The World Health Organization1 has identified that one of the six building blocks of a desired health system is a well performing health workforce. In Australia, there is an imperative to increase numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples working across the health professions. This is required to improve equitable health care access for Indigenous Australians and address health inequities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The Australian Government’s National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework 2 recommends that increasing an Indigenous health workforce can be achieved through appropriate education, training, recruitment and retention strategies. In addition, pipeline programs following and supporting Indigenous students from secondary to tertiary education have been identified as critical success factors for increasing access to health careers 3. Australian Universities have implemented different approaches to improving Indigenous admissions access.
Monash University’s Faculty of Medicine Nursing and Health Science is one of the largest health Faculties in Australia. With ten schools and over 10,000 students the Faculty is well placed to be making a considerable contribution to increasing an Indigenous health workforce. Disciplines within the Faculty include: biomedicine, nursing and midwifery, physiotherapy, medicine and surgery, nutrition science, radiography and medical imaging, occupational therapy, social work, psychology, health sciences (with specialisations in emergency health and paramedic practice, public health and human services). In recent years the Faculty's Gukwonderuk Indigenous Engagement Unit has implemented several initiatives aiming to increase the number of Indigenous students entering and progressing through health science courses. The initiatives aim to build on community strengths and address several barriers to tertiary health science access. These have included, health academies, secondary school tutoring programs, an Indigenous Dean’s list, vertical peer program and pro-active early admissions interventions. Here we discuss these programs and describe some of the challenges and outcomes of these.