The aim of this new research is to describe the health, early learning and service context of these urban Aboriginal children from age 5 to 9 years.

Project Status

Completed Projects

Chief Investigators

Elizabeth Comino, Elizabeth Denney-Wilson, Rebekah Grace, Mark Harris, Elizabeth Harris,Lisa Jackson Pulver, Bin Jalaludin, Lynn Kemp, Kelvin Kong, Catherine McMahon, Peter Smith

Associate Investigators

Jennifer Knight (Senior Research Fellow), Vana Webster (Research Associate), Cathy Kaplan (Research Fellow), Sheryl Scharkie (Research nurse), Jane Anderson (Project officer)


The Gudaga Study is a unique study of Aboriginal children in an urban environment on the eastern seaboard of Australia. Children were recruited at birth (October 2005 – May 2007). Children have been followed up at 6-monthly intervals to age 5 years and more than 80% are still in the study. The aim of this new research is to describe the health, early learning and service context of these urban Aboriginal children from age 5 to 9 years. Detailed longitudinal data on Aboriginal children's early life experiences have not previously been collected in an urban setting.

It is the first time a study of this nature has been conducted.


The aim of this research is to describe the health, development, and early educational attainment, family environment and service context of urban Aboriginal children (age 5 to 9 years) and explore the extent to which these interact.

Our research will provide an in depth description and understanding of:

1. Patterns of health (illness; dental, eye and ear health; injury; nutrition, growth, and obesity);

2. Development (including gross motor, personal social, language and communication);

3. Early educational attainment;

4. Risk and protective factors for health, development and education for these children;

5. Mother/carers’ understanding of the health needs of their children, their use of health services;

6. The extent to which home environments support children’s health and development; and

7. The service context in which families live, including an audit of local services and examination of culturally appropriate practice and models of service delivery.

Design and Method

Previous NHMRC funding identified 178 Aboriginal infants born between October 2005 and May 2007, established a birth cohort of 149 infants at 2-3 weeks, and is following up these children until age 5 years. Currently, 3-year data collection is completed and collected data from 122 children, retention of 82%.

This proposed research builds on our current methodology. Current Gudaga children and their mothers/carers will be recruited. Participation will involve data collection at 6-monthly intervals, a health and development assessment at age 7 and 9 years, and extraction of administrative health and education data. Gudaga children turn 9 years between October 2014 and May 2016.

The research recognises and implements Aboriginal frameworks for reciprocity, respect, equality and responsibility. The study will be conducted in a culturally safe environment through the involvement of Aboriginal research staff and behaviour that maintains coherence of Aboriginal values and cultures.

The study is strongly embedded within the local Aboriginal community; data collection will be led by an Aboriginal project officer who has strong networks to support ongoing data collection; mothers of participating children will continue to participate in the research; and the researchers work closely with the Aboriginal community and their representatives to discuss the study findings and to use these to inform development of services.

Key Publications

Comino E, Jackson Pulver L, Knight J. Response to: The health of urban Aboriginal people: insufficient data to close the gap [Letter]. Medical Journal of Australia 2011;194(5):270.

Craig P, Knight J, Comino E, Webster V, Jackson Pulver L, Harris E. Initiation and duration of breastfeeding in an Australian Aboriginal community in south western Sydney. Journal of Human Lactation 2011;27(3):250-61.

McDonald J, Comino E, Knight J, Webster V. Developmental progress in urban Aboriginal infants: a cohort study. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. Published Online 7 Apr 2011.

Comino E, Knight J, Webster V, Jackson Pulver L, Jalaludin B, Harris E, et al. Risk and protective factors for pregnancy outcomes for urban Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal mothers and infants: The Gudaga cohort. Maternal and Child Health Journal. Published online 20 April 2011.

Robinson P, Comino E, Forbes A, Webster V, Knight J. Timeliness of antenatal care for mothers of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal infants in an urban setting. Australian Journal of Primary Health. Published online 21 Oct 2011.

Comino E, Craig P, Harris E, McDermott D, Harris M, Henry R, et al. The Gudaga Study: establishing an Aboriginal birth cohort in an urban community. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2010;34:S9–S17.

5 Bennett B, McDonald J, Knight J, Comino E, Henry R. Assessing development of urban Aboriginal infants. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 2010;46:384–91.

Knight J, Comino EJ, Harris E, Jackson Pulver L. Indigenous research: A commitment to walking the talk: The Gudaga Study: an Australian case study. J Bioethical Inquiry 2009;6:467-76.

Knight J, Comino E, Harris E, Jackson Pulver L, Anderson C, Craig P (2008). What the chicken money bought: researching with our local Aboriginal community. Sydney: Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation. Occasional Paper 1.

Knight J, Comino E, Harris E, Jackson Pulver L, Anderson C and Craig P (2007) “The Gudaga Project: researching with our local Aboriginal community” in Williamson A and De Sousa R Researching with Communities. Auckland: Muddy Creek


Jennifer Knight Email:

Key Partners

Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation; South Western Sydney Local Health District; University of NSW including the Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit



Project lead centre
Project stream
Action for Equity
Project start date
Project end date