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Video clip synopsis – Indigenous people, particularly those from remote communities, fear seeking medical attention. Joan Winch, an Indigenous health professional, set up a health worker training college for Indigenous health workers.
Year of production - 2003
Duration - 1min 36sec
Tags - communities, culture, discrimination, health, Indigenous Australia, indigenous cultures, inequality, see all tags

play Warning - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when watching this program as it may contain images of deceased persons.

Indigenous Health Workers

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About the Video Clip


Indigenous Health Workers is an excerpt from the program Joan Winch (26 mins), an episode of Australian Biography Series 9 (7 × 26 minutes), produced in 2003.

Joan Winch: Nurse, midwife, academic, educator… Joan Winch has overcome numerous professional and personal hurdles to make an extraordinary contribution to Aboriginal health. The innovative and internationally acclaimed education programs that she has established focus on preventative and holistic medicine and community participation, integrating Indigenous practices and values. In this interview, she talks about her work and philosophies, the discrimination experienced by her family and her people, and her own journey from isolation and loss to a sense of purpose and spiritual awakening.

Australian Biography Series 9: The Australian Biography series profiles some of the most extraordinary Australians of our time. Many have had a major impact on the nation’s cultural, political and social life. All are remarkable and inspiring people who have reached a stage in their lives where they can look back and reflect. Through revealing in-depth interviews, they share their stories – of beginnings and challenges, landmarks and turning points. In so doing, they provide us with an invaluable archival record and a unique perspective on the roads we, as a country, have travelled.

Australian Biography Series 9 is a Film Australia National Interest Program.

Curriculum Focus


A student:
H2 analyses relationships within and between social and cultural groups
H3 accounts for cultural diversity and commonality within societies and cultures
H5 evaluates the influence of power, authority, gender and technology on decision making and participation in society
H7 applies appropriate language and concepts associated with society and culture
H10 communicates information, ideas and issues using appropriate written, oral and graphic forms

Consider inequality and its consequences, by examining different outcomes experienced by people including:– from different ‘racial’ or ethnic groups and examine ways to reduce inequality such as through community groups.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


In many remote Aboriginal communities there has been a failure in delivery of health and education services. Part of this has been the inappropriateness of the services as delivered by non-Indigenous people who have not been accepted by the Indigenous people of the community. Many Aboriginal people living in remote communities are afraid of hospitals and western medicine. An alternative medical solution has been to develop culturally-sensitive programs by Indigenous people for Indigenous people. This has meant that many of the programs have had to be re-structured in line with the degree of training appropriate to the Indigenous deliverers of the programs

Classroom Activities

  1. After watching the clip do some research into the life expectancy and health differentials between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.
  2. To what extent have Aboriginal Australians had equal access to health resources?
  3. Consider the successful and internationally acclaimed approach of Joan Winch to improving Aboriginal health:
    * Why is this approach so successful?
    * What are the cultural considerations mentioned in the clip by Joan Winch that reflect knowledge of her community and its needs?
  4. Joan Winch stresses the philosophy that health and other services available to Indigenous people need to be delivered by Indigenous people, and that they can be less academic, and more practical and ‘hands-on’. Do you agree with this approach? Explain