Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequity occurs across all health indicators and many areas of health continue to worsen. Whilst there have been recent gains, the gap is widening as the health of other Australians improves faster.
General practitioners have a key service delivery role in addressing this inequity in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, either within an ACCHS or other GP settings. General practitioners are also important advocates in improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Australian governments have not only failed to deal with the ongoing consequences of colonisation but in some cases, they have actively promoted racism for political ends. Key health policies such as the National Aboriginal Health Strategy remain largely unimplemented.
It is time that Australia dealt with its history of suppression and oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in accordance with international best practice in the field of human rights. It is time that the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including their inalienable rights to self determination and community control are not only recognised but given full expression.
Empowerment is central to this critical process in the maturation of modern Australia. To overcome Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage requires political will and leadership. It requires the recognition of the profound, diverse and dynamic cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It requires the generous provision of appropriate and sustainable resources and the commitment of those in leadership roles in our community. To most effectively assume these roles of health service provision and advocacy, GPs require relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes.
The National Aboriginal Health Strategy (1989) recommends that: ‘Tertiary institutions for undergraduate and postgraduate medical, nursing, and paramedical courses be approached to include the compulsory study of Aboriginal culture and history and health issues as part of formal course work,’ also recommending that: ‘Aboriginal people should be involved in the development and teaching of these units.’ This is the guiding principle by which this document was developed.
This curriculum statement sets out a framework of essential attitudes, skills and knowledge required by GPs in order for them to work respectfully and appropriately in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health settings and to advocate for equity in health and related outcomes with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.