Wellbeing though Cultural Participation: An affirmative strategy for the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability
Project Aims and Objectives:
The aims of the project were to:
- Identify how participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in cultural and community activities strengthens their health and well-being.
- Translate the knowledge of social inclusion through culture to support sector development for culturally centred disability policy and practice.
The three core outcome objectives were:
- Undertake an analysis of statistical data which compares the cultural and community participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people without disability across a range of participation, health and wellbeing indicators and geographical identifiers (metropolitan, regional and remote).
- Interview Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability about the types of activities they participate in, the barriers to their participation, and the impact upon their wellness of their participation in cultural and community activities.
- Present the research outcomes in a data visualisation tool that is accessible to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disability community and other stakeholders in the research.
A fourth objective contained within a related but discrete knowledge translation proposal was to:
- Prepare a resource guide for the Aboriginal and Torrs Strait Islander disability community and disability services on strategies to foster the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability within community.
A fifth process objective was to:
- Build depth in the research capacity within the First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN), an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisation, through increased participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as researchers in an applied research project.
Project leaders: Professor Leanne Dowse and Dr Scott Avery
Project partners: Australian Bureau of Statistics
Administering organisation: University of New South Wales
Project timeline: 1 March 2018—31 May 2019
- The project utilised a mixed methods approach to collect data on participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in community and cultural events.
- Quantitative data on cultural and community participation was sourced from the 2014 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) dataset (ABS, 2016) and, in a process of research coproduction with the ABS, was delimited by self-identified disability status, state and regional attribute (metropolitan, inner regional, outer regional, remote and very remote).
- Qualitative data on cultural and community participation and its impact on the wellness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability was sourced through semi-structured interviews.
- A final core activity of the project was the development of an interactive, online data visualisation tool through which community-based users could access data from the research according to their specification.
The findings from the research were:
- Parity in cultural and community participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability occurs across all of the delimited geographical areas that were investigated, including: metropolitan, inner regional, outer regional, and remote/very remote areas.
- There is variation by participation in cultural and community events by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across metropolitan, inner regional, outer regional, and remote/very remote areas that is independent of their disability status. In other words, geographic region is the source of variability in cultural participation, not disability. This is a significant finding as it reinforces ‘Culture is Inclusion’ at a disaggregated regional level.
- There is a positive correlation between self-reported mental health outcomes and community and cultural participation. Participants reported that taking part in cultural activities helped them to restore balance in their lives and gave them a sense of pride and belonging. Participation in cultural activities provided opportunities for participants to teach as well as learn about culture. Intergenerational family relationships were key to participants’ introduction to, connection with and knowledge of culture. This finding addresses the central research question.
- The qualitative interviews showed that cultural and community interaction was exercised through a variety of means (for example, community events, sport, art, music groups, schooling).
- Whilst cultural and community participation was demonstrated to have an affirmative quality in supporting the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, community participation was not facilitated within consistent ‘business as usual’ strategies of providing health and wellbeing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Instead, the initiation and/or inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in community activities was reliant on the ad hoc support of a small number of people within their community, and often evaporated when the person organising the activity left that community.
- Other barriers to cultural participation included those directly associated with disability such as physical pain and mobility restrictions and the need to rely on others for transport, as well as broader social issues such as racist attitudes and discrimination, lack of finances and lack of education and information about health and wellbeing.