This position paper has been written to clearly and unambiguously articulate Australian Association for Adolescent Health's (AAAH)’s support for the actions described to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are supported to lead us to create a more positive future for all Australians. Their strength, energy, openness, resilience and creativity make them ideally placed to do this if they are given the chance.
This position paper aims to make clear AAAH’s recommendations to services, researchers and policy makers on how to do this based on the evidence about the domains of attention required.
The paper was prepared by a writing group comprised of two Aboriginal people, one person of Torres Strait Island descent and five non-Indigenous authors.
- Information and practices to support youth life stage development from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspective are not currently in use; these types of cultural knowledges and practices were forbidden under past government policy, which has excluded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from decision making about policies to protect health and bring about health and social equity.
- Addressing over-representation in Out of Home Care (OOHC) is a priority and requires commitment to early intervention and prevention of child removal and investing in families through community led, holistic services that strengthen families and connections to family.
- Ending over-representation in the youth justice system is a priority and requires investment in youth friendly diversion programs that are community led, including justice reinvestment models.
- While many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people lead healthy and safe lives, there is still a conscious journey required to ensure a strong connection to identity and culture that supports overall health, wellbeing and self-determination. Identity is also informed by many other factors including gender, sexuality, disabilities, social and emotional wellbeing, location and mobility, and socioeconomic status.
- Current conversations around self-determination and data sovereignty should be broadened to specifically include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people; this is not limited to health and medical data and includes multiple and vast digital footprints as well as lived experience and knowledge of young people and communities.
Building community-level trust in and knowledge of health services can improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young peoples’ access to health services. For instance, having caregivers and older community members with positive attitudes about help seeking can promote service use in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Staffing factors,such as gender-matching, good staff communication skills, low staff turnover, taking time to build relationships between staff and young people and the employment of local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, can also improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young peoples’ access to health care.