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


Project Aim and Objectives 


  • Evaluate how a Community of Practice (CoP) can best assist Torres Strait Islander researchers and community members to build research knowledge translation capability. 
  • Enhance social capital through the mobilisation of knowledge about adaptability and resilience initiatives and strategies to address natural environment concerns relating to Torres Strait Islander people. 


  • Develop a sustainable model of knowledge translation for Torres Strait Islander peoples by implementing and evaluating a multi-disciplinary Community of Practice (CoP) that focusses on the social determinants of health and wellbeing.  
  • Evaluate how a CoP model can best assist Torres Strait Islander researchers, communities and organisations to build high quality, decision-linked and relevant health research knowledge translation (KT) capability. 
  • Assess the effectiveness of CoP activities in raising awareness of research outputs in the community. 

Project Team 

Project leader: Felicia Watkin Lui 
Administering organisation: James Cook University  
Project timeline: 01/12/2017—31/03/2019 


The project adopted the following methods: 

Participatory Action Research (PAR) approach that included the following: 

  • Systematic literature review of knowledge translation frameworks from the user perspective.  
  • Development of criteria to guide CoP membership (A CoP Handbook).  CoP meetings – face to face and video conference.  
  • International collaboration with knowledge mobilisers in Canada.  
  • Knowledge mobilisation events such as short creative performance “Woer Wayepa” at the Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair in 2018 and a Boho Interactive facilitated taster night on Thursday Island. 
  • Interviews and focus groups with CoP members
  • Development of an evaluation framework based on two complementary theoretical frameworks:  
    • Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR). 
    • Normalisation Process Theory (NPT).  
    • Implementation of the evaluation framework.

Project Findings 

The evaluation of the CoP identified the following key findings: 

Context (outer setting) – Knowledge translation (KT) has only attracted serious recognition and commitment in the last 5-10 years. Both the CoP’s host institution and CoP members’ (other) employer organisations were in the early stages of the KT journey and most people working within them had a limited understanding of its theory and practice. 

This was a network, not a CoP. A community of practice (CoP) needs to have a narrower remit and be very focused.   

  • As a network: 

    • A culturally connected group inspiring productive inquiry can be an effective way to build KT capacity.  
    • Membership requires a facilitator and/or lead.  
    • A network needs a strong, active secretariat to hold it together and achieve outcomes.  
    • With a strong common bond and commitment, and mutual respect, a network can be a successful mechanism for enhancing the knowledge mobilisation skills of its members.  
    • A network needs time (12-18 months) to develop and consolidate those skills before it can fully partner with community groups to carry out knowledge mobilisation (KM) activities and achieve impact.  
    • There is great potential for a knowledge mobilisation (KM) network to contribute to and derive benefit from international interaction, especially with other countries with recognised First Nations peoples. 
  • Effective KT requires experiential and research knowledge and allows communication with diverse audiences.  
    • Information cannot be called ‘knowledge’ until it is taken up, interpreted, accepted and leads to action.  
  • International collaboration is a valuable way of enhancing KT capacity.  
  • Performance (games-based) approaches to KT can be effective.   

Project Outcomes


  • Community of Practice (CoP) members experienced a fundamental shift in thinking about the place of knowledge translation in knowledge production. CoP members considered performance an ambitious and experimental approach to knowledge translation that required consideration of intellectual property and copyright.   

  • Torres Strait Islander audiences recognised research knowledge should be more accessible to the community to aid effective decision-making for sustainability. Knowledge translation activities also increased awareness of the need for collaboration between community sectors and services to assist Torres Strait Islanders to cope physically, psychologically and emotionally with the effects of climate change and extreme weather events and to build both personal and community resilience.  


  • The research contributes to understanding of the use of CoPs for knowledge translation in health care. It provides evidence that using mixed modalities for knowledge translation is effective in bridging the gap between two complementary knowledge systems. The  study contributes to the discourse on how researchers may more easily apply knowledge translation and enhance program development and implementation to increase the likelihood of research having a sustainable impact for communities. Thus, this study provides a platform for future research.  

Behaviour and skills 

  • Know the Risk, Own the Risk, Flip the Risk provides a holistic framework encompassing Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing. Researchers and communities can use the evidence-based framework to guide the creation, development and performance of knowledge translation activities to empower families and communities to make well-informed decisions that build resilience and help close the health gap for Torres Strait Islanders.  


  • The CoP had 2 student members, 1 Masters and 1 PhD candidate. The PhD candidate, together with CoP members, developed skills to create a Video Resource presentation tool used to mobilize the CoP’s knowledge translation journey at a number of public lectures, presentations, meetings and the Torres Strait Island knowledge translation events.   

  • CoP meetings included occasional community members from the Torres Strait and Cairns. This facilitated two-way learning, knowledge exchange and capacity building between researchers and research end-users specifically on the processes of knowledge translation, and the integration and application of traditional/experiential knowledge. CoP members built upon their interpersonal and professional skills to balance competing responsibilities (CoP roles/tasks and employment/study) and maintain effective communication within the group to achieve agreed outcomes.  


Project Video

The project team thanks all artists and photographers featured in this video, as well as the Japan Meteorological Agency for use of the initial image of the globe based on stunning time lapse video of Earth from space ( and the Torres Strait Island Regional Council for permission to use an image of rising sea levels. Video produced and directed by the Jo Ze spArks.

Related resources

The case for a Torres Strait Islander-driven, long-term research agenda for environment, health and wellbeing, K. Cheer et al. 2020, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, online, doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12979

Torres Strait Islander Researcher’s Community of Practice

Abstract for How do you do knowledge translation (KT) that works? KT Forum – April 2019

Videos of presentation and interview at the April 2019 Knowledge Translation Forum

Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land across Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.