Indigenous Multi-Disciplinary Health Research Coalition
(University of Wollongong Global Challenges Program)
Duration: January 2014 – December 2014
The overarching goal of this 12 month pilot project was to establish an Indigenous led research multi-disciplinary collaboration of UOW researchers and local Aboriginal community organisations, with the aim of developing a broad social health research agenda that addresses the social determinants of Indigenous health within a regional context. The project was intended to serve as a model for urban Aboriginal communities nationally and internationally. The main objectives were: to develop a baseline understanding of the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Aboriginal communities; to host an event that would bring together Aboriginal community stakeholders with the UOW research team; and to develop the capacity of the local Aboriginal community to engage in research.
What we did
The coalition brought together researchers from across three UOW faculties (Business, Science, Medicine and Health, and Social Sciences) and three research institutes (AHSRI, IHMRI and ESRI). Using existing data sources the group compiled baseline data and produced a report, ‘Illawarra Aboriginal Community Profile: a snapshot of an urban Aboriginal community’, providing an overview of the demographic, socioeconomic and health profile of the regional Aboriginal population and identifying some of the strengths of the community, notably the Aboriginal community controlled organisations.
The Global Challenge project was based on the premise that Aboriginal people are the experts in their own communities and know what questions should be asked and the appropriate protocols for conducting research. To help enhance the ability of the Aboriginal community to engage meaningfully in research a series of research training workshops were conducted by team members with staff of the Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service. The team also developed a guideline, ‘Aboriginal Health Research and Evaluation: Understanding the Difference’, aimed at assisting University of Wollongong researchers to undertake ethical research with Aboriginal communities in the region.
In December 2014 AHSRI hosted a Community Research Forum to share the information compiled in the ‘Illawarra Aboriginal Community Profile’ report and to discuss the research priorities of the Illawarra Aboriginal community. Invitations were issued to Aboriginal community members from a range of local organisations and around 30 participants attended. Forum participants expressed a strong interest in developing a program of collaborative and community based participatory research between University researchers and community organisations around the theme of ‘Caring for Community’. There was a particular interest in documenting and evaluating the impact of local Aboriginal organisations. Further applications for funding have been made to further develop the research program in 2015.
Participants at the Community Research Forum, held at AHSRI in December 2014