Access to health services
The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households could locally access a range of medical and hospital services when needed. Nationally, in 2008:
Nationally, just over one-quarter (26%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over (adults) reported problems accessing one or more health services such as long waiting times and cost. Dentists, doctors and hospitals were the health services where problems were most likely to be experienced (by 20%, 10% and 7% of adults respectively).
- 62% of households could access Aboriginal health care services
- 74% could access hospitals (63% in remote areas)
- 82% could access health/medical clinics (69% in remote areas)
- 84% could access pharmacies/chemists (50% in remote areas).
Trust can be a factor influencing use of health services — 80% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults agreed or strongly agreed that their local doctors could be trusted.
Access to child care and other community facilities and services
Beyond health services, there were similar levels of availability of community facilities and services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households nationally. Services and facilities that were less likely to be locally available when needed included:
Parents/carers of around one in seven (14%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–12 years needed (more) formal child care. In remote areas, unavailability of child care was the most common reason for not using more formal care (40% of children needing more care). In non-remote areas, it was cost (31%).
- emergency services — not available for 20% of households
- police stations — not available for 17% of households
- school bus service — not available for 17% of households nationally and 39% of households in remote areas.
Barriers to accessing services
Access to health and other services can be hindered by a number of barriers including:
- Language — in 2008, 13% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over spoke a language other than English as their main language at home (46% in remote areas). Among this group, 15% experienced difficulties in both communicating in English and being understood by English speakers.
- Lack of public transport — 71% of adults living in remote areas reported having no public transport in their local area, with 15% unable to reach places when needed due to lack of transport.
- Lack of telecommunications — 20% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in remote areas had a computer connected to the internet (53% in non-remote areas). However, the majority (98%) of households nationally had telephone access.
This article presents information about services and facilities available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and communities and also on barriers that may limit access to, or use of those services. Information about access to and use of services is important because of links between service use and outcomes for individuals and the communities in which they live. For example, lack of access to health services can adversely impact an individuals health outcomes, while a lack of broader community facilities may limit levels of social engagement and participation and therefore reduce both individual and community wellbeing.
Information presented was collected in the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey