Developing a culturally responsive trauma-informed public health emergency response framework for First Nations families and communities during COVID-19

Funding for First Nations COVID-19 response

The Healing the Past by Nurturing the Future project team have been awarded research funding in a unique round that privileges First Nations voices in the global response to COVID-19.

This work also brings together researchers with public health expertise to the team, including:

  • Dr Michelle Bovill, Thurru Indigenous Health Unit, Newcastle University
  • Dr Caroline Atkinson, We Al-li Foundation (HPNF Associate Investigator)
  • Dr Simon Graham, Research Fellow, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Janine Mohammed, Chief Executive Officer, The Lowitja Institute
  • Dr Cindy Woods, Senior Research Fellow, Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University
  • Ms Christina Heris, Research Fellow, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Shannon Bennetts, Research Fellow, Judith Lumley Centre, La Trobe University

The funding was announced on 14 October by the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies (APPRISE) Centre of Research Excellence, thanks to a $2 million donation from the Paul Ramsay Foundation.

Why is this project necessary?

First Nations-led strategies are critical to improving the health of First Nations people’s in Australia and ‘closing the gap’ in health inequities.The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted social inequities within our society and there is a risk these existing inequities may be further compounded. Applying an ‘equity lens’ for public health responses in this pandemic is essential, especially for First Nations peoples.  Complex trauma, most commonly associated with adverse childhood experiences, are a major root cause of health inequities.First Nations communities are particularly impacted by complex trauma following a legacy of historical trauma, which includes state-sanctioned removal of First Nations children from their families.

This proposal aims to explore the question: ‘Is it time for trauma-informed public health?’

The objectives of this study are to:

  1. Conduct a systematic review of complex trauma and public health responses, with a focus on COVID-19 and emergency public health responses.
  2. Investigate associations between experiences of complex trauma-related distress and COVID-19 experiences among First Nations parents in three jurisdictions, to help inform strategies to mitigate distress.
  3. Conduct interviews with key stakeholders involved in the COVID-19 response to consider the evidence from (1) and (2) and develop a culturally-responsive trauma-informed public health emergency response framework.

To find out more about this research you can email us at hpnf-project@unimelb.edu.au


Upcoming Workshop

Developing a culturally responsive trauma-informed public health emergency response framework for First Nations families and communities during COVID-19 – starts 14 October 2021

Date: Thursday 14 October 2021 9.45am - 3.00pm and Friday 15 October 2021 8.45am - 12.00pm

  • via Zoom (virtual)

The aim of this 2-day workshop is to bring together First Nations experts in public health, to develop a draft culturally responsive trauma-informed public health emergency response framework for First Nations families and communities.

Register now


Supporting First Nations-led research

APPRISE used a First Nations-led process to award the funding. It began with the creation of the APPRISE First Nations Council to advise on all aspects of the grant process from research priorities to evaluation criteria, said APPRISE investigator Professor Adrian Miller of the Jirrbal people of North Queensland.

“The whole process was unique because rather than just having a small proportion of First Nations people sitting on a panel, the First Nations Council was entirely comprised of senior First Nations researchers,” he said.

A total of 11 projects from across Australia were awarded funding. All projects are led by First Nations people and have predominantly First Nations team members.

More about APPRISE

The Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies (APPRISE) Centre of Research Excellence is developing research to inform Australia’s emergency response to infectious diseases.

The APPRISE CRE is an Australia-wide network of experts involved in medical, scientific, public health and ethics research. APPRISE is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Learn more about APPRISE.