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