Introduction to the Australian Healthcare Setting

  • In Australia, there are many ways to access health care.
  • Some services are free and others cost money.
  • Having to pay money for your health check/visit will depend on:

    • If you have insurance or not
    • You have a Medicare card (Medicare is the government-supported universal health care program in Australia)
    • If your health service is supported under the Medicare scheme

You have the right to be treated with respect and courtesy at every visit, by every staff member. For more on, see the Your Rights and Responsibilities section.

What if I have a health emergency?

  • Emergency medical treatment is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the 'Casualty' or 'Emergency' departments of public hospitals.
  • Emergency treatment may also be available at some medical centres.
  • If you or someone you know is dangerously ill and it is a crisis, call 000 immediately and ask for an “Ambulance” (emergency transport with trained health professionals). This service is free if you have a Centrelink Health Care Card (see Shifra’s Medicare and Centrelink section for more)
  • Public and private hospitals are listed under ‘Hospitals’ in the White Pages telephone directory.
  • When you go to hospital, remember to take:

    • Any medicines you are using;
    • Your Meidcare card;
    • Your private health insurance membership card if you have one;
    • your Centrelink Helath Care or Pension Consession Card;
    • Your ImmiCard

Items to take when you go to a hospital

Where do I go for non-emergency health care?

  • If the situation is not an emergency, you should seek medical help from your local doctor or medical clinic.
  • All non-urgent matters can usually be managed by your community-based doctor known as a General Practitioner, or ‘GP’, or your community health nurse.
  • Australians are encouraged to find a local GP who they can visit for all non-urgent health issues.
  • Your GP has advanced medical training and you will need to visit them first if you want to visit a specialist doctor such as a obstetrician, cardiologist or psychiatrist.
  • Most GP clinics are open Monday-Friday between 8.30am-5.00pm but some are open later and some are also open on weekends
  • Many health services can be accessed in the community for low or no cost. They may display this sign if they are free.


  • Please see the Community-Based Services section for more.
  • In Australia, men and women are considered equal before the law. This means that you may be expected to sit in a waiting room with or be treated by a member of the opposite sex.
  • You can request a doctor of the same gender as you.
  • You can ask for a health care worker or interpreter who is the same sex as you, however this may not always be possible.

What if I'm not sure if I need medical help?

  • All states and territories have telephone services that provide 24 hour, seven days a week guidance about health matters and can direct you to local health services.
  • You should always try to contact your regular family doctor first.
  • If they are not available, the services listed below have qualified nurses who can provide immediate professional advice on how urgent your problem is and what to do about it.
Service Phone Number Website
ACT HealthDirect 1800 022 222
NSW HelathDirect 1800 022 222
NT HealthDirect 1800 022 222
QLD 13 Health 13 43 25 84
SA HealthDirect 1800 022 222
TAS HealthDirect 1800 022 222
VIC-NURSE-ONCALL 1300 606 024
WA HealthDirect 1800 022 222
  • The Australian health system can feel very confusing.
  • If you need more help navigating or understanding Medicare or the health system please read or listen to the following documents. Some of these links are available in many other languages here.