Policy report

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical workforce: policy statement

Federal election 2019
Indigenous health Health systems Australia

Growth of the Indigenous medical workforce is imperative to address the health disparities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association (AIDA) believe this can be achieved through genuine commitment to improve health services, the development of evidence-based policy, and appropriate allocation of needs-based funding to deliver health services where they are needed the most. AIDA recognises that a well-trained and culturally safe health workforce is essential to closing the health gap from the current unacceptable levels of disparity. To this end, AIDA outlines the following priority areas for the health system and health workforce.

Key Findings:

  • To improve Indigenous health outcomes, health services need to be responsive to cultural differences and the impacts of conscious and unconscious racism and systemic biases. Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are more likely to access and experience better outcomes from services that are respectful and culturally safe, Indigenous medical students and doctors are more likely to remain in learning and working environments that consistently demonstrate cultural safety.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals possess a unique ability to align clinical and sociocultural skills to improve access to services and provide culturally appropriate care. As such, they play a vital role in strengthening healthcare settings in which they practice by enhancing culturally safe and accessible healthcare systems that benefit all Australians, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.
  • AIDA recognises the significant influence of social, environmental and cultural factors in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Social determinants include factors like housing, education and employment, but also individual and systemic racism. These factors must be considered in the development of all Indigenous health policy.
  • As a member of the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee, AIDA supports the calls for increased investment into Indigenous housing made in the 2019 report – Our Voices our Choices. This includes investment into new housing stock, ongoing maintenance and repairs and increased options for low cost housing based on socio-economic factors. Adequate, well-designed, culturally appropriate housing is inextricably linked to good health outcomes and AIDA recognises this as a critical social determinant of health.
  • To address the intergenerational effects colonisation and dispossession continue to have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, it is imperative that Indigenous communities are entitled and empowered to exercise control over matters that affect them. In terms of health, this means ensuring that genuine opportunities exist for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to guide and be directly involved in the development, implementation and monitoring of policies and programs. Self-determination must be adopted as a standard principle in the development of health policy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
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