Indigenous researchers devise revolutionary programs to help Close the Gap

Baby Coming You Ready (Ngangk Yira Institute for Change) project family at Murdoch University

Two leading health researchers from Murdoch University’s Ngangk Yira Institute for Change are calling for an overhaul of outmoded policies and practices that are preventing Aboriginal Australians from thriving in all aspects of their lives.

Jayne Kotz, Lead Research Fellow for the world-first Baby Coming You Ready project, said on Close the Gap Day that the inequitable health and wellbeing outcomes experienced by Aboriginal mothers, infants and their families - compared with non-Aboriginal Australians - was untenable.

“Addressing these poor outcomes will not improve if we continue to focus on the health gaps and not the causes,” she said. “Current health care policies, systems and practices need to be reformed.

Impacts of colonisation, like the ongoing intergenerational and complex trauma experienced by so many Aboriginal peoples, along with continued cultural biases which inform health care policies, systems and practices actively sustain the gaps in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal mothers and their infants and families. We must approach maternal and infant health care for Aboriginal mothers and infants differently." Dr Jayne Kotz, Research Fellow Ngank Yira Institute for Change

Dr Kotz said antenatal health care provided an ideal window of opportunity to work alongside Aboriginal mothers.

“Baby Coming You Ready has been designed by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people to overcome the many barriers Aboriginal mothers experience in their antenatal and post-natal care,” she said.

“The project provides non-Aboriginal professionals with a culturally safe and strengths-based approach to empower Aboriginal mums to be the best they can be, giving control back to mothers and supporting them to prioritise their own needs and expectations.

"They are strong and resilient women who deal with far more in their lives on a daily basis than most health care providers know. This is rarely acknowledged, and Aboriginal women are treated as ‘risks’.

"I am hopeful that Baby Coming You Ready will be initiated nationally to provide all those working in this space with the tools to make a real change for Aboriginal mothers-to-be and their families."

Professor Juli Coffin, Ellison Professor at Ngangk Yira and leader of the Kimberley-based Yawardani Jan-ga “horses helping” Equine Assisted Learning program also used Close the Gap Day to call for more culturally secure services.

The gap that needs to be closed is that of social determinants that impact on our people achieving sustainable health and well-being. All approaches need to be assessed in terms of holistic and cultural leadership and outputs."Professor Juli Coffin, Ellison Professor Ngangk Yira Institute for Change

“Colonisation has created a deficit culturally that the wider Australian community is only just starting to see. For a ‘lucky’ country it is still one of the most disadvantaged global markers around birthrights to be born an Australian Aboriginal female.”

The first of its kind in the Kimberley, Australia and the world, Yawardani Jan-ga responds to community calls for a program that builds healthy coping skills among Aboriginal youth. 

“Our work at Yawardani Jan-ga (Horses Helping) is with Aboriginal leadership, employment and young people at every facet of engagement and delivery,” Professor Coffin said. “We are working hard to provide solution based culturally secure prevention, intervention and treatment in the social and emotional wellbeing space for Aboriginal young people and youth aged between six and 25 in the Kimberley region.”

Professor Juli Coffin, Founder of Yawardani Jan-ga. Professor at Ngangk Yira Institute for Change at Murdoch University

The Ngangk Yira Institute for Change was launched in 2022 by Murdoch University to drive translational research collaborations that will contribute towards closing the gap in health, education, employment, justice and other life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal people.

Murdoch University’s new Strategy is focused on three themes: Sustainability; Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and First Nations – becoming the university of first choice for First Nations people.


Murdoch University Vision

Our vision is to be widely recognised as the university of choice for people who care, who value inclusion, curiosity and innovation, and who desire to make a positive social impact.

We will be a leading university in education, teaching and research in sustainability; a thriving, welcoming, diverse and inclusive community. We will be the university of first choice for First Nations peoples, promoting and benefiting from Indigenous knowledges. Our quality education will be contemporary, accessible and inclusive. Our graduates will be keenly sought by employers and will be known for having adaptability, fresh perspectives, practical skills and a social conscience. Our research will be impactful, and we will have strong industry and institutional collaborations.

Posted on:

15 Mar 2023


Health, Research

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Ngangk Yira Institute for Change

A strong start in life is fundamental for healthy and resilient Aboriginal people and communities. Ngangk Yira's research is determined through a partnership between Elders, community stakeholders, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers and focuses on complex issues in Aboriginal health and the achievement of social equity.

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