Aboriginal health

Illness and death rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are significantly higher than those of the non-indigenous population. The WA Country Health Service works with these communities to ensure they receive culturally-appropriate health care that meets their needs.

Rationale

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people represent 13.2% of the population within the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) regions.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disadvantaged with respect to a number of social and economic factors, such as education, income, employment and housing. This places them at greater risk of poverty, violence, ill health and reduced wellbeing (ABS, Australian Social Trends 2000).

WACHS works in partnership with Aboriginal communities and health service providers to ensure that ATSI people receive culturally-appropriate health care that meets their increased needs.

This is done through the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (NSFATSIH) 2003-2013. The current priorities are:

  • Strengthening comprehensive primary health care
  • Addressing emotional and social well being (including alcohol and drugs)
  • Addressing the pre-determinants of chronic disease (including nutrition and physical activity, and child and maternal health).

Planning framework

WACHS is committed to improving health outcomes of ATSI people in Western Australia through a coordinated approach to the planning, funding and delivery of health and health-related services.

This is achieved partly through active participation in the Aboriginal Health Regional Planning Forums of the Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA), which also include the Office of Aboriginal Health (WA Department of Health), and the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (Australian Government).

Service delivery model

Health services are provided within mainstream WACHS services and supplemented by local initiatives such as Aboriginal community health clinics and the employment of specific health professionals, e.g. Aboriginal health workers and Aboriginal Liaison Officers.

Integration of the WACHS services with those of AHCWA occurs through shared Aboriginal health planning via the Regional Aboriginal Health Planning Forums, and through joint service activities such as health promotion events.

New initiatives

Increased integration of services is also occurring through the development of WACHS/AHCWA partnerships in Esperance, Albany and Fitzroy Crossing and other areas.

Our footprints

Improving Aboriginal health is a national priority and a major focus for the Western Australian Government. WA Health recognised the Council of Australian Governments' (COAG) landmark 'Closing the Gap' initiative as an opportunity to develop a new approach to addressing Aboriginal health issues.

Our footprints: A Traveller's Guide to the COAG Implementation Process in Western Australia (PDF) details the extensive and sustained effort to focus and harness the collective effort of all service providers to address the health of Aboriginal Western Australians now and in the future.

WACHS Aboriginal Employment Strategy 2010-2014

The WA Country Health Services (WACHS) Aboriginal Employment Strategy 2010-2014 (PDF) was released by the Minister for Health, Dr Kim Hames MLA on 9 September 2010.

Vision:

Improved health outcomes for Aboriginal people by providing culturally respectful and competent services throughout the WA Country Health Service.

Priority areas for action:

  • Increase employment opportunities to attract and retain Aboriginal staff
  • Focus on workforce skill development
  • Develop workforce culture and environment that supports retention of Aboriginal people
  • Redesign the workforce to enable employment and new work roles
  • Plan for workforce needs and evaluation of initiatives.

Key projects include:

Employment opportunities

Workforce skills development

Workplace culture

Workforce redesign

Planning & evaluation

HR process reviews

Substantive equality

Peer support & mentor programs 

Career paths

Leadership

Professional development

Apprenticeships

Cadetships

Traineeships

Cultural training for managers and staff

Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 

Aboriginal leadership group

New workforce roles 

Employment, recruitment & retention targets 

More than 100 of our Aboriginal staff have been involved in the development of the Strategy Implementation Plan. As this covers 55 projects they have subsequently worked to identify the 10 priority Aboriginal workforce projects for the WACHS regions & WACHS as a whole.  WACHS has established the WACHS Aboriginal Workforce Taskforce comprised of representatives from WACHS regions as well as functional units of Area Office.