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The experiences of a regional Aboriginal community accessing primary health care during times of crisis

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-02-28, 05:41 authored by Rebecca WoodlandRebecca Woodland, Paula Morgan, Sarah MacLeanSarah MacLean, Heather DowneyHeather Downey
Introduction: The importance of primary health care (PHC) to Aboriginal Australians is widely acknowledged, as is the underservicing of the Aboriginal Australian population. Aboriginal People continue to face significant obstacles when accessing and using health care services. Objective: This study identifies environmental factors (beyond personal and service delivery) that functioned as barriers and enablers to Aboriginal Australians' experiences accessing PHC during crises and recommends approaches during future events. Design: This research utilised a case study approach. Data were collected through in-depth interviews and analysed using thematic analysis. The study was set in Lakes Entrance, a regional Victorian locality with a sizable Aboriginal community, which was affected by bushfires during 2019/2020 and COVID-19 restrictions during 2020-2021. Participants were 18 Aboriginal People over the age of 18 living in the locality during either bushfires or COVID-19. Findings: The barriers identified included the impact on PHC access of priorities other than health, including housing; financial constraints; difficulties with transport; medical bureaucracy and the physical environment of the health care setting, including appointment-making processes; interactions with medical reception staff; and waiting room environments. Enablers identified included the supportive role of the local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) and their staff, which was highlighted in participant responses. Discussion: The preference of many Aboriginal people to access PHC via their local ACCHO, rather than mainstream health care services, appears even more salient during crises than in normal times. This research identified that ACCHOs are ideally placed to promote and protect the health of Aboriginal communities during crises. Conclusion: Results may help direct interventions to improve PHC access and experiences for regional Aboriginal communities both during and outside periods of crisis.


Publication Date



Australian Journal of Rural Health






10p. (p. 80-89)





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