From Deficit to Strength-Based Aboriginal Health Research—Moving toward Flourishing

Jonathan Bullen, Trish Hill-Wall, Kate Anderson, Alex Brown, Clint Bracknell, Elizabeth A. Newnham, Gail Garvey, Lea Waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Aboriginal Australians have a fundamental human right to opportunities that lead to healthy and flourishing lives. While the impact of trauma on Aboriginal Australians is well-documented, a pervasive deficit narrative that focuses on problems and pathology persists in research and policy discourse. This narrative risks further exacerbating Aboriginal disadvantage through a focus on ‘fixing what is wrong’ with Aboriginal Australians and the internalising of these narratives by Aboriginal Australians. While a growing body of research adopts strength-based models, limited research has sought to explore Aboriginal flourishing. This conceptual paper seeks to contribute to a burgeoning paradigm shift in Aboriginal research, seeking to understand what can be learned from Aboriginal people who flourish, how we best determine this, and in what contexts this can be impactful. Within, we argue the case for a new approach to exploring Aboriginal wellbeing that integrates salutogenic, positive psychology concepts with complex systems theory to understand and promote Aboriginal wellbeing and flourishing. While deeper work may be required to establish the parameters of a strength-based, culturally aligned Aboriginal conceptualisation of positive psychology, we suggest the integration of Aboriginal and Western methodologies offers a unique and potent means of shifting the dial on seemingly intractable problems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5395
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes

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