Mobility is a basic human need that is achieved through transport systems and access to a wide range of transportation options. However, factors such as geographical location and differing levels of infrastructure means that not all individuals have the means to access transport when and where required. In Australia, this ‘transport disadvantage’ is often discussed in relation to specific spatial areas – however receiving less attention is Aboriginal peoples’ experience with and access to transport.

To fill this knowledge gap, researchers from the UNSW School of Population Health co-led a project to explore the experiences of older Aboriginal people in navigating transport systems. This qualitative research was conducted within a decolonising framework using Indigenous research methods. Participants were invited to participate by the co-ordinator of the partnering Aboriginal Elder’s Group and interviewed about various topics including their participation in activities and their use of transportation. 

Participants described the cognitive labour required to decipher the rules of the transport system and organise commitments to match the scheduling of transport services. They also experienced stigmatising attitudes and condescending treatment from service professionals and the public when traveling.

“When older Aboriginal people are unable to travel when and where needed without difficulty, this can have trickle down effects on the entire community. This is because older Aboriginal people play pivotal roles in maintaining the wellbeing of their families and communities and have important cultural responsibilities to fulfill that require their mobility, such as volunteering at schools or attending committee meetings” says lead author Tracey Ma, Scientia PhD Scholar at the UNSW School of Population and Health and member of the UNSW Ageing Futures Institute.

“By bringing to light the structural and interpersonal barriers to older Aboriginal people’s mobility, this study provides an Indigenous-centred view of the accessibility of transportation options in society. Given Sydney’s rapid growth, and the growth of its large urban Aboriginal population, it is crucial that steps are taken to better serve Aboriginal people’s transport needs, otherwise we will be further entrenching existing patterns of exclusion and inequity.”

Read the full publication here