Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Perspectives of Indigenous People in the Pilbara about the Delivery of Healthcare Services

Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Perspectives of Indigenous People in the Pilbara about the Delivery of Healthcare Services

Article excerpt


The Pilbara region comprises approximately 20% of the total land mass of Western Australia.1 Much of the region is desert and sparsely populated with most of the population clustered around a few major towns.1 In total there are approximately 50 000 residents, of whom around 16% are Indigenous.

Pilbara residents tend to experience poorer health than resi- dents in most other parts ofWestern Australia. In part, the poorer health status of Pilbara residents owes to higher levels of smoking and alcohol consumption, higher levels ofobesity, and low amounts offresh vegetable and fruit consumption especially in remote Indigenous populations.2-4 The other main factor that contributes to Pilbara residents experiencing poorer health is the lack of access to timely and effective primary healthcare that would have otherwise prevented the development of health conditions.5

For many remote communities, general health services fail to sufficiently address the particular needs ofIndigenous people.6,7 It has been shown that health services for Indigenous people are more effective when people with a positive manner and knowl- edge of Indigenous cultural issues provide the services.8 As such, Indigenous participation and ownership in the delivery of healthcare services is integral to successful outcomes.3,8 Little is known about the views of Indigenous people regarding the delivery of healthcare services in the Pilbara. This article addresses a gap in the literature by examining the delivery of healthcare services from the perspective of three Indigenous language groups in the Pilbara. All are members ofan Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the interests of these Aboriginal language groups, particularly through developing proposals for investments and community projects, and distributing income and other benefits to the traditional owners.



We sought to identify the Aboriginal Corporation members' views about gaps and solutions, particularly practical solutions, in the delivery ofhealthcare services to Aboriginal people in the Pilbara.


We endeavoured to include all Aboriginal Corporation members (n = 1183). Invitation letters were mailed to all members by using postal details obtained from the Aboriginal Corporation member database. In addition, we invited members to participate through: public announcements at the Aboriginal Corporation's general meetings; broadcasts on local radio; advertisements in local newspapers; and volunteer notices distributed as part ofan earlier interrelated study.

Data collection

Aboriginal employment agencies were engaged to recruit local Aboriginal community members to act as interviewers. We then trained those recruited in administering the interviews and the ethics involved in such situations. A review ofthe demographics ofthe Aboriginal Corporation members indicated that they were located mainly in townships. Accordingly, we concentrated on conducting face to face interviews in these locations, which included Newman, Tom Price, Port Hedland, Roebourne and Karratha. In addition, we sought to interview remotely located Aboriginal people by attending three general meetings of the Aboriginal Corporation. Aboriginal community members were also offered telephone interviews with our trained Aboriginal Corporation members. An interview guide, informed from an earlier survey, enquired about the following issues: access to healthcare professionals and services; access to transport; access to funding; health promotion initiatives; and self-empowerment (Appendix 1). The interview guide was also informed by a Steering Committee that had three Aboriginal representatives, two ofwhom were members ofthe Aboriginal Corporation. All responses were manually recorded verbatim by Aboriginal com- munity members conducting the interviews.

Data analysis

The interview material was analysed with the use of content analysis, which may be undertaken in several different ways. …

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