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Career pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals

The Career Pathways Project (CPP) is focussed on providing insights and guidance to enhance the capacity of the health system to retain and support the development and careers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the health workforce.

The CPP was initiated by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCHOs) and has leadership at all levels by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander investigators, partners and field researchers. Jamie Newman, CEO of Orange Aboriginal Medical Service and Chair of Bila Muuji; Aboriginal Chief Investigator, Erin Lew Fatt, Programs Manager at AMSANT; and their respective colleagues in NSW and the NT were instrumental in the project’s inception and design. This project is a partnership between UNSW Sydney and AMSANT, and includes other participating institutions.

Key questions the project seeks to answer include:

  1. What are the experiences of Aboriginal health staff and health professionals in entering, and progressing, their careers within health services?
  2. What factors facilitate Aboriginal health workforce career development and career advancement?
  3. What factors impede Aboriginal health workforce career development and career advancement?
  4. What are the unique skill sets and values that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health staff and health professionals can, and do, contribute to health services?
  5. What can employers do to make a difference to Aboriginal health workforce career development and advancement?

The CPP has a Project Steering Committee and an Aboriginal Reference Group. Additional governance processes are also in place for the NT including AMSANT’s Indigenous Ethics Committee and approvals by the AMSANT Board for project activities.

The CPP has a national focus through a planned survey, literature review and analysis of existing workforce data, as well as interviews to be conducted nationwide and consultations with key stakeholders at multiple levels. Local case study sites in NSW and the NT will provide perspectives from diverse urban, regional and remote areas. An important deliverable from this project will be to share learnings from these NSW and NT local case study sites with other states and territory so they may utilise and or adapt as needed.

The project team operates as a cross-disciplinary collaboration, and has an established track record in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled research, as well as expertise in the content and methods of the project.

The CPP incorporates a mixed-methods design drawing upon both quantitative and qualitative data to generate evidence and collect data from multiple sources (workers, employers, stakeholders). It has multiple levels of focus (service organisation, operational support, and broader jurisdictional and national level) to consider the implications of the findings for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander health professionals’ career development and pathways.

Research capacity building and knowledge translation are embedded throughout the project, which aims to lead by example and provide opportunities to increase skills and capacity of all study investigators/researchers.

This project will develop a set of evidence-based guiding principles to assist health service managers and policy makers across sectors in identifying barriers and facilitators. It will also outline a proposed monitoring mechanism to track progress in policy and practice to address the barriers and improve the recruitment, retention and career pathways of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health staff.

Project leader

Ms Erin Lew Fatt

Dr Sally Nathan (UNSW)

Administering institution: