Indigenous Australians and RAC

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 2.4% of the Australian population. However, they experience a far greater burden of disease and disability than other Australians. This is amplified in remote communities. In all age groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are less likely to live as long as other Australians. [1]

Due to the lower life expectancy, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may be eligible for RAC services from the age of 50 years. In June 2010 there were 1,071 permanent aged care residents who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or 0.7% of aged care residents. [2]

Flexible care services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Many more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access aged care through flexible care services which are better able to meet the needs of people with diverse beliefs and values. This may be care at home or care in an Elders Village. Flexible care services operate outside of the regulatory system that governs RAC.

Flexible Care services are often community based and operate within culturally specific parameters; they may be in urban areas or very remote communities. The development and function of an Aged Care service at Yuendumu has allowed the old people to remain in country, and has empowered the community to provide the care they need. [3]

A recent review of the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents in RAC outlines the challenges for mainstream services in providing culturally appropriate and quality care. [4] The complexities of providing palliative care to people with traditional beliefs and values have been described. [5]

Dementia in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Dementia is emerging as a major health problem for older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is thought that the incidence of dementia may be 4 or 5 times as high as in the general population. [6]

The Western Australia Centre for Healthy Ageing has produced a toolkit for assessing cognition in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Originally developed in the Kimberly region, the 'kica tool' is available on the Western Australia Centre for Health and Ageing (WACHA) website.

  1. Vos T, Barker B, Begg S, Stanley L, Lopez AD. Burden of disease and injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: the Indigenous health gap. Int J Epidemiol. 2009 Apr;38(2):470-7. Epub 2008 Nov 30.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Residential Aged Care in Australia 2009-10: a statistical overview. Aged care statistics series no. 35. Cat. no. AGE 66. Canberra: AIHW. 2011.
  3. Smith K, Grundy JJ, Nelson HJ. Culture at the centre of community based aged care in a remote Australian Indigenous setting: a case study of the development of Yuendumu Old People’s Programme. Rural Remote Health. 2010 Oct-Dec;10(4):1422.
  4. Brooke NJ. Needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients residing in Australian residential aged-care facilities. Aust J Rural Health. 2011 Aug;19(4):166-70.
  5. Mc Grath P. 'The biggest worry..’: research findings on pain management for Aboriginal peoples in Northern Territory, Australia. Rural Remote health. 2006; Jul-Sep;6(3):549.
  6. Arkles RS, Jackson Pulver LR, Robertson H, Draper B, Chalkley S, Broe GA. Ageing, cognition and dementia in Australian Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: A life cycle approach. Sydney: Neuroscience Research Australia and University of New South Wales. Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit. 2010 June.
Last updated 06 December 2017