NAIDOC Week a great time to highlight new stroke program for First Nations communities

July 06, 2021
A program designed to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with stroke to take control of their stroke recovery has won Federal Government funding of almost $500,000.

This program arises from the Yarning Up After Stroke collaborative project co-led by Tamworth Aboriginal communities, Professor Chris Levi and Dr Heidi Janssen of Hunter New England Local Health District (NSW) and University of Newcastle. Dr Janssen was initially given a funding kick start by the Stroke Foundation, and this proof-of-concept work has now secured a significant grant through the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). 

The funding commitment to Yarning Up After Stroke is timely as NAIDOC Week gets underway. This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is Heal Country! and aims to raise awareness and promote greater understanding of the need to protect the traditional lands, waters, sacred sites and cultural heritage of First Nations communities.

The Yarning up After Stroke team’s approach uses ‘yarning’, which is a culturally respectful, conversational way to learn, listen, share and receive information. In Aboriginal culture Yarning Circles are safe spaces in which everyone can have a say.

Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Sharon McGowan said she is immensely pleased to see Yarning Up After Stroke secure the additional funding grant. 

“Introducing stroke recovery support services which use tools already embraced by Indigenous cultures, offers a more relatable way forward and are therefore likely to be more successful,” she says.

“And we know how critical this is. Australia’s First Nations people are 1.3 times more likely to die from a stroke than non-Indigenous people and are hospitalised 1.6 times more. It’s a community we want to provide as much awareness, education and support to as we can.” 

Ms Gowan says the statistics do not favour First Nations People on a more general front either – people living in a regional or remote community are 17 per cent more likely to suffer a stroke than anyone living in metropolitan areas of Australia. A significant proportion of First Nations People live in regional and remote areas of Australia.

“That’s why it is so exciting to see programs like Yarning Up after Stroke being recognised through Federal funding, and we look forward to supporting the team and participating First Nations Communities. This project is an important first step towards addressing the inequity in access to evidence-based rehabilitation care that unfortunately First Nations People living with stroke experience.”

The full list of research programs which have been awarded MRFF funding can be found here, and for more information on NAIDOC Week and the Heal Country! activities, please check out the official website here. NAIDOC Week runs from July 4 to July 11.