27 May 2024

It is well known that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ conceptions of health and wellbeing and life experiences differ vastly from mainstream populations.

The strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures carry forward enduring resilience and adaptation in the face of complex trauma stemming from colonisation, dispossession and prejudiced policies and climate change. Despite statistical disparities, Indigenous young people possess immense potential and talents often overlooked. With proper support and opportunities, they exhibit remarkable determination, paving the way for a brighter future and increased engagement with health determinants.

Realising these potentials requires research reform.

According to Professor Roxanne Bainbridge, Deputy Director of the University of Queensland Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, the techniques widely used to monitor and measure changes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations are wrongly built off the understandings and experiences of the general population.

In 2017, Professor Bainbridge received an NHMRC Career Development Fellowship and pursued a range of projects about resilience. One of the projects focused on improving the environment for boarding schools in North Queensland. It involved a multidisciplinary team including experts in youth mental health and resilience. The project led to training for staff, knowledge sharing forums, and the implementation of resilient strategies in schools.

‘We need to develop more culturally sensitive tools to measure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and wellbeing,’ said Professor Bainbridge.

‘Standard instruments should only be used with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations if they have been subjected to a rigorous cross-cultural adaptation process and psychometric evaluation in the target population to ensure their validity,’ she said.

For Professor Bainbridge, conducting research to align with the views and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, have been key pillars of her career.

Professor Bainbridge credits mentors in her early career for paving her way into science. These include Professor Yvonne Cadet-James and Dr Felecia Watkin Lui, both very well-known leaders in national Indigenous research reform.

‘They helped map out my career, shared their research experiences and told me I should do something about it,’ she laughs.

‘I was always curious as to why some people could flourish in life and others couldn't. So I did my PhD on Aboriginal women's agency and documented what people need to flourish in life and make things work,’ said Professor Bainbridge.

‘I’ve been really keen ever since to develop constructive critiques and alternate narratives so that Aboriginal biomedical science can align with the views and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,’ said Professor Bainbridge. 

‘It’s so important to bring the community together for research and to overcome the challenges in interpreting data. But often, due to a lack of investment, this doesn’t happen. I want to change that.’ 

Professor Bainbridge’s findings have contributed to several policy updates and new initiatives, including Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equity Framework, Making Tracks Together.

Next steps

Professor Bainbridge and her team are currently developing a patient reported experience measure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations; a need noted at the highest levels through the Royal Australian College of General Practice (RACGP) and Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC). She is also continuing her focus on research impact, developing tools to plan, monitor and measure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research impact for a number of agencies and organisations.

CIA

Professor Roxanne Bainbridge

Institution

Central Queensland University

Research title

Developing an evidence-based intervention and tools to assess and predict risk, protective and promotive factors of psychosocial resilience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents: A mixed methods program of research 

Acknowledgement

Professor Komla Tsey (mentor

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