Primary care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Access to culturally appropriate primary care provides for better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We fund health providers to deliver comprehensive, culturally appropriate primary health care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

About primary care

Primary care includes non-hospital health services provided by:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners
  • local doctors (general practitioners)
  • community nurses
  • allied health professionals (for example, physiotherapists and speech therapists)
  • midwives
  • pharmacists
  • dentists.

Primary care support

The Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme (IAHP) provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with better access to high-quality, culturally appropriate primary health care services. The program aims to improve health and wellbeing, and prevent hospital admissions where possible.

As part of the program, the Primary Health Care Activity provides grants for these services. This includes services delivered by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs), as well as mainstream services across the health system.

We fund Primary Health Networks across Australia to improve access to coordinated care. Improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is one of their key priorities.

We fund an Indigenous health incentive payment for GP practices to help them provide better health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients who have, or are at risk of developing, a chronic disease.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

Most of our funding for Indigenous primary health care is provided to over 140 ACCHSs through the IAHP. These services can attract and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients better than mainstream services.

We also provide these services with access to Medicare billing.  

Map of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and medical services

Use this interactive map to find an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Health Service near you.

Primary care programs

We fund a number of initiatives and programs that support primary health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Annual health checks

Medicare provides a free annual health check for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people every 9 to 12 months.

Ear and eye health support

We fund initiatives to help prevent and treat ear disease and hearing loss and eye disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Lifestyle and family health

We support healthy living initiatives – for eating healthy, being active and avoiding risky behaviours – to help people stay healthy throughout their lives. This includes support for mothers and babies during and after pregnancy.

Read more about lifestyle and family health support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Mental health and suicide prevention

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are a priority population for mental health support and suicide prevention.

Read more about mental health and suicide prevention support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Placements for health workers

We fund the Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC) to give health professionals opportunities to do short-term paid placements (3 to 12 weeks) in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. We designed this program to increase the number of health professionals available for work in Indigenous communities.

Chronic diseases

We also fund programs for chronic disease support and access to medications.

Communicable diseases 

Some diseases (such as flu, hepatitis and measles) can be prevented by vaccination. Australian governments provide free vaccinations through the National Immunisation Program (NIP) to all eligible Australians.

Some vaccines have different recommendations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Children can get extra vaccines for free through the National Immunisation Program.  

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience a greater burden of disease related to blood-borne viruses. Our national strategy addresses the unique needs of these communities.  

Funding model

The IAHP funding model ensures a fair and transparent distribution of primary health care funding. This helps to deliver better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Under this model, we provide ACCHSs with 3-year funding agreements. This provides longer-term certainty, and helps them plan for the services they provide and the staffing they need.

We determine funding amounts from:

  • activity – how many clients the service sees and how many episodes of care they provide each year
  • cost of service delivery – based on the location of the service
  • health need – based on the impact of the social determinants of health affecting the level of sickness and disadvantage in communities.

For more information about the funding model, read our technical fact sheets about:

Evaluating our support for primary care 

We regularly evaluate our Indigenous primary care health programs to check whether they are meeting their goals. 

Contact

Indigenous primary health care policy contact

Contact us with queries related to Health's Indigenous primary health care policies and programs.

indigenousphcpolicy [at] health.gov.au

View contact

Last updated: 
8 July 2021

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