Indigenous Australian Understandings of Holistic Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


Through colonisation in Australia, Western paradigms of health and mental health have dominated the discourse on mental health and excluded Indigenous knowledges, which consider wellbeing from a more holistic perspective. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (the Indigenous peoples of Australia) understand health through the Social and Emotional WellBeing (SEWB) model, which considers the body and mind as well as spiritual, cultural, kinship, community, and physical dimensions, and the impact of historical, political, social, and cultural determinants on wellbeing. An inclusive science of wellbeing requires Western and Indigenous knowledges to be valued alongside each other, accepting their differences. This chapters outlines the path from colonisation toward the recognition of Indigenous knowledges, and the authors describe the SEWB model and interventions developed using this model. The authors provide an example of how the SEWB model can be operationalised for health and mental health settings, through the ‘Dance of Life’ framework, which uses the culturally relevant medium of art to facilitate discussion of holistic wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationToward an Integrated Science of Wellbeing
Place of PublicationUSA
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780197567609
ISBN (Print)9780197567579
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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