The present paper discusses some of the issues relating to the poorer health and shorter life expectancy of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The barriers to improvement include funding of the medical service, the nature of early contact between Indigenous peoples and the European settlers, and the complex nature of Indigenous cultures. The role of the new medical school at James Cook University is discussed in relation to its mission of meeting the health care needs of the population of tropical and rural North Queensland. Indigenous representation in the management of the Medical School, staff selection, student selection, and curriculum content are discussed, and recommendations are made for a partnership approach to achieving improvements in the functioning of the health system of the area.