© 2014 La Trobe University. The National Empowerment Project is an innovative Aboriginal-led community empowerment project that has worked with eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia over the period 2012-13. The aim of the Project was to develop, deliver and evaluate a program to: (1) promote positive social and emotional well-being to increase resilience and reduce the high reported rates of psychological distress and suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and (2) empower communities to take action to address the social determinants that contribute to psychological distress, suicide and self-harm. Using a participatory action research approach, the communities were supported to identify the risk factors challenging individuals, families and communities, as well as strategies to strengthen protective factors against these challenges. Data gathered during Stage 1 were used to develop a 12-month program to promote social and emotional well-being and build resilience within each community. A common framework, based on the social and emotional well-being concept, was used to support each community to target community-identified protective factors and strategies to strengthen individual, family and community social and emotional well-being. Strengthening the role of culture is critical to this approach and marks an important difference between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous mental health promotion and prevention activities, including suicide prevention. It has significant implications for policy makers and service providers and is showing positive impact through the translation of research into practice, for example through the development of a locally run empowerment program that aims to address the social determinants of health and their ongoing negative impact on individuals, families and communities. It also provides a framework in which to develop and strengthen culture, connectedness and foster self-determination, through better-informed policy based on community-level holistic responses and solutions as opposed to an exclusive focus on single-issue deficit approaches.
Cox, A., Dudgeon, P., Holland, C., Kelly, K., Scrine, C., & Walker, R. (2014). Using participatory action research to prevent suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Australian Journal of Primary Health, 20(4), 345-349. https://doi.org/10.1071/PY14043