'We can work together, talk together': an Aboriginal Health Care Home

Greg Smith, Renae Kirkham, Charlie Gunabarra, Valda Bokmakarray, C. Paul Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: The aim of this study was to identify an Aboriginal community's aspirations for health service improvement during implementation of the Commonwealth's Health Care Homes (HCH) reform. 

Methods: This study was a qualitative study consisting of Aboriginal-controlled phenomenological enquiry in a large Aboriginal community in north-central Arnhem Land. 

Results: A representative sample of 60 Aboriginal health service users identified shortcomings in their current experience of primary health care, including low cultural security. These shortcomings reduced access to care. Participants described several ways that care could be reorientated to match their needs during HCH implementation. Principally, patients voiced the need for: (1) restructuring care teams to foster culturally secure relationship-based care; and (2) reorientating the Aboriginal Health Practitioner role from acute care to strength-based competencies as the focal point of care continuity: self-management support, care coordination and navigation, health coaching and cultural mentorship for non-Aboriginal staff. 

Conclusions: For HCH to be successful, service providers need to engage with service users to identify and implement patient-centred strategies to improve access, acceptability and patient activation. 

What is known about the topic?: Success of the Commonwealth's HCH reform is contingent on improving care access and patient activation to better manage chronic conditions 

What does this paper add?: This is the first opportunity that this Aboriginal community has had to articulate their aspirations for high quality healthcare. Beyond the strong alignment with the HCH building blocks, their care preferences posit practical and achievable workforce and delivery system reforms that may improve primary health care in other remote Aboriginal communities. 

What are the implications for practitioners?: The long-term success of the HCH reform will require iterative engagement with service users to identify and implement patient-centred strategies to improve access and acceptability of care. Service model alignment with patient care preferences will improve patient activation and is particularly important when working with vulnerable populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)486-491
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number5
Early online date25 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • health reform
  • health service co-design
  • Indigenous health
  • patient-centred care
  • primary health care


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