The Relevance of Trauma Informed Care to Aboriginal Primary Health Care Services

The 2009 Australian Bureau of Statistics illustrated that Indigenous Australians experience a mortality rate nearly twice as high and a life expectancy 10-17 years lower than non-Indigenous Australians.  In recognising the health issues of Indigenous Australians, it is important to acknowledge the broader social context of life for Indigenous Australians since colonisation.

Trauma is recognised as a significant contributor to the poor health and compromised social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) of Indigenous people.  This paper argues that recognising, understanding and responding appropriately to trauma is critical for those working with Indigenous Australians, as they suffer a greater burden of complex intergenerational trauma. If overlooked, unresolved trauma can reduce the effectiveness of services provided within trauma affected communities, and place individuals, communities and workers at risk of further harm.

Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHSs) have established an important role in the effective delivery of comprehensive primary health care (CPHC) services to Aboriginal people within Australia, including services addressing SEWB, mental health and alcohol and other drug issues. CPHC has been highlighted as a critical component of reducing the gap in health equality that exists for disadvantaged populations worldwide.

Within this paper, the following are identified as key to trauma-informed service provision: preventing re-traumatisation; awareness, understanding & education; safety; control & choice; relationships, connections & collaboration; empowerment, strength & resilience; and, cultural competence & diversity.

There are a number of ways that the principles of trauma-informed care and ACCHSs align. They both aim to increase the accessibility of services, promote self-reliance, participation, collaboration and control, and recognise the underlying social determinants of health.  Sarah Haythornthwaite concludes that with its compatibility with the principles of ACCHSs, an integrated trauma-informed approach represents another possible step forward on the path to better health and wellbeing outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Ms Sarah Haythornthwaite - AOD & SEWB Program Support & Clinical Supervision, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory, Ms Elena Paul-Cooper, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory and Dr David Cooper, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory will discuss the relevance of trauma informed care to Aboriginal Primary Health Care Services at the upcoming 15th International Mental Health Conference to be held on the Gold Coast at the QT Hotel, Surfers Paradise on Wednesday the 27th of August.

For more information on the conference - visit the website

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