More workers are desperately needed to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.
Experts say the health sector is “always’’ recruiting people trained in Indigenous health and encourage existing workers to upskill to ensure their eligibility for roles.
TAFE Queensland Indigenous health teacher Sue Edwards says at a minimum, all health professionals should attend regular cultural awareness training to learn to sensitively and appropriately interact with Indigenous people.
Specialist postgraduate Indigenous health programs are also available, while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can train to become Indigenous health workers, Edwards says.
“You will always see ads looking for health workers (trained in Indigenous health),’’ she says.
“Non-Indigenous health professionals may consist of doctors, nurses, allied health (workers), pharmacists and dentists.
“Many live and work in communities while others carry out regular visits.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can gain qualifications to work as health workers … and are seen as the vital link between individuals and communities and health services.’’
Those seeking to work as Indigenous health workers must hold a Certificate III in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care.
Certificate IV qualifications are also beneficial for those wanting to take on clinical, liaison or health promotion roles, while a diploma is available for those interested in working at management level.
Edwards says Indigenous health workers can choose to work in a generalist role or specialise in areas including chronic disease and sexual, mental, maternal or children’s health.
Depending on the particular role, Edwards says Indigenous health workers may be required to provide wound care, take pathology samples and perform health observations, such as taking a patient’s temperature and blood pressure and testing blood glucose levels.
They may also be required to perform health screenings, advocate for clients and deliver health promotion and information sessions.
Flinders University Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) Associate Professor Simone Ulalka Tur says cultural training in the medical and health sector is important to help achieve Indigenous health equality.
“There is a strong demand for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in nursing, aged care, allied health, telehealth and remote medical care delivery,’’ she says.
“Increasingly, the adherence to cultural training and safety in both metropolitan and rural healthcare systems will ensure the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people improve and are met into the future.’’
Kunja and Wangkamurra descendant Levina Dixon, who is now based at the Mulunga Medical Centre, in Far North Queensland, learned suturing and how to perform ear and eye examinations as part of her studies to become an Indigenous health worker.
“I decided to get into healthcare because a lot of my family were dying prematurely with diabetes and heart disease,” she says.
“Unfortunately, health workers see these sorts of conditions every day in our communities.
“These illnesses are preventable and can be managed, we just need to educate our people and support them to make healthy lifestyle changes.’’