How Aboriginal people use health services

More money is spent for each Aboriginal person than for each non-Aboriginal person, but Aboriginal people use Australia’s health system differently than non-Aboriginal people.

Health expenditure on Aboriginal people

3.5% of Australia’s total health expenditure was spent on Aboriginal people in 2008-09 [1], about 0.4% more than two years earlier. With Aboriginal people making up about 2.5% of Australians, this equates to $1.39 spent on health per each Aboriginal Australian for every $1 spent per non-Aboriginal Australian [1]. For aged care needs in 2006-07 this ratio was 1.22, two years prior to that 1.77 [2].

Governments provided the majority of health expenditure for Aboriginal Australians in 2008-09: 48% state and territory governments, 43% federal government. For non-Aboriginal people about 70% of the health expenditure came from governments. For non-Aboriginal people only about 70% of the total health expenditure came from governments [1].

How health services are used

On the one hand the spending rate reflects the higher cost of delivering health services in remote communities. On the other hand, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians generally use more public hospital and community health services than non-Indigenous Australians, but fewer medical, pharmaceutical, dental and other health services, which are mostly privately provided,” explains Damian O’Rourke, senior economist of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) [2].

22% of all Aboriginal health expenditure goes into community health services, compared with 4.5% of all non-Aboriginal health expenditure [1]. The different usage patterns are also reflected in the expenditure on public hospitals which is more than double per Aboriginal person than that for non-Aboriginal people.

Access to health care is another factor widening the gap. Many Aboriginal people have to contend with lack of transport to treatment centres, limited child-care facilities and feelings of isolation while undergoing treatments.


View article sources (2)

[1] 'More spent on health', Koori Mail 504 p.3
[2] 'Report shows more spent', Koori Mail 467 p.46

Cite this article

An appropriate citation for this document is:,
Aboriginal culture - Health - How Aboriginal people use health services, retrieved 14 February 2016