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This project contributes to the research and policy debate regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce development. The main outcome was the discussion paper, 'Shifting gears in career', which offers a new perspective, examining the factors that shape the workplace (the ‘demand side’ of workforce), as well as skills and career development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and workers (the ‘supply side’ concerns that are more often the focus of policy).
The discussion paper explores how the Australian health sector could improve opportunities for career development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers. It considers the current evidence surrounding career development in the health sector, along with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worker experiences, to develop a usable conceptual framework for change.
The conceptual model is presented using the analogy of shifting gears, and identifies five interconnected key drivers, or agents of change, for career opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in the health sector:
The framework articulated in this paper could serve as an analytical tool for organisations, professional bodies, policymakers and individual workers to understand and identify the existing career development capability within workplaces; and identify innovative strategies for the attraction, retention and support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers.
The paper also strengthens and broadens an understanding of the career development concept by factoring both supply-side and demand-side issues into the analysis. While this paper does not discount the importance of skill development policy, and other supply-side focused efforts, it also asserts that skill development is not synonymous with career development. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in the health sector are also affected by a wide range of demand-side concerns that underpin career formation and development. Prevailing policy principles are identified as a key driver in the formation of careers, for example, because overarching funding and program structures shape the parameters for service delivery and decision making for all other agents or stakeholders in the sector.
Dr Tanya Bretherton