Action 1.2: Addressing health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The governing body has ultimate responsibility for the safety and quality of a health service organisation. Setting priorities for the health service organisation, including priorities for its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers, is one way a governing body can direct effort and resources to improve care.

What does this mean for health service organisations?

The governing body has ultimate responsibility for the safety and quality of a health service organisation. Setting priorities for the health service organisation, including priorities for its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers, is one way a governing body can direct effort and resources to improve care.

To do this effectively, the governing body needs regular reporting on:

  • Key areas of concern for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community
  • The diversity and risks of care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • The organisation’s safety and quality performance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared with non-Indigenous patients; some of this information can be obtained from clinical and administrative data systems
  • Rates of complaints and incidents for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared with non-Indigenous patients
  • The comparative performance of the organisation against peer organisations.

To have the greatest effect, the governing body needs to engage with community priorities when setting directions, targets, indicators and timelines; ensure that sufficient resources are provided; and routinely monitor progress.

Safety and quality priorities should, whenever possible, align with the Closing the Gap priorities.18

What are the benefits of taking action?

Benefits for the health service organisation include:

  • Greater ability to meet the healthcare needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Focusing all employees on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander priorities that need to be addressed
  • Demonstration of alignment with national, state or territory, and local priorities, policies and strategies
  • Effective use of resources because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and communities are more likely to engage and participate in the processes of care
  • Demonstration of a commitment to the engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which has flow-on effects of greater support and cooperation on future projects
  • Reduced institutionalised racism.9

Benefits for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community include:

  • Health care that meets the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Improved outcomes and experiences of patients and families19
  • A feeling of being valued and engaged for individuals and communities that contribute or benefit
  • A reduction in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing hospitals as sites of trauma20
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeing their advice informing the processes of health service organisations
  • Addressing of health matters of significance to the community
  • Growing trust in the health service organisation’s commitment to addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health priorities.

Key tasks

  • In collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, determine the priorities for the organisation to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the organisation’s catchment
  • Endorse performance indicators, and monitoring, reporting and evaluation processes
  • Oversee resource allocation to achieve the priorities
  • Prioritise ongoing care that is trauma-informed.20

Suggested strategies

Examples of supporting evidence

  • Minutes of meetings, plans or strategies relating to development, endorsement or implementation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander priorities overseen by the governing body, which deal with specific needs of the local community
  • Documented targets and performance indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes of the health service organisation that are endorsed by, and reported to, the governing body
  • Policies, procedures, protocols or project plans endorsed by the governing body that deal with the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Records of consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities relating to the development of priorities, targets and performance indicators
  • Membership and terms of reference for the governing body or relevant advisory and consultative committees that include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community representatives.

References

9. Hunt J. Engagement with Indigenous communities in key sectors. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and Australian Institute of Family Studies; 2013. (Resource Sheet No. 23.)

18. Council of Australian Governments. National Indigenous Reform Agreement (Closing the Gap). Canberra: Council of Australian Governments; 2012.

19. Marmot M, Friel S, Bell R, Houweling TAJ, Taylor S. Closing the gap in a generation: health equity through action on the social determinants of health. Lancet 2008;372:1661–9.

20. Dudgeon P, Milroy H, Walker R. Working together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice. 2nd ed. Canberra: Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; 2014 (accessed Mar 2017).

21. National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. Constitution for the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. Canberra: NACCHO; 2011 (accessed Mar 2017).

22. Reconciliation Australia. What is the RAP program? Canberra: Reconciliation Australia; 2016 [cited 2016 Aug 19].