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Wellbeing through culture: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability

Wellbeing through cultural participation: An affirmative strategy for the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability

The aim of this project is to identify how cultural knowledge on participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in their community strengthens their health and wellbeing. A further aim is to translate the knowledge gained to support sector development for culturally-centred disability policy and practice.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience disability at twice the rate of the Australian non-Indigenous population. They experience greater inequality in their social, health and wellbeing outcomes compared to either the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population as a whole, or the population of people with disability (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey NATSISS). However, emerging research shows that participation in cultural and community activities by people with disability is equal to that of other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is a protective health factor.

This project extends a long-standing model of research co-production between First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW, Sydney). The project is being co-led by FPDN Aboriginal researcher, and Lowitja Institute scholarship holder, Scott Avery, Professor Leanne Dowse and Dr Angela Dew from UNSW Sydney. The project builds on well-established relationships between FPDN and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities nationally to ensure the active participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability throughout all stages of the project. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be employed in research roles, mentored and supported by the research team.

The project uses a mixed-methods ‘numbers, narrative and know-how’ approach across 3-phases:

Phase 1 – Numbers: Analysis of the NATSISS on comparative rates of participation in community and cultural activities by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Phase 2 – Narrative: Interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability on inclusiveness in community cultural events.

Phase 3 – Know-how: End-user working group including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who participated in Phase 2, and representatives of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and sector peak bodies, to co-design a set of resources/practice guides for encouraging cultural participation and enhancing wellbeing.

The project outcomes will include a deeper knowledge of the affirming role of cultural participation on wellbeing. Additionally, a practical research outcome is a set of resources/ practice guides to support community-controlled disability organisations to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability by fostering their inclusion in cultural community activities. The project will also strengthen research infrastructure through co-production and translation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.

Project leader

Professor Leanne Dowse

Administering institution:

University of New South Wales

Completion date:

Expected May 2019