Improving services for prevention and treatment of substance misuse for Aboriginal communities in a Sydney Area Health Service

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2008 Mar;27(2):152-9. doi: 10.1080/09595230701829447.


Introduction and aims: Substance misuse among Aboriginal Australians is both a symptom of disadvantage and suffering but also a cause of health and social problems. Few data are available on how mainstream drug and alcohol services meet the needs of Aboriginal Australians. We assessed acceptability and accessibility of mainstream services for Aboriginal Australians with alcohol or drug use disorders in an urban Area Health Service (AHS). We identified priorities for improvement and an implementation plan.

Methods: We collected feedback via consultation with client groups, with the Aboriginal community and community organisations, with staff of the AHS and of the local Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) and through direct observation. We examined attendance data.

Results: Aboriginal people were well represented in this mainstream service, partly because of existing collaboration with the AMS. Good points in the service were reported to be priority appointments for new Aboriginal clients, professional and caring service and collaboration with the AMS. Suggested improvements included increased cultural sensitivity of communication, more appropriate physical surrounds and printed materials, having Aboriginal staff available, peer support groups and integration of health care for individual, family and community. The action plan included increased recruitment and career opportunities for Aboriginal staff, strengthened partnerships with the Aboriginal community, including ongoing collaboration with the AMS in improving and monitoring mainstream service quality.

Discussion and conclusions: Given the adverse impact of substance use disorders, there is a pressing need for services to work with Aboriginal communities to optimise the quality of mainstream treatment services.

MeSH terms

  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Female
  • Health Services, Indigenous / organization & administration
  • Health Services, Indigenous / standards*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Mental Health Services / standards*
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Oceanic Ancestry Group / psychology*
  • Oceanic Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*