The statistics on Aboriginal disadvantage are well-documented and well-known.

Lower educational outcomes, fewer work opportunities, higher incarceration rates, and a much lower life expectancy exacerbate the cultural fragmentation and generational trauma caused by colonisation.

Making a positive, sustainable difference to these terrible and complex circumstances is the focus of a number of projects involving UOW academics that look to add evidence-based research developed in partnership with Indigenous Australians and in collaboration between universities, government agencies and community organisations.

Whether it's in health, education, sustaining culture or enhancing self-determination, some of these projects have already made an impact in communities around the country.

The recent launch of the Ngarruwan Ngadju Research Centre: First Peoples Health and Wellbeing Research Centre within the Australian Health Services Research Institute at UOW is a new milestone in the research program of Professor Kathleen Clapham and Dr Marlene Longbottom to study and positively impact Indigenous wellbeing.

Professor Clapham has been the recipient of a number of Australian Research Council Indigenous Discovery grants, most recently to investigate unique approaches used by Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to enable community ownership of holistic health and social programs in complex community settings.

The Ngarruwan Ngadu Research Centre will be a focal point for high impact, Indigenous-led, health and well-being research and maintaining partnerships and relationships with Indigenous communities in the south coast region and beyond.

Here, we’ve curated more examples of UOW-led projects that are encouraging positive change within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from past Research and Innovation news and features.

Connecting with community, culture and Country

The Stronger Culture, Healthier Lifestyles project has been a transformative cultural journey for all involved – the children, mentors and Elders of three Aboriginal communities in the Shoalhaven region, and Dr Rebecca Stanley no less.

In 2014, a visit to the Cullunghutti Aboriginal Child and Family Centre on a typical afternoon – the centre flooded with restless kids – sparked a flourishing relationship between Dr Stanley and the Shoalhaven Aboriginal community.

Together, they have developed an after-school activity program called the Koori Kids Culture Club, connecting Aboriginal kids with their culture to remarkable effect.

Why history matters: The search for answers to epic questions

Australia’s environmental history and Indigenous heritage are fundamental to understanding the global story of human dispersal, adaptions to changing environments and interactions with the past landscapes and ecosystems.

This is the central pillar of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH), based at UOW, according to Director, Distinguished Professor Richard (Bert) Roberts.

Researchers and practitioners at CABAH are set on their quest to answer some of the fundamental questions about the history of our continent and its first people, questions that have remained significantly unexplored and unanswered – until now.

This focus also provides impetus for CABAH to be a leading training ground focused on nurturing the careers of more Indigenous researchers.

  •  New $46M Centre of Excellence to reveal 'Epic Australia' in Research & Innovation magazine 2016
  • There’s more information on the Epic Australia website, including this video exploring research using drones to study stone-walled fish traps – the largest structures built by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people - in the Gulf of Carpentaria



Stories behind the statistics

Motivated to understand the continuing disparities in health between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, Associate Professor Kate Senior’s research highlights how complex health problems require deep consideration, culturally nuanced understanding and sensitive communication.

“As an anthropologist, I’m an advocate for the validity of qualitative research and continue to provide compelling reasons why this sort of research can shed light on complex health problems. I'm committed to the involvement of young people in my research and for them to be instrumental in developing the research focus.”

This approach has borne out some important results. For example, Associate Professor Senior’s paper ‘Young, clean and safe’, which explored young people’s perceptions of safe sexual relationships, found their understandings were very different to those contained in standard public health messages.

TEDxUWollongong 2018 – Welcome to County?

Jade Kennedy, a Yuin man from the Illawarra and South Coast of NSW, has been privileged with the intimate knowledges of his peoples customs, culture and Country. He attempts to honour this legacy through the building of knowledge-based relationships grounded in respect, responsibility and reciprocity.

Jade has had a significant influence on developing understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives at UOW and in the local community, for example through the Jindaola program which embeds Indigenous Knowledges and perspectives into the curriculum.

For TEDxUWollongong 2018, we asked Jade to provide the Welcome to Country. Our conversations with him led us to understand the deeper nuances of a Welcome to Country and how Jade could provide greater perspective on the meaning of a Welcome to Country.

In his talk, Jade questions the gesture of a Welcome to Country, exploring how it can better provide meaning, respect and change.