Pathways to Resilience: The role of cultural connectedness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents

Using mixed methods, the research will:

  1. qualitatively establish the role cultural connectedness plays in negotiating the pathways to psychosocial resilience for Indigenous adolescents
  2. quantitatively determine the differential influence of risks and protective factors for psychosocial resilience, including cultural connectedness, suicide and educational engagement
  3. integrate these findings into professional practice for those who support a specific cohort of Indigenous adolescents. This cohort is compelled to leave their rural and remote communities to attend boarding school because there are no educational options for secondary school.

The research is driven by a strong balanced team of Aboriginal and non-Indigenous researchers and service providers. More experienced researchers and staff will work with and mentor more junior team members to strengthen their repertoire of research skills. Indigenous student mentors will be encouraged to conduct yarning circles and interviews with students for the project; they will be renumerated accordingly, gain research skills and partake in other opportunities across our projects.

We will take an ecological perspective of psychosocial resilience. The research will be embedded in a collaborative strengths-based approach that promotes the aspirations, self-determination and empowerment of Indigenous people and respects differences in knowledge systems and beliefs and cultural safety. It will invest in the current practices and processes of our research partners, Education Queensland’s Transition Support Service (EQTSS). EQTSS will serve as the conduit for realistic translation and implementation of new knowledge generated from the study.

The key is maximising opportunities for Indigenous adolescents to engage in healthy, productive lives and meaningful futures by supporting their healthy psychosocial functioning in times of great adversity i.e. transitioning to boarding school. The research will benefit Indigenous communities and health and education service providers by:

  1. strengthening capacity of service providers to understand and respond to student needs based on their own cultural perspectives
  2. developing resilience strategies and new tools to guide and monitor these processes - the knowledge generated will provide evidence and guidance on effective, acceptable and practical strategies to implement innovations (tools and interventions) for the some 600 transitioning Indigenous students in Queensland alone. 

It will directly assist EQTSS to improve its current response to identifying student need through a preventative focus and early intervention. By using continuous qulity improvement (CQI) processes, the skills and knowledge-base of EQTSS staff to implement interventions to support student psychosocial resilience will increase. For Indigenous students and their families, the main benefits will be students’ opportunities to strengthen resilience, and take better control of risk factors in their lives that align with their aspirations and values. For Education Queensland and health services, the improved response to preventing risk and enhanced workforce capacity will likely to lead in the medium term to a new service model and improved student health and wellbeing and educational outcomes resulting from changes in individual behaviour and socio-environmental conditions. This model could be translated into practice nationally. For governments, new knowledge will assist in identifying effective strategies to facilitate improved rollout of best-evidenced programs that account for the specific ways Indigenous adolescents interact with cultural determinants to sustain healthy psychosocial resilience.

Created: 29 July 2016 - Updated: 05 September 2016