Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service logo

Our Story

Learn where the IAMS began and the journey along the way.

It all began in 1983 in a small tent at Coomaditchie, operating as a branch of the Far South Coast Aboriginal Service – Nowra.

The space of 40 years has seen the IAMS come a long way. The IAMS would like to acknowledge the staff that work tirelessly, our clients that continue to be supportive while we continue to improve our services, as well as our funding bodies that provide us the funds to ensure our services and programs are possible

Artwork by Jasmine Sarin


The initial service provided the local community with a doctor one day a week, through an arrangement with Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service.


In June 1984 the IAMS was incorporated, and with this came the first success in obtaining funding grants. The Service moved to a small house in Church Street, Wollongong, and despite a few set backs and financial challenges, by June 1986 it was able to purchase essential equipment, and employ a receptionist, an administrator, and a doctor five days a week.


In 1987 the IAMS gained financial assistance from NSW Health Department, and with the assistance of further grants, was able to supply a dental service two days a week, as well as employ a Drug and Alcohol Worker, Public Health Worker, and Assistant.


This expansion meant the Service was fast outgrowing its premises. Numerous applications for funding to purchase new premises were submitted, with no success, until 1994, when a grant was finally obtained from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. This grant enabled the purchase of the block of land next door to the Church Street premises, and the construction of a new, purpose-built facility, at the cost of $1.8 million.


In January 1998 the IAMS opened its new premises at 150 Church Street to the Illawarra community. The Service continued to expand, with the introduction of a wide range of new services (such as Substance Misuse, Psychology and Counselling, Men’s Health) and the further enhancement of existing services.


Such enhancement led to the need for the Substance Misuse Service to move to separate premises not far from the IAMS site, on Keira Street. However, by late 2004 these premises became unsuitable for this fast developing service, and larger premises were sought in Dapto for both the Substance Misuse Service, as well as many of the other services provided by the IAMS. This led to the IAMS being able to offer services from both the Wollongong and Dapto branches.


Unfortunately the Dapto branch was closed in 2020 and all health, community, dental and transport services now operate from the Wollongong IAMS site on Church Street.


Today, the IAMS continues to strive towards developing and enhancing new and existing services in an ongoing endeavour to better the overall health and social wellbeing of the Illawarra Indigenous community.

learn more about the IAMS and contact us if you would like to get more involved.