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Targeted Call for Research - public call for research priorities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

This submission reflects the views of
Organisation Name: 
Adolescent Risk Research Unit
Personal Details
Specific Questions
1. What is the research priority (a significant research knowledge gap or unmet need) you are nominating? How would a TCR in this area greatly advance our understanding of this issue? (200 word maximum): 
Research Priority: Risk- and safety- factors associated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child incarceration. TCR benefits: This research would significantly contribute to understanding intergenerational transmission of risk, specifically on incarceration, and more generally, public health. Further, the focusing on the innovative ‘safety-factor’ will identify unrealised avenues of effective protection and prioritisation of prevention efforts to decrease the over-representation of Indigenous children in Australian prisons. The Governor-General (2016) has issued a Royal Commission into the child protection and youth detention services in the Northern Territory, highlighting the currency of the issue of Indigenous child incarceration. Recent reports indicate similar problems in Queensland youth detention services. An independent review has been ordered into Queensland youth detention by Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath (Queensland Government 2016). The proposed TCR would allow both understanding of risk factors to help Indigenous children avoid incarceration and also safety factors to avoid re-incarceration. Prime Minister and Attorney General (2016) ‘Royal Commission into Child Protection and Youth Detention Systems of the Northern Territory’, Media Announcement 28-07-2016. Accessed 04-09-2016 http://tinyurl.com/ja69erm Attorney General, Minister for Justice and Minister for Trading and Skills (2016) ‘Attorney General Orders Independent Review into Queensland Detention Centres’, Media Statement 19-08-2016. Accessed 04-09-2016 at http://tinyurl.com/jsw4y2l
2. What are the relevant Australian Government Priorities, and/or Ministerially-agreed State and Territory health research priorities linked to your nominated priority? (200 word maximum): 
Australian Government Research Priorities 1. Health: 1.1. Better health outcomes for Indigenous people, with strategies for both urban and regional communities. 1.2. Improved prediction, identification, tracking, prevention and management of emerging local and regional health threats. Queensland Government Research Priorities The Queensland government’s current research priorities do not include any foci related to Indigenous child incarceration, despite current disproportionate rates in comparison to the non-Indigenous child population (ABS 2013). Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013) Prisoners in Australia, 2012 - Imprisonment rates' cat. No. 4517.0. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.
3. How would a TCR in this area contribute to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and improve health outcomes for the individual and/or community? (200 word maximum): 
Incarceration has physical and mental health impacts that affect the person incarcerated, and their family, community and the next generation. Understanding the risk-factors associated with incarceration, and the ‘safety-factors’ associated with successfully staying out of prison would significantly contribute to individual and community health, and socioeconomic outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Such safety-factors could promulgate the successful extinction of inter-generational incarceration currently evidenced within Indigenous Australian populations. Focusing on both risk and safety factors in this research minimise the over-reliance of the deficit-model (Walter and Anderson 2013) of understanding Indigenous health and socioeconomic status in Australia, and progress “telling a good story” to motivate Indigenous community-researcher academic conversation and action (Smith 2012: 217). Better understanding of social problems with longitudinal data can elucidate the risk – and safety – factors through the intergenerational analysis of families. However, Australian Indigenous children in prison remains under-research and a ‘wicked’ problem (Head 2008) that requires multi-disciplinary, long-term research, and government support (see section 5). Walter, M. and C. Anderson (2013) Indigenous Statistics: A Quantitative Research Methodology. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Smith, L. T. (2012) Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, second edition. London: Zed Books.
4. How will the TCR reduce the burden of disease on the health system and Australian economy? (200 word maximum): 
Sustained research specifically addressing the wicked problem of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration would enable governments to make better-informed policy and managerial decisions on how to support children and families in contact with the juvenile justice system so as to reduce negative health impacts and mental health risks. Furthermore, understanding and implementing policy to reduce risk-factors of incarceration (Allard 2010) would decrease the burden of disease by addressing alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, and self-harm of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in prison. Descriptive, longitudinal research on intergenerational causes of risk-factors is essential to alleviate the Indigenous health-gap (Marmot 2016). Innovative research within the domain of safety-factors can reveal heretofore unrealised avenues of prevention, protection, and priority, to prevent re-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and to scaffold community-based and strengths-based programs which reduce the likelihood that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are exposed to and/or engage in activities that contributes towards incarceration in the first instance. Allard, T. (2010) ‘Understanding and Preventing Indigenous Offending’, Brief 9, Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse. Australian Government: Australian Institute of Criminology. Marmot, M. (2016) ‘Fair Australia: Social Justice and Health Gap’, Boyer Lectures presented 03-09-2016. Accessed http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/boyerlectures/
5. Are there any reports or findings that support your nomination for the suggested topic? (200 word maximum): 
Indigenous child incarceration until recently received little public attention. Indigenous children lack representation, and may suffer effects Australian colonial history (Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) 2015). Bronfenbrenner’s research (1979; 1994) on the social ecological model of child development supports a holistic approach to understanding health, thereby avoiding misdirected research outcomes which narrowly define wellbeing. Head (2008: 101) argues that ‘wicked problems’ in Australian are “complex, intractable, open-ended…” and cites Indigenous Australian disadvantage as an exemplar. Allard (2010) argues that Indigenous children and youth are over-represented in detention centres due to higher rates of underlying risk factors, including drug and alcohol abuse, family violence, household overcrowding, and single-parent headed households. AIFS (2015) ‘Child Protection and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’, CFCA Resource Sheet. Canberra: AIFS. Accessed 04-09-2016 at https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/child-protection-and-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-children Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977) ‘Towards an Experimental Ecology of Human Development’, American Psychologists July: 513-531. - (1994) ‘Ecological Models of Human Development’, in International Encyclopedia of Education, vol. 3, 2nd edition. Oxford: Elsevier. Head, B. (2008) ‘Wicked Problems in Public Policy’, Public Policy 3(2): 101-118. Allard, T. (2010) ‘Understanding and Preventing Indigenous Offending’, Brief 9, Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse. Australian Government: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Page reviewed: 30 August, 2018