First Nations people need culturally and physically safe healthcare, and the best way to ensure this, is to maintain a presence of First Nations health workers in all roles, locations and professions across Australia. The Lowitja Institute conducted a study looking at the development and careers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the health workforce. Carissa Lee Godwin, Editor, APO’s First Peoples & Public Policy Collection, explores this Lowitja Institute’s report investigating the current representation and support of First Nations people in the healthcare workforce, and how employment recruitment and retention can be improved further.
The Lowitja Institute conducted research into First Nations health workers across Australia as part of its Career Pathways Project (CPP). The CPP was initiated by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO), to highlight the unique skill sets and values First Nations health workers can bring to health services, and to see how these health workers can be supported to develop and advance their careers. The Career Pathways for the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander workforce series produced a number of reports, including:
This article will include information from all of these reports.
The Lowitja Institute provided urban, regional and remote perspectives from within Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisations and government services. This was achieved via the first national survey of First Nations health staff across Australia, with accompanying Northern Territory (NT) and New South Wales (NSW) case studies and interviews. Key findings include:
The NT and NSW Case Studies have similar findings, but each area needs tailored responses that acknowledge the needs of that particular community. A blanket solution across these communities will not be an effective approach.
The National Career Trajectory Interviews Report iterates the importance of honouring the unique needs of each First Nations community. However, a common thread through all of the CPP reports is the need for First Nations people to be employed across all levels and areas of organisations, including executive and senior management positions. In addition to this, there needs to be a commitment to career development for First Nations people and creating career pathways supported by a cultural safety framework.
The reports in this series provide a great insight into the lives of First Nations workers and the additional barriers they must overcome or balance in order to gain and keep employment in health services. Health service employers need to ensure there is adequate support available for these workers and their communities, and to also ensure that relevant cultural and community practices are embedded in their workplace. The National Career Trajectory Interviews Report states that self-determination is an important factor to ensure the success of First Nations people. The report recommends that this should be done through: “privileging the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural and community knowledge in the workplace that promotes cultural integrity of both workers and the organisation and supported through more widespread use of cultural supervision.” The report goes on to state there should be an embedding of respective cultural practices into service delivery and design within health workplaces. Linking an understanding of cultural and social aspects of health will be of great benefit not only to First Nations health workers, but also First Nations patients.
As part of its mission to improve Indigenous policy in Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand, ANZSOG is working to increase knowledge of Indigenous culture and history. Part of this is our support of the Analysis & Policy Observatory’s (APO) First Peoples & Public Policy Collection, launched at our Reimagining Public Administration conference in February 2019.
APO is an open access evidence platform that makes public policy research accessible and usable. It has more than 40,000 resources, including specialist collections, grey literature reports, articles and data.
The First Peoples & Public Policy Collection is curated from a broad choice of key Indigenous policy topics, and provides a valuable resource on Indigenous affairs, with a focus on diverse Indigenous voices.