Call for focus on Aboriginal strengths

April 15, 2013
The review found that nationwide research into Aboriginal issues has tended to describe them in terms of deficits, disadvantage and dysfunction. Credit: bloodstone/iStockphoto

Australia needs a new way to view the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with a focus on their strengths, empowerment, resilience and achievements, a new study has proposed.

A review carried out for the CRC for Remote Economic Participation (CRC-REP) project exploring the links between education, employment, health and wellbeing finds that nationwide research into Aboriginal issues has tended to describe them in terms of deficits, disadvantage and dysfunction.

CRC-REP researchers say there is a need to develop a wellbeing framework that accurately represents education, employment, health and wellbeing and the interplay between them. This framework should recognise the strengths and of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and clearly represent their own values and local perspectives.

These include issues such , empowerment, inclusive communities and resilience, which their report finds to be of particular importance to wellbeing in Aboriginal society.

"The evidence so far also suggests that wellbeing is most often achieved when strong and empowerment is combined with relevant education and available jobs," says project leader Associate professor Sheree Cairney.

She says that CRC-REP's research aims to develop a wellbeing framework that represents what is important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities in relation to education, employment, health and wellbeing – and use these indicators to measure progress.

"There is quite a lot of evidence that having a job or livelihood and good training leads to and wellbeing for the individual. We want to understand how these things tie together in the context of remote Australia, so improvements can be made in all of them," she explains.

The report adds that there continues to be a challenge ensuring true involvement and participation by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have for so long been marginalised and spoken on behalf of.

Its first recommendation is that a wellbeing framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote Australia must have strong input from the people themselves in its design, monitoring and interpretation and must represent their values, perspectives and priorities.

Secondly, it urges a move away from models that focus on deficit and dysfunction for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, towards a framework that identifies and promotes successes and strengths.

"Thirdly, we want to take a whole-of-system approach," AProf. Cairney says, adding "When education, employment, health and so on are normally considered, it is often in isolation from one another – yet all these things come together to affect the well-being of the individual, and we think it is very important to understand how that system works, so we can enhance it."

The research will focus on four key themes of particular relevance to Aboriginal people in remote Australia – kinship, empowerment, safe and inclusive communities and resilience.

The full report by Oanh K. Nguyen and Sheree Cairney is titled "Working towards an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Framework."

Explore further: Effects of chewing wild tobacco during pregnancy: study

Related Stories

Effects of chewing wild tobacco during pregnancy: study

July 29, 2011
A University of Queensland PhD scholar is examining the health effects of chewing wild tobacco plants by Central Australian Aboriginal women during pregnancy.

Human trials for Streptococcus A vaccine

February 28, 2013
Griffith University's Institute for Glycomics has launched human trials for a vaccine against Streptococcus A, the germ that causes rheumatic fever.

Academics urge government to heed indigenous language report

September 26, 2012
A group of indigenous language researchers from the University of Melbourne is calling on the Federal Government to implement a proposal to introduce bilingual teaching programs in some schools.

Sharing is caring when it comes to chronic illness

July 7, 2011
Sharing stories and health information with friends and families gives strength to Indigenous Australians living with chronic illness, a new study has found.

Recommended for you

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

Study shows cigarette makers shifted stance on nicotine patches, gum

August 17, 2017
The use of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers or nasal sprays—together called "nicotine replacement therapy," or NRT—came into play in 1984 as prescription medicine, which when combined with counseling, helped ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.