Numbers of Indigenous GPs, registered nurses and health students all rising

In recent years there have been increases in the number of Indigenous medical practitioners, Indigenous registered nurses, Indigenous students enrolled in health courses and Indigenous people with post-school qualifications in health, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health labour force statistics and data quality assessment report provides a detailed statistical picture of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health labour force. Findings from the report include:

  • At the time of the 1996 Census there were 61 Indigenous medical practitioners, including both general practitioners (GPs) and specialists.
  • The number of Indigenous GPs doubled between 1996 and 2006, from 41 to 82.
  • The number of registered Indigenous nurses rose by 71% between 1996 and 2006 to 1,135 nurses. Some of the rise may be attributable to enrolled (non-registered) nurses upgrading their qualifications.
  • Between 2001 and 2006, the number of Indigenous students in a health course in higher education increased, from 1,104 to 1,426.
  • From 1996 to 2006, the number of Indigenous people with a post-school qualification in health more than doubled from 2,707 to 6,326.

'By 2006, the number of Indigenous medical practitioners had increased to 106, an increase of 74%. The overall increase in the number of medical practitioners over the same period was only 25%,' said report co-author, Kate Ross.

If GPs alone are considered, there were 41 Indigenous GPs in 1996, and by 2006 this had doubled to 82. In contrast, the total number of all GPs in Australia rose by 22%.

As well as the current number of health practitioners, the size and composition of the health labour force is affected by the number of students enrolled in and graduating from health-related education.

The number of Indigenous students enrolled in the health field rose steadily from 1,104 in 2001 to 1,426 in 2006, an overall increase of about 29%.

'In 2006, health was the third most popular area of study for Indigenous students after society and culture (which includes Indigenous studies and psychology), and education. Health accounted for 16% of Indigenous enrolments,' Ms Ross said.


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