Approaching the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal children in rural and remote Australia from a strengths-based perspective provides opportunities for two-way learning about people and country, which needs people and the care they provide.
The Interplay project explored wellbeing for Aboriginal people in remote Australia from such a a strengths-based perspective. I was involved in this important research through my PhD study.
The Interplay Project was developed as a collaboration between the Ninti One Foundation, the Australian Government Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Flinders University as part of the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation (CRC-REP). Interplay is a scientific mapping tool that measures wellbeing holistically. The framework and indicators were designed from the ground-up over six years in Aboriginal communities in remote Australia.
The Interplay Wellbeing Framework shows how government priorities of health, education and employment interplay with Aboriginal community priorities of culture, empowerment and community.
Exploring wellbeing through the Interplay framework we learnt how Aboriginal children belong in and to remote parts of Australia, where they are an important part of the future of their communities and country. Aboriginal children may hold connections to ancestral lands, knowledge of languages of the land and resilience in the face of oppression and deteriorating government support.
Learning on country programs support intergenerational transmission of Aboriginal knowledge of land and culture, and Aboriginal language literacy, a gateway to English literacy. They enable children to access bushfoods and learn of their harvest, at a safe distance from some of the harmful influences of town, particularly alcohol and interpersonal violence.
Approaching Aboriginal child health from perspectives of Aboriginal people can overcome the deficit focus of so much of what we read and see of Aboriginal communities. Strengths of Aboriginal children and families include interdependence, group cohesion and community loyalty.
For Aboriginal families, freedom is highly valued, and provides opportunities to explore and experience the world. Such opportunities can help kids to develop the skills they need to negotiate their pathway to adulthood.
Elderly family members are important to Aboriginal family functioning. The elderly are highly respected for their knowledge, authority and family life in Aboriginal communities. This is especially important in helping kids to understand the practical aspects of life and society.
Spirituality can help Aboriginal families to cope with challenges they face. Families and communities who engage in spiritual practices benefit from a greater sense of identity and spirituality can assist individuals to connect with, support and help protect one another.