Closing the Gap Improving Indigenous Access to Mainstream Primary Care - Indigenous Health Project Officers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Workers Program Guidelines

2. Improving Indigenous Access to Mainstream Primary Care Program

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2.1 Rationale for the Program

Mainstream primary care generally provides a first point of contact for health services in Australia. However, cultural barriers can limit usage of these services by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This program aims to ensure that mainstream primary care services (including but not limited to general practice, allied health, specialists) are able to provide culturally sensitive care for Indigenous Australians.

Increasing the capacity of mainstream primary care to provide culturally sensitive services for Indigenous Australians will increase the options available for Indigenous Australians.
Intended outcomes include:
  • an increase in the overall health of the Indigenous population;
  • improved access to culturally sensitive primary care services for Indigenous Australians; and
  • improved management of chronic conditions experienced by Indigenous Australians.

2.2 Aim and objectives

The aim of the Closing the Gap - Improving Indigenous Access to Mainstream Primary Care Program is to contribute to closing the gap in life expectancy by improving access to culturally sensitive primary care services for Indigenous Australians.

The objectives of the Program are to:
  • increase access to mainstream primary care services by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • improve the capacity of general practice to deliver culturally sensitive primary care services;
  • increase the uptake of Indigenous specific Medical Benefits Schedule (MBS) items including Indigenous health checks and follow up items;
  • support mainstream primary care services to encourage Indigenous Australians to self-identify;
  • increase awareness and understanding of Closing the Gap measures relevant to mainstream primary care; and
  • foster collaboration and support between the mainstream primary care and the Indigenous health sectors.

2.3 Service delivery principles

Divisions network members are required to consider the following service delivery principles established by the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (Closing the Gap) when implementing the Closing the Gap - Improving Indigenous Access to Mainstream Primary Care Program:

Indigenous engagement: Engagement with Indigenous men, women and children and communities should be central to the design and delivery of programs and services.

Access: Programs and services should be physically and culturally accessible to Indigenous Australians, recognising the diversity of urban, regional and remote needs.Back to Top

Accountability: Programs and services should have regular and transparent performance monitoring, review and evaluation.

2.4 Components of the Program

The Closing the Gap - Improving Indigenous Access to Mainstream Primary Care Program has two components:

Indigenous Health Project Officers

Funding will be provided for Indigenous Health Project Officer positions in Divisions of General Practice. Project Officer positions will also be provided at the State and National levels.

The allocation of funds for Project Officer positions in Divisions of General Practice is based on the size of the Indigenous population in the Division, with proportionately more funding allocated to Divisions with larger Indigenous populations. Not all Divisions of General Practice will receive funding for a Project Officer position.
Funding will commence in October 2009 and continue to 30 June 2012.

In recognition of the need for close cooperation between mainstream primary care providers and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector, a Project Officer position will also be funded in the State and Territory-based Aboriginal Community Controlled Health peak bodies. These Guidelines do not include advice on implementation arrangements for positions in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health peak bodies.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Workers

As a separate component of the Closing the Gap - Indigenous Chronic Disease Package, funding will be provided to Divisions to employ local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to work as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Workers. Outreach Workers will better connect Indigenous Australians to health services.

Forty three Outreach Worker positions will be funded in Divisions of General Practice from early 2010, with an additional 40 positions to commence from July 2010. Not all Divisions of General Practice will receive funding for an Outreach Worker position. However, where funding is provided, it is expected that Project Officers will play a key role in supporting Outreach Workers.

Funding is also provided under a separate element of the Closing the Gap - Indigenous Chronic Disease Package for Outreach Worker positions in the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector.Back to Top

Funding will commence in February 2010 and continue to 30 June 2012.

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