Journal article

Working towards a tobacco-free Aboriginal community through an arts-based intervention

Indigenous health Public health Smoking Central Coast (NSW)

Art is an important component of Aboriginal culture. Creative arts-based health promotion projects have been used in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations across Australia to address a variety of health issues, including smoking. A number of artistic mediums have been utilised in Indigenous arts-based health promotion work, including painting, dance, and music. When using an arts-based approach, projects and resources must be culturally appropriate in order to appeal to Aboriginal populations. It is recognised that while arts-based projects can be valuable for engaging the Indigenous community, evaluation is complex and determining the effectiveness of projects in changing behaviour is difficult. Two similar Aboriginal-targeted arts-based smoking themed projects were identified from the literature, both of which followed a similar structure to this project.

Objective: For Aboriginal communities to be engaged on health issues such as smoking through culturally-appropriate interventions such as art.

Importance of study: Smoking in Aboriginal communities is a significant health issue, and higher than average smoking rates are observed in Aboriginal populations. The Aboriginal adult smoking rate in 2017 was 28.5% across NSW, almost double the non-Aboriginal population smoking rate of 14.7%. Smoking causes 12% of the disease burden experienced by Aboriginal populations, contributing the highest proportion of harm to Aboriginal health of any modifiable risk factor. 

Study type: Workshop and community engagement study.

Methods: An art competition was held with the Central Coast Aboriginal community to create artworks around the theme of smoking. To facilitate the production of artworks, Central Coast Local Health District Health Promotion Service engaged an Aboriginal artist to lead art workshops with local Aboriginal organisations. Art resources were provided at the workshops. Aboriginal organisations were encouraged to have their staff, clients and community members participate in the workshops. The community voted for their favourite artworks online. Prizes were awarded to the artworks that received the most votes.

Conclusion: Ten local Aboriginal organisations were invited to host a workshop, and 5 participated. Seven art workshops were delivered, with 66 people attending the workshops and 38 artworks being produced. Eighteen artworks were entered into the art competition, which attracted 156 votes from the community The art workshops and competition were effective ways to engage the Aboriginal community on the topic of smoking cessation. Additional work is planned to build upon the momentum established by this project, such as using the artworks developed from the workshops in Aboriginal-specific resources and campaigns to contribute towards decreased smoking rates in the Aboriginal community.

Key Findings:

  • Art workshop evaluations were completed by 22 participants and showed that 100% of participants rated the art workshop as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, and 100% either agreed or strongly agreed that the workshop met their expectations. All participants also agreed or strongly agreed that the art workshop was well organised, and 81% indicated that the workshop was well advertised and communicated.
  • The art competition provided a new and culturally appropriate way to engage the local Aboriginal community on the issue of smoking. Useful data and insights were received from the workshop participants from the discussion at the start of the workshops, the workshop evaluation forms, and the art competition entry forms.
  • A limitation to the project was that practical smoking cessation support was not provided as part of the project. While the art workshops provided an opportunity to raise the issue of smoking within the Aboriginal community, further work will be required to effect change to smoking rates.
Publication Details