Balaratnasingam, S., Chapman, M., Chong, D., Hunter, E., Lee, J., Little, C., Mulholland, K., Parker, R., Watson, M., & Janca, A. (2019). Advancing social and emotional well-being in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians: clinicians’ reflections. Australasian Psychiatry, 27(4), 348-351.
Objective: An expert reference group met on four occasions to consider ways forward in terms of Indigenous mental health. This paper summarises the discussion and recommendations. Conclusion: While the negative effects of colonisation and trans-generational trauma continue, we propose renewed emphasis on improving access, cultural orientation and trauma-informed care, and a focus on the needs of young Indigenous Australians.
Butler, T.L., Anderson, K., Garvey, G., Cunningham, J., Ratcliffe, J., Tong, A., Whop, L.J., Cass, A., Dickson, M., & Howard, K. (2019). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s domains of wellbeing: A comprehensive literature review. Social Science and Medicine, 233, 138-157.
There are significant health and social disparities between the world’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous people on factors likely to influence quality of life (QOL) and wellbeing. However, these disparities in wellbeing are not captured in conventional QOL instruments, as they often do not include dimensions that are likely to be relevant to Indigenous people. The objective of this comprehensive literature review was to identify these wellbeing domains for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia (hereafter, respectfully referred to collectively as Indigenous Australians). We searched PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Econlit, CINAHL, and Embase (from inception to June 2017, and updated in March 2019), and grey literature sources using keywords relating to adult Indigenous Australians’ QOL and wellbeing. From 278 full-text articles assessed for eligibility, 95 were included in a thematic analysis. This synthesis revealed nine broad interconnected wellbeing dimensions: autonomy, empowerment and recognition; family and community; culture, spirituality and identity; Country; basic needs; work, roles and responsibilities; education; physical health; and mental health. The findings suggest domains of wellbeing relevant to and valued by Indigenous Australians that may not be included in existing QOL and wellbeing instruments, domains that may be shared with Indigenous populations globally. This indicates the need for a tailored wellbeing instrument that includes factors relevant to Indigenous Australians. Developing such an instrument will ensure meaningful, culturally-relevant measurement of Indigenous Australians’ wellbeing.
Cairney, S., Abbott, T., Quinn, S., Yamaguchi, J., Wilson, B., & Wakerman, J. (2017). Interplay wellbeing framework: A collaborative methodology ‘bringing together stories and numbers’ to quantify Aboriginal cultural values in remote Australia. International Journal for Equity in Health 16(68), 1-13.
Background: Wellbeing has been difficult to understand, measure and strengthen for Aboriginal people in remote Australia. Part of the challenge has been genuinely involving community members and incorporating their values and priorities into assessment and policy. Taking a ‘shared space’ collaborative approach between remote Aboriginal communities, governments and scientists, we merged Aboriginal knowledge with western science – by bringing together stories and numbers. This research aims to statistically validate the holistic Interplay Wellbeing Framework and Survey that bring together Aboriginal-identified priorities of culture, empowerment and community with government priorities including education, employment and health. Method: Quantitative survey data were collected from a cohort of 842 Aboriginal people aged 15-34 years, recruited from four different Aboriginal communities in remote Australia. Aboriginal community researchers designed and administered the survey. Results: Structural equation modeling showed good fit statistics (χ/df = 2.69, CFI = 0.95 and RMSEA = 0.045) confirming the holistic nature of the Interplay Wellbeing Framework. The strongest direct impacts on wellbeing were ‘social and emotional wellbeing’ (r = 0.23; p < 0.001), ‘English literacy and numeracy’ (r = 0.15; p < 0.001), ‘Aboriginal literacy’ (r = 0.14; p < 0.001), ‘substances’ (lack thereof; r = 0.13; p = 0.003), ‘work’ (r = 0.12; p = 0.02) and ‘community’ (r = 0.08; p = 0.05). Correlation analyses suggested cultural factors have indirect impacts on wellbeing, such as through Aboriginal literacy. All cultural variables correlated highly with each other, and with empowerment and community. Empowerment also correlated highly with all education and work variables. ‘Substances’ (lack thereof) was linked with positive outcomes across culture, education and work. Specific interrelationships will be explored in detail separately. Conclusion: The Interplay Wellbeing Framework and Survey were statistically validated as a collaborative approach to assessing wellbeing that is inclusive of other cultural worldviews, values and practices. New community-derived social and cultural indicators were established, contributing valuable insight to psychometric assessment across cultures. These analyses confirm that culture, empowerment and community play key roles in the interplay with education, employment and health, as part of a holistic and quantifiable system of wellbeing. This research supports the holistic concept of wellbeing confirming that everything is interrelated and needs to be considered at the ‘whole of system’ level in policy approaches.
Clark, Y., Augoustinos, M., & Malin, M. (2017). Coping and prevention of lateral violence in the Aboriginal community in Adelaide. The Australian Community Psychologist, 28 (2), 105-123.
Lateral violence describes how members of oppressed groups direct their dissatisfaction inward. This inward deflection has been associated with the Aboriginal community in Adelaide, South Australia and has shown to be destructive. Interviews with 30 Aboriginal participants examining their ways of dealing with and strategising to prevent lateral violence in the community have been presented in a thematic analysis. Overall seven major interpretive themes emerged from these interviews: education is central; support provides unity; champions and role models are essential; culture and identity are empowering; avoidance of Aboriginal spaces by Aboriginal people can be protective; lateral violence can be challenged; and positively reinterpreted. Given that many participants drew on a number of coping strategies to deal with lateral violence, it is hoped that such information will benefit individuals, community, governments and funding agencies to support future research, education and services within communities in order for Aboriginal people to heal and prevent lateral violence.
Hill, N., & Murrary, K. (2020). Psychological sense of community and values: Understanding attitudes towards people seeking asylum and Australia’s First Nations people. Australian Psychologist, 1-14.
Objective:Discrimination and prejudice have significant implications for individuals and communities and are prevalent throughout the world towards marginalised groups. This study investigated the role of psychological sense of community (PSOC), values of self‐transcendence and openness‐to‐change, and demographic variables, with attitudes towards two different groups in Australia. Method:A convenience sample of adults living in Australia (N = 396) was randomly assigned to complete one of two online surveys; reporting on their attitudes towards Australia’s First Nations People (N = 198), or towards people seeking asylum (N = 198). The study assessed the extent to which a PSOC (in reference to local, national, and global communities), self‐transcendence, and openness‐to‐change, predicted attitudes towards the two groups. Results:Self‐transcendence and psychological sense of global community consistently predicted attitudes towards both groups, with psychological sense of global community partially mediating the relationship between self‐transcendence and attitudes. Bivariately, those holding a stronger local psychological sense of community reported more positive attitudes towards people seeking asylum, whereas those holding a stronger psychological sense of national community reported more positive attitudes towards Australia’s First Nations People. However, in multivariable regression models with self‐transcendence and demographic characteristics, only a higher psychological sense of national community significantly predicted more negative attitudes towards people seeking asylum. Conclusions:This research suggests that where people have a strong sense they are part of a global community they hold more positive attitudes towards people from various cultures both near and far. The research has implications for social cohesion and social policy.
Hunter, E. (2020). Indigenous mental health: The limits of medicalised solutions. Australasian Psychiatry, 28(1), 55-57.
Objective:The excess burden of mental disorders experienced by Indigenous Australians is complexly overdetermined. Social and political factors contributing to the intransigence of vulnerability are reviewed, and the wider arena of neoliberal political change considered. Conclusions:The dynamic relationship between disadvantage and mental health vulnerability requires that practitioners should be attuned to both the ‘big picture’ and ‘modest and practical ways’ to contribute to reducing the developmental embedding of social disadvantage and transgenerational vulnerability.
Jones, R. , Thurber, K.A. , Chapman, J. , D’Este, C. , Dunbar, T. , Wenitong, M., Eades, S.J. , Strelein, L. , Davey, M. , Du, W. , Olsen, A. , Smylie, J.K., Banks, E., & Lovett, R. (2018). Study protocol: Our cultures count, the Mayi Kuwayu study, a national longitudinal study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing. BMJ Open, 8(6).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are Australia’s first peoples and have been connected to the land for ≥65 000 years. Their enduring cultures and values are considered critical to health and wellbeing, alongside physical, psychological and social factors. We currently lack large-scale data that adequately represent the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; the absence of evidence on cultural practice and expression is particularly striking, given its foundational importance to wellbeing.
Kilcullen, M., Swinbourne, A., & Cadet‐James, Y. (2018). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing: Social emotional wellbeing and strengths‐based psychology. Clinical Psychologist, 22(1), 16–26.
Objective: Addressing the continued health disparities between Australia’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples requires a multi-sector approach in which the discipline of psychology has a central role. These disparities are partially driven by a lack of culturally appropriate methods of health delivery. This study aimed to explore urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ perceptions of health and wellbeing through social emotional wellbeing and strengths-based frameworks. Methods: A qualitative study was conducted with 19 urban Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Data was collected via individual semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Thematic analysis was conducted to identify strengths-based themes within the data. Results: Several attributes and values emerged from participants’ understandings of enhancing mental health and wellbeing. These included acceptance, respect, forgiveness and integrity, honesty, courage, empathy, mindfulness, and spirituality. Conclusions: There are similarities between the central tenets of the strengths and values-based frameworks and a model of social emotional wellbeing. It is important to note that these attributes and values are understood at the individual, community, and cultural level. Each of these attributes and values are intricately linked to being mentally healthy and having strong cultural identity. These similarities may provide an avenue for shared cross-cultural understandings and knowledges of mental health and well-being that will support culturally appropriate service delivery.
Macedo, D., Smithers, L., Roberts, R., Haag, D., Paradies, Y., & Jamieson, L. (2019). Does ethnic-racial identity modify the effects of racism on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal Australian children? PLoS ONE, 14(8), e0220744.
Objectives: This study investigates the protective role of ethnic-racial identity (ERI) affirmation on the longitudinal association between racism and Aboriginal Australian children’s social and emotional well-being (SEWB). Methods: 408 children from the K-Cohort of the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children were included in the analysis. Data were collected through questionnaire-guided interviews at 7–10 and 9–12 years of age. Children’s racism experience, SEWB (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire), and confounding were reported by caregivers. ERI was reported by children and dichotomized into high versus low. Generalized linear models with log-Poisson links and robust errors were used to estimate adjusted Risk Ratios (RR) for the effect of racism on SEWB domains. Effect-measure modification analysis was used to verify differences on effect sizes per strata of ERI affirmation. The presence of modification was indicated by the Relative Excess Risk due to Interaction (RERI). Results: Slightly above half (51.4%) of the children presented high ERI affirmation. Children exposed to racism and with low ERI affirmation were at increased risk of hyperactive behavior (RR 2.53, 95% CI 1.17, 5.48), conduct problems (RR 2.35, 95% CI 1.07, 5.15), and total difficulties (RR 1.73, 95% CI 0.84, 3.55). Positive RERIs indicated the joint effects of racism and low ERI affirmation surpassed the sum of their separate effects in these domains. Children with high ERI affirmation were at increased risk of peer problems (RR 1.66, 95% CI 0.78, 3.52). Conclusions: These findings suggest that ERI may mitigate the risk of poor SEWB due to racism. Fostering affirmative ERI can be an important strategy in promoting resilience in Aboriginal Australian children.
Macedo, D., Smithers, L., Roberts, R., Paradies, Y., & Jamieson, L. (2019). Effects of racism on the socio-emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal Australian children. International Journal for Equity in Health, 18(1), 132.
Background: Racism is a pervasive experience in the life of Aboriginal Australians that begins in childhood. As a psychosocial stressor, racism compromises wellbeing and impacts developmental trajectories. The purpose of the present study was to estimate the effect of racism on indicators of Australian Aboriginal child socio-emotional wellbeing (SEWB) at one to two years after exposure. Age-related differences in the onset of symptoms were explored. Methods: Data from the B- and K-cohorts of the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children were used (aged 6 to 12 years). Racism, confounding variables, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (a measure of SEWB) were collected by questionnaires and guided interviews with each child’s main caregiver. Adjusted Poisson regression was used to estimate the relative risk (RR) effects of racism on SEWB for both cohorts separately. RR were pooled in a random effects meta-analysis. Results: Exposure to racism was associated with an adjusted point estimate indicating a 41% increased risk for total emotional and behavioural difficulties, although the confidence intervals were wide (pooled RR 1.41, 95% CI 0.75, 2.07). Analyses by cohort showed younger children had higher RR for total difficulties (RR 1.72, 95% CI 1.16, 2.54), whilst older children had higher RR for hyperactive behaviour (RR 1.66, 95% CI 1.01, 2.73). Conclusions: The effects observed contributes to our understanding of the impact of racism on Aboriginal Australian children. Support for emotional and behavioural difficulties, and hyperactive behaviour, for Aboriginal children might help counteract the effects of racism. Future longitudinal research and policies aimed at reducing racism in Australian society are necessary.
Brown, N., & Brown, A. (2019). “Language breathes life”—Barngarla Community perspectives on the wellbeing impacts of reclaiming a dormant Australian Aboriginal language. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(20).
Traditional languages are a key element of Indigenous peoples’ identity, cultural expression, autonomy, spiritual and intellectual sovereignty, and wellbeing. While the links between Indigenous language loss and poor mental health have been demonstrated in several settings, little research has sought to identify the potential psychological benefits that may derive from language reclamation. The revival of the Barngarla language on the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, offers a unique opportunity to examine whether improvements in mental health and social and emotional wellbeing can occur during and following the language reclamation process. This paper presents findings from 16 semi-structured interviews conducted with Barngarla community members describing their own experienced or observed mental health and wellbeing impacts of language reclamation activities. Aligning with a social and emotional wellbeing framework from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective, key themes included connection to spirituality and ancestors; connection to Country; connection to culture; connection to community; connection to family and kinship; connection to mind and emotions; and impacts upon identity and cultural pride at an individual level. These themes will form the foundation of assessment of the impacts of language reclamation in future stages of the project.
Sutherland, S., Adams, M. (2019). Building on the definition of social and emotional wellbeing: An Indigenous (Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand) viewpoint. ab-Original, 3(1), 48-72.
This article will build on the definition of social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) used within an Indigenous health framework. We intend to distance it from its current discipline of mental health, the Eurocentric term commonly used in social science literature. This is to emphasize that, within Aboriginal (Rudder and Grant, 2005) and Torres Strait Islander, Maori, and First Nations (Canadian) languages, there is no specific word for “health.” Indigenous peoples from within these countries have a holistic view of health that encompasses the physical, mental, emotional, and environmental spectrum of wellbeing. This article therefore uses “social and emotional wellbeing” rather than the generic Eurocentric terms of “health” or “mental health” to give this a stronger Indigenous voice. The elements of social and emotional wellbeing are discussed from an Indigenous viewpoint and from extracts compiled in work undertaken by Sutherland (2017). The elements explored may offer new perspectives to others. Similarly, this article offers an explanation as to why elements are siloed within the context of mental and physical health. This has led to some parts of SEWB gaining advantages over others within policy and funding models.
Wynne-Jones, M., Hillin, A., Byers, D., Stanley, D., Edwige, V., Brideson, T. (2016). Aboriginal grief and loss: a review of the literature. Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin, 16(3).
This article is based on a literature review that was conducted in 2013 as part of the NSW Aboriginal Grief and Loss Training Project funded by the NSW Ministry of Health and delivered by the NSW Institute of Psychiatry (see Appendix, 1.). A series of workshops and resources in Aboriginal grief and loss has been developed and delivered for Aboriginal Mental Health and Wellbeing Workers across NSW, to support them with working with grief and loss in their communities. The aim of the review was to examine the existing literature, training and resources on Australian Aboriginal grief and loss, identifying areas for further research, and to confirm the need for the project. Other Indigenous literature on grief and loss was not reviewed, due to limited resources.