AMSANT aims to improve the health of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory through promoting and extending the principle of local Aboriginal community control over primary health care services to Aboriginal people.
AMSANT is the peak body for Aboriginal community-controlled health services (ACCHSs) in the Northern Territory and has played a pivotal role in advocating for and supporting the development of community-controlled health. A crucial factor has been its membership of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Forum (NTAHF), a tripartite health planning body that brings AMSANT together with the health departments, forming arguably the most effective health partnership of any jurisdiction in Australia.
One of the most important developments in Aboriginal community control has been in relation to comprehensive primary health care in the NT. Currently over half the Aboriginal medical services in the NT are community controlled. On the back of the demonstrated effectiveness of these services, the NT and Australian Government have united on a plan to transition all NT Aboriginal primary health care services to community control over time.
The Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT (AMSANT), John Paterson explains:
“It’s a very significant achievement that demonstrate the capacity of Aboriginal communities, even those otherwise regarded as in in crisis, to provide the leadership, governance and increasingly, the workforce needed to deliver the quality health services essential to closing the health gap.”
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What is Community Control?
According to the AMSANT Constitution, to be considered genuinely community-controlled, an organisation must:
- be incorporated as an independent legal entity;
- have a constitution which guarantees control of the body by Aboriginal people and which guarantees that the body will function under the principle of self- determination; and
- have compulsory accountability processes, including the holding of annual general meetings which are open to all members of the relevant Aboriginal community, and the regular election of management committees.
Since its inception, AMSANT has advanced a clear definition of ‘community control’ and what constitutes a Community Controlled health service. Essentially,
Community Control is the ability for the people who are going to use health services to determine the nature of those services, and then participate in the planning, implementation and evaluation of those services.
This interpretation of ‘community control’ is supported by the National Aboriginal Health Strategy’s definition which states that:
“Community Control is the local community having control of issues that directly affect their community. Implicit in this definition is the clear statement that Aboriginal people must determine and control the pace, shape and manner of change and decision making at [all] levels” (NAHS, 1989, xiv)