New resource to improve quality of life for older Aboriginal Australians

22/07/2020 | 3 mins

Researchers from The University of Western Australia have launched a free resource package to support health professionals, aged-care providers and policy-makers to measure and optimise the quality of life of older Aboriginal Australians. The resource was launched by Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and Ben Wyatt, WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

The Good Spirit Good Life assessment package comprises of an assessment tool, framework, training guide, and recommendations informed by Aboriginal elders in Perth and Melbourne. UWA Professor Dawn Bessarab, Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health, said the package addressed current gaps in health and aged care by providing a culturally-informed approach to measuring, understanding and meeting the quality of life needs of older Aboriginal people.

Dr Kate Smith a researcher from the UWA Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health said optimising quality of life was a primary policy objective of the Federal Government to support older Australians.

The tool measures wellbeing using 12 interconnected markers of what is most important to older Aboriginal Australians. They include family and friends, connection to country, community, culture, health, respect, their role as an elder, support services, safety and security, spirituality, future wishes and basic needs being met.

“There is still a significant health divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians with Aboriginal people often needing access to aged-care services at a younger age,” Dr Smith said.

“Unfortunately in Perth and surrounds there is still a gap in culturally-informed service provision for older Aboriginal people, with limited Aboriginal community controlled aged care available.

“In addition, there are specific requirements for culturally-appropriate care that are often not properly understood, even for health and aged care providers at the coal face. This presents huge challenges for older people, their carers and families.

“For example, the health and wellbeing of older Aboriginal people is heavily based on cultural and social factors such as connection to land and family, respect from others as an elder and being able to pass down knowledge to the younger generation through the elder role.”

Dr Smith said her team worked with Aboriginal elders in Perth and Melbourne to develop the resource to understand the specifics of what matters most to older Aboriginal people living in urban regions about their quality of life.

“We also worked closely with local service providers, to ensure this resource will help increase this understanding and assist those who are providing care,” she said.

The researchers hope the valuable resource will help improve the quality of health and care for older Aboriginal Australians and offer support strategies for service providers and family members caring for them.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said he was pleased to launch the Good Spirit Good Life assessment package.

“This is important work, which has developed the assessment package – designed to help service providers, families and carers to better support the quality of life of older Aboriginal people in urban and regional locations,” Mr Wyatt said.

“In understanding what older Indigenous Australians find important, and in listening to their world views, services and carers are empowered to provide holistic support that improves quality of life and achieves better outcomes.”

The project has been made possible through a NHMRC/ARC Demetia Research Fellowship and from a grant provided by the Poche Indigenous Health Network.

Media references

Dr Kate Smith, UWA Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health, 0448 297 578

Jess Reid, UWA Media and PR Adviser, 08 6488 6876

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