Our partnerships and history of Aboriginal health research

How we work

The Sax Institute has a longstanding commitment to improving Aboriginal health through Aboriginal community-led research. We are pioneers of the community-led research model and have been building strong relationships with Aboriginal health organisations since 2003. These partnerships have been critical to enabling the design and conduct of health research that is most likely to meet the needs of Aboriginal communities and policy makers. We treasure our partnerships as an essential part of how we work and acknowledge them as central to our success.

Coalition for Research to Improve Aboriginal Health (CRIAH)

In 2003, we formed a partnership with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council (AH&MRC) to set up the Coalition for Research to Improve Aboriginal Health (CRIAH) as a vehicle for bringing together Aboriginal communities and leading research expertise across to support better health outcomes. The AH&MRC is a key player in Aboriginal-led health provision, assisting Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) across NSW to ensure they have access to a well-resourced and skilled workforce able to provide high-quality health care services. Thanks to our work with AH&MRC through CRIAH, we have been able to build capacity in Aboriginal health research, enable new partnerships to improve health outcomes and policy, and allow researchers and the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector to engage and exchange ideas.

Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH)

Over time, our partnership with AH&MRC further developed through the Study of Environment on Aboriginal Resilience and Child Health (SEARCH) a longitudinal study of 1600 urban Aboriginal children, along with their caregivers. Partnership on this program is now having significant impacts on health, services and programs for urban Aboriginal children, as well as fostering a new generation of Aboriginal researchers.

Strong collaborations with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs) are community-led services focused on primary health care in Aboriginal communities. Over the past 15 years, The Sax Institute has worked in close collaboration with a number of ACCHSs across NSW to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people. Through these partnerships, ACCHSs nominate their research priorities, control how the research is conducted and take the lead in determining what works for them and their communities.

Four ACCHSs –Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Riverina Medical and Dental Aboriginal Corporation, Awabakal and Greater Western Aboriginal Health Service (formerly Aboriginal Medical Service Western Sydney) – have been cornerstone partners with the Institute in developing SEARCH, Australia’s largest long-term study of the health and wellbeing of urban Aboriginal children.

Several other ongoing research projects supported by the Sax Institute have been founded on our strong partnerships with ACCHSs. These include:

  • The Cancer and Healthy Ageing in Aboriginal NSW Older Generations (CHANGES) Study, which aims to explore older Aboriginal people’s perspectives on healthy ageing, their understanding of cancer as part of the ageing process, and how programs and services might be improved.
  • The Indigenous Led Evaluation of Aboriginal Programs (ILEAP), which is looking at effective approaches in critical health areas such as Aboriginal youth suicide and adult chronic disease. ILEAP is led by three ACCHSs: Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation, Orange Aboriginal Medical Service and Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service.

Working together with Aboriginal communities ultimately leads to smarter research that can make a bigger impact on the health system. The Sax Institute has been a pioneer in fostering research relationships built on mutual respect and a shared desire to make a real difference.

Dr Martin McNamara

CEO, Sax Institute