Caring for Community

The Caring for Communities project has built research networks to engage key stakeholders in the Aboriginal Community.

There are a total of 10,763 Aboriginal people in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven region, constituting 2.9% of the total Illawarra population (388,424) across Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama and Shoalhaven. Sixty per cent of Aboriginal residents (6,445) live in the Illawarra region and forty per cent live in the Shoalhaven (4,318). They typically live in locations with entrenched high levels of social disadvantage, and experience high levels of employment, lower incomes, poorer educational outcomes and significantly worse health outcomes and access to services which are representative of other urban Aboriginal populations.

This project has delivered successful workshops representing 12 regional Indigenous organisations and community leaders about research collaboration opportunities around the theme of Caring for the Community. The workshops have provided in-depth discussions about social, health and economic disadvantage experienced by the Aboriginal community in the Illawarra.

The workshops resulted in the development of a detailed report entitled "Illawarra Aboriginal Community Profile: a snapshot of an urban Aboriginal community". It identified numerous examples of Indigenous-led, or Indigenous community controlled organisations or initiatives that have been running successfully in the local area for more than 30 years.

In 2014 the project received further Global Challenges funding to explore how Aboriginal community organisations and leaders can build sustainable and resiliency strategies to help improve health and wellbeing in the face of complex and challenging social health programs and a climate of policy change. A key goal of this research has led to the documentation of processes, impacts and outcomes in order to develop an evidence-base around successful local initiatives, programs and projects.


In the media


The team

This project brings together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers from four faculties within the University.

Prof Kathleen Clapham is an Aboriginal research-only academic with extensive experience in Aboriginal health services, child health and safety, and large-scale community intervention research and capacity building. Based at the Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI) at the UOW.

Associate Professor Kate Senior is a medical anthropologist in the Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (UOW) with extensive ethnographic experience.

Associate Professor Peter Kelly is a Clinical Psychologist (UOW) with research experience in mental health and substance abuse treatment, prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Professor Helen Hasan is a UOW academic in the discipline of Information Systems specialising in qualitative methods. She has extensive experience leading multi-disciplinary research teams and digital dissemination of results. Helen will mentor and co-supervise HDR students. Helen will co-facilitate the Co-Design Roundtables.

Dr Marlene Longbottom is a Yuin woman, and the inaugural Aboriginal Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong.

Ms Elizabeth Dale (PhD Candidate ,Faculty of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) has been involved in qualitative data collection.

Ms Nyssa Murray (PhD Candidate, Faculty of Business and Law) led capacity building activities for community members.

Ms Darcelle Douglas Wu (PhD candidate, Faculty of Health, Science and Medicine) contributed to the writing of community reports and coordinated community events

Ms Joanna Mason (PhD Candidate, Faculty of Business and Law) has contributed to the writing of community reports.


External Researchers:

Professor Valarie Harwood (external) is a sociologist of education, Sydney School of Education and Social Work (USyd). Valerie has expertise in the educational disadvantage, place based research and impacts on health and well-being. She has ethnographic skills and will contribute to the design of qualitative components of the study. Professor Dawn Bessarab (external) Winthrop Professor at the Centre for Aboriginal Medical & Dental Health (UWA) is an Aboriginal woman of Bardi (West Kimberley) and Indjarbandi (Pilbara) descent. Dawn brings expertise in Indigenous research methodology.

Professor Bronwyn Fredericks (external) is a Murri woman from south-east Queensland with a history of leadership at regional, state and national levels. She is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) at UQ and a leading researcher in Indigenous issues with a focus on socio-psychological aspects of chronic disease, public health interventions and Indigenous women's health issues, training and education.

The following previous team members have also contributed to the Caring for Community Project:

Dr Scott Winch

Prof Bronwyn Carlson

Senior Prof Simon Eckermann

Mr Dave Kampers

Professor Paul Chandler

Associate Professor Samantha Thomas


This project is working towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Goal 10: Reduced inequalities   Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions   Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals