Progressing health equity through strengthening the First Nations health workforce

Strategic policy development
Reference number
CRCNA funding
Total project value
Project length
3.5 years
Finish date
Project Status
Project Manager
Sarah Docherty


  • Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre
  • James Cook University
  • Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service
  • Mackay Hospital and Health Service
  • North West Hospital and Health Service
  • Northern Queensland Primary Health Network
  • Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service
  • Townsville Hospital and Health Service
  • Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council


Australia's First Nations people continue to experience significant disparities in health outcomes, despite policy efforts to Close the Gap (CTG).  Issues with access to health care, driven at least in part by challenges in the cultural acceptability of health services, in addition to geographical accessibility and appropriateness contribute significantly to these ongoing issues.  

Difficulties in attracting and retaining First Nations staff to work in the health system and a lack of clarity, career path and support for the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers & Practitioners (ATSIHW&Ps), are a contributor to inadequate First Nations people in the health workforce overall.  A related factor is high workforce turnover, that in turn undermines relational trust, continuity of care and thus quality of care.  Whilst research into the economic and service delivery impact of turnover, the broader impacts on continuity of care, and importantly, what is required to address these workforce issues remains understudied.  

This project will directly address these gaps, working in partnership to deliver real, scalable solutions to expand and strengthen the First Nations health workforce, delivering health and economic benefits with implications across northern Australia.     

Expected outcomes

The evaluation component of this work includes an economic evaluation that will assess the economic impact of this work.  
The major impact of this work will be to: 

  • Increase the number, concentration and proportion of the First Nations clinical health workforce at all levels.
  • Increase the number, concentration and proportion of First Nations employees across health organisations – including in ancillary/non-clinical roles.
  • Support career pathways and improved recognition of qualification and skills for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers/Practitioners (ATSIHW&Ps)
  • Increase the cultural competence of the non-indigenous health workforce in working with First Nations colleagues and consumers