Our community-driven research and policy agenda draws from the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience disability at more than twice the rate of other Australians and experience inequality across a spectrum of health, wellbeing and social indicators (ABS, 2017), however the research and evidence base which informs practice and policy is thin.

FPDN is leading a community-based research program which contributes to a better understanding of the nature and prevalence of disability amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Working within a model of research coproduction in collaboration with a number of academic partners and government agencies, our research methods brings together statistical datasets with oral testimony from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with lived experience of disability. This unique approach to inclusive, community-based research is led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability and highlights the breadth of issues that affect people with disability, as well as its human impact.

The initial stage of the research program has demonstrated the overwhelmingly adverse intersectional impact of being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and having disability across a range of wellbeing and social indicators including health, educational attainment, employment participation, personal safety and exposure to the criminal justice system. These findings have implications for policies and programs for Closing the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage, the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and other aspects of the National Disability Strategy (NDS).

In building a unique research infrastructure which has been developed from within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disability community, further stages of the research program will focus on: providing greater access to data and evidence to support community organisations in their localised decision-making in supporting the needs of people within their community; and fostering greater active participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability in community-based research.

Our research methodology is centred on inclusion and because of this it will lead to a fuller understanding of cultural competence amongst policy makers, practitioners and other researchers as it applies to the unique circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.

Scott Avery is FPDN’s Research and Policy Director and a community researcher affiliated with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He is leading the ‘Living Our Ways’ research program which to date has conducted research in urban and remote regions of NSW, Central Northern Territory, and with Deaf and hearing impaired Aboriginal people in South Australia, with a view to extending the Indigenous disability research model nationally. UTS is FPDN’s principal research partner and supports the research program as a dedicated research strength within the Centre for Health Services Management.

You can review FPDN’s publications here.