Introduction to Miwatj Health

Miwatj House

Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation was established in 1992. It is an independent, Aboriginal-controlled health service administered by a Board of Directors representing communities across East Arnhem Land.

Miwatj Health has its administrative base in the town of Nhulunbuy, in the Northern Territory of Australia. Our clinics are located in Nhulunbuy, Gunyangara (also known as Marngarr), Galiwin’ku, Yirrkala and Yurrwi, providing a walk-in service for all acute and preventive care needs. In addition to these fixed clinics, our outreach teams provide a regular visiting service to a number of nearby communities including Birritjimi, Galupa, Gunyangara, Garrathiya Plains, Yirrkala, and within the Galiwin’ku community.

Our Mission

Miwatj Health’s mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of residents of the communities of East Arnhem Land through the delivery of appropriate and comprehensive primary health care and to promote the control by Aboriginal communities of primary health care resources.

The Core Functions of Miwatj Health are:

  • The provision of clinical services to Aboriginal communities in the East Arnhem Land region, including both acute care and longer-term preventive care
  • Implementation of a range of population/public health programs and strategies which address the underlying causes of illness
  • Advocacy in support of the right of Aboriginal people to control their own health services and for such health services to receive resources and funding adequate to address the health problems of the region
  • Ensuring efficient, accountable administrative and financial systems support for the delivery of our services

Our Approach

clinic4The underlying philosophy of Miwatj Health is the fundamental right of Aboriginal people to control their own health services. This supports the Alma Ata Declaration of the World Health Organisation, which emphasized people’s right to participate in the planning and implementation of primary healthcare services, and supports the long-accepted principle of self-determination for Indigenous peoples. We implement this through our Board governance structure, and through our daily involvement in health issues at a grass-roots community level. Miwatj believes the way forward in Aboriginal health lies in the implementation of comprehensive primary health care. This includes primary medical care, but also goes beyond that to emphasise a wide-ranging and holistic approach. Effective health care for Aboriginal people in the Miwatj region should involve:

  • local ownership and involvement;
  • a population health approach – that is, addressing the health of populations and groups, not only individuals;
  • an emphasis on prevention;
  • a wide range of services including allied health and mental health, linked together so that primary health care becomes a system;
  • recognition of the role of traditional culture;
  • strong cross-cultural communication to promote patient self-management;
  • the flexibility to deliver services as close as possible to where people live; and
  • action to address the social determinants of health.

The building blocks of our health system

Miwatj Health sees primary health care as an interlinked system, not just a series of unconnected events. We support the view of the World Health Organisation that an effective health system has 6 building blocks, all of which must be at optimum level if we are to provide best practice health care:

  • Health services:  delivering  effective, safe, high-quality personal and non-personal health interventions to those who need them, when and where they need them, with minimum waste of resources. Miwatj Health provides clinical and community-based services to0 meet the needs of the region, at the standard required for national accreditation.
  • Health workforce:  sufficient staff, fairly distributed, competent, responsive and productive. The nurses, doctors, Aboriginal Health Practitioners and allied health staff employed by Miwatj Health are highly skilled; are registered with their professional associations; and are dedicated to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people.
  • Health information:  producing, analyzing, disseminating and using reliable and timely information on health determinants, health system performance and health status. Miwatj takes data seriously, and operates a sophisticated computerized database (Clinical Information System) which guides clinicians in recalling patients when needed and provides information to health planners on how our services can meet the needs of population groups.
  • Medical products, vaccines and technologies:  with equitable access, safe, efficacious, cost-effective and scientifically sound. Quality-assured pharmaceuticals are provided free-of-charge to our clients (under Section 100 of the PBS legislation).
  • Health financing:   adequate funds, directed in ways that ensure people can use needed services; that people are protected from financial catastrophe or impoverishment associated with having to pay for the services; and which provides incentives for providers and users to be efficient. Miwatj does not charge for its services – most are provided free under the Medical Benefits Scheme. However, there is an urgent need to stop the fragmented funding under which we operate. The main barrier to Miwatj Health achieving greater efficiencies is that uncoordinated nature of government funding – Miwatj receives dozens of separate and uncoordinated government grants, a situation sets up barriers to rational planning.
  • Leadership and planning:  strategic policy frameworks which are combined with effective oversight, coalition-building, regulation, attention to system design and accountability. Board members and senior staff at Miwatj Health deal with all these factors.

Miwatj Health pays attention to all these things. In the East Arnhem Land region an additional factor comes into play: the role of culture and tradition. The role of cultural leadership, traditional kinship structures, and the connection between land and health which is embedded in the world view of the people of this region provide challenges which impart a unique identity to Miwatj Health.

Strategic Plan

Download the Miwatj Health Strategic Plan 2013 -2017.pdf

Annual Report

Download the Miwatj Health Annual Report 2015-2016.pdf

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