Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders across Australia are striving, along with others, to improve the lives and health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. The success of this leadership is evidenced by improving health indicators1 and stronger national, regional and local plans. These include the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework 2011-2015. Leadership is visible in the growth and influence of organisations including Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations,2 national bodies representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals,3 and the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
The key informants interviewed for this report work, often simultaneously, at multiple levels and in organisations including those above, state and territory government offices, the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector and universities. The interviews reflect the magnitude of the tasks they are tackling and make evident the costs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders, their families and in some cases, their communities and organisations. Informants highlight circumstances specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders as they work to ensure there is active and meaningful dialogue in the full range of debates and issues impacting on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Recommendations include steps to support and further develop current leaders and to identify, attract and retain young and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders. Informants emphasised the importance of maintaining and accelerating efforts to Close the Gap in Indigenous health outcomes and of ensuring a culturally safe health system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as consumers, workers and leaders. Informants recommend Health Workforce Australia (HWA) contribute to enhancing the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leadership by recognising existing successes, and collaborating with stakeholders working to the same ends.
The impetus for this report comes from a strategy in the National Health Workforce Innovation and Reform Strategic Framework for Action 2011-20154 and a recommendation following the original scoping study for Leadership for the Sustainability of the Health System. This report highlights challenges raised by informants, and makes recommendations relating to leadership development.