What we do well: Stories of love, sex and relationships

Fostering the sexual well-being of Aboriginal young people by building on social, cultural and personal strengths and resources

An emerging criticism of many current approaches to sexual health promotion and service provision is that, by emphasising risk behaviours, they focus too much on young people’s deficits – their problems and what they do wrong in their sexual relationships. This has been especially the case for Aboriginal young people.

This project represents a departure from the deficit approach. It will identify the positive actions Aboriginal young people take to reduce their sexual risk and build sexual well-being, and describe the social, cultural and personal strengths and resources that they draw on to do so, with the goal of informing sexual health promotion practice to better support what Aboriginal young people do well.

Conceptual approach and method

This research project will apply a strengths-based framework in two ways: first, with Aboriginal young people, to explore their sexual decision-making and the strengths and resources they use to build sexual well-being across the different settings and relationships in their lives; and, second, with sexual health promotion programs, to explore what such programs do well, and the factors and preconditions that make sexual well-being more possible. The specific research methods include:

Component 1: Interviews with 50 Aboriginal young people aged 16-24 years and 20 parents/elders. This phase of research will use an innovative peer-led interview method with Aboriginal young people, and in-depth interviews with parents and elders.

Component 2: Interpretive evaluation of two ‘strengths-based’ sexual health programs.

Data collection is due to begin in mid-2019.

Partnership approach

The project uses strategies that forefront partnership, research skill building, and cultural safety and control. The project was developed in collaboration with our partner organisations and with the advice of the AH&MRC of NSW. It has an Aboriginal Advisory Committee to provide advice on safety, respect and inclusion of Aboriginal people and community, and to review all data collection tools and research outputs. There are exciting opportunities for research skill building in all phases of the research, including employing Aboriginal young people as peer interviewers and providing them with the opportunity to access Nura Gili’s student support programs. In addition, the project has funding to support a higher degree research position for an Aboriginal scholar.

If you would like updates about the study’s progress and outputs, please sign up to our newsletter by emailing Kim Beadman.

Australian Research Council Linkage Program (LP170100190)

  • Steve Bell, Senior Research Fellow, ATSI Health Program, The Kirby Institute, UNSW
  • Simon Graham, NHMRC Early Career Fellow, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and U of Melbourne
  • Michael Doyle, Research Fellow, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney
  • Annette Browne, Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of British Columbia
  • Libby Brown, Director of Aboriginal Health, Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District
  • Linda Stanbury, Health Promotion Manager, Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District
  • Voula Kougelos, Manager Youth Health Services, South West Sydney Local Health District
  • Karen Beetson, Deputy Director Aboriginal Health, South West Sydney Local Health District
  • Megan Brooks, Manager, HIV and Related Programs, South West Sydney Local Health District
  • Rob Hardy, Manager, Health Promotion Unit, Family Planning NSW
Related People
Organisational units