To describe the implementation of an integrated Aboriginal health curriculum into the medical course at the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the early effect on students’ perceptions of their knowledge and ability in the area of Aboriginal health.

Design, setting and participants

Final-year medical students at UWA in 2003 (first cohort) and 2004 (second cohort) were surveyed by questionnaire (with answers on a five-point Likert scale) to assess their attitudes to various aspects of Aboriginal health. A subset of students provided open-ended comments on key priorities in Aboriginal health, cultural security and suggestions for Aboriginal health policy.


Integrated learning experiences were implemented within each year of the medical course, based on specific learning outcomes in Aboriginal health.

Main outcome measures

Changes in students’ self-perceptions of their preparedness for and future commitment to working for change in Aboriginal health.


Response rates were 76% and 85% in the 2003 and 2004 cohorts, respectively. Compared with first-cohort students, second-cohort students were more likely to agree with items relating to their preparedness and ability to work with and care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (P < 0.05); second-cohort students also reported greater preparedness to advocate and improve the health of Aboriginal people (P < 0.05); 65% of respondents in the second cohort (versus 34% in the first) agreed they had a social responsibility to work for change in Aboriginal health (P < 0.05).


With a relatively small amount of targeted and structured teaching and learning in Aboriginal health, significant shifts in students’ self-perceived levels of knowledge, skills and attitudes are possible.