Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health


These pages have information about the work of the Office of Aboriginal Health Policy and Engagement (OAHPE).

Our context

The Northern Territory (NT) has one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Its demographic profile is spread over vast geographical distances with a high number of Aboriginal people living in regional and remote areas.

Aboriginal people make up 30 per cent of Territory's population and yet currently reflect 70 per cent of consumers in the NT health system. This presents particular challenges around the delivery of integrated and consumer-centred care that is accessible, effective, culturally safe and responsive.

Aboriginal people experience some of the poorest health outcomes of all Australians. Compared to non-Aboriginal people, Aboriginal Australians have a shorter life expectancy, are more likely to be of low birth weight, to die before the age of five, to have a chronic disease or condition and to have a number of risk factors for poor health and wellbeing.

Improving Aboriginal health and wellbeing is a complex challenge. In committing to making a difference it is important the department acknowledges and respects the interests of Aboriginal people as Australia's first peoples. This acknowledgement and respect is essential as a foundation to achieve equitable health and wellbeing outcomes.

Significant effort over the past years at the national and local level has resulted in some improvements, but the challenge of closing the gap in health inequality remains. Some of these identified challenges are being addressed through a range of programs, policies and frameworks coordinated through the OAHPE.


The OAHPE provides evidence-based policy advice and leadership to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for Territorians, particularly Aboriginal Territorians..

OAHPE is central to the department's efforts to provide integrated and consumer centred care that is accessible, effective and culturally safe and responsive.

The office supports a range of functions including:

  • strategic projects
  • policy development and implementation
  • advocacy
  • advice
  • reporting and performance measurement
  • Aboriginal workforce development
  • increasing Aboriginal community control of primary health care services.

OAHPE consists of four units:

  • Aboriginal Health Policy
  • Aboriginal Workforce Development
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Consumer Participation
  • Pathways to Community Control (primary health care service transition).

Aboriginal health policy

The Aboriginal Health Policy Unit provides strategic leadership and policy advice to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal Territorians. 

The unit supports the development and implementation of health policy to support the provision of culturally secure health services.

The unit supports national Aboriginal health priorities through participation on national projects, committees and working groups.

For more information read the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Plan 2015-2018

It is recognised that a more respectful and responsive health and family wellbeing system contributes to improved health outcomes. 

The Aboriginal Cultural Security Policy aims to strengthen Aboriginal Territorians' access to and benefits of health services by ensuring that the health system recognises the centrality of culture in delivering successful health outcomes. 

The Aboriginal Cultural Security Framework 2016-2026 provides further information, details and advice on how to implement the Aboriginal Cultural Security Policy. This framework outlines priority actions to ensure that cultural security is addressed across the NT Health system.

The priorities of the Aboriginal Cultural Security Framework are:

  • NT Health will increase the diversity of the health workforce to ensure it is representative of the NT's population
  • NT Health employees will undertake ongoing professional development to strengthen skills in cultural safety and responsiveness
  • NT Health will enhance effective communication between Aboriginal health consumers and health professionals to ensure ethical, safe and high quality care
  • NT Health will take a whole of organisation approach to embed considerations of Aboriginal cultural security in all parts of the health system
  • NT Health recognises the importance of leadership in driving improvements in cultural security
  • NT Health values consumer and community participation to ensure Aboriginal people and communities work in partnership with health services to make informed choices, and provide feedback in service planning, implementation and evaluation
  • NT Health will undertake quality improvement, planning, research and evaluation processes to consider and reflect on how the health system addresses cultural security. This supports ongoing learning and improvement.

For more information read the Aboriginal Cultural Security Framework 2016-2026. 

Contact the Aboriginal Health Policy Unit at AboriginalPolicy.DoH@nt.gov.au or on (08) 8999 2871.

Aboriginal Workforce Development

Aboriginal Workforce provides strategic advice and leadership aimed at improving the recruitment, retention and career development of Aboriginal people across all clinical, allied and administrative positions throughout the health system in careers that are engaging, challenging, stimulating, meaningful and rewarding.

This includes the Back on Track initiative and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner Awards.

For information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment in the Department of Health see Careers.


To find out more call the Primary Healthcare Transition unit on 08 8999 2871 or email ATSIHPexcellenceawards.doh@nt.gov.au for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner Excellence Awards coordinator.


All plans and policy documents relating to Aboriginal health in the Northern Territory are available from ePublications.

Stakeholder engagement and consumer participation

The Aboriginal Health Policy Unit supports Northern Territory Health’s move to a more coordinated and systemic approach to engaging with stakeholders to allow for increased credibility and accountability, improved risk management and improved quality of policy and services.

The unit has also developed a range of tools to increase participation and engagement with health care consumers.

For more information read the Stakeholder Engagement Framework.

For information about the different levels of engagement read the Spectrum of Stakeholder Engagement.

To find out more call the Primary Healthcare Transition unit on 08 8999 2871 or email ConsumerParticipation.DoH@nt.gov.au.

Primary healthcare transition

The Primary Healthcare Transition Unit facilitates the localisation of decision making in relation to remote Aboriginal primary health care.

The unit works in partnership with the following stakeholder groups:

  • Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Forum including the Aboriginal Medical Alliance Services Northern Territory (AMSANT).
  • the Australian Government through the Department of Health
  • remote Aboriginal communities
  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations
  • the Northern Territory Government Local Decision Making Working Group.

To find out more call the Primary Healthcare Transition unit on 08 8999 2871.