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In Schools Aboriginal Health Program

South Western Sydney Local Health District
Project Added:
13 October 2015
Last updated:
27 October 2015

In Schools Aboriginal Health Program


This project engaged Aboriginal and disadvantaged youth in the South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD) through a 12-week holistic health program and access to local health services. 


To improve the health literacy of young Aboriginal people and complement the Department of Education syllabus in a culturally safe and supportive way.


  • Promotes health programs in a culturally-appropriate way.
  • Helps young Aboriginal people make decisions regarding their health and provides access to a range of service providers.

Project status

Key dates

  • Start: March 2014


  • Sustained - The project has been implemented, is sustained in standard business.


Prior to this project, there were low numbers of young Aboriginal people in SWSLHD accessing healthcare services. Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia have four times the rate of death, five times the rate of injury, 1.3 times the rate of asthma and three times the rate of diabetes compared with other young Australians.

Young adults aged 18-24 years account for 20% of the prison population, while almost one third of young people drink alcohol in amounts that put them at risk in the short term and 11% at risk from long-term harm. Around 17% of young people are current smokers and 13% are exposed to tobacco smoke inside their home. Less than half of young people meet daily vegetable consumption guidelines.

These factors are particularly relevant in SWSLHD, as young people account for a significant portion of the population, with 35,622 young people in Fairfield and 31,701 in Liverpool.


This project provided SWSLHD with an opportunity to engage young Aboriginal people and provide early interventions on health issues such as sexually transmitted infections.

Aboriginal students within participating schools learned how to become strong in their Aboriginal identity, during a 10-week holistic health program taught by Aboriginal educators. The program was designed with modules covering a range of topics. These topics complemented the Department of Education syllabus in a culturally safe and supportive way. Units were designed to be delivered as a complete program or stand-alone modules, with flexibility to meet the needs of individual schools and Aboriginal youth. Program topics were as follows.

  • Week 1: Identifying Relationships and Connections
  • Week 2: Nutrition
  • Week 3: Physical Activity
  • Week 4: Body Image
  • Week 5: Self Esteem
  • Week 6: Bullying
  • Week 7: Drugs and Alcohol
  • Week 8: Sexual Health
  • Week 9: Healthy Relationships
  • Week 10: Party Safe

Each interactive module was delivered by qualified and experienced Aboriginal youth workers, who are currently employed in the health industry. Where possible, there was always a male and female worker present to coordinate the program and address gender needs. A coordinator was appointed in each location, to act as a single point of contact for the school and participating students.

Implementation sites

  • Juvenile Justice Centres at Reiby and Juneperina.
  • Schools in Liverpool, Fairfield and Campbelltown Local Government Areas which were identified as having significant Aboriginal youth populations, including Miller High School, Lurnea High School, Bonnyrigg High School and Chester Hill High School.


  • Bigpond
  • NSW Police
  • Police-Citizens Youth Clubs (PCYC)
  • Juvenile Justice Centres
  • SWSLHD HIV and Related Programs (HARP)


  • An evaluation form was distributed to students at the start and completion of the program, with ongoing group discussion on students’ progress and feedback throughout the program. This anecdotal feedback is discussed by participating schools and educators to ensure the program continues to evolve and improve.
  • Data has been collected on the outcomes of the program, focusing on students’ understanding and awareness of health topics and local support services.
  • The program will be fully evaluated at the end of 2015, with results informing the development of the 2016 program.

Lessons learnt

Working with youth is always challenging. Youth workers need to find ways to deliver health-related subjects in a culturally-appropriate and fun way, so young people can engage with the program, educators and fellow students.

Further reading


Gina Shepherd
Aboriginal Health Education Officer
South Western Sydney Local Health District
Phone: 02 87171717

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