NSW Health launches plan to boost Aboriginal health workforce

22 November, 2016

NSW Health recently launched a new statewide plan to boost the Aboriginal health workforce and reduce the health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

The Good Health Great Jobs Aboriginal Workforce Strategic Framework 2016-2020 –  to be launched at Luna Park this afternoon – builds on NSW Health's 2011-2015 strategic framework, setting out priorities, goals and key actions required to build the Aboriginal health workforce.

Charles Davison, Aboriginal Workforce Manager at NSW Health, said a robust Aboriginal workforce was key to closing the health gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. 

"The more Aboriginal people we have working in health facilities the more we will see Aboriginal people attending health clinics to address their health concerns," Davison said.

"It's important that Aboriginal patients feel comfortable, supported and understood in health facilities across state so that they have positive experiences in the health system. They will then be more likely to seek medical treatment and advice when the need arises and, as a result, we should see better health outcomes.

"In NSW the life expectancy of Aboriginal males is 9.3 years lower than for non-Aboriginal males and the life expectancy for Aboriginal females is 8.5 years lower than for non-Aboriginal females.

"We can address this disparity by improving health outcomes for all Aboriginal people in NSW."

Davison said NSW Health's Aboriginal workforce had been growing over the last four years, with representation of Aboriginal people increasing from 1.8 per cent in June 2011 to 2.4 per cent in June 2014.

Since then NSW Health had maintained a growth rate of 0.15 per cent each year to reach 2.5 per cent in June 2016, coming close to the 2.6 per cent target set by COAG in 2009.

Between 2015 and 2016 there was a 54 per cent increase in Aboriginal medical staff, an 11.3 per cent increase in Aboriginal nursing staff and an 10.5 per cent increase in Aboriginal allied health professionals.

"We want to continue this growth but also to increase Aboriginal representation across all classifications – from traineeship positions right through to management roles and directorships," Davison said. "Our aim is to achieve 1.8 per cent Aboriginal representation across all public service classifications by 2023.

"It's important Aboriginal health workers have opportunities to carve a career path within NSW Health, to continue to progress, build on their skills and experiences and carry out challenging and meaningful work."

Davison said the Good Health Great Jobs Aboriginal Workforce Strategic Framework 2016-2020 was aligned with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework (2016-2023) and NSW Aboriginal Health Plan (2013-2023) and provided guidance for the NSW Local Health Districts which had their own plans in place to build the Aboriginal workforce in their local facilities.

The Framework's key priorities are to:

• Lead and plan Aboriginal workforce development
• Build cultural understanding and respect
• Attract, recruit and retain Aboriginal staff
• Develop the capabilities of Aboriginal staff
• Work with others to achieve workforce priorities
• Track our achievements and improve results.

The Framework is supported by a NSW Health website, Stepping Up, which helps Aboriginal people find employment in the healthcare system.  It highlights a range of employment opportunities including medical and primary care practitioners, nurses, midwives, service and program managers, Aboriginal Health Workers, Aboriginal Mental Health Workers, administrators and leadership positions.

To date the website has attracted thousands of applicants, receiving an average of 1,200 visits per month.

"Stepping Up also provides information and tools to help managers find the best person for each position," Davison said. "It's important we place people in jobs that match their skills, experience and aspirations so they're more likely to stay in the health workforce and carve a meaningful and successful career.

"Employing more Aboriginal health workers to provide culturally appropriate and accessible care in our communities will help improve health outcomes and close the gap, which is our ultimate goal," Davison said.

The Stepping Up website can be viewed at: http://www.steppingup.health.nsw.gov.au/.

To view filmed interviews with NSW Aboriginal employees go to: https://youtu.be/uFBn7YhFE9o.