Project aim 

To investigate the ways in which the cultural determinants of health and well-being sustained the development of healthy psychosocial resilience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents.  


  1. 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 findings into professional practice.  

Project team 

Project leader: Dr Roxanne Bainbridge,  Senior Research Fellow, The Cairns Institute, James Cook University,  

Project partners: Education Queensland Transition Support Service  

Administering organisation: James Cook University   Project timeline: 1 July 2018—8 November 2018  


This mixed-method research used the following methodology for the research activity: 

  1. A systematic review of Indigenous adolescent resilience interventions and programs was carried out, closely followed by a survey.  
  2. Yarning circles were used to generate information which was collected for qualitative and quantitative analysis.  
  3. Knowledge Sharing Forum was used as a dissemination method to share information with the participants. 

Project findings 

The research produced two models that can be useful guides in the decision-making process and practice of those engaged in supporting adolescents’ health and social, emotional and cultural wellbeing needs, in ways that are meaningful to them. These models are: 

  • A demonstrative model that shows the structure and relationships between factors such as cultural connectedness and psychosocial resilience. 
  • A resilience pathway model for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents. 

The research findings indicate that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents are actively engaged in developing their own solutions, benefits are maximised. The research showed potential benefits particularly for Indigenous communities and health and education service providers.  

Project outcomes  



  • New knowledge on the sources and expressions of resilience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents with different knowledge holders facilitated translation of findings into practice and policy.  

  • The research activity provided opportunities for policy makers to experience for the first-time direct management with participants who had vested interests.   

  • Research also provided policy makers with new understandings of what helps and hinders Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents’ experiences at boarding schools.  

  • It provided a model demonstrating the structure and relationships between factors such as cultural connectedness and psychosocial resilience.  

  • It outlined the resilience pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents.  


  • Communities expressed their concern and expectations for their children in school.  

  • Adolescents were engaged in the research process which led to their opinions and expectations being included in school operations.  


  • The project contributed to bringing various groups (school management, communities and adolescents) together via the knowledge sharing forums.   

  • For schools, it saw a considerable shift in the way they do business, school-community engagement and the ways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are celebrated in school environment.  

  • It engendered active engagement of communities in school business and direct input into what they want they want for their children.  

  • Adolescents needs and desires were being included in the way schools operate, including practical everyday strategies such as being on committees to guide policy and practice.  

  • Adolescents who are resilient were more likely to engage in health promoting behaviours and navigate toward necessary resources to sustain their health and wellbeing in times of adversity.  


  • Professional development opportunities were held on various topics such as trauma-informed care and social and emotional wellbeing.  

  • 15 secondary school students participated in the presentation of information at the knowledge sharing forum.  

  • Aboriginal youth mentors were involved and mentored in data collection activities.  

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.