Health Futures Institute

Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity

Centre Director: Professor Rhonda Marriott
Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia


Murdoch University's Ngangk Yira Research Centre supports the University's commitment to improving Aboriginal health, wellbeing and social equity through innovative and translational research. All research conducted at Ngangk Yira is firstly informed by the Aboriginal community, via the Centre’s Elder’s Advisory Council, and other forums.

Ngangk Yira's research takes a connected approach from pregnancy, young adulthood, to parenthood and the transition to older adulthood, recognising the evidence that a strong start in life is fundamental for healthy and resilient children, families and communities.

Aboriginal researchers lead the Centre's projects in partnership with non-Aboriginal colleagues and with the close involvement of community Elders. Advising on the strategic direction of the Centre is the Ngangk Yira Advisory Board and Kaadaninny Aboriginal Advisory Committee both of which are comprised of senior leaders from a range of backgrounds and organisations.

Our work

Our work is already pioneering the practical changes that will change the life course for future Aboriginal generations. Our focus on maternal and child health and youth is creating the translatable evidence required to inform state and national policy, practice and education.

Our studies are helping identify and address risk factors for mothers and young families social and emotional wellbeing and looking at ways to build resilience in Aboriginal youth. We are also working with Elders to prioritise other questions of importance about healthy ageing.

Ngangk Yira brings together an experienced team of researchers led by Professor Rhonda Marriott AM. Professor Fiona Stanley AM and the Federal Minister for Indigenous Health, the Hon Ken Wyatt, are patrons of the Centre.

Image on the left is Ngangk Boodja mural, curated by Aunty Millie Penny.


Authentic and Culturally Informed Research

Ngangk Yira focuses on translational research that is led by Aboriginal people who share a deep commitment to bring about change. This is done in partnership with fellow Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers and the community and focuses on complex issues in Aboriginal health and social equity.

Molecular Therapy

Aboriginal Women’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing

Aboriginal women’s social and emotional wellbeing during pregnancy and throughout their children’s early years is the foundation for a healthy life journey. Designed to foster positive relationships between pregnant Aboriginal women, their partners and families and the health professionals who provide clinical care, "Baby Coming - You Ready?" is a project which uses technology in clinical settings to create individual stories (profiles) of a woman’s social and emotional wellbeing, the extent of her family support and if she has any unmet needs requiring additional support.

This strengths based approach is crucial to maintaining each woman’s control over her journey through pregnancy and child rearing. Developed in very close consultation with Aboriginal communities across Western Australia, "Baby Coming - You Ready?" draws on the holistic nature of Aboriginal cultures.

Precision Nucleic Acid Therapeutics

Culturally Secure Maternity Care

Healthy children are born of healthy mothers. Healthy mothers are supported by their families and communities. Healthy families and communities are supported by well-designed systems. Healthy systems are co-designed with all stakeholders. Culturally secure maternity care is care designed in conjunction with Aboriginal communities, drawing on local knowledge to design and deliver models of care which meet local needs, including facilitation of the cultural requirements of Aboriginal women.

The principles of culturally secure maternity care include woman-centred, continuity of care which supports individual cultural requirements with access to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health professionals and support staff who have good knowledge and understanding of the Aboriginal communities who use the health service.

Through five years of accumulating evidence, our Birthing on Noongar Boodjar research identified many service gaps, issues and barriers within the Western Australian maternity care system that were the basis of recommendations to inform health policy decisions.

Motor Neurone Disease

Data Linkage and Aboriginal Health Outcomes

Parental mental health and its impact on children’s outcomes are being examined through the population-based Linked Data Project. Data collected between 1990 and 2015 is being used to study the causal pathways between the mental health problems of parents and the development of Aboriginal children in the early stages of life. In addition, researchers are identifying children’s mental and developmental outcomes.

The results of this research address some critical gaps in our knowledge of Aboriginal mental health. Key outcomes include improved knowledge of the mental and physical health of Aboriginal children in Western Australia, pregnancy outcomes, child abuse and neglect, disability, contact with the juvenile justice system and education.


Centre Director - Professor Rhonda Marriott

Born in Derby, WA, Rhonda is a descendent of Kimberley Nyikina Aboriginal people and has devoted her adult life to nursing and midwifery in both clinical and academic roles.

Much of Ngangk Yira's ethos is based on her experience over five decades, and almost three decades as an academic. In 2003, she became the inaugural Head of our School of Nursing.

In addition to leading Ngangk Yira research projects, Rhonda is a chief investigator for several NHMRC projects.


Key researchers

Associate Professor Tracy Reibel

Dr Reibel is a passionate advocate for the routine provision of woman-centred care in maternity health systems, with over 25 years experience conducting research into maternal and infant health. She also has a long association with women’s consumer advocacy groups across Australia.

Dr Reibel has focused much of her research on Aboriginal women’s access to maternity care which is culturally safe and meets women’s cultural and personal needs.

Jayne Kotz

Ms Kotz is a nurse practitioner, midwife, child health nurse and researcher at Ngangk Yira. Throughout her career, she has worked alongside women in prison and women and their families in their own communities in Australia, Africa, and Vanuatu.

Reflected in her work as lead researcher of the ‘Baby Coming - You Ready?’ project, Ms Kotz strongly values equity and social justice within the Aboriginal community.

Jade Maddox

Ms Maddox is a Bindjareb woman with a strong background working within the Aboriginal health, wellbeing and education sectors. She established the Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre at Murdoch University and has previously been CEO of Yorgum Aboriginal Corporation.

Ms Maddox is the Cultural Co-Lead and Research Coordinator for Ngangk Yira and maintains communications and relationships with the Elder’s Advisory Council and Aboriginal community.

Valerie Ah Chee

Ms Ah Chee is a proud Bindjareb woman from Armadale with connections to the Palyku people through her maternal grandfather. Ms Ah Chee is a registered midwife and brings a strong understanding of the health system as a consumer and health practitioner in her role as Senior Aboriginal Project Officer with the "Baby Coming – You Ready?" project.

A talented artist, Ms Ah Chee has created artwork for Ngangk Yira and has been commissioned by the Department of Health to produce artwork for the Fiona Stanley Hospital Birth Centre.

Akilew Adane

Dr Adane is an epidemiologist with a research focus on maternal and child health over the life-course, including perinatal mental health issues, adverse perinatal outcomes, child health and development.

He received a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Queensland, and an MPH in Epidemiology and Biostatistics and a Bachelor’s in Public Health from the University of Gondar, Ethiopia. Previously, Dr Adane held a Postdoc Research Officer (Epidemiologist) position at Telethon Kids Institute and was a lecturer at the University of Gondar.

Ngangk means both 'mother' and 'sun'. Alongside the Noongar word Yira, the meaning expands to: the rising sun (ngangk yira). Together, they have added spiritual meaning for the sun's giving of life to all things in its passage across the sky.

Our patrons

Professor Fiona Stanley AC

Trained in maternal and child health, epidemiology and public health, Fiona has spent her eminent career researching the causes of major childhood illnesses, including in Aboriginal populations.

Her major contribution has been to establish the Telethon Kids Institute and the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.

She was Australian of the Year in 2003. In 2006 she was made a UNICEF Australia Ambassador.

Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP

Ken Wyatt is a proud Noongar, Yamatji and Wongi man and was elected in 2010 as the Federal Member for Hasluck, the first Aboriginal Member of the House of Representatives.

In 2015, he became Assistant Minister for Health, and in January 2017, Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health.

Ken previously worked in health and education including as District Director for the Swan Education District, and Director of Aboriginal Health (NSW and WA).

He was awarded the Order of Australia in 1996.


Acknowledgement to Country

We acknowledge the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation as the traditional custodians of the land on which Murdoch University stands and pay respect to Elders past, present and future.

We recognize the long history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia. In doing this, we acknowledge that the past is not just the past but continues to impact on the present and the future.

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