Conference Papers

Session WR 3.1. Wellbeing & Children: Racism, Bullying & Identity


1. Naomi Priest and Yin Paradies: Understanding the impact of racism on the health of Indigenous children and youth

Although the importance of studying the impacts of racism on children and youth has been widely recognised, few studies currently exist. Focusing on Indigenous people, this paper explores for the first time pathways between direct/vicarious racism and child health. Logistic regression and mediation analyses were conducted across four studies examining outcomes for a total of 2482 Indigenous people ranging from under 7 years to 26 years of age involved in national and local surveys across remote and urban areas.
After controlling for relevant confounders, carer self-reported racism was associated with childhood illness in children under seven years and with social and emotional difficulties in children 4-5 years. For youth 16-20 years racism was associated with anxiety, depression, suicide risk and poor general mental health as well as with poor mental and physical health among young people 12-26 years. Carer mental health mediated between carer-reported racism and child health in two studies. Getting angry at racist remarks mediated between self-reported racism and general health among youth. This study shows for the first time that vicarious (i.e. carer-reported) racism is associated with physical and mental ill-health for children through its impact on carer mental health. It also highlights the importance of reactions to racism on the pathway between racism and ill-health. More research is required to understand and intervene on the pathways (including risk and protective factors) between racism and health for children and youth.

Author bio: Yin Paradies is an Aboriginal-Anglo-Asian Darwinian who has lived in Melbourne since 2007. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Health & Society, Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit and The McCaughey Centre: VicHealth Centre for the Promotion of Mental Health and Community Wellbeing. He has qualifications in mathematics and computing (BSc), medical statistics (MMedStats), public health (MPH), and social epidemiology (PhD) and his research focuses on the health effects of racism as well as anti-racism theory, policy and practice. Yin also teaches multicultural competence to researchers and professionals in Indigenous affairs. Yin has received a range of awards including a Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of California, Berkeley, the Australia Day Council’s 2002 Young Achiever of the Year award, and Scholar of the Year in the 2007 National NAIDOC Awards.

Author bio: Naomi Priest is a Research Fellow in child public health and health inequalities. Her current research is focused on addressing child health inequalities through combating racism and promoting diversity and inclusion. She is also involved in developing mental health promotion interventions for children living in disadvantaged areas. Naomi completed her PhD in 2008 at the University of Melbourne which was a collaborative project with Victorian Aboriginal organizations exploring Aboriginal perspectives of early childhood health and wellbeing in urban settings. She also has a strong interest in evidence synthesis and knowledge translation and exchange, and has worked with the Cochrane Public Health Group on consultancies for Queensland Health, the WHO Global Commission for Social Determinants of Health and VicHealth.

2. Allie-Jade Briggs & Sarah Diplock: Cultural wellbeing and its impact on health

The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency incorporates a holistic approach in meeting the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care and children in the broader Aboriginal community. Whilst attention is given to meeting the physical needs through regular check-ups and referrals at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and other health providers, this presentation focuses on addressing the cultural wellbeing of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care and the importance this plays in building their resilience, self esteem and reducing the health impacts of abuse, neglect and trauma. We will explore a number of cultural programs that are run with the children and highlight that such programs, particularly driven through the arts, have an amazing healing and therapeutic effect, and this has a significant impact on the children’s health and wellbeing. In addition through the building of partnerships with other Aboriginal agencies and musicians and artists, strong and important relationships are also developed, and the children are able to be surrounded by strong and inspiring role models from their community. For us, culture is critical as a protective factor which promotes resilience in young Aboriginal children and their families.

Author bio: Alli-Jade Briggs is a young Bangarang woman who grew up in Shepparton. Alli has worked at VACCA for 18 months and her current role is as Project worker on a project funded by Closing the Health Gap. Alli has a passion for working alongside youth in her community and is a great role model to the young people taking part in the programs.

Author bio: Sarah Diplock is a former Primary teacher who has worked at VACCA for six years. Sarah’s first role at VACCA was as Education Support Worker for Aboriginal children in out of home care. For the past 2 and a half years Sarah has worked as a Project Officer running cultural programs for children in VACCA care and in the broader Aboriginal Community, most recently coordinating the Close the Health Gap Program and the VACCA Cultural and Arts Festival for Aboriginal Youth. Sarah has a great passion for arts based programs and their therapeutic effect on children and young people.

3. Juli Coffin: Bullying in an Aboriginal context : the unspoken story

Aboriginal children appear to be more likely to be involved in bullying than non-Aboriginal children. This presentation describes part of the Solid Kids Solid Schools research process and discusses some of the results from this three year study involving over 260 Aboriginal children, youth, Elders, Teachers and Aboriginal Indigenous Education Officers (AIEO’s), and an Aboriginal led and developed Steering Committee. It is the first study that contextualises Aboriginal bullying, using a socio-ecological model where the individual, family, community and society are all interrelated and influence the characteristics and outcomes of bullying. This presentation demonstrates that for Aboriginal children and youth in one region of Western Australia, bullying occurs frequently and is perpetuated by family and community violence, parental responses to bullying and institutional racism. Addressing bullying requires actions to reduce violence, foster positive cultural identity and reduce socio-economic disadvantage.

Author bio: Juli Coffin is an Aboriginal woman from the Pilbara region in Western Australia; she has a background in education, health and preservation of Aboriginal languages. She is an Associate Professor in Aboriginal health and has completed her PhD in the area of intra-racial racism and bullying. Juli has worked at CUCRH for twelve years, running many research projects and building research capacity among her own people and others around her. Juli has previously published in the areas of childhood nutrition, sexual health, cultural security, tobacco, bullying and racism. Her body of work over the last four years has been around contextualizing what bullying looks like and feels like for Aboriginal children, youth, parents and community. Recognition of the importance around this issue and community engagement has been the key outcomes from this work and practical based resources for schools and communities.