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Aboriginal health workforce upskilled to vaccinate with HWSP funding

13th December 2021

NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) is supporting the Aboriginal health workforce to increase COVID 19-vaccination rates by providing health workers with funding to become trained immunisers through its Health Workforce Scholarship Program (HWSP).  Twenty-eight practitioners have been approved to benefit from the scheme.


The HWSP is an Australian Government Department of Health program, administered in New South Wales by RDN. This particular initiative is the result of collaboration between RDN, the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) NSW and the training providers The Benchmarque Group.

“RDN is committed to contributing to the rapid and safe vaccination of Aboriginal communities and we welcome this opportunity to do so using HWSP funding in a way that also invests in the long-term capacity of the Aboriginal health workforce,” says Chris Roach, RDN’s Workforce Services Manager.

The initiative is a new development for the sector in NSW, which has previously focused on vaccinations being administered exclusively by GPs and Authorised Nurse Immunisers.

“Having NSW Aboriginal Health Practitioners immunise their own communities is a real game changer, and one that could have a significant impact on the future success of vaccination campaigns,” explains Nicole Turner, RDN’s Aboriginal Workforce Engagement Manager.

“Trust and cultural safety are a critical to overcoming vaccination hesitancy, and Aboriginal Health Practitioners are best placed to establish this within their own communities.  In addition, Aboriginal Health Practitioners are here for the long run, and will be able to support their communities when additional vaccinations are required,’ she said.

The scope and practice of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners is largely dependent upon the jurisdiction in which they practice. Earlier this year, the NSW Ministry of Health approved Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners working in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) to administer prescription-only medicines on behalf of and under the supervision of a Medical Practitioner. This enables suitably qualified and competent Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners to administer vaccinations in the ACCHO setting, which in turn supports improved access to culturally appropriate immunisation services for their clients.

“NSW Aboriginal Health Practitioners have finally been acknowledged as being able to perform the same services and receive the same upskilling as their peers in other states. Specifically, they can now become trained immunisers. We’re grateful to RDN for supporting us in this by funding individuals to undertake this training.  In addition to enabling us to expand our vaccination services, it also provides an extra resource to cope with the demands placed on clinics, especially through a pandemic,” says Jade Hansen, Service Performance and Quality Manager at AH&MRC.

The training is offered by The Benchmarque Group.

“We are delighted to be working with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) and the NSW Rural Doctors Network to provide Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to provide a range on immunisation services for their clients and communities,” said John von Dadelszen, Partnership Manager at The Benchmarque Group

About RDN support for the Aboriginal health workforce

RDN is committed to supporting the Aboriginal health workforce, using funding to support specific initiatives to improve workforce capability and knowledge, and enabling students to fund their courses through scholarships. This includes:

  • Rural Medical Officer Cadetships for Indigenous medical students
  • recruitment support for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) and other Aboriginal health services
  • scholarships and grants for health professionals providing primary health care in ACCHS to upskill
  • GP Locum support
  • partnerships with the AH&MRC in joint medical workforce initiatives.

About the HWSP

HWSP funding is available for primary health practitioners in rural locations and the ACCHS sector. The Program is an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Health, administered in New South Wales by NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN). Health Workforce Scholarship Program

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