The Coffs Harbour Area has an Aboriginal population of approximately 4,500 people with a large transient population. The local Aboriginal population have significant health problems, and prior to the establishment of Galambila had poor access and entry to mainstream services. There was an identified lack of culturally appropriate services in this Area, with no Aboriginal Medical Services, and a limited Aboriginal Health team.

 Galambila - The Beginning

It was realised that not one organisation could make the impact that would lead to long term sustainable change in the Health Status of the local community. A series of consultations were held with the local Aboriginal community and their Elders. Local Aboriginal organisations also provided support to change this situation.

Consultations began with the community, the communities CDEP employer, the Mid North Coast Division of General Practice (now Medicare Local), the local OATSIH rep, the regional Aboriginal Health Coordinator, and Durri AMS. This process led to the formation of a unique development process, one that has been recognised as Best Practice by both Commonwealth and State Governments – the local Aboriginal community was practising self-determination in the development of their Aboriginal Health Service.

A working party established a cooperative framework from which a partnership was developed, and The Galambila Clinic commenced operation in October 1998. Each Partner made a commitment to the development of the clinic. The Mid North Coast Area Health Service provided accommodation for the clinic, transport for improved access and Aboriginal Health Staff and the Mid North Coast Division of General Practice coordinated the employment of local GPs with an interest and understanding of Aboriginal Health issues.

The NSW Health Department and OATSIH provided seed funding for the clinic. Durri provided administrative support and acted as the auspice body for the clinic. Yarrawarra Aboriginal Corporation provided CDEP program participants to assist with clinic operations such as transport and administrative support, & Community representatives in the form of an Advisory Committee guided the development of Galambila.

A memorandum of understanding was developed and signed by the executives of each party to the MOU. This document signing was witnessed by the then Minister for Health, Mr Knowles, who recognised publicly, the Best Practice initiative the clinic represented.


The opening of the clinic was celebrated by an open day. The local community came out in force to witness Aboriginal Cultural displays, a ceremonial cleansing of the clinic and to meet staff. Local Aboriginal artists donated items to the clinic. The opening had full media coverage of newspaper, TV and radio. A barbeque rounded the day off – just as it will today.

The growth of the clinic since it first opened in October 1998 has been consistent. The clinic commenced with provision of 3 half days per week and soon had 250 to 300 presentations per month. The clinic now operates on a full time basis with an average patient throughput of 900 GP presentations per month. Not only is the clinic attracting new patients but people have continued to return to the clinic over the past fifteen years. Galambila is also a significant recipient of State Health funding for Maternal and Child Health with the establishment of the Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Service. This program currently run through Galambila has significantly improved access to pre and post natal care and has improved rates of immunisation for our community.

Today the clinic provides Aboriginal People access to a wide range of Multidisciplinary GP, Specialist and Allied Health Services, and now Dental services. The clinic assists many clients with referral to other specialist and allied services, provides patient transports to and from the clinic and to specialist services.

The clinic now enjoys dedicated accommodation through purchase of the previous Coffs Harbour Primary and Extended Care Site. Funding on a recurrent basis has been secured to expand services to the local community. Galambila became an incorporated Aboriginal Health Service in August of 2002. The Clinic Management Committee has been superseded by a Board of Directors, comprising elected community members with the partnership as a reference group.  Galambila is now an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service with a continued expansion of education and training opportunities for community members.

Service delivery has expanded from 3 GPs providing one session per week each to a multidisciplinary service now involving 5 GPs, 7 Aboriginal Health Workers. Drug and Alcohol Services, Child & Maternal Services, Specialist services, and outreach services to Yarrawarra and Ulong.  The Clinic is also a leader in the in the provision of health assessments, care planning and case conferencing for Aboriginal People attending or referred to the Clinic.

In July of 2008 Galambila became a stand alone independent Aboriginal Health Service and in October 2008 Galambila celebrated 10 years of service to the Aboriginal community. Galambila has now been providing services to the Aboriginal community for nearly 17 years.