Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - 2010

3.18 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people training for health-related disciplines

Page last updated: 26 May 2011

Why is it important?:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are significantly under-represented in the health workforce (see measure 3.10). Improving the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in tertiary education for health-related disciplines is vital to increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the health workforce, and creating a workforce capable of addressing the significant challenges in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Findings:

In 2008, there were an estimated 1,428 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tertiary student enrolments in health-related courses and 248 completions. Although enrolment and completion rates for Indigenous students have increased since 2001, the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous student rates has widened. The success rate for Indigenous students studying health-related courses in 2008 was 74% compared with 93% for non-Indigenous students.

The most common health-related course for Indigenous undergraduate students in 2008 was nursing (582 enrolments, and 71 completions). In the same year, there were 298 Indigenous student enrolments in public health courses. Of these, 142 were in a specific Indigenous health course. In the same year, there were 47 completions in a public health course, of which 27 were in a specific Indigenous health public health course. There were an estimated 128 Indigenous student enrolments in medicine. In 2008, there were 13 Indigenous medical student completions, compared with 10 in 2003, 9 in 1999 and 3 in 1997. Participation rates remain very low in rehabilitation therapies, dental studies, pharmacy, radiography and optical science. Indigenous student enrolment and completion rates were lower than non-Indigenous student rates in the younger age groups, but exceeded non-Indigenous student rates in the older age groups (35 years plus for enrolments and 45 years plus for completions).

Vocational Education and Training (VET) attracts the highest proportion of Indigenous students studying and completing health-related courses. In 2008, there were an estimated 6,143 Indigenous student enrolments in health-related courses in the VET sector and 395 completions. Indigenous student rates in health-related courses were higher than non-Indigenous student rates for both enrolments (194 per 10,000 compared to 65 per 10,000) and completions (13 per 10,000 compared to 7 per 10,000). The most common type of health-related course for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander VET students was public health (4,094 enrolments and 182 completions) followed by nursing (421 enrolments and 98 completions). In the same year, there were 126 VET sector student completions in a course aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker occupations in Australia. Women account for 72% of the student completions in this course. Participation rates remain very low in pharmacy, optical science, dental studies and complementary therapies.

In 2008, the VET load pass rate for Indigenous students studying health–related courses was 70% compared with 81% for non-Indigenous students.

Implications:

In March 2008, the National Indigenous Health Workforce Training Plan was launched. This was followed by the launch of the Pathways into the workforce for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: a blueprint for action in July 2008 (NATSIHC 2008b) and the establishment of the National Indigenous Health Equality Council (NIHEC) to advise the Minister on a range of matters including workforce.

The Training Plan provides three year funding to Indigenous health professional groups to support students and employees. These groups include the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA), the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses (CATSIN) and the establishment of the Indigenous Allied Health Australia and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers Association. The Plan includes funding to up-skill the current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker workforce; employ Workforce Issues Policy Officers within the Aboriginal community controlled jurisdictional affiliates to promote health careers in schools and colleges; and the Leaders in Medical Education Network to integrate Indigenous health in the health sciences, medical and nursing schools.

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme provides scholarships for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in all health disciplines. In 2010, there were over 300 Indigenous students studying under the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme.

Some medical schools have been significantly more successful in attracting and retaining Indigenous medical students. These schools have adopted comprehensive approaches including: locally-based strategies involving personal contact and community engagement; building relationships with potential students and their families and communities through (e.g. school visits by Indigenous medical students and doctors); and Indigenous medical or health support units. Fifty-seven per cent of Indigenous Australian medical students reported the presence of a support unit as their main reason for choosing a university. The presence of Indigenous staff within the school was also important, along with mentoring, curriculum and cultural safety (Minniecon & Kong 2005). AIDA proposes all medical schools have established pathways into medicine for Indigenous Australians by 2010. The availability of Indigenous health support units within universities and colleges, supporting Indigenous students across health disciplines is a key requirement. Improvements in school educational retention and attainment are also necessary (see measure 2.05). Strategies are required to increase enrolment in courses for the health disciplines in which Indigenous students are under-represented.

Table 72 – Student enrolments and completions in health-related courses in the Tertiary Education sector, 2008

Enrolled
Completions
Number:
Rate per 10,000:
Number:
Rate per 10,000:
Indig.
Other
Indig.
Other
Indig.
Other
Indig.
Other
Nursing
582
32,225
18.2
22.9
71
7,382
2.2
5.2
Public health
298
4,188
9.3
3.0
47
677
1.5
0.5
Indigenous health
142
27
4.4
-
27
n.p.
0.8
-
Other public health
156
4,180
4.9
3.0
20
706
0.6
0.5
Medical studies
128
12,037
4.0
8.6
13
2,011
0.4
1.4
Rehabilitation therapies
73
12,200
2.3
8.7
12
2,353
0.4
1.7
Dental studies
20
2,310
0.6
1.6
4
499
0.1
0.4
Pharmacy
9
4,634
0.3
3.3
n.p.
960
0.1
0.7
Radiography
n.p.
1,874
0.3
1.3
n.p.
434
-
0.3
Optical science
n.p.
545
0.1
0.4
-
n.p.
-
0.1
Total
1,120
69,833
35.0
49.6
152
14,449
4.7
10.3
Source: AIHW analysis of Higher Education Student Statistics Collection

Figure 181 – Indigenous university student enrolments and completions in health-related courses, 2001–2008


Figure 181 – Indigenous university student enrolments and completions in health-related courses, 2001–2008
Source: AIHW analysis of Higher Education Student Statistics Collection
Text description of figure 181 (TXT 1KB)

Table 73 – Vocational education and training (VET) sector students enrolled and completed health-related courses, 2008

Enrolled
Completions
Number:
Rate per 10,000:
Number:
Rate per 10,000:
Indig.
Other
Indig.
Other
Indig.
Other
Indig.
Other
Public health
4,094
33,951
129.4
24.5
182
2,410
5.8
1.7
Nursing
421
19,082
13.3
13.8
98
2,992
3.1
2.2
Medical studies
n.p.
505
n.p.
0.4
-
n.p.
. .
n.p.
Dental studies
70
3,816
2.2
2.8
11
1,296
0.3
0.9
Complemantary therapies
59
3,162
1.9
2.3
n.p.
858
n.p.
0.6
Rehabilitation therapies
11
650
0.3
0.5
n.p.
157
n.p.
0.1
Optical science
n.p.
966
n.p.
0.7
-
109
. .
0.1
Pharmacy
-
68
. .
-
-
n.p.
. .
n.p.
Other health
1,483
28,251
46.9
20.4
94
2,174
3.0
1.6
Total
6,143
90,451
194.1
65.2
395
10,031
12.5
7.2
Source National VET provider collection 2008

Document download

This publication is available as a downloadable document.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - 2010(PDF 4380 KB)

Document help

When accessing large documents (over 500 KB in size), it is recommended that the following procedure be used:

  1. Click the link with the RIGHT mouse button
  2. Choose "Save Target As.../Save Link As..." depending on your browser
  3. Select an appropriate folder on a local drive to place the downloaded file

Attempting to open large documents within the browser window (by left-clicking) may inhibit your ability to continue browsing while the document is opening and/or lead to system problems.

To view PDF (Portable Document Format) documents, you will need to have a PDF reader installed on your computer. A number of PDF readers are available through the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) Web Guide website.