Indigenous health study to ‘plug gaps in data’

1 November 2018

The Australian National University (ANU) is launching the largest health and wellbeing study of Indigenous adults in the country.

Associate Professor Ray Lovett from the ANU College of Health and Medicine is leading the large-scale Mayi Kuwayu study.

"We are trying to plug gaps in data because there is this mistaken perception in Australia that being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is the cause of ill health," said Associate Professor Lovett.

The cohort study will be the first of its kind to capture cultural data on what makes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people strong.

Researchers will collect data on historical policy impacts such stolen generations and exposure to racism.

"It is important because past policies likely contribute to intergenerational health and wellbeing outcomes for our mob," said Associate Professor Lovett.

"Governments and statistical agencies are very reluctant to collect and report information on that."

The Mayi Kuwayu Study team are urging all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to participate in an effort have their say in future health policy.

"The main reason for doing this study is to highlight how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identity, cultural participation and knowledge, is linked to better health outcomes," said Professor Lovett.

"For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people this concept is intuitive. We know if we maintain a connection to our country, to our languages, to strong family and kinship networks that it is good for us, but we need the data."

Associate Professor Lovett admits working on the study is personal.

"I'm a product of the stolen generations - my grandmother was taken. This has had traumatic impacts within my own extended family," said Associate Professor Lovett.

The new research aims to provide added perspectives on the reasons for inequity of health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

"My hope is that we see a day where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing policy focuses on connecting and reconnecting people to their country, or to cultural knowledge, because of the wellbeing benefits that would bring," said Associate Professor Lovett.

Participants can tell their story online at mkstudy.com.au or call 1800 531 600.

The Mayi Kuwayu Study launched in Brisbane at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Members' Conference on Thursday 1 November 2018.