School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Research Monographs

The Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Indigenous Youth: Reviewing and Extending the Evidence and Examining its Implications for Policy and Practice
Authors: Haswell MR, Blignault I, Fitzpatrick S & Jackson Pulver L
Investigators: Associate Professor Melissa Haswell, Dr Arlene Laliberté, Dr J Nelson, Dr Ilse Blignault, Professor Yvonne Cadet-James, Ms Sally Fitzpatrick, Ms Lyndon Reilly, Ms Rachael Wargent, Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, Mr Ken Zulumovski

In 2010, Muru Marri was commissioned by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to capture the elements that led to the success programs that seek to promote the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous young people. In addition to a review of the literature, current policies and programs, the team completed in depth case studies of six outstanding programs across Australia. Amongst their extensive findings and recommendations for policy makers, the authors found several processes in common amongst the six cases studied, including building on the strengths of culture, community and family; involvement throughout by local people and the wider community; and recognition of the importance of leadership by Elders. Effective programs emphasise the strengths of young people, encourage positive behaviour and participation and support culturally appropriate self-belief and self-esteem. Programs that provide flexible opportunities for young people to discover and celebrate their Aboriginality can give them the space to heal, to create and have fun and, ultimately, to meet their personal goals. However, successful programs also recognise that change takes time and does not necessarily follow a straight line. Download Report...

Word of Mouth: Evaluation of the 'Filling the Gap' Indigenous Dental Program
Authors: Jackson Pulver L, Fitzpatrick S, Ritchie J, Norrie M, Windt U, Kennedy G
Chief Investigators: Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, Ms Sally Fitzpatrick, Associate Professor Jan Ritchie, Ms Marion Norrie

In 2007, Muru Marri was formally commissioned by Wuchopperen Health Service and the 'Filling the Gap' Steering Committee to evaluate the 'Filling the Gap' Indigenous Dental Program. We evaluated the program over the period from its inception in January 2006 until December 2007, involving a detailed literature review, in depth interviews with key stakeholders and quantitative analysis of the program's data.


Barawul Yana: Better strategies for the recruitment, retention and support of Indigenous medical students
Authors: Arkles R, Guthrie J, Sutherland S, Dance P, Dejanovic A, McDermott D, Jackson Pulver L
Chief Investigators: Dr David Sutherland, Dr Lisa Jackson Pulver, Associate Professor Sue Green

Barawul Yana is part of a larger project Footprints Forwards: Better Strategies for the Recruitment, Retention and Support of Indigenous Medical Students, which was undertaken by a consortium from Monash University, James Cook University and The University of New South Wales (UNSW) for the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing under the Rural Undergraduate Support and Coordination Program, as a Program of National Significance. The UNSW component identified the high school years as an important window of opportunity for encouraging and supporting the retention of Indigenous students through to tertiary education. The Rural Clinical School, Muru Marri and Nura Gili Indigenous Programs at UNSW investigated the opportunities for, and barriers to, Indigenous student entry into medical and other health higher education. A core component of this research was to examine the role of university-based health career residential programs in facilitating the entry of students into higher degrees in medicine and other health professions. Barawul Yana is primarily a qualitative research project drawing on the use of in-depth interviews, both face-to-face and telephone, and narratives as its principle methods of data collection. Demographic and selected quantitative data were also collected.


Why we did the work:
The University of New South Wales, as part of a research consortium with Monash University and James Cook University, undertook a project to look at opportunities for and barriers to Indigenous student entry to medical education. The UNSW project component identified the high school years as an important window of opportunity for encouraging and supporting the retention of Indigenous students through to tertiary education in medicine and other health programs.

What we did:
A core component of the UNSW research was to examine the role of university based health career residential programs in facilitating the entry of high school students into higher degrees and to understand what factors impact on student choices. This was achieved through face-to-face and telephone interviews with a number of key stakeholders and informants.

What we found and what we learned:
We found eight broad thematic areas raised by the research including, the multiple pathways students use to enter university; the influence of positive Indigenous role models; the tension experienced between being both academic and Indigenous; widespread concerns with perceptions of a stigma attached to Indigenous or special entry status; the importance of both a supportive family and culturally safe encounters with educational environments to career progression; the importance of career advisor and teacher expertise in dealing with Indigenous students and their life contexts; and the importance of encouraging Indigenous ‘visibility’ with a culture of success and achievement. What we learned was that Indigenous specific residential health career programs are a highly successful strategy for encouraging recruitment and support for higher education careers in health.

How was the Aboriginal community involved?
The Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit and the Nura Gili Indigenous Programs at the UNSW, together with the Rural Clinical School as part of the investigating team, provided the important contacts with students and other community members. Appropriate ethical approvals were sought and gained.

How will this information be used to inform policy and practice?
The Indigenous specific residential program model that is described in this research, we believe, constitutes ‘best practice’ in Indigenous student recruitment and support for careers in medicine and health. It is recommended that the university sector nation-wide endorse, develop, and where necessary, adapt this model of Indigenous student recruitment and support for promoting careers in medicine and other health professions.

Implications for stakeholders and future directions:
We are proposing that a partnership be established between Indigenous, educational and university sector stakeholders to address barriers to the successful promotion of health careers to Indigenous students. Some future directions include piloting of career advisor and teacher training – within a health status framework. Further, more cooperative work is needed around student attainment of the core skills needed to develop an appropriate academic/science language base for degrees in higher education, in particular, the health sciences.

Barawul Yana: the full report, is downloadable in separate chapters. Also available is a community report and a DVD of a promotional clip 'Footprints to Medicine: You can do it!' featuring music by Joel Wenitong. The DVD was produced for the Footprints Forwards project can be obtained by contacting the Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit.

Barawul Yana Community Report

The Barawul Yana Community Report looks at the experience of several groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and others involved in their education as they explore options for a career as health professionals. This community report does not replace what is said in the full Barawul Yana report, but gives a good sense of its content and importantly, tells you what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, teachers, careers advisors and Elders think works well about university and other schools programs and also what else is needed to get more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids onto a good career track.