Health and wellbeing

Why is this important?

There are many and varying factors that have contributed to the gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Local government has a particularly important role in the maintenance and improvement of the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people and communities.

Many local councils provide and/or fund services that support improved wellbeing, including Home and Community Care, maternal and child health, child care, kindergarten and immunisation.

In addition, councils are required, through the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, to protect, improve and promote public health and wellbeing within their municipality, and to produce a Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plan every four years (see the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan).

Councils also prepare more targeted plans such as Municipal Early Years Plans that can support the development of Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plans. (Read more here).

Koolin Balit is a Victorian Government strategy that commits the health system to improve the length and quality of life of Aboriginal people in Victoria by 2022. Further statistics about Aboriginal health in Victoria are available here.

Local governments are therefore well placed to positively influence the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in Victoria.

What can your council do?

The 2012 Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Engagement and Reconciliation Survey found that more than half of councils include Aboriginal specific strategies, commitments or initiatives in one or more key documents such as Council Plans and Municipal Public Health Plans. 

Councils can:

  • Work with the local Aboriginal community to identify actions for inclusion in Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plans that support improved outcomes in Aboriginal health and wellbeing
  • Develop partnerships with local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations in delivering health and wellbeing services.
  • Develop targeted actions for creating healthier communities as part of Healthy Together Victoria initiative in partnership with Aboriginal and community health organisations and other community groups.
  • Keep informed on statewide and national health strategies that impact Aboriginal families and communities, strategies such as the following: 


Koolin Balit Aboriginal Health Strategy 2018-2022

Korin Korin Balit-Djak Aboriginal Health,Well-being and Safety Strategic Plan 2017-2027

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adolescent and Youth Health and Wellbeing Report (2018)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017

NACCHO Healthy Futures Ten Point Plan (2013-2030)

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013 -2023 


Case Study | Yarra City Council 


Using an holistic approach helps to improve Aboriginal health outcomes

In an effort to enhance municipal public health planning and delivery to improve health and well-being outcomes for Aboriginal communities, City of Yarra has found an holistic approach which works by combining Aboriginal community recognition and acceptance in the delivery and sustainability of health and wellbeing.

Yarra’s Aboriginal Partnerships Officer and proud Wurundjeri Elder, Uncle Colin Hunter, along with Special Projects Officer, Daniel Ducrou, shared the inspiring work that has taken place to better engage Aboriginal communities through reconciliation, self-determination and closing the gap for health and wellbeing.

Read the full story here

Key Learnings

  • Using an Aboriginal self-determination approach to develop council policies, programs and services should be guided by the preferences and aspirations of Aboriginal communities about what these policies and programs should deliver.
  • Engagement best practice should make use of the formal and informal partnerships that already exist between councils, local Aboriginal organisations and networks and community health organisations.
  • Employing Elders in council roles facilitates voice and connection to community, enabling council to work closely with Traditional Owners as well as the local Aboriginal community. Remuneration for knowledge and expertise is essential, as is ensuring such positions are well supported by council.

Last Updated: April 12, 2021 at 4:20 pm

Useful resources

Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Inc. (VACCHO)

Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS)

Aboriginal Centre for Males (VACSAL)

Ngwala Willumbong Limited 



Case Studies

The Whittlesea Healthy Futures Project aims to reduce the prevalence of lifestyle related chronic disease and associated risk factors, such as obesity, among adults who are predominantly not in the paid workforce. One of the target groups is Aboriginal people. Strategies include the Healthy Futures Access Card which provides eligible community members with access to restricted programs and services at council owned leisure services at a discounted rate (lower than concession rates).

Beat It is a free 12 week diabetes prevention, healthy lifestyle program, designed by the Australian Diabetes Council, which involves separate groups for men and women and free onsite childcare.

The Feedin’ the Mob Project is a hands on community engagement project that delivers key health promotion messages and supports the development of health literacy and practical life skills in a culturally appropriate manner for the local Aboriginal community in the Whittlesea municipality and surrounding region.

Yarra Ranges Council with partners, Healesville Indigenous Community Services Association (HICSA) and Inspiro (Community Health), embarked on a research project to deepen the understanding of local Indigenous culture, its relationship to health and wellbeing and how this is experienced in the Yarra Ranges urban context.

The Connections to Urban Indigenous Culture research project was conducted at Healesville in the Yarra Ranges, Victoria during 2014/15.

The project offered insights into how Indigenous identity can be built through cultural participation and how opportunities for cultural participation are provided.  It highlighted the critical role of Indigenous Community Controlled Organisations such as HICSA, as providers of safe and culturally appropriate spaces for cultural renewal by providing the essential link between culture, community and health and wellbeing.  Download “The Urban Indigenous Community: Connection to Culture, Country, Identity and Health”

The Yarra City Council’s The Billabong BBQ program has run since August 2000, and continues to offer an innovative health and welfare outreach approach, based on ‘multidisciplinary outreach’. The program engages marginalised groups and links them with relevant service providers, also providing a means of social inclusion and a healthy feed.

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