28 September 2016

Why we need more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in health care

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Since the 1980s, the health among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia has drastically declined.

While this health crisis has been known of for quite some time, not enough is being done to improve the situation.

  • Life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are about 10 years less than non-Indigenous
  • Babies born to Indigenous women are almost twice as likely to die within their first year of life
  • Cancer is the second biggest death reason among Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander people, and the rate is 1.3 times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians
  • Thirty per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are suffering from Type 2 Diabetes
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 5.2 times more likely to self-harm compared to non-Aboriginal people, and more than twice as likely to commit suicide


Despite the severity of the health crisis among Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, the number of Aboriginal health professionals is shockingly low. Statistics show that there are only 125 Indigenous doctors in Australia compare to 60,000 non-Indigenous.

In order to tackle Australia’s critical health situation among its Indigenous population, one key step is to ensure more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the opportunity to gain a career in the health sector.

Though many health providers are actively trying to recruit and retain an Indigenous workforce, many struggle to fully engage and retain their workforce, much because a lack of understanding of the Indigenous culture and the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worker.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working in the health sector are also often likely to be paid less than a non-Aboriginal employee, and are given the opportunity to progress in their careers.

If Australia really wants to close the gap, and if the health sector is ready to be part of this, it must be a full-hearted commission in order to have any impact at all.


The health sector needs to have a diverse workforce that reflects the diversity of its patients. If the health sector as a whole employed more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the health sector, it would be better equipped to meet the needs of Indigenous patients, which in turn would improve the overall health crisis in Aboriginal communities, while also closing the employment gap.

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.

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