What is Mayi Kuwayu?
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) will soon embark on a comprehensive investigation into how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture impacts health and wellbeing. This will be the first time a study like this has been undertaken.
We plan to follow people over a long period and monitor changes in wellbeing. The focus of Mayi Kuwayu will be to examine how improvements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing are linked to things like connection to country, cultural practices, ritual, spirituality and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language use.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been saying for a long time that culture affects overall wellbeing. Mayi Kuwayu will provide the data to measure this.
Not only will the data collected help measure the link between culture and wellbeing; it will also allow the effectiveness of current policies and programs to be evaluated.
Mayi Kuwayu will be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and institutions. AIATSIS and our partners in the study, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Lowitja Institute, are all governed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Where did Mayi Kuwayu come from?
Mayi Kuwayu was born out of the need for a comprehensive investigation into how the culture, health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are related. The idea for the study came from AIATSIS Centre for Health and Wellbeing Research Fellow Dr Ray Lovett, who over the next couple of years will be designing the study in consultation with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and groups.
Dr Lovett is a Wongaibon man whose research experience is in research ethics, primary health care and epidemiology. He started his working life as an Aboriginal health worker and nurse in hospitals and community health centres, where he soon realised he wanted to help people before they became sick and to address potential health issues before they began.
In naming the study Dr Lovett looked to his family’s traditional language for inspiration. ‘Mayi Kuwayu’ comes from the Ngiyampaa language of far west New South Wales and translates to ‘Aboriginal people’ (mayi) and ‘to follow’ (kuwayu).
How will Mayi Kuwayu work?
To start with, a longitudinal study goes for a long time (the National Child Development Study in the United Kingdom has been running since 1958!).
Mayi Kuwayu is a short survey that participants will complete every three years for as long as they are willing to take part. After the first survey a reminder will be sent every three years asking people to complete the survey again. It will ask the same questions each time. The survey can be completed online or in hard copy, depending on the participant’s preference. Participants will be given the option to opt out if they no longer wish to be part of the study.
Who can participate?
Any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person 12 years of age and up can participate. You will need to ask your parents or a carer for permission to participate if you are between 12 and 16 years.
We need at least 23,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across Australia to take part in the survey. Having this many people involved will ensure we have a national picture and gain a good understanding of the relationship between culture and wellbeing.
Who will have access to the data?
While the study aims to find out how culture affects wellbeing, protection of your information is a primary concern. Information will be securely stored and reports produced from the data will not have names or other identifying information in them.
A strong data governance program is being built around Mayi Kuwayu. One of the things this means is that participants will be the owners of data. Participants will provide permission for AIATSIS to keep the data safe.
Why AIATSIS and our partners?
AIATSIS has long worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples — as researchers, partners and drivers of research. We conduct research to the highest ethical standards. At AIATSIS we take pride in the fact that our research not only is high quality but, more importantly, contributes to the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and has direct benefit to communities.
Our partnerships are essential, connecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations with researchers, policymakers and practitioners on the ground (your GP or allied health professional for example) to address the questions communities want answered, with outcomes that can be implemented, shared and built upon.
We are uniquely placed to successfully lead Mayi Kuwayu and manage such a broadly scoped and important longitudinal study on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing.
We are proud to have as Mayi Kuwayu partners the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Lowitja Institute. Both organisations bring to the study a wealth of knowledge in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.