Health workforce shortages in rural and remote Australia results in rural residents experiencing health outcomes well below the levels of people living in regional and metropolitan cities.
The shortage of health professionals is compounded for Aboriginal residents of rural areas due to the lack of professionals with experience working with Aboriginal people in culturally safe ways.
The Foundation took up this challenge through an innovative partnership with leading rural health organisation Marathon Health.
Marathon Health obtained funding to put Aboriginal people through vocational training at NSW TAFE to become Aboriginal Health Workers and Aboriginal Wellness Workers.
An Aboriginal Health Worker (ATSIHW) is an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who gains a minimum qualification (Cert III) in the field of primary health care work or clinical practice. These workers form a critical part of rural health teams in areas with large Aboriginal populations.
"The Foundation has been exploring ways in which it can increase local training and employment opportunities for Aboriginal people as part of its broader Community Development for Health agenda" said Mark Burdack, CEO of the Healthy Communities Foundation Australia.
"The CEO of Marathon Health, Megan Callinan, is a great champion of rural health and supporting Aboriginal people to secure work in the health sector to make the system more responsive to the needs of all members of the community.
"The program is run by Marathon Health with students attending TAFE to undertake their certificate qualifications in Aboriginal Health or Aboriginal Wellness. The Foundation hosts the trainees at our practices to provide them with on-the-job clinical experience in an operating health work environment.
"This work integrated learning approach is really important for students to be able to practice what they learn at TAFE in a real-world environment" said Mr Burdack.
The Foundation now has 4 Aboriginal trainees under the program and is looking at how it can expand the program to accommodate more trainees over time.