IndiGenous AdolesceNts DrIving MenTal Health & WEllbeing - Australian Research Council Indigenous Discovery Project - IN200100057

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents, strong social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) is central to maximising their life potential. SEWB manifests in how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are affected by the networks of relationships and power in which they live, their histories and their embodiment of connections to land, culture, family, community, spirituality and ancestry. Adolescence, as the designated age of opportunity, provides a unique intervention point to lessen current health and socio-economic inequalities evidenced across all indicators of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Concentrated SEWB efforts at this critical life-stage with a focus on prevention and early intervention can reduce progression to mental illness, minimise its impact, improve physical health, and enable healthy engagement with the social determinants of health such as education and employment at a time when opportunities peak. But we do not have comprehensive accounts about the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents or culturally-sensitive instruments with which to measure social and emotional wellness.


This research aims to provide develop, validate and pilot a new screening instrument for adolescent social and emotional wellbeing and develop policy and practice-relevant evidence to support improved access, and quality of Primary Healthcare mental health and social and emotional services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescents.

Research Objectives

  1. To collaborate with adolescents to identify the concepts and dimensions of social and emotional wellbeing relevant to their life experiences.
  2. Based on information generated in Aim 1, we will develop, validate and pilot a new screening instrument for adolescent social and emotional wellbeing with adolescents and experts in the field.
  3. Determine what adolescents value in mental health service design and delivery.


Adolescents will be invited to collaborate with researchers to understand what is important to them for their social and emotional wellbeing; their concepts of SEWB; protective factors; what it means to grow up well in their community; and how they can be better supported.

  • We will hold co-design workshops with adolescents through creative facilitated engagement and two-way learning activities.
  • One-on-one adolescent yarning where appropriate or desired.
  • A Delphi Study will engage practitioners, investigators, adolescents and other mental health experts to establish the relevant constructs to be included in the screening tool.

We recognise that a lot of positive practices are already happening. We will facilitate Knowledge Sharing Forums to enable research collaborators, different levels of health systems (practitioner, policy, service coordination and support), human services and adolescents and families to come together to learn from each other, consider and develop solutions and share resources.

Key Outputs

  • A comprehensive evidence-informed model about what is important to support adolescent mental healthcare and social and emotional wellbeing from their perspective; and
  • A culturally-responsive adolescent social and emotional wellbeing screening instrument for use in primary healthcare settings.

Contact Details

CQUniversity Cairns Campus

CQUniversity Cairns Square, Corner Abbott and Shields Streets, Cairns QLD 4870
PO Box 7815, Cairns QLD 4870

Georgia Spanner

Phone: (07) 4037 4717