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Evaluating a community of practice for Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing

Meriba buay – ngalpan wakaythoemamay (We come together to share our thinking): Evaluating a community of practice for Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing

Meriba buay – ngalpan wakaythoemamay is an evaluation study that addresses community capability and the social determinants of health. The aims of the project include:

In May 2017, Associate Professor Felecia Watkin Lui convened a Torres Strait Islander researcher workshop to provide input into research agendas such as the NHMRC Roadmap 3 and the review of the values and ethics guidelines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. The workshop brought together 12 Torres Strait Islander researchers from the Torres Strait, Cairns, and Brisbane with expertise across multiple disciplines, plus representatives from the NHMRC and the Wuchopperen Health Service. Key outcomes from the workshop included:

  1. Identifying concerns about the social determinants of health and wellbeing of Islander people in the Torres Strait and mainland
  2. Limited visibility of an evidence-base to support effective decision making for Torres Strait Islander people given the amount of research and reporting on Indigenous Australians
  3. The growing pool of early career Torres Strait Islander researchers with the combined expertise to lead research and knowledge translation (KT) for Torres Strait Islander communities.

From this workshop, the Torres Strait Islander researchers and community members identified the need for an evaluation study of a sustainable model of Knowledge Translation (KT) for Torres Strait Islander peoples. This would be undertaken by implementing and evaluating a multi-disciplinary Community of Practice (CoP) that focusses on the social determinants of health and wellbeing, henceforth, Meriba buay – ngalpan wakaythoemamay (We come together to share our thinking): Evaluating a community of practice for Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

The leadership behind the project consists of Torres Strait Islander Mid and Early Career Researchers and Higher Degree research students from a range of disciplines and organisations including JCU, UQ, Monash University, Queensland Health and CSIRO. This core makes up the Torres Strait Islander CoP members who are also uniquely placed as the research participants. The project furthermore establishes a network of Indigenous academics and mentors including Professors Martin Nakata, Yvonne Cadet-James and Komla Tsey.

This project adopts a Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach. The PAR cycle commonly revolves around four steps that will be followed in our project: plan, act, observe and reflect. These steps form a continuous quality improvement process and are reflected in the activities of the project. The research will have a number of phases including the research participants being interviewed during the time of the CoP, with small knowledge translation activities as relevant to the CoP; and two knowledge translation events for the community (in Cairns and Thursday Island).

The expected outcomes of the project include:

Update – August 2018

Both research and experiential knowledge (i.e. personal knowledge, traditional knowledge, cultural knowledge) need to be mobilised and made more accessible to support the empowerment of Torres Strait Islanders to develop solutions to complex environmental and social problems. This work aims to enhance social capital through the translation of knowledge about adaptability and resilience initiatives and strategies to address complex environmental and social concerns relating to Torres Strait Islander people. The project does this by applying the framework: Know the Risk, Own the Risk and Flip the Risk. This framework also underpins the projects two Knowledge Translation (KT) events.

The first KT event was held on 11 July 2018 at the opening night of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF). It included a short performance piece, “Woer Wayepa—The Water is Rising” directed by (former Lowitja Institute scholar) Margaret Harvey and Jo Ze Sparks. The performance speaks of a future when our Torres Strait Island communities have been swallowed by the waters that surround them – “It's 2050 and a tidal surge has sunk the last of our Torres Strait Island homes beneath the depths of the rising sea. Culture clings to a lifebuoy... Is there anybody out there?”. Photos from the event below, courtesy of Sanchia Shibasaki and Juanita Sellwood.

The KT event also involved:

Project video:

Thank you to all artists and photographers featured in this video. Thanks also to the Japan Meteorological Agency for use of the initial image of the globe based on stunning time lapse video of Earth from space ( and to the Torres Strait Island Regional Council of use of an image of rising sea levels. Video produced and directed by the Jo Ze spArks.

Related resources:
Project leader

Felicia Watkin Lui

Administering institution:

James Cook University

Completion date: