Decolonising Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care
The Decolonising practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care project (2018-2023) is partnering with five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care services around Australia to understand and establish an evidence base for decolonising practice in primary health care to address the negative health effects of ongoing colonisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The project is led by Aboriginal and non-Indigenous researchers, with service partners, and is using cooperative inquiry to establish a theoretical framework for decolonising practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care, and build an evidence base for this way of working.
By decolonising practice, we mean taking action to address the negative health effects of ongoing colonisation. This may include strategies such as:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and governance
- Employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff
- Working in ways consistent with sovereignty and self-determination
- Anti-racism strategies
- Action and advocacy on social determinants of Indigenous health in the community
- Ways of working that strengthen cultural identity and integrity
- Culturally respectful service provision within a welcoming and safe space
- Integrating Indigenous knowledges
Need for the research
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services, state government managed or community controlled, are tasked with promoting the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. At the same time, there is a wider social, policy, and political environment that is continuing to contribute to ongoing colonisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through maintaining unequal power relationships, and inequities in the social determinants of health such as employment, education, housing, incarceration, and racism and discrimination. This ongoing colonisation and inequity negatively affect the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but government policies and strategies addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health are often silent on issues of colonisation and power.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services to different extents may be able to act on the effects of ongoing colonisation – to contribute to “decolonisation” - to reduce the impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and wellbeing. Examples may include collaborating with other sectors to improve social determinants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in their local communities, advocating to governments, empowering local communities as a health promotion strategy, and employing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.
In 2020 community workshops were held at four of our partner Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care sites. This document provides a summary of feedback from community members at these forums.
Prof Fran Baum, Stretton Health Equity, University of Adelaide
Dr Toby Freeman, Stretton Health Equity, University of Adelaide
A/Prof Tamara Mackean, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University
Prof Juanita Sherwood
A/Prof Anna Ziersch, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University
Prof Annette Browne, University of British Columbia
A/Prof Deb Askew, University of Queensland
Prof Michael Kidd, ANU
Dr Kim O’Donnell, Adelaide Nursing School, University of Adelaide, and College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University.
More information about the project
Contact: Laura Bahnisch
Phone: (08) 7221 8429
Elizabeth Yanyi Close is an Anangu woman from the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara language groups. Elizabeth started painting professionally in 2007, and has been creating large scale street works and has over 20 large scale murals across the Adelaide CBD, interstate and overseas.
Above is the image she created for the project. Elizabeth says the artwork “represents the collaborative responsibility that the health sector has to contribute to decolonising health, it is about bringing our stories together, acknowledging our shared histories in order to move forward with a decolonised and growth mindset.”