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Career pathways for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce: national career trajectory interviews report

Aboriginal community controlled organisations First Peoples employment Health practitioners First Peoples health Technology economic aspects Australia

The Career Pathways Project is an Aboriginal-led research project funded by the Lowitja Institute. Its purpose is to provide insight and guidance to enhance the capacity of the health system to retain and support the development and careers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the health workforce. This report details the method and findings from the individual career trajectory interviews.

Key Findings:

  • What can be indicated from the findings is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in the health sector seem to be most strongly influenced in their career decision-making by a focus on the health and wellbeing of their family or community. These workers’ career decisions are often influenced by factors that seem to be culturally specific, and therefore the key motivations behind career decisions can often be quite different to the motivations behind the decisions of non-Aboriginal health workers.
  • The findings also suggest that there is a strong workforce pool potentially available in most local communities. However, access to these valuable workforce resources may require more widespread use of alternative workforce entry options, such as traineeships or entry via non-qualification based positions, to overcome initial confidence issues and to allow the acquisition of formal skills and knowledge over time.
  • Workforce members are very motivated to undertake training and development that will allow them to contribute to the health and wellbeing of their communities, with the majority of respondents continuing to undertake additional qualifications throughout the course of their careers.
  • For self-determination to become a reality for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers and to avoid the negative impacts that stifle self-determination, it was clear from the findings that there are several factors that need to be evident in the workplace, such as embedding cultural practices into service delivery and design within the workplace.

The person-centred nature of the cultural approach to healthcare that is both clearly practised and highly valued by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce aligns closely to current health policy aims for a better focus on the needs of consumers. Recognising, respecting and making the most of these existing skills offers the prospect of better health care outcomes, not only for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities but also for the broader population.

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