Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health centres funded by the Australian Government are well used and providing valuable services, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services Report, 2008-09: OATSIH Services Reporting - Key Results, examines access to, and the activities of, health services targeting Indigenous Australians.
These services, the majority of which are community controlled, fall into three main categories-primary health care (access to doctors, nurses, Aboriginal Health Workers, social and emotional wellbeing staff and medical specialists), substance use (residential and non-residential treatment and rehabilitation services), and Bringing Them Home and Link Up (counselling services).
'In 2008-09, these primary health care services provided 2.1 million episodes of health care to around 375,000 clients. Of these, 79% were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people', said Dr Norbert Zmijewski of the AIHW. 'Around 17% of clients were non-Indigenous, and for the remainder, their Indigenous status was unknown.'
Substance use services provided treatment and assistance to around 23,200 clients, with the proportion of Indigenous clients using these services also high at 76%.
Bringing Them Home and Link Up counselling services were provided to about 8,400 clients, of whom 84% were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
'These counselling services focus on clients affected by past policies', Dr Zmijewski said.
'They help to restore social, emotional and community wellbeing by supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people separated from their families, as well as assisting them to trace, locate, and reunite with family members.'
Indigenous staff make up over half of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health centre workforce in primary health care and substance use (57% and 59% respectively), while the majority of Bringing Them Home and Link Up counselling services have at least one Indigenous counsellor (90%).
'We hope this report will help policy makers in Indigenous health to fine tune current policies and practices, as well as develop and introduce new programs and initiatives', Dr Zmijewski said.