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Indigenous health conference showcases innovative projects benefiting children, young people and families

Institute News
Published: 
Monday, October 1, 2018 - 2:49pm

A study looking at how Aboriginal children use English at school is among the projects to be showcased at an Indigenous health conference in Melbourne on Monday, 24th September.

Former Governor-General Quentin Bryce will join the discussion at the Indigenous health research symposium. The one-day conference will focus on eight innovative health projects involving partnerships between Aboriginal communities, health services and researchers, including the study of children’s language development.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s (MCRI) Professor Stephanie Brown, the Lead Researcher for the study, said that prior to European settlement, there were at least 250 distinct Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language groups and multilingualism was the norm for children.

“Our research is charting new ground in understanding how early-life social and cultural experiences shape Aboriginal children’s language development and use of oral language in early primary school,” Prof Brown said.

Researchers at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute are following up 344 mothers and children taking part in the Aboriginal Families Study in South Australia as the children are starting primary school.

A team of six Aboriginal researchers are interviewing mothers and undertaking a series of activities to assess children’s language development. A key focus of the research is to learn more about what enables Aboriginal children living in urban, regional and remote communities to grow up strong, healthy and resilient.

Deputy CEO, Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, Amanda Mitchell, said language, culture, health and identity are inextricably linked.

“The findings will shed new light on Aboriginal children’s ways of using English and how this is shaped by their pre-school experiences,” Ms Mitchell said. “This is important information to inform health and education policies.”

Dame Quentin Bryce, the former Governor General of Australia, said she was looking forward to attending the conference and hearing about the partnerships underpinning this work.

“I applaud these practical collaborations between communities, researchers, health services and policy makers,” Dame Quentin said. “By working together and hearing the voices of Aboriginal children, young people and families, we have the capacity to make a real difference to the health and well-being of many Indigenous children, young people and families.”