The Vision

To create a sustainable, embedded Aboriginal health monitoring system in South Australia and to support Indigenous data sovereignty by making Aboriginal data accessible to Aboriginal people to use for their own purposes.

The project was formed in response to a need identified by Aboriginal people in South Australia for access to health and social data of people within their communities. The purpose of collecting the information contained in the reports was to create a resource that could be used by Aboriginal communities to inform decisions about the health and wellbeing of people within their communities.

“Let us hope that an Indigenous baby born in 2030 has the same life expectation, the same access to quality health services and the same life outcomes as non- Indigenous Australians”.

– Prof. Tom Calma AO, an Aboriginal Elder from the Kungarakan people and a member of the Iwaidja people and former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

The Aboriginal Health Landscape Project identified three aims:

      • To make data accessible to local communities; ​
      • To support local community governance through the provision of relevant, local information about the health status of their population; and
      • To inform policy development, service provision and allocation of resources and monitor these effects on health and wellbeing over time.​

The Approach

A central feature of the research was its commitment to the principles of Aboriginal involvement, ownership, and control over the data. This was realised by Aboriginal governance over the Project, through the establishment of an Aboriginal Governance Group and a Technical Panel. These bodies provided strategic and practical advice and guidance on the design and implementation of the Landscape Project.

Under the lead of Dr Odette Pearson, a Kuku Yalanji/Torres Strait Islander woman and Senior Research Fellow, the Project created 19 geographical ‘Landscapes’ based on where Aboriginal people live and forming a large enough number of Aboriginal people to estimate a reliable statistic. The Aboriginal Governance Group developed a contextual holistic health framework to guide the analysis and reporting. The framework covered health outcomes, cultural and social determinants of health and health system performance. Administrative, registry and survey data were acquired and analysed by the research team within the scope of the reporting framework. As defined by the Aboriginal Governance Group Aboriginal data were reported in the following ways:

      • By individual Landscape,
      • By Landscape compared to the Aboriginal state average
      • Compared to the non-Aboriginal population in both the Landscape and the State.

The Outcomes

As the data was drawn together and the reports were finalised the next step was to communicate and distribute the data directly to the Aboriginal communities. This was performed in person and to relevant audiences in a way that they could engage with the information.  The purpose of which was to ensure Aboriginal people and communities had access and ownership of their data to use for their own purposes. The data are being used to inform Aboriginal health plans, community council initiatives and have been distributed to Traditional Owner Groups.

“With guidance from the Aboriginal Governance Group and Technical Panel, I hope we have been able to make data that is more relevant to local communities and that it is used by communities for their advancement. Importantly Communities now have a baseline from which to monitor changes over time”.

– Dr Odette Pearson

The reports are being made even more accessible through the creation of an App – where the regenerative design of the analysis will make it possible for new data and data sets to be included to update the existing results.

The Learnings

      • The project was a large undertaking with the primary aim to make the data accessible to Aboriginal people and communities. This first iteration of the project took a traditional approach of preparing a report for each Landscape. This was a mechanism for communities and organisations to become familiar with the availability of local data. Although, future results should be released as they become available and in different forms such as on a web portal or an App.
      • Community groups and organisations have a clear understanding of the need for data to progress their work and/or advocacy efforts. However, more work on building data literacy with both community groups and Aboriginal health services to understand what data is useful to them and in what formats, is needed.
      • There are more datasets available that were not used in these analyses due to accessibility and time constraints, such as homelessness, justice, and prisoner health. These Aboriginal data should be made available to Aboriginal communities to help inform their decision making, advocacy and monitoring outcomes in these important groups within our community.

“This is the start of long and rewarding journey as we see Aboriginal people take control and ownership of their data and how this translates to improved health and wellbeing outcomes”.

– Dr Odette Pearson

Through this grant the Fay Fuller Foundation is making a small contribution to the vital task of Closing the Gap and supporting the Australian Government’s commitment to achieving equality in the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people.

The reports discussed on this page were developed with respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in South Australia. Please be aware that some of the data used in the reports belongs to people who have passed on. Importantly, all numbers in the reports represent people who belong to families who are part of the community.

Acknowledgements

The Wardliparingga Aboriginal Research Unit and the Fay Fuller Foundation acknowledge and celebrate the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the traditional custodians of the land known as Australia. We recognise two Indigenous groups within Australia who have two distinct cultures and within these, hundreds of unique language groups. We respect the language groups who are the traditional custodians of the land covering South Australia and that they are of Aboriginal heritage. In this report we refer to Aboriginal peoples, however, we acknowledge that the data includes a small number of Torres Strait Islander peoples.