Special Populations and Clinical Settings

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Aboriginal Australians continue to experience serious inequality compared to the general population. The Indigenous people we work with experience chronic and complex problems, interpersonal and institutional racism, and barriers to accessing care.

Given the over-burden of health inequality and risks for a worsening future, research that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people must not be ‘added on’ to others’ work – it must be a focus of our research activity. Research into Aboriginal health spans each of the research themes of UNSW Medicine. To achieve the integration of this research into healthcare, we believe that Aboriginal leadership and culture must be at the centre of all activities.

Aboriginal health is defined not just as the physical wellbeing of the individual, but the social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of the whole community. The health of individual Aboriginal people is inextricably linked to capacity of the health and other systems to meet their needs appropriately. Thus our research and translation activities span primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and individual, family, community, services and systems levels and build capacity of others to do so.

We aim to research with Aboriginal communities, not on or for. Aboriginal communities have seen many researchers come and go, creating and then dissipating trust. We are trying to create a stream of sustained work involving a group of committed, knowledgeable and engaged researchers who can build the deep relationships with Elders, leaders and community members that are required to generate change.

Our Aboriginal research capability comprises local, national and international leaders in basic sciences, clinical, public and allied health, with proven expertise in driving top-quality clinical care, research and education. It includes Aboriginal Elders and community representatives, researchers, policy makers, educators, program deliverers, service leaders, and Peak Body members.

Together, we are working to:-

  • Build Aboriginal leadership and perspectives, to ensure research, practice and community needs are aligned
  • Audit and benchmark integrated, holistic models of care
  • Lead in the development and dissemination of innovative research methodologies and tools
  • Implement effective workforce development programs
  • Translate best practice into policy environments
  • Stimulate opportunities for further research.

UNSW is the only NSW-based essential partner of the CRC in Aboriginal Health, known also as the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s National Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research.

Members of our team have collectively and individually led innovations and improvements for over two decades across Aboriginal health research, education and practice. We have worked across all levels of healthcare and in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs), government departments and clinical settings. We have contributed to state and federal policies, including the current National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan and its implementation, and hold Advisory roles on government agencies such as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Our impact will be to mobilise capacity in and between multiple worlds: Aboriginal communities and non-Aboriginal service providers; researchers and practitioners; and in professional and community settings.