Report on the Audit of Health Workforce in Rural and Regional Australia

Aboriginal health workers

Page last updated: April 2008

As at 30 June 2007, the Australian Government funded 248 direct service delivery organisations (primary health care, substance use and mental health services) for Indigenous people, of these 198 are Indigenous community controlled organisations. It is estimated that this represents about 30% of all such services. In addition, the Australian Government funds a range of registered training organisations within the community controlled health sector providing upskilling and training to Aboriginal health workers.

There has been a focus on the training and employment of Indigenous health workers. The ABS 2006 Census established that 9,342 Indigenous Australians were employed in health-related occupations across a range of disciplines. The Indigenous workforce represents a 1.6% of the total health-related workforce and has increased by 11.6% from the ABS 2001 Census where 8,373 Indigenous Australians reported they were employed in health-related occupations.

The Indigenous health workforce requires substantial resourcing and development. A competent health workforce is vital for ensuring the health system has the capacity to address the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The workforce must be responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and it should provide culturally safe and accessible services.

In 2001, although Indigenous people made up 2.4 per cent of the population, Indigenous people employed in health-related occupations represented only 0.9 per cent of the total health workforce. While Indigenous people comprised 93 per cent of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, they only comprised 0.8 per cent of all nurses, 0.6 per cent of dental workers, 0.5 per cent of allied health professionals, 0.3 per cent of medical workers and 0.1 per cent of pharmacists.

(Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association Senate Enquiry submission11)

11 Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association submisstion to the Senate Inquiry in relation to the Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Bill 2007; the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007; and the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Payment Reform Bill 2007.