becoming skilled health professionals and giving back to their communities in the future, then watch the following video.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Your task

Let us know in the comments below what experience (if any) you have had working in partnership with members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Human Services Workforce. Share the context, roles you both played and what was achieved.

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Safer Healthcare for Australia's First Peoples

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