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Wardliparingga Aboriginal Research Unit

The Wardliparingga Aboriginal Research Unit (WARU) is led by Professor Alex Brown at the South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). Health and wellbeing research is conducted that is of direct relevance to, and in partnership with, Aboriginal people in South Australia. Of particular focus is the significant gap between the health status and life opportunities available to Aboriginal people when compared to other Australians. The disparity in health status between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is still significant, not just in terms of life expectancy but in experiences of heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer and depression. Wardliparingga aspires to generate positive, long-term change for Aboriginal families and communities in South Australia.

Wardliparingga is a Kaurna term meaning house river place, and is also the name for the Milky Way reflected in the River Torrens, alongside of which SAHMRI is located.

Collaboration and Community Engagement

Collaboration with Aboriginal and Indigenous researchers on national and international research projects is a key focus, which is implemented through partnerships with key Aboriginal stakeholders and community groups in order to achieve the best possible outcomes.  Professor Brown and team are constantly developing a network of people interested and involved in Aboriginal health research in South Australia, with a commitment to nurturing existing Aboriginal researchers and supporting more Aboriginal people to start their research career or become involved in research in some capacity. Community engagement is also a focus, and Professor Brown’s team builds relationships and partnerships with Aboriginal organisations and communities in South Australia.

Current Projects and Activities

Current activities focus on developing models of care and wellbeing, standards of care, better monitoring systems, trialling interventions to reduce heart disease and redesigning health care services and systems to better meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Major research programs cover chronic disease (understanding how to intervene to reduce the high incidence and impacts in Aboriginal people), psychosocial determinants of illness and health, and disparities (how the disparities in access to treatments and patient management can be improved to drive better health outcomes). Specifically current projects and activities include:

  • Developing a model of wellbeing for Aboriginal health services to implement in primary care;
  • Understanding the disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in regard to heart disease treatments and outcomes;
  • Understanding how to predict eye, heart, kidney and nerve complications among Aboriginal people with diabetes;
  • Developing ways to improve cancer treatment access and outcomes for Aboriginal people;
  • Developing a better understanding of the health needs of Aboriginal people in each locality within SA;
  • Testing a supplement of fish oil to determine how well it prevents future heart problems in Aboriginal people;
  • Building skills and capacity of Aboriginal people in research and using evidence to deliver health care that produces better health for the community;
  • Supporting the community to lead, participate in and use research effectively to meet Aboriginal community needs;
  • Undertaking an economic evaluation of a telemedicine eye specialist service for rural and remote Aboriginal people;
  • Exploring better ways to support Aboriginal people experiencing grief and loss.