School of Public Health and Community Medicine

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Indigenous Health

Improving the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the lifespan ...

Over the past decade SPHCM Indigenous health has contributed to the global understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health which we see as socio-economic development that protects and enhances the environment and social justice. Through world-class innovative research, interdisciplinary teaching in Indigenous and environmental studies, advocacy and community engagement we are responding to the challenges of the 21st century for Indigenous community and our environment.

Indigenous health is a visible, active contributor to the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through research and intervention projects – particularly for urban-dwelling populations – as well as in the area of teaching, community service, publication, representation on peak bodies, and advocacy.

To Aboriginal people, health is defined as a positive concept, much more than just the absence of disease. Ill-health can be a manifestation of many things, including spiritual and emotional alienation from Land and Country, family and culture. Land and Country are central to Aboriginal people’s identity and spiritual beliefs, as is connection to family and community. Much of what we see today in the health and social inequalities now widely referred to as "the Gap" can be attributed to a lack of healing from the profound alienation experienced by Australia's First Peoples through and since colonisation.

This concept of health and well-being forms the core of our work.

The School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the University recognise the unique position of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia’s culture and history. That Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have inhabited Australia for well over 50,000 years and that their unique cultures and identities are bound up with the land and sea. We acknowledge that the Aboriginal people, the Biddjigal and Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, are the original owners of the lands occupied and used by UNSW's Sydney campuses. In so doing it is important that the special position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s First Peoples is recognised and incorporated into the activities of the School. The School of Public Health and Community Medicine seeks to achieve this through observing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural protocols and the provision of services and programs appropriate to UNSW’s Indigenous medical students and other students who are focussed on Indigenous health and wellbeing. We are proud to offer a Master of Public Health Specialisation in Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing, tailored for people interested in pursuing a career in Indigenous health.

Our team has established reputations and strong skills across the disciplines of epidemiology and biostatistics, psychometrics, cognitive, clinical and community psychology, primary health care, empowerment programs, educational research, evaluation, health promotion and community development.

The team also possesses communication, policy and teaching experience and high level research team management skills, to carry out excellent research that achieves its objectives with sound management processes within a positive, nurturing environment. We are also proud to collaborate with a broad network of bright minds committed to conducting research which provides opportunities to enhance teaching and learning and to support better policy and practice through community organisational and government networks.

image - Ebony Lewis

Ebony Lewis

Associate Lecturer
T +61 (2) 9385 3942

Ebony Lewis has come from a background of Emergency nursing with a passion for improving the end-of-life experience for older people with advanced chronic illness. She has extensive experience in geriatrics assessment and gerontology research. Ebony is currently contributing to projects on prognostic preferences in hospitals, identification of elders at risk in in residential aged care, and optimising Advance Care Planning in general practice.

See Research Profile


image - Rob Menzies


Dr Rob Menzies

Senior Lecturer
T +61 (2) 9385 3480

Rob Menzies has more than 20 years’ experience in communicable disease control, specialising in vaccine preventable disease epidemiology, evaluation of immunisation programs, and applying vaccines to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. His research interests include improving immunisation program delivery, continuous quality improvement, and the use of large routine data collections. He is a Chief Investigator in a NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Population Health - Immunisation in Understudied and Special Risk Populations, focussing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
See Research Profile


image - Telphia-Leanne Joseph


Ms Telphia-Leanne Joseph

Associate Lecturer
T +61 (2) 9385 3197


image - People


Dr Ilse Blignault

Visiting Senior Lecturer
T +61 (2) 9385 2496

Within the broad area of psychiatry/mental health, Ilse's research interests include transcultural mental health, the social and emotional well-being of Indigenous Australians, primary mental health care and telepsychiatry (e-mental health). Other broad areas of interest are global health, multicultural health and cross-cultural research methods and ethics. She works closely with the Indigenous Health group, and provides methodological and specialist content advice across a range of cross-cultural research and evaluation projects.

See Research Profile


We aim to contribute to significant improvement in healing, positive health and well-being and to developing positive approaches to social, spiritual and emotional well-being grounded on a rights-based framework for Aboriginal health in Australia.

Areas of research

Particular areas of research and service strength and focus are:

  • Epidemiology of health, well-being and illness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, including the enhancement of data quality and its use to guide policy and services;
  • Promotion and measurement of empowerment and well-being among individuals, families, organisations and communities, with a focus on youth and other key transition times across the lifespan;
  • Enhancement of Primary Health Care and Mental Health, Drug and Alcohol, Corrective and other programs and services to achieve better health and well-being outcomes;
  • Enhancement of integrative service delivery, promotion of culturally safe models of health care and promotion of empowerment and well-being among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations in contact with the criminal justice system;
  • Increasing tertiary education’s critical contribution toward a competent and empowered Indigenous health workforce with the skills and capacity to achieve positive, widespread change;
  • Promotion of environmental advocacy and well-being and assess the impact of environmental changes on population health;
  • Capture value of our own teaching and learning activities.

Our teaching Who are the programs designed for?
Our approach to teaching The Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing specialisation stream


Our teaching

SPHCM delivers innovative, interdisciplinary, flexible and practical programs that combine a solid foundation in Indigenous health with choices from a wide range of cross faculty electives. Our students develop comprehensive knowledge and skills designed to enhance their careers and enable them to play a meaningful role in a sustainable future. Postgraduate programs by coursework or research are available on campus and online.

For postgraduate students, we offer  a nested Public Health Masters stream in Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing, which supports students to progress from Graduate Certificate, to Graduate Diploma, to Masters with a project-based component that fosters a research higher degree in Indigenous Health. Two externally delivered electives form the core of the specialisation stream, PHCM9630, with a public health focus and PHCM9632 with a psychosocial focus. These courses are delivered using a blended learning approach including a mandatory residential workshop.

For postgraduate coursework students we offer:

We also contribute a variety of lectures and tutorials on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and environmental health topics in the undergraduate medicine and postgraduate public health and international health programs of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine.


Our approach to teaching

There is clear recognition of the need for respectful, strengths-based,  and empowering ways of working with each other and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, organisations and communities. Our courses offer innovative learning experiences that enable students to gain the understanding, skills and confident voice to contribute effectively to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and environmental health. Our methods are designed to stimulate transformational learning and enhance the wholistic application of public health skills and principles to virtually any health or social discipline.

You do not need to be working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health to get the most out of our innovative courses. Our continuing aim is to provide the skills and inspiration to students to learn generatively throughout their lives. A similar lens is used to assist international and domestic students to recognise their potential role and capacity to support the protection of environmental values and assets that are so important to human health and wellbeing which is a fundamental and shared tenet of Indigenous cultures around the world.


Who are the programs designed for?

These programs are targeted towards students with specific interests in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, primary health care, public and environmental health, allied health, mental health and social and emotional wellbeing, community development and to the broader sector workforce to cohesively address the physical, psycho-social, cultural and environmental determinants of health and wellbeing now and for future generations.


The Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing specialisation stream

The Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing specialisation stream offers an innovative learning experience that enables students to gain deeper understanding and necessary skills to contribute effectively to the national effort to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. This specialisation provides significant opportunities to examine Indigenous-specific content and its application in areas of the student’s own sub-disciplinary public health interest. The stream defining courses enable students to immerse themselves in active study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives of health and wellbeing. These are externally delivered using a blended learning approach and include mandatory pre-semester workshops, scenario-based learning, sourcing and critiquing research literature and program and policy documentation, as well as individual, professional and group information sharing and reflection.

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