The Connections to Urban Indigenous Culture Research Project (the Project) was conducted at Healesville on Wurundjeri Country in the Yarra Ranges, Victoria during 2014/15.
Yarra Ranges Council with partners, Healesville Indigenous Community Services Association (HICSA) and Inspiro (Community Health), embarked on a research project to deepen the understanding of local Aboriginal culture, its relationship to health and wellbeing and how this is experienced in the Yarra Ranges urban context.
The project combined data from a literature review prepared by Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit and an evaluation of a Cultural Strengthening Hip-Hop program undertaken by HICSA. This approach provided an academic platform to which Aboriginal community experience concerning cultural participation was added. This approach brought together conceptual, academic and experiential data. When analysed through the lens of Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing, clear understandings of the Aboriginal urban experience emerged.
The project findings offer new knowledge of the meaning of urban Aboriginal culture, the importance of identity and of Country. It provides examples of effective ways of supporting culture as a means of improving Aboriginal health and wellbeing in urban areas through cultural strengthening programming and how this can be measured.
In exploring the concept of the urban Aboriginal identity, the researchers found it useful to touch on some distinguishable differences between the urban and the remote Aboriginal experience. This revealed some noteworthy findings regarding perceptions of the authenticity of urban Aboriginal identity, connections to culture and to Country, including those whose traditional lands are elsewhere.
The project offered insights into how Aboriginal identity can be built through cultural participation and how opportunities for cultural participation are provided. It highlighted the critical role of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations such as HICSA as providers of safe and culturally appropriate spaces for cultural renewal by providing the essential link between culture, community, and health and wellbeing.