This paper addresses the question: “What is the current situation for Aboriginal primary health care services in relation to continuous quality improvement (CQI) in clinical care and what is needed for sustainable practice to be achievable five years from now?”

The paper describes a number of recent CQI initiatives that evolved within an accountability framework, the origins of which are based on a top-down government approach to performance measurement. Over the last decade there has been a shift to a more negotiated approach and most recently to an emerging agenda that focuses more on systems to support CQI at the primary care coalface.

Further development should aim to capitalise on the synergies between different CQI-related initiatives and effectively align quality improvement with performance measurement. Principles of CQI and key challenges for the future are identified.