Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples

Aboriginal young woman showing her mother how to use tablet, pointing at the screen

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to experience serious disparities and inequities across all dimensions of health and wellbeing due to the ongoing legacy of colonisation. These often chronic and complex issues are further impacted by racism, bias, discrimination and other barriers that limit access to culturally safe and adequate healthcare.

UNSW Medicine & Health has a record of projects with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that have led and are leading to meaningful and impactful health outcomes for our First Nations peoples.  

We strive to build equitable futures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in many ways through our research. We're growing the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers, including creating opportunities for strong Aboriginal leadership, decolonising health and wellbeing, promoting cultural safety and addressing racism and discrimination. We're also integrating this knowledge into healthcare that meets the needs of our First Nations peoples.

Research with, not on or for, communities

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concept of health is holistic: representing an interplay between the connections of mind, body, spirit, kinship, community, culture and country. Accordingly, our research takes a holistic, life-course approach to span all levels of healthcare as well as individual, family and community systems—underpinned by the social, cultural and political determinants of health. At UNSW Medicine & Health, we focus on the needs of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their priorities for health and services. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities experience many researchers who come and go, often with little or no community consultation. This creates but then dissipates trust. But UNSW Medicine & Health understands that research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples takes time and commitment. We aim to generate change, with our researchers building deep relationships with Aboriginal Elders as well as community leaders and members.

Our health research capability includes local, national and international specialists in basic sciences, clinical, population Indigenous and allied health. Our researchers have proven expertise in driving clinical care, research and education of the highest quality. Our cohort includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and community representatives, researchers, policymakers, educators, program delivery specialists, service leaders and peak body members.

Together, we're working to:

  • listen to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and privilege their voices so we can align research, practice and community needs 
  • build Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership
  • audit and benchmark integrated, holistic models of care
  • lead the development of innovative Indigenous research methodologies and culturally appropriate tools
  • implement effective workforce development programs
  • translate best practice into policy
  • stimulate opportunities for further research.

Impact

Our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has led to impact that is evident not just in these communities but more broadly across all sectors. Members of our team have collectively and individually led innovations and improvements for more than two decades across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, education and practice. We work across all levels of healthcare and in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, government departments and clinical settings. 

We contribute to state and federal policy development, including the current National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.  

Our UNSW Medicine & Health researchers also hold advisory and leadership roles on government agencies, such as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Indigenous education organisations and key peak bodies.