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Influences on social, mental and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people

Ngadhuri-nya (To care for): Intergenerational and educational influences on social, mental and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people

With half of all First Peoples under 21 years old, we have a pressing responsibility to implement preventative interventions to reverse worsening rates of wellbeing. This project will provides a rare intergenerational perspective on children’s social and emotional wellbeing, educational outcomes and criminal justice system involvement.

This mixed-methods project brought together experienced Aboriginal health researchers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members and child development researchers, to participate in a community roundtable in inner Sydney in April 2018.

The aims of the roundtable were to prioritise research questions relating to the large, existing linked dataset of the NSW Child Development Study (NSW-CDS), and form a Working Group to progress interpretation of NSW-CDS data. UTS Aboriginal team members hosted and facilitated the roundtable, with UNSW team members presenting NSW-CDS methods, data sources and findings.

The NSW-CDS includes data about 87,000 children and young people, with linked data about parents’ health and criminal justice system involvement. Of those, approximately 6,800 are identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Descriptive statistics about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in NSW-CDS were prepared for and presented to the roundtable. A biostatistician and a research assistant supported the process of preparing, cleaning, coding, and processing quantitative data.

In order to understand roundtable participants' priority research topics about the NSW-CDS data, the nominal group technique for decision making was used, through which the many possible research questions were brainstormed and written onto a whiteboard. Participants could then cast three votes for the topics would like to see explored. The topics with the most votes were then selected for further discussion and to together decide on next steps.

Roundtable participants decided on four topics, which have subsequently been explored by the Working Group:

  1. mental health of children and young people,
  2. the influence of poverty as a social determinant of health including a place-based understanding from the data,
  3. out-of-home care, and
  4. the effects of inter-generational incarceration.

Literature reviews and quantitative analyses on these topics have been underway since the roundtable. At October 2018, the Working Group, formed by eight interested participants from the Roundtable and UNSW and UTS colleagues, has met four times with plans to continue to meet monthly.

A qualitative research project about social influences on youth mental health has also been designed, which the UTS Human Research Ethics Committee is currently reviewing.

A community report about the roundtable process was completed and has been disseminated among roundtable participants and more widely (e.g. during conference presentations).

A Knowledge Translation Plan is underway, and on track for completion in February 2019.

The Ngadhuri-nya process has illustrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in the analysis of data from large quantitative studies, and highlighted that collaboration is necessary to interpret data linkage findings, to prevent data from being decontextualised and too generalised, thus failing to take into account the great diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Expected outcomes

Project team

Related resources:

Williams, Megan 2019, The Ngadhuri-nya process for engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in data linkage research,Croaky

Project leader

Dr Megan Williams

Administering institution:

University of New South Wales

Completion date:

Expected 2019