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Strength and Power of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in South Australia

01 April 2022

AHCSA History

Primary health care, within the holistic health provision of an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, provides a sound structure to address all aspects of health care arising from social, emotional and physical factors.

Our vision at the Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA) is that all Aboriginal people enjoy a high quality of health and wellbeing, with the right to self-determination.

Since 1981 AHCSA has been working to meet the health needs of Aboriginal people in South Australia.

It has done this through representing the collective expertise and aspirations of Aboriginal communities at both State and National levels. AHCSA has engaged in support activities for health services, the direct provision of health care and health programs, the provision of education and training, and research activities.

Aboriginal health means not just the physical well-being of an individual but refers to the social, emotional and cultural well-being of the whole Community, in which each individual is able to achieve their full potential both personally and professionally, thereby bringing about the total well-being of their Community.

It is a whole-of-life view and incorporates the cyclical concept of life-death-life, where primary health care is all-inclusive, integrated health care and refers to the quality of health services.

It is a comprehensive approach, in accordance with the Aboriginal holistic definition of health, and arises from the practical experience within an Aboriginal community - to provide effective and culturally appropriate health services to its communities.

History of Community Controlled Health Services

The first Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) was established in Redfern, NSW, in 1971.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services operate in urban, regional and remote Australia.

The ACCHS range from large multi-functional services employing several medical practitioners providing a wide range of services, to smaller services which rely on Aboriginal Health Workers and/or nurses to provide the bulk of comprehensive primary care services, often with a preventive, health education focus.

The services form a network, but each is autonomous and independent both of one another and of government.

The ACCHS model of service is in keeping with the philosophy of Aboriginal community control and the holistic view of health. Addressing the ill-health of Aboriginal people can only be achieved by local Aboriginal people amounting to Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands.

Trent Wingard (Aboriginal Health Workforce Coordinator) shares his personal reflection on the strength and power of the ACCHS in SA

Over the last two years of being the Aboriginal Health Workforce Coordinator I have had the opportunity to delve and understand the incredibly important work that the ACCHS provide to their communities. Being able to facilitate workshops with all Aboriginal and Executive staff at AHCSA’s Member Services has given me a great insight into the strengths, cultural knowledge, and Advocacy that the ACCHS provide.

It’s been wonderful to listen to the experience of the staff and the history of the ACCHS through being in this role.

The ACCHS are one of the largest employers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across South Australia. The life experience and the community knowledge is what makes these services well respected in the communities.

The staff at the ACCHS bring a wealth of local knowledge, which supports community connection and engagement through a holistic health approach. ACCHS play a significant role in training the medical, primary health care and health promotion workforce and empower Aboriginal communities to take lead in their health outcomes.

I look forward to working closely and doing everything I can to support the growth of the Aboriginal Workforce in South Australia well into the future.