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Health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: handle with care

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This special Indigenous health issue of the MJA features stories of successful health care services and programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. As we seek to build on the wealth of experience outlined, it is worth considering what these contributions have to tell us about the characteristics and value of effective Indigenous health services.

It is more than 40 years since the founders of the first Aboriginal health service recognised a need for “decent, accessible health services for the swelling and largely medically uninsured Aboriginal population of Redfern [New South Wales]” (http://www.naccho.org.au/about-us/naccho-history#communitycontrol). There are now about 150 Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHSs) in Australia: services that arise in, and are controlled by, individual local communities, and deliver holistic, comprehensive and culturally appropriate health care. Panaretto and colleagues (doi: 10.5694/mja13.00005) describe how these services have led the way in high-quality primary care, as well as enriching both the community and the health workforce.

With the ACCHS model setting the standard, the values of responding to community need, Indigenous leadership, cultural safety, meticulous data gathering…