A healthy nation is a wealthy nation; thereby, provision of optimal health is fundamental for every nation’s economy. In Darwin, Australia, there are a number of organizations, programs, and health services that aim to ensure that the Aboriginal Australians are healthy. In my search for a health service that addressed the needs of the indigenous Australians, my attention was turned to the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), which is involved in the continual improvement of the Aboriginals’ primary health care system (National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), 2009). An affiliate of this organisation in Darwin is the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) (Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, 2015).
During the struggle for identity and human equality in the Northern Territory, AMSANT emerged and lives on as an embodiment of this struggle. It is the epitome of community controlled health services; thus I imagined it as an organization that ensures all Aboriginals’ health needs are met optimally as is the case with the NACCHO (NACCHO, 2016). AMSANT gives first priority to providing effective health care services to all individuals as a way of promoting equity in health. There may be various models of health service delivery within the indigenous Australians but the ACCHSs model remains the most effective. This paper describes AMSANT’s involvement in provision of health to the indigenous Australian population and how its operations and services makes it stand out as an ideal health care service.
The development of the AMSANT has a long history because it kicked off after the NACCHO, which was part of the Aboriginals’ social struggles as they sought access to health care services. In the midst of health politics, community controlled health service units in the Northern Territory (NT) developed AMSANT in 1994 (AMSANT welcomes the ongoing commitment, 2015). The CCHS model was used to establish it at a time when the health of the Aboriginals was rapidly languishing due to lack of funds and poor management and planning by the ATSIC. Since then, AMSANT has been involved in capacity building among the Indigenous Australian communities.Vision and Objectives
In reference to AMSANT (n.d.), the organization envisions to improve the quality of life of the Aboriginals so that they can live longer, better and happier. This vision is achievable through the attainment of the subsequent objectives:
- Advocacy that ensures the Aboriginal people have access to health care that is in alignment with their cultural values
- Engage in culturally appropriate research to understand the causes and solutions to illnesses
- Promote self-determination of the Aboriginals in the attainment of good health services
The Address of the AMSANT Office in Darwin is as follows:
AMSANT Darwin Office
43 Mitchell Street
Darwin NT 0800
GPO Box 1624
Darwin NT 0801
Ph: (08) 8944 6666
Fax: (08) 8981 4825
Another office in the NT can be found at
AMSANT Alice Springs Office
34-38 Hartley Street
Alice Springs NT 0870
PO Box 1464
Alice Springs NT 0871
Ph: (08) 8959 4600
Fax: (08) 8953 0553
Functions of AMSANT
Indigenous Australians are more likely to die from preventable diseases than non-Indigenous Australians, but the national body, NACCHO, steered the goal towards protecting the health of this indigenous population as a way of measuring up to countries like USA, New Zealand and Canada (Oxfam & NACCHO, 2007). In Darwin, AMSANT helps to achieve this cause, and it has taken the responsibility of providing primary health care through community controlled health care to this disadvantaged indigenous Australian population (AMSANT, n.d.). In its definition of primary health care (PHC), NACCHO states that PHC does not only provides first level medical care, but also offers counseling, antenatal and postnatal, health education and promotion, preventive medicine, maternal and child care, and rehabilitative services (Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, n.d., par. 3).
As an advocacy body that is involved in the politics and policy development of Aboriginal health, it holds talks with governments and associated stakeholders to ensure that the social determinants of health among the Aboriginals are integrated in the ACCHSs health care model (Rivers, 2010).
AMSANT develops memoranda of understanding and associated agreement protocols with relevant stakeholders, develop discussion and position papers, advocate for political agendas, manage health data of the indigenous Australians, steer workforce development, and spearhead issues related to health governance. Since the organization aims to ensure that the indigenous Australians including men have access to effective health care services, it advocates for funding of ACCHSs in support of providing holistic and comprehensive primary health care. The indigenous Australians are composed of different cultures having different historical backgrounds. AMSANT is meant to fulfill the unique health needs that each cultural community presents. AMSANT has played a pivotal role in achieving health gains within the indigenous Australian population by advocating for equality in health care across genders and closing the gap due to unequal distribution of human resources (AMSANT, 2011).
AMSANT is useful when rolling out projects because it mobilizes the ACCHSs to actively get engaged. An example is the Northern Territory Emergency Response that was a move by the Australian Government to provide mainstream child health checks, the approach used further increased the challenge of carrying out successful child health checks. Boffa, Bell, Davies, Paterson, and Cooper (2007) note that the government had initially used coercion and deemed the exercise compulsory. It is in such situations that AMSANT’s involvement protects the beliefs and culture of the Aboriginals, who believe that little children are sacred, and advocates for a friendly approach when delivering health care interventions to the indigenous Australians. AMSANT is involved in continual research efforts to determine the effect of its community controlled health services.
AMSANT faces challenges of resource restriction given that it is a community initiative and the indigenous Australians have not yet gained the national recognition they require. Therefore, the health of the Indigenous Australians does not receive any special attention and AMSANT’s affiliate health service units experience challenges of shortage of staff. The culture of the indigenous Australians is paramount in provision of health care, but AMSANT encounters great challenges finding the right professionals for placement.
Membership for NACCHO is based on a clearly delineated criterion, which is set and reviewed by Aboriginal controlled health bodies that are affiliate bodies of the NACCHO. Apart from Tasmania and the ACT that have one representative, the NACCHO board consists of three representatives from every state and territory. AMSANT is composed of full members (12 in number), associate members (14), and 7 member organizations that constitute the AMSANT committee. The members of AMSANT are the distinct community health service units, such as Danila Dilba and Sunrise health service, which meet the required criterion as shown in appendix 1 (Rivers, 2010).
AMSANT is the voice of the various Aboriginal community controlled health services in Darwin. In the fight for self-determination, AMSANT was developed to increase the life expectancy of the Aboriginals. Since its inception, AMSANT foresees the provision of optimal health care by the various ACCHSs by acting as a bridge between the governments and the community to ensure that culturally appropriate health care services are provided to ensure the Aboriginals “live longer, better and happier”.
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NACCHO. (2009). Towards a national primary health care strategy: Fulfilling aboriginal peoples aspirations to close the gap. Retrieved from content/uploads/PHC-Strategy-NACCHO-submission-2009-FINAL-2.pdf.
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Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council. (n.d.). Primary health care. Retrieved FromRivers, L. (2010). No more gaps. ISBN: 978-1-4535-0725-4.