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Primary Health Care Reform in Indigenous Australia: a case study from the Torres Strait



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24 April 2009

Abstract: Phillip Mills is currently a health consultant to a range of organisations, including the Cape York Health Council.  He was the first Indigenous District Manager of the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area Health Service District within the Queensland Health Department, a position he held from 1992-2008.  During this time Phillip worked with local, national and international researchers to gather data to support changes to the model of health care delivered in the Torres Strait.  This was in the context of a region still facing communicable disease threats while battling a steep rise in rates of chronic diseases, particularly diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Phillip introduced a range of workforce reforms to increase the number of Torres Strait Islanders participating at all levels within the local health workforce. He also restructured all levels of health service delivery, including introducing primary health care evidence-based guidelines and practice.  At the same time he created a range of structures to involve Islander communities in health decision-making, including the formation of a District Community Health Council.

Phillip has a Masters of Public Health from James Cook University and is a PhD Candidate within the Fenner School of Health Science at the Australian National University, Canberra.  He is a Nagilgul Elder of the Kulkulgal tribe from the seafaring people of the Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait).  In 2002 he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for services to the people of the Torres Strait.