Indigenous Primary Health Care Workforce Safety in Remote Australia – Understanding the Unique Challenges

Ms Kristy Hill1, Ms Tarneen Callope

1CRANAplus, Cairns, Australia


Promoting the safety of the primary health care workforce in remote Australia poses many challenges. One area that is not well understood is the workforce safety issues pertinent to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce in remote Australia.

As part of the Community Night Patrol Workforce Safety Project, CRANAplus conducted a review of the workforce safety issues relevant to the Community Night Patrol (CNP) workforce in the Northern Territory and in Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia. The review involved both a literature review and a series of consultations with key stakeholders including community night patrollers, their managers, training organisations, police and health services and a range of other community organisations.

The Community Night Patrol Workforce Safety Report identified a number of significant safety issues that are worth exploring, with regards to better understanding Indigenous primary health care workforce safety. These included the concept of ‘dual accountability’; a term used to describe the challenges of fulfilling employer obligations whilst balancing cultural/family/community obligations. The other priority safety concern for this workforce was the impact of witnessing significant amounts of trauma whilst on the job, and how this trauma is inextricably linked to the patrollers proximity to the community (being related/connected to the client). This experience was magnified by patrollers own personal experiences of trauma, and the unresolved loss and grief associated with multiple layers of trauma that has spanned the generations.

This paper will summarise our experience of remote Indigenous workforce safety issues. We will pose the question whether these issues are relevant across remote primary health care practice in general; and indeed, across the globe. Finally, it is hoped that exploration of these unique challenges will assist in improving our ability to support remote Indigenous primary health care workforce safety.


Kristy Hill (Master Public Health; Bach Occupational Therapy). Kristy is a public health and health promotion planner and project manager with expertise in workforce development and capacity building. Over the past 20 years she has worked across a range of primary health care contexts including social and emotional wellbeing, AOD, maternal and child health and cultural safety. She has significant experience working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce development in north Queensland.  Kristy is currently employed with CRANAplus as the Project Manager, Community Night Patrol Workforce Safety Project.