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Australian Government-funded primary health care organisations saw around 419,000 individual clients through 4.6 million contacts in 2013-14, an average of 11 contacts per client per year, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Over three-quarters of clients (77%) were Indigenous.

'Our report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations: Online services report-key results 2013-14, shows that most primary health organisations (68%) were Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs), about one-quarter (23%) were state and territory government-run organisations and the remaining 9% were run by other non-government organisations,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

Of the total 269 health organisations, 203 provided primary health care including clinical services such as prevention, early detection and treatment through GPs nurses/midwives, Aboriginal Health Workers, allied health professional and others.

Despite a small rise in number of clients seen at these services (from 417,000 in 2012-13 to 419,000 in 2013-14), the number of contacts increased by 13%, an increase of 543,000 contacts.

'The large and increasing number of primary health care contacts shows the important role these organisations play in delivering primary health care to Indigenous people.'

Most client contacts (72%) were for services delivered by nurses/midwives (30%) and GPs (29%), followed by Aboriginal health workers (13%). Contacts with all types of care providers were highest in outer regional, remote and very remote areas.

In 2013-14, 95 organisations provided social and emotional wellbeing services including counselling, and family tracing and reunion support services, particularly for members of the 'Stolen Generations' and their families.

'These organisations provided services to around 16,600 clients who had 88,200 contacts, 5 contacts per client on average, with 189 counsellors employed. Nearly two-thirds of counsellors were Indigenous (62%),' Dr Al-Yaman said.

'In addition, fifty-six organisations provided 371,000 residential and non-residential substance-use episodes of care to around 43,000 clients dealing with substance use issues. Most of these were for clients in outer regional, remote and very remote areas.'

Despite increased numbers of clients seen and contacts made, many organisations reported service delivery gaps, especially in the areas of mental health, and social and emotional health and wellbeing (61%) followed by alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (51%) and youth services (51%).

Some of the key challenges to providing quality services reported by all organisation types were recruitment, training and support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff (68%), staffing levels (58%) and staff retention/turnover (54%).

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 30 April 2015

Further information: Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, AIHW, 02 6244 1146; 0407 068 033.

Full publication: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations: Online services report-key results 2013-14