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Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Programs

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Aboriginal Oral Health Program - SA Dental Service

Aims or brief descriptions: The SA Dental Aboriginal Oral Health Program aim is to increase attendance of Aboriginal people at mainstream dental services in South Australia through a series of policy and organisational practice changes. The Aboriginal Oral Health Program has a number of key strategies to increase access of Aboriginal people to mainstream dental services across SA, including:

·         Ensuring Aboriginal Adults are referred to SA Dental Service for free general and emergency priority dental care with no waiting lists

·         Increasing the number of Aboriginal Teenagers accessing dental care

·         Ensuring Aboriginal children are accessing dental care through a variety of referral pathways from other health professionals

·         Working with health professionals who see pregnant women regularly to increase their oral health knowledge

·         Developing a range of oral health resources for Aboriginal people

Recent policy changes have also added to the program the inclusion of non-Aboriginal women pregnant with an Aboriginal child for 1 course of care; automatic 12 month recall for clients that have accessed the Aboriginal Liaison Program and the removal of the fee waiver enables dentures and some specialist services at no cost for eligible clients.

The Aboriginal Oral Health Team is interested in building on the partnerships already developed through the Aboriginal Liaison Program to help all Aboriginal people access dental care in South Australia.

Findings: The program began in late 2005 in response to an identified need to improve oral health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in SA.  Since 2005 there has been an increase of Aboriginal attendance through the program from 60 to 4,800 people in 2014/15 and an increase of 26% since 2010. There has been an overall increase in total Aboriginal adult and children attendance for dental care in 2014/15.

Staff in the State-wide dental service and then Adelaide Dental Hospital have increased their understanding of cultural issues and Aboriginal communities and have a greater understanding of the importance of barriers and enablers for Aboriginal people accessing the service thanks to Cultural Competency Training that the AOHP run in conjunction with Aboriginal Programs of Power Community LTD. Health workers are supported to refer clients.

Reports or publications from project: The South Australian Dental Service conducts regular evaluation reports. A range of resources to support the program can be found on the SA Dental Service website.

Involved organisations: SA Dental Service; Department for Health (South Australia), Department of Health & Ageing (Health Promotion branch); Department of Education and Child Development;

For further information:  
Aboriginal Oral Health Program, SA Dental Service
180 Flinders Street, Adelaide SA 5000.
Phone (08) 8222 9003
Website link: 

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Aboriginal Liaison Program - South Australian Dental Service

Aims or Brief Descriptions: The aim of the Aboriginal Liaison ProgramLink to external website is to improve oral health outcomes for eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in South Australia by increasing the number who access mainstream dental services through a community development process. The program began in late 2005. The primary objective of the Aboriginal Liaison Program is to refer eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults for priority emergency and general dental care at one of four participating sites. Aboriginal Health Workers have been involved with referral of clients to their local SA Dental Service Community Dental Clinic based on an Oral Health Assessment. An Aboriginal Liaison Officer has been established at each dental clinic to assist with the appointment of clients. SA Dental Service staff in the pilot sites have attended Cultural Awareness Training.

Findings: Since 2005, 232 Aboriginal adults have had an Oral Health Assessment. Of these clients, 223 have been referred for priority dental care and 167 have started a course of care. Liaison Officers have attended Aboriginal community events and group meetings. Cultural Awareness Training has been provided to 68 SA Dental Service Staff.
Implementation of the Aboriginal Liaison Program has resulted in the improved oral health status for the people who have received priority dental care. The referral system’s success has been due to the strength of the partnership between the SA Dental Service and the Aboriginal Community Health Services. Liaison Officer Staff have helped to increase confidence in mainstream dental services. Further improvement will be achieved by continuing work in the existing sites, expanding to other areas of the SA Dental Service and consulting further with local community members.

Involved Organisations:

  • SA Dental Service
  • Parks Community Health Care Centre
  • Port Adelaide Community Health Care Centre
  • Muna Paiendi Health Service
  • Noarlunga Health Care Centre
  • SA Aboriginal Sports Training Academy

Contact Person for Further Information:

For further information:
Aboriginal Oral Health Program, SA Dental Service
180 Flinders Street, Adelaide SA 5000.
Phone (08) 8222 9003
Website link:

Rural Health Education Foundation - Open Wide: Oral Health in the Bush, 2008 (Video Presentation)

The Open Wide: Oral Health in the Bush Video RecordingLink to external website explores the special circumstances faced by people living in rural and remote areas, where dental workforce shortage is particularly acute. It highlights the need for expanded primary health care services, including preventive approaches to good oral health, and broad-based oral health promotion activities.

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Oral Health Promotion Clearinghouse Unit

Adelaide Dental School 
Level 9, Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences building 
The University of Adelaide


T: +61 8 8313 3291