Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are at higher risk of disease and poor health outcomes. The underlying causes are complex and multifaceted. Robust and culturally appropriate public health approaches to understand and overcome these issues are urgently required if Australia is to reduce health inequities.

The School of Public Health is committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to improve the prevention and management of infectious and chronic diseases, address discrimination, and expand access to health care.

The vision of our First Nations Cancer & Wellbeing Research (FNCWR) Program is innovative and community-driven research that supports and empowers Australia’s First Nations people and communities to achieve optimal health and wellbeing. 

Our FNCWR Program brings together national and international collaborators to actively promote the translation of research knowledge into public health policy and practice.

We seek to optimise mental health frameworks and address substance use through culturally informed models of care. Our researchers have undertaken some of the first robust, Indigenous-focused studies aiming to understand the scale of the mental health burden in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and have pioneered community-led and co-designed initiatives such as the I-ASIST suicide first aid training program. We investigate patterns of drug dependence and its links to infectious disease, detention and imprisonment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and use this knowledge to develop harm reduction and treatment programs.

  • Dr Andrew Smirnov

    Senior Lecturer
    School of Public Health
    Director (Research Training)
    Research Strategy and Support (Medicine)
  • Professor Maree Toombs

    NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow
    School of Public Health
    Assoc Dean (Indigenous Engmnt)
    Faculty of Medicine

The work that the School undertakes in this space has been invited by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community partners, who have sought a collaborative community-led approach.

Our researchers investigate access to reproductive health services and broader sexual and reproductive health needs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. This includes menstrual health and hygiene; access to sexual and reproductive health services such as cervical cancer screening, contraception and pregnancy termination; and the uptake, safety and birth outcomes for mothers who receive an influenza vaccination during pregnancy. Through culturally informed models of care, we also seek to expand testing for sexually transmitted infections and bloodborne viruses for Indigenous people who inject drugs.

  • Dr Judith Dean

    Senior Lecturer & Senior Research Fellow
    School of Public Health
  • Dr Nina Lansbury

    Division Head, Planetary Health and Health Protection & Senior Lecturer
    School of Public Health
  • Dr Lisa McHugh

    Research Fellow
    School of Public Health
    Post-doc Research Fellow & NHMRC Investigator Grant recipient
  • Associate Professor Linda Selvey

    Associate Professor
    School of Public Health
  • Dr Andrew Smirnov

    Senior Lecturer
    School of Public Health
    Director (Research Training)
    Research Strategy and Support (Medicine)

We are committed to working in partnership with Indigenous communities to achieve health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples by addressing unfair, avoidable and remediable differences in health. Our researchers tackle a broad range of issues in this field, including:

  • Investigating novel approaches to advance equitable and non-discriminatory access to health services
  • Exploring and remediating issues associated with environmental contributions of water and sanitation, housing, and remoteness on health; and the contributions of climate change to health in remote communities
  • Identifying and trialling the implementation of effective policy interventions to increase availability and promotion of healthy food in retail settings, raise awareness of appropriate nutrition, and improve food security.